GUEST BLOG by Carlos Gutiérrez Vera
At a time when the United States is convulsing with protests and riots regarding excessive police force and Black Lives Matter, our SafeGrowth Advocate from Honduras offers this perspective regarding unrest in other parts of the world. Sometimes a view from the outside sheds a brighter light on the darkness from the inside.
Not long ago I read about serious social uprisings taking place in Ecuador, which is my adopted homeland. There was social chaos, public discontent, and thousands of indigenous people marching to protest against what they considered an injustice unjust economic system. The police and military responded with strong repression.
A few days later a similar outbreak began in Chile, my original native country, an outbreak with serious consequences in for human lives, damage to public assets, and also to for social coexistence.
The violent uprisings in Ecuador and Chile led authorities to re-think the way cities and communities are currently built and promote public policies to encourage and support building smaller community systems.
And now we see similar social unrest and rioting across the United States with similar results.
In response to these events, the International CPTED Association posted a webinar regarding Social Unrest and CPTED.
My view is that SafeGrowth has the strategies and tools that can lead to building non-violent communities for the 21st Century. It represents a powerful long-term strategy to the problem of street violence.
These social divisions have been attributed to social inequalities and injustice. In the United States unrest is currently fueled by racial conflict and police excessive force.
There has been much talk that social outbursts have deep roots in social inequities and injustices. However, this is only part of a larger problem. It's also possible that, as a society, we have lost that ability to build our communities together, to work in mutual cooperation, to love what we build. Destruction and vandalism have a lot to do with emotional disconnection, the sense of non-belonging, and lack of identity.
The construction of our cities has been entrusted to developers to feed a real-estate market dedicated to commercial profits, but seldom to build a sense of “community”. We have lost the sense of living communally. All over the world, cities have been growing chaotically, breaking the order of social and community relations that, in the past, gave them sustenance and habitability on a human scale.
The disintegration of these urban networks has resulted in the breakdown of the social fabric with the consequent deterioration of cohesion. It is no longer just a matter of poverty or inequity, it is also a matter of quality human relationships.
We have known this for a while. Consider Putnam's Bowling Alone, or McKnight’s Community and it's Counterfeits. SafeGrowth, in particular, calls for building non-violent communities with social stability through the restoration of healthy community relations and organizing collaborative neighborhood work.
To get started in this task, there needs to be a balance between the geometry of social relations. That geometry is based on three areas: public, private and social.
The public sector is the government, which can provide public goods and offer an impartial voice to help monitor social justice. The private is businesses, who have an important role, and stake, in public safety. The social involves community associations, non-profits, and others in the neighborhood.
Birner and Ege propose coordination and cooperation between these three areas to promote social stability. But the most important aspect of all this work is social factors that encourage citizen participation. Cities and communities cannot be built, and safety cannot result, without citizen participation. Public and private sectors are not enough.
This has been the focus of the SafeGrowth movement from the beginning and it's featured throughout the book on SafeGrowth.
The SafeGrowth philosophy and practice aims to construct a system of interconnected neighborhoods so that, in collaboration with public and private sectors, they can jointly plan and coordinate actions that strengthen their development.
For example, we presented a blog on our work to build social capital and enhance mutual care by building a network of Neighborhood Hubs in Honduras. This is one of the SafeGrowth building blocks for livability.
Another example is the SafeGrowth Livability Academy, a tool for community organization and problem-solving. Livability Academies lay the foundation for building resilient, self-managed, and non-violent communities.
Our vision is a 21st Century City in which networked neighborhoods work for livability, peace, and equity are organized in ecosystems throughout the city. Livability Academies teach ethical leadership and the Hubs help with local projects on crime reduction, reducing inequity, and collaborating with public, private, and social sectors.
That is the long-term means by which we will prevent social outbursts that harm society so much.
by Gregory Saville
Tick tock…the clock is ticking.
I recently watched 16-year old Greta Thunberg glare at global leaders and chastise the United Nations for not doing enough about the Climate Crisis. Record numbers of wildfires burn around the world. Floods, hurricanes, and extreme weather dominate the news. And, says Greta, (and legions of scientists), because of climate deniers, Big Oil, and dallying politicians around the world, time is running out.
In truth, it isn’t from those living today that the Climate Crisis was born. It was born in the belching factories of the Industrial Age, weaned by a century of exploding (and irresponsible) population growth, and befriended by decades of poor environmental choices. Some of those poor environmental choices emerged in how we built cities – sprawl, acres of parking, carbon eating suburbs.
The result? Tax money spent on sprawl left the inner city vacant, sleepy, and blighted. Downtowns were vacated by shoppers looking for regional malls. The guts of the city were emptied into the box stores of the burbs. Studies about such development show that “living in a city can alter our brain’s architecture, making it more vulnerable to… social stress.”
So not only does pollution and smog harm our lungs and bodies, but neurophysical research suggests that poor urban living conditions negatively affect our brain biology, particularly the part that affects moods – the amygdala – such as anxiety disorders and mental conditions like schizophrenia.
