Social and economic safety nets

AARP’s July-August 2011 issue highlights a newly constructed attached units community within a program called Soldier On. With solar panels on the roof, and economic and social support systems, 39 veterans are experiencing their lives transformed.

This is a great example of  the kinds of qualities found in what I call a Sustainable Urban Village-social, economic, and ecological sustainability in action.  Enjoy.

once homeless, these veterans now own homes in their own Pittsfield, Mass. community

Formerly homeless with many years self medicating, they now have their own apartments, a share of the ownership, and a voice in how the place is run. The rents, from $580 tp $682 are partically subsidizied by HUD and the Dept of Veterans Affairs.

Each resident had to pay $2500 to buy a limited-equity ownership in the development. Local banks have offered to lend them the downpayment money interest free, if  necessary. If money is left over at the end of the year after all the bills are paid, each resident/owner gets his share of the rebate.  This year each got a $2100 rebate, after paying approximately $7000 in rent.

A substance abuse counselor, as well as job-training and medical services are available and often are delivered to their apartment, or the transitional shelter building next door.  A Local bank sponsors one-on-one money management sessions. Rides are available to go job interviews, and to a support service, as only 17%of the men have driver’s licences… READ MORE >>

A Whole System Approach is key to a Sustainable Urban Village

We can lower our consumption, create a more efficient, affordable lifestyle, and enhance our Quality of Life with a pedestrian centered lifestyle and a whole systems approach to neighborhood planning and redevelopment.

Beddington Zero Energy Development-Bed ZED!

In sharp contrast to sprawl, a whole systems approach “stacks” uses in close proximity to each other. In mixed use neighborhoods, convenient pedestrian access to multiple services and daily life, drastically reduces the necessity for car ownership, creates safer streets with “eyes on the street” security,  a healthier walkable lifestyle, at the same time frees up income for other uses, like buying local food.

By adding “mixed income” to the community, another level of quality of aliveness is added via greater diversity in