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The Lakeview Area Master Plan (LAMP) will be revealed tonight, but there is one element that I think deserves special attention.

When research began on the project we were out surveying neighborhood inventory, like bike racks, streetscape environments, facade conditions, and public space.  After investigating we found that Lakeview contains only .2 acres of open space per 1000 residents (The ideal ratio is 2 acres per 1000 people).  This notion was reinforced during the public open houses and interview sessions when residents cried out for more public open space.  So where, in a dense, developed urban neighborhood do we find available land for public space?  We thought, let’s look for space on top of things and under things! Read the rest of this entry »

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We had a magical PARK(ing) Day installation yesterday!  It was great to see all of our fellow PARKers, and showed that we can do more with the right-of-way than simply store automobiles.  Proving once again, parks are fun, parking is not fun.

We could not have done this without our wonderfully generous sponsors; Southport Grocery, Uncle Dans’s Outdoor Store, Grand Street Gardens, Lake Street Landscape Supply, Farmers’ Market Nursery, Sam & Willy’s, and Alderman Tom Tunney.  Thank you so much for all of your support.

Photos and media coverage inside.

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Parking. Its a sore subject here in Chicago.  In 2008 the City decided to privatize it’s 36,000 parking meters – in reality leasing an 8′ wide section of asphalt from the curb to the sometimes-present-bike lane – to a group made up of Morgan Stanley, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Allianz Capital Partners for a $1.16B. Since then, everyone in the City, nay, the world, seems to have developed a disdain to the selling off of public assets.  And rightly so.  Bloomberg News discovered just last month that we Chicagoans got royally hosed on the deal.  It turns out the private group will net $9.58B over the course of the 75-year term.  Oops.  This is more than twice what Alderman Scott Waguespack estimated the City would loose in profits when he denounced the deal and subsequently voted against it in the City Council.

This doesn’t stop the City from praising itself for the move, as Chicago’s CFO, Gene Saffold, touted, “The concession agreement was absolutely the best deal for Chicagoans”.  Going on to wax delusional, “The net present value of $11.6 billion in revenue over the life of the 75-year agreement is consistent with $1.15 billion the city received.”  Um, yeah.  You say this guy does the City’s accounting, eh.  Meanwhile, the Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General called the deal “dubious” since Saffold, “failed to calculate how much the system would be worth over 75 years.  The present value of the contract was $2.13 billion, more than the $1.15 billion the city received”, according to Bloomberg. Read the rest of this entry »

Even if real streets are not becoming any more hospitable to cyclists, the virtual ones sure are.  Today everyone’s favorite online map rolled out bicycling navigation as a native feature of Google maps. The bike routing is available in 150 cities, Chicago included, and also shows bike trails in addition to bike-friendly autoways.  As a test I looked up my favorite local ride, Northwest on Elston to the Milwaukee/Devon/Superdawg intersection to pick up the North Branch Trail (unfortunately, there are no trail labels on Google maps yet) for a mostly uninterrupted, 16-mile jaunt to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, which I just noticed is mislabeled as ‘Botanical’ on Google maps.  Conversely, I looked up the most death-defying bike route in San Diego, this bike lane abruptly ends at a freeway off ramp just north of Little Italy on India Street.  Biker Beware. Read the rest of this entry »

Tax season is the perfect time to bring up some good news and excellent reasons to make sustainable upgrades to your residential properties.  Two related tax breaks, both products of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, are available to all property owners.  The first – generically named the Residential Energy Property Credit – is the more general tax break which covers 30% of the cost (up to $1,500) for certain heating and cooling systems and water heaters, along with their related installation costs.  Also covered are energy efficient windows, doors, insulation, and certain roofing materials – installation is not included for these items.  In most cases qualifying products will have to bear the Energy Star designation. Read the rest of this entry »

bowling aloneIs capitalism only relevant when it drives prices downward?  If one chooses to purchase an item that is more expensive than its competition, for whatever reason, have we crossed a threshold to complacent pretension?  A recent New York Times article, by Anand Giridharadas, purports that activism through purchasing power, lovingly referred to in the article as ‘buycotting’, is somehow disengaging us with real political activism.  Going on to say that today’s fancy consuming is a “sign of how corroded citizenship has become that shopping is the closest many of us are willing to come to worrying about labor laws, trade agreements, agricultural policy.”  The article also conflates the purchasing of green energy offsets with humanely raised wool, which are obviously two disparate forms of consumption.  Instead of a slippery slope to political inaction, the very existence of a value minded consumer proves that capitalism (a word mysteriously missing from the NYT article) is evolving into a more humane form of economics. Read the rest of this entry »

cattleRecently we visited Randy and Lynn Anderson (photos after the jump) who run a 100% grass fed beef, pork, and poultry farm in Arkansaw, Wisconsin.  While picking up some cuts, Randy gave us a tour of his pasture and animals.  While surveying the grounds I noticed no feedlots or antibiotics, only green pasture and healthy clover. Read the rest of this entry »

There is definitely a movement towards more sustainable building in this country and around the world, and rightly so.  There is only so much energy we can extract, drill, or techno-create and only so much landscape to cultivate.  We live in a finite system with finite resources where infinite growth is not scientifically or rationally conceivable.  Buildings currently consume the lion’s share of energy in the United States at 48%, checking in ahead of transportation (27%) and manufacturing (25%) (source: US Energy Information Administration).  They also swallow up once productive land while leaving a trail of asphalt and turf in its wake.  After a typical building is constructed it is hooked up to the power grid to produce electricity, to the water supply to provide potable water, and to the sewer system to carry waste.  Gobbling up resources from those utilities to support its needs while never giving anything back.  Historically, there is not much longevity for an eco-system or civilization operating under that premise.  This is due, in large part, to the design paradigm of one-size-fits-all architecture.  A house in Fargo looks and behaves no differently than one in Fort Lauderdale. Read the rest of this entry »

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