Tug of war on Commercial Rent Control – SB5286

tug of war

I had not expected on a trip to the Capital Buildings in Olympia, to find them to be so beautiful, nor that I would tip- toe into a piece of history.

Olympia Capital bulidlings

The pillared entrance easily let you know you were under dressed. I straightened upright, and immeidately whispered as we walked through the high-ceiling-ed corridors.

Gentlemen on tall leather stools pointed this way and that, obediently steering us closer to the senators’ offices.

I had shied away from posters nailed against trees demanding “Rent Control Now!”. Today, I considered the impact of gentrification through no commercial rent control, on local, small, well loved businesses through SB 5286.

GentrificationCharming, character-filled, historic neighborhood icons, were being displaced by loud-signed, national chain retail stores without commercial rent control in place.

In the stately office of Senator Kuderer, I listened to how political forces control bills, such that some had no chance of being changed.

I found myself considering the alternatives, of either voting for, or against a bill to effect change.

Your opinion

California State’s Proposition 13 , impacted local commercial rent control inadvertently, as it controlled property tax hikes instead.

I remembered how influential leverage points within systems, can make critical changes, if acting at the right point.

systems Theory

I left the State Capital knowing that if I could understand all the pieces of how the legislative process works, I definitely could make a difference.  I just had to try, as the system was set up so that I could raise my voice. I too could do something extraordinary, I just had to try.

making a difference

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Can our pavements create energy that can be captured through foot-traffic?

I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green when I found myself noticing how many people were walking on the sidewalk.

I could not help but wonder, how we could utilize pedestrian footsteps’ expended energy and turn it into transferable, usable energy?
pedestrians

Considering urban centers’ drive to creating density, foot-traffic will increase, as our need for energy increases.

I was so intrigued at the idea of harnessing foot traffic energy, that I did a google search focused on this possibility.

Lawrence Kemball has done this!

He developed tiles called “Pavegen floor tiles“, which generate electricity through the power created when human footsteps strike the ground.

pavegen1

As cities develop transit oriented developments, these sites represent ideal locations for the new installation of pavegen floor tiles.

Considering urban centers are moving towards safer, pedestrianized areas, the future capacity for harnessing such energy in already existent urban infrastructure, is innovative.

Additionally, it provides an avenue to utilize the energy we create as part of moving through our daily routines.

Pedestrians and safe areas

As mega-cities develop, urban centers provide critical areas deserving of ingenious methods for creating renewable energy resources.

Sidewalks embody an opportunity for creative harnessing of energy expended during walking, creating renewable energy resources for our critically needed, sustainable, future.

 

Are the original reasons for lighting streets still valid?

city lights at dawn

I recently found myself awake at 5:00 am, and wondered why the street lights were still on. It was light enough to see really well, and I noticed that the lights remained on till well after 6:30 am.

lights at dawn

The history of lighting streets goes back to the 4th century. At this time, lanterns were used to help people see in the absolute dark of night in order to get home, without which it would be near impossible to see at all.

Modern day, finds us with lights lit in our homes, street lights overhead, vehicles with lights at street level, and outdoor house lighting with motion sensors on many of the homes we may pass.

Nighttime sky-glow, in itself, now also seems to light the sky from above.

Such light pollution has become accepted as normal, yet we fail to consider turning off many of the lights we likely don’t need through the sheer volume of multiple light sources that light our way.

skyglow

Our previous existence in pure darkness is no longer a threat to not being able to find a path home. Even the use of a flash light on an i-phone is a simple means to access a readily available light source.

Is it really still valid to consider the need for street lighting as so critical to ensure we may find our way home at night?

Perhaps it is time, we reconsider what has become habitual, and instead conserve the precious energy, which ultimately has started to pollute our skies.

 

 

 

 

Laundry rooms for climate change?

rainwater-harvestingrainwater-capture

I was wondering why we all don’t just do simple things, which would, en mass, make a large difference to our resource conservation, particularly water. This makes even more sense when there would be no loss of comfort or convenience through these actions.

Household water consumption, is primarily utilized for clothes washing (23%) and toilet flushing (27%). Hence apart from the use of water, the heating thereof for warm water wash, and the drying of clothes, all present great opportunities for a laundry room designed for helping to prevent climate change. storage-clothes-dryer

 

Harvested rainwater, used cold, will reduce water use, as well as energy use whilst providing the same clean clothes we need without using more clean, warmed water for this purpose.

A well organized, laundry room, utilizing the heating system of the house, for drying damp clothes immediately, in a cupboard that has vented warm air from the heating ducts, presents a second opportunity to dry clothes without the use of a dryer.

Hence, these carefully designed spaces, utilizing the heating system and attached to a storage/hanging space for damp clothes, would dry these at the same time, as the house would be warmed.

No More Messing Around

Organization, and well designed spaces, can bring laundry room design into fashion, and make laundry rooms a focus point for energy conservation within residential homes.

laundry-room

Beautiful, tastefully designed laundry rooms, can definitely help the fight against climate change. These spaces whilst also creating a beautiful environment for dressing up on colder days, can create a leading edge based on design to help save our most valued limited resources, especially water.

 

Can Seattle ever follow Singapore and Vienna’s public housing success?

wohnhausanlage_sargfabrik_1140

Can the USA replicate the creation of affordable housing typical in a socialist government structure?

Maybe not, but surely insights from these cities would help. Singapore and Vienna transformed their affordable housing crisis through government foresight.

US policy provides an avenue of neighborhood level push-back against municipal level provision of affordable housing through NIMBY’ism.

nimb

If the Port of Seattle, worked with itself, could it provide affordable housing?

 

Consider the use of a renovated cruise ship, which provided food, housing, and education for a fresh start all on board.

cruise-ship-seattle-2

 

Port taxation, may be created to pay for port fees, security, delivery of donated food and services.

Cruise ships are ready built, and created to provide unique spaces for individuals or families. In addition, they provide communal eating areas, separate laundry facilities and on board medical clinics.

cabin-holland-america

 

Property management, janitorial, cleaning and technology jobs, would be created within port/municipal l level to provide job growth within itself, for its own revenue.

The alleviation of public concerns with regards to the landuse regulations pertinent to the  development process of affordable housing, could be averted.

 

Providing the solution to affordable housing in the USA, one person at a time, falls short of helping the masses in need.  Creative use of municipal level water-space, may well be an avenue for government structures to work with themselves and provide revenue within the same effort. “Yes, we can!”

yes-we-can

 

 

 

 

What will everyone think if I live in a matchbox?

scaling-down-my-house

Are we able to adapt to smaller spaces within which to live in the USA, or do we need our space as a sign of our prosperity, status or other social norm? Or are we worried, that building smaller, more dense housing, will bring chaos to our pristine neighborhoods?

I was born in South Africa and learnt that a house could be anything from a “hut”, a “shanty”, or a mansion. But those were my social norms. Housing density was definitely associated with not being able to afford a bigger home.

However, as my mother came from Denmark, I noticed there was much less of a link between “space” as a measure of wealth, and actual “wealth”. The Danes focused more on effective, logical use of space, which was “hip”, and beautiful. The society, also ensured that taxes which could be up to 70% of ones income, paid for everyone to have access to housing, healthcare and financial aid. Their houses were small and efficient.

Take for example a shower: It was a just a “space” large enough so that you could stand in, at one end of the bathroom.  The removable spray head was designed such that you could aim at your body, whilst you stood with the back to the corner of a tiled wall. The water then ran down the tiles, collected on the floor, which slanted towards the drain, located on the bathroom floor. There were no shower walls which took up space.

danish-bathroom

Space became “smart space” and walls, wasted space.

Small is becoming “hip” and creative designs for micro-houses like tumbleweed, are a delight to explore. However, if small was the only piece of the puzzle, we likely could have fixed this challenge by now.

tiny-house

So, what is driving our need to continue to build large square footage houses instead of creating smaller spaces?

As long as there is a demand for larger homes, and developers of residential housing have profit, through the endeavor, this will be our “norm”. But perhaps, it is our fear of what the change will look like, with low income, section 8 voucher holders and aPodments on the same block as  “my beautiful craftsman house”?

Neighborhood activists successfully managed to put an end to “aPodments“, by Calhoun Properties. People feared parking challenges, how many people would move in, and also “who” moved in. Affordable, was not something that everyone in upscale neighborhoods wanted to deal with.

People do respond remarkably well to new norms, when “smaller” is presented as socially acceptable, hip, or beautiful when created through creative architectural design. Yet interestingly when presented with the same options, framed in the concept of affordable housing, or a solution to housing density, we tend to kick against the very same idea.

All our solutions for creating affordable, density of housing exist.

However, people living in nicer neighborhoods, paying taxes for the schools in these ares with lower crime rates, definitely are not open to Section 8 voucher holders, or low income supported families, moving into the same areas. Obama’s 2015 plans to use HUD to help put an end to such “segregation” was met with much resistance by the public.

Perhaps it is more our ability to embrace these solutions in a manner which creates the perceptions that are acceptable, palatable and even “hip”.

Living in a beautiful matchbox, with smarter creativity of its space, and the definite consideration to less walls, is likely to be another step toward solving a housing crisis.

What we have not yet seen is beautiful designs, exquisite websites and gorgeous architectural design partnered with “housing density”, in such a manner, that we all get up and say…” I want to piece of that!”

South Africans certainly did not see a sudden influx of high and low income families living together on the same “block” post 1993, when President Nelson Mandela came to power.

Interestingly, our fears of what will occur when low income houses/affordable housing is intertwined within higher income housing, do not suddenly come to pass.

Change is needed to provide safe affordable housing to those that are desperately in need of a roof over their heads. Solutions, which are palatable do exist. Creativity, beauty and affordability, can all co-exist. Our ability to move forward, will depend on our willingness to focus clearly on how we would like the solutions to look like.

In fact, housing density, coupled with massive economic and population growth, is exactly what Singapore, walked through from the 1960’s through mid 1980’s. Today more than 90% of inhabitants own their own home and poverty/slums have been virtually eradicated. Housing policy was at the heart of the foresight which brought the city from a shanty town to a strong economic powerhouse.

We certainly can build small, beautiful, and affordable. We just have to want to do it.

 

 

Climate change – Is there not an app for that?

global-warming

We have evolved into a race that expects immediacy as part of our everyday lives. However, immediacy is not synonymous with urgency.

When is late too late? How do we define what a future emergency feels like today…..so that we don’t lose our urgency.

aeroplane-crash

In fact, whether tweeting, or posting a picture on facebook, too few of us, feel an urgency to change, especially indefinitely, in order to create lasting change for climate control.

So what is it that is so elusive to move us to act, with intention, to create lasting change a possibility to create a positive impact on global warming?

Large scale change either has to come from within, or it has to be imposed.

When inspired or passionate, we create through innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and vision.

When changing through policy and policing, much resistance is encountered from individuals opposing change, as well as outmoded policy prior to our present climate conditions.  A danger is posed, that creating change through policy alone, can lead to significant delays due to our inability to navigate successfully through complex, opposing needs. Policy makers are divided as to how to effect regulation, which hampers swift change to  help prevent further global warming.

Hence to change large complex systems, a combination of human innovation and federal/state policy, is needed.  Environmental stewardship, through strong leadership, entrepreneurial vision and economic policies, all have a vital role to play.

How then do we create urgency?

Urgency is palpable, yet difficult to contain past the present moment.

In medical emergencies, our ability to measure the extent of a catastrophic event is possible through special investigations, data and statistics regarding comparable events. Data then allows us to draw conclusions and very clearly predict outcomes.

Within our unique position as inhabitants of our planet. We have no available data previous data and are hence left with needing to accurately model our outcome.

The complexity of our planet’s interrelated co2 producing origins is also constantly evolving through our drive to build economies, as the world population expands.

We have to create trust, transparency and collaboration within culturally diverse, and economically opposing values, to successfully work on a global scale to create solutions to a common challenge.

Change will be required from individuals all the way through to groups of international “think tanks”.

Starting with individual acts to reduce ones carbon footprint, requires our will to do so, as well as the ability to create  new habits.

Change your habits Change your life“, The book written by Tom Corley, recounts his research that changed “ordinary people into self made millionaires“.  This example as well as “Think yourself thin” by Debbie Johnson, illustrating how the “visualization technique without diet or exercise” will allow you to think yourself ‘thin’, both point to why people fail. These books are not helpful enough as if they were, 100% of individuals reading these books would be either millionaires or thin!

The understanding of complex systems as well as how to effect change at effective leverage points, is outlined by Donella Meadowsgroundbreaking research. It is inspiring to consider that leverage points “ within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) are points where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.”

The solutions already exist.

However, we as a human race, are divided on whether and on how to act.

Our challenges are stratified but lie within our control. So, how do we move people to adopt worldwide change?

I would like to image that utilizing our technological advances can bring change to our homes and our will:

Great success can be achieved with small steps, in the right direction.

Imagine the snowball effect of even a simple step as outlined here:

I would like to imagine that for 6 hours on a Sunday, everyone in a neighborhood could join forces not to use their cars and only use public transport.

If this were able to be adopted by  the whole city and then by a State and within a few short months, the entire USA, the impact would extremely interesting to measure.

Steps like these draw people together, in uniting them in a shared common goal. The “herd” behavior also encourages everyone to take part in this small change. in addition, the behavior, creates a new habit and promotes a sense of community.

The need of us for this one action is simple: restraint for 6 hours, on 1 day of the week.

When we measure our successes and create visual images of heroic efforts to bring back the resources to our planet, we could use inspiration to bring people, countries and a world together. There is no reason this should not be possible.

preservation