However, while time runs out and Greta says we aren’t doing enough, it isn't true that we are doing nothing. Some innovations do break through.
FIGHTING BACK – H22 IN HELSINGBORG
This week I co-presented our SafeGrowth project work from New York at the H22 Summit in Helsingborg, Sweden, a conference on Smart City innovations and how they combat climate change. Delivered with my colleague Ifeoma Ebo from the New York City Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice, our message showed how tactics in SafeGrowth and community empowerment in high-density housing can humanize residential towers and reduce victimization. If we are to densify in the future, we must know how to do it well.
The conference was in preparation for the H22 Smart City Exposition in Helsingborg. Smart Cities is a concept to dramatically expand data networks and sensors into city operations and embed information and communication technologies via the IoT (Internet of Things) for more efficient use of resources. The idea is if city officials can interact better with residents and monitor city life, they can more efficiently improve infrastructure and services.
It is, in effect, a technical battle against inefficiency and climate change. In the past, I have been skeptical of some smart technologies in policing and crime prevention that have not seemed so smart. So I was curious how the European smart city movement – particularly this one in Sweden - differed from what I’ve seen thus far. I was not disappointed.
CONNECTING SMART GROWTH TO SMART CITIES
The earliest battle against the environmental crisis began in the 1960s with the counter-culture warriors, triggered by Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring on the insecticides poisoning our water.
Those early warriors grew into environmentalists who created, among other things, Smart Growth to confront sprawl and reimagine urban villages that offer more friendly places to live, and transit-oriented developments.
Smart Growth is another front in the climate battle. It’s an urban planning rebellion against ecological waste and carbon waste. For 20 years it has promoted new kinds of planning and zoning to improve the environment and create walkable streets. Sadly, most politicians are still ignorant of Smart Growth and few in the public have the slightest idea how it reduces sprawl thereby cutting pollution and carbon emissions.
In the 1990s I worked with a design team on one of the earliest Smart Growth projects in Vancouver – the Collingwood Village community near the Joyce/VanNess Skytrain Station. Touted today as one of Vancouver’s most successful neighborhoods, the Collingwood story has appeared in this blog. Twenty years later we now see how smart growth/transit-oriented development can last.
TICK TOCK – SPRAWL FLOURISHES
In spite of all this, anti-Smart Growth critics hope to turn back the nostalgia clock. They restrict multi-family units, spend billions on expressways, ignore efficient commuter trains, and they fight for low densities. Want proof? Look at the outer suburban rings of Calgary, Toronto, Winnipeg, Phoenix, Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, Sydney, Perth, etc.
I should know; I live in one! An unpleasant fact I learned the hard way is that owning or renting an affordable home requires a wide range of housing options and, in most larger cities in the developed world, those options are limited by decades of single-use zoning that encourages lower densities. Without more affordable choices, we are left with housing from existing housing stock - and that means suburbs.
There is much to be done, not the least of which remains convincing the business-as-usual crowd that, frankly, things have changed and time is running out. Greta is right. We must do better. Sooner!
By Mateja Mihinjac
I had a fairly happy childhood. The suburban village my parents adopted as a family home offered the necessary amenities - two small grocery stores, a bakery, fresh produce store, kindergarten, primary school and a small library. And they were all within a ten-minute walk. We also had a home garden, we could play on the street and I was surrounded by the green fields and nearby hills that became my beloved recreational spots.
Most importantly, this was a safe neighbourhood.
However, as I grew older, my needs and wants also increased. Village life no longer satisfied my yearning for exploration, learning, working and socialising, and the surroundings and facilities felt outdated and bland. It was as if time in the village had stopped.
THEORY OF HUMAN MOTIVATION
I later realized it was me who had outgrown the village. It continues to satisfy basic needs, but it hasn’t evolved. It has failed to adapt to the reality that, more than ever, humans strive for more than simply surviving and addressing our biological needs. We have higher-level psychological needs such as feelings of belonging, self-esteem and social connection. We have needs for personal growth and self-fulfilment. Abraham Maslow outlined this in the Theory of Human Motivation nearly 80 years ago.
Moreover, we crave a meaningful existence by being able to contribute to the experience of others. Maslow explained this highest level satisfaction in his later work using the term self-transcendence.
It should therefore not sound unusual or extraordinary for people to expect that their neighbourhood should offer a high quality of life by providing opportunities for realising those high-level needs.
THIRD GENERATION CPTED
This is the message that Greg Saville and I convey in our recently published article Third Generation CPTED.
The main premise of our new theory is that for the highest quality of life, a 21st Century neighbourhood should offer more than minimum services and necessities. Good transport, proper sanitation, a healthy environment, ample food, adequate shelter, and local safety are critical, but not enough. Recreation opportunities and social activities too are necessary, but they still don't reach the highest level of motivational satisfaction. So residents drive away and abandon their neighbourhood to find something they cannot locate nearby.
Applying the Neighbourhood Liveability Hierarchy we propose that residents should be able to strive for more advanced opportunities to satisfy their highest needs, while all the basic and modest provisions exist in every place. Such an advanced neighbourhood planned in a holistic and strategic way will help it evolve to support the needs of its inhabitants.
In SafeGrowth we offer the hub concept as an epicentre for such developments under the ownership of neighbourhood residents.
The main premise of the concept is participatory democracy and decision-making potential of the residents who would continually assess and address neighbourhood needs thus help it maintain a high quality of life.
Our SafeGrowth advocate and friend Carlos Gutierrez has recently also offered a view of networked community-driven hubs in the violence-stricken nation of Honduras. His story is remarkable because it showcases how community-driven neighbourhood hubs drive local progress and offer opportunities for high-level needs, which concurrently aim to address violence and promote safety.
NEIGHBOURHOODS OF THE FUTURE
As our basic needs are met, we must create places that allow us opportunities to grow towards higher-level needs and uncover innovative and exciting ways to satisfy them. If we can’t find those opportunities in our living environment, we will look elsewhere and alienate ourselves from our neighbourhood and its inhabitants in the process.
Unfortunately, so many amenities are concentrated in large downtown centres, or in huge, disconnected retail box stores surrounded by acres of parking, that they restrict the opportunities for satisfying high-level needs in suburban areas like the village of my youth. The suburbs become places that excel in basic services and residential use, but where opportunities for self-actualization and transcendence are rare.
Our neighbourhoods must respond to the needs of 21st Century lifestyles and they need opportunities for their inhabitants to flourish in local life and participate in meaningful neighbourhood decision-making. Perhaps then, as neighbourhood attachment grows, residents will enjoy their neighbourhood not only because it’s their living environment but also because it helps them fulfil their potential.
GUEST BLOG: Carlos Alfredo Gutiérrez Vera
Carlos is a Chilean architect/urban planner and a SafeGrowth Advocate residing in Honduras. He is a director of the International CPTED Association and one of the initiators of CPTED in Latin America. He has conducted CPTED throughout Central America and is co-author of the first Latin American CPTED manual. He works for a Consortium of three German companies (INBAS-SANIPLAN-SUM) giving Technical Assistance to the Honduran government with the Secretary for Community Development, Water and Sanitation, to implement the CONVIVIR program.
Freddy is a young man from the municipality of Siguatepeque in Honduras. His greatest passion is to practice bicycle motocross (BMX) on his bike, however he and his friends did not have a place to practice. For Freddy and his friends, this is not only a type of recreation, but it’s also a way to socialize and a way to avoid getting involved with illicit and dangerous activities.
Two years ago, Freddy found out a Community Hub Center was being built that would incorporate a space to practice BMX. The program was CONVIVIR, a social intervention initiative implemented by the Government of Honduras and German International Cooperation through the German Development Bank KfW, in alliance with the municipality of Siguatepeque.
CONVIVIR aims to improve living conditions for young people in Honduras living with violence, forced migration, teenage pregnancy, poverty among other problems. The Community Hub Project was called Center for the promotion of Quality of Life in Barrio el Carmen.
Excited by the idea of having a place with a BMX track, Freddy approached the municipality to see how he and other BMX practitioners could contribute. He was surprised to learn that the Hub would be built and managed by the community itself, using the PEC methodology (Projects Executed by the Community). It was an even bigger surprise that he and his friends could participate in the design of the BMX track and work as a team with a group of specialized designers.
In community meetings, Freddy and his friends came to see how CONVIVIR builds violence prevention through the recovery of public spaces, strengthening social and labor skills of young people. It accomplished that through the Center for Quality of Life using strategies like CPTED applied by the community itself.
During the planning process, Freddy was able to meet and interact with other members of the community and participate in actions that would carry out the construction of the project.
It was motivating for Freddy to know that the residents of Barrio San Juan will have access to training programs while promoting coexistence among neighbors. They will achieve a sense of belonging, be linked to democratic processes, and participate in decision-making for projects that benefit the community.
COMPLETION OF THE HUB
The Quality of Life Center in the San Juan neighborhood was finished in mid-2018. Now Freddy and his friends have a place to practice BMX and have also joined other community projects. They feel integrated into their neighborhood and have begun a process of personal growth through activities carried out on a regular basis.
The CONVIVIR Community Hubs have fulfilled their role as urban centers that promote and strengthen neighborhood construction projects. In recent years, the CONVIVIR Program has built 10 Community Hubs in three cities in Honduras; five in the city of Siguatepeque, three in the city of Gracias and two in the city of La Lima.
In each city, the Community Hubs work closely with the municipal government, thus creating a synergy between community and local government. Ideas and new community projects are born and then begin to link to other infrastructure projects.
The program has evolved into a neighborhood network linking projects in one Hub with other community infrastructure projects such as sports centers, youth houses, libraries, and urban walks, vocational training centers, and others also built by CONVIVIR.
This linking is now creating a network of interconnected hubs, in effect a practical example of the ecosystem of neighborhood hubs as described in SafeGrowth – and highlighted in chapters 4 and 5 of SafeGrowth: Building Neighborhoods of Safety and Livability.