Vancouver Peak Oil is currently at work marshalling the support, expertise and resources necessary to create a demonstration sustainable neighborhood (DSN) for the post-peak-oil period – what VPO member Jon Cooksey semi-whimsically calls a Kunstler Village, after James Kunstler, the peak oil writer. Entirely off the grid, graywater system recycling all wastewater and sewage, everyone growing their own food to extent possible, possibly doing co-op transportation, etc. The works.

Clearly, as a demonstration project, the DSN would be artificial in a number of ways: solar panels or a wind turbine might be more available for this small area than for the city as a whole, zoning variances might be made for sewage changes that would not easily fly for the whole city, dirt would be trucked in to cover entire streets whereas the soil would have to be made locally for true city-wide urban agriculture – but the principles would be the same, and it would show everyone just HOW different the “New Normal” will be, and what would have to change to actually make it happen on the ground.

The project would involve a number of NGO’s: Vancouver Peak Oil, Village Vancouver, NowBC, Farm Folk/City Folk, BCSEA, Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, and so on – we’d get as many as possible to join in on the realization of it with appropriate expertise, connections, etc.

For funding, our plan is to tie it into the Olympics, as a show-piece, and so get funds from the province, as well as possible VanCity, Metro Vancouver, and/or the city. What better way for Premier Gordon Campbell to demonstrate that BC really is green than by having his own little mini-Transition Town in time for the Olympics? Developers who would like to be part of a world-class pioneering project in post-oil urban planning would also be welcome to participate, possibly under a P3 model.

The first critical step is to identify a particular neighborhood – probably between 4 and 9 city blocks – that is already radicalized enough to want to be the DSN. Grassroots support will be critical, and we’ll be working with VPO member (and Village Vancouver founder) Ross Moster, as well as community activists like Mel Lehan, to identify the right neighborhood for the project. Obvious choices would include Strathcona and the Commercial Drive area, both of which are mixed use and have some (or many) low-income residents. Neighborhoods who would like to be considered can contact Vandy Savage at VPO.

The second critical step – key to getting support from Premier Campbell and other potential funding sources — is to get a computer animation done (say with CAD/CAM software Sketchup, or virtual environment software) that takes the chosen neighborhood and transforms it visually into the final product. Jon Cooksey is working with the Vancouver Design Nerds on exploring how this animation could be done.

VPO sees the DSN as a 9-way-win:

1. VPO (partnered with the other NGO’s) puts forward a first-in-the-world realization of a Kunstler Village in an inner city, giving all the NGO’s a high profile (and possibly some funding)

2. The one-minute video/animatic is the perfect sales tool to take to Premier Campbell and others, to sell the idea

3. If the project is wrapped up in the Olympics, Premier Campbell earns a reputation as one of the greenest politicians in the world, on a world stage

4. BC looks better in the world’s eyes – setting a world-class example in sustainability while the spotlight of the Olympics is on us

5. Our community tackles peak oil and climate change in one project, making clear that Relocalization is answer to both, and creating a community with a miniscule carbon footprint

6. The animation will be used in the documentary Jon Cooksey is making (How to Boil a Frog), further raising the profile of the project

7. The residents of the transformed neighborhood end up living on real estate that is not only beautiful, clean and sustainable, but also survivable under virtually any peak oil scenario

8. A variety of potential innovative contributors like Anthony Perl, Herb Barbolet, Rick Balfour, Ross Moster, Bill Rees, etc. get to see their principles put into action on a major scale

9. The Design Nerds get a higher profile for this and their other projects!

Here are Anna’s notes from the Jam on 8/8/08:

Demonstration Sustainable Neighborhood- Aug 8th, Design Nerd Jam

Would this work better in a distributed? community planning model- a ward system?- decisions made at the community level- people show they want to participate

How do we get a buy in? hold a contest?
How much cooperation and each level? People stuck in a groove
Has to be a provincial fiat and a grassroots desire
Running out of time

1? where is there and activist community that exists?
w/o grassroots it is meaningless- with only grassroots it is too slow
2?strathcona community gardeners- good choice-lots of these people there
3?social structures that allow this to happen- you hear about a model- involves a lot of money- duplicability- how does it happen?

How to generate momentum around something- all we need is that drive and decision makers, an architect or two, developer, planner, we have some level of connection here

In some area car traffic has been minimized
Lets shut down 1-4 blocks
1st step- generating more cohesion
expand car free days to car free week
you can alternate the closure of blocks so people don’t know how to get through
put planters in the middle of the street
gorilla gardening- the neighborhood defended them when the city tried to take them out
*David Tracey- Strathcona gardeners- start this in the downtown east side- big potential for social change

simulation- putting it together as a package to show Victoria-still atop down manner…top down and bottom up must happen simultaneously

check out cuba as an example?
Showing people it can be done

There is a lot of technical expertise that is required and laws that need to be changed
Chris turner ‘geography of hope” doc –how communities changed…finding the right people to make the changes

parking installation lay down grass at a parking stall

End goal of the project?
As self sufficient and possible
Cascadia had a living building challenge
Scale of a building versus scale of a neighbourhood
People in a coop don’t think the same

Helpful to have starting goals and design strategies to get to these goals
Eg: number of cars? How many were needed/what size – pushes other things how many people can afford to drive?…give those people a voice

What does the model look like? Aesthetics
People like Anthony Pearl- creative grassroots or a big developer?

Pick a nighbourhood, totally walk-able, plants hanging everywhere, having people discover ‘I want to live here!’

Get artists involved
To get a ‘feel for it’ what is the lifestyle that you can gain from this community?
‘this is the lifestyle you could have’
people come and visit and then they demand these changes in their area- people do not know that they want this because they have not experiences it

These solutions must come from within- from the people living there…from the people in the community
Need* interest, *technical expertise and *capital
Missing element? an activist group within the community that might want to do this
To give resources to those activists in the community

Put an ad on craigs list?
Environmental network
Approaching developers –getting $ from gov’t subsidy
Developer with a housing ? partnership

Idea to go door to door interviewing people about what they think of the idea-asking them what they think it would look like- (reality tv show?)

What action now?
Find a cohesive community-pick a neighborhood
Show some kind of visualization
Need graphic skills- need something on paper…picture worth a thousand words

Rooted in the neighborhood- going in that direction

Think of community leaders and connect them to you

Imagine BC –Part of ‘think city’- a gathering 2007? For visioning a sustainable city
Affordable housing, citizen empowerment, transportation

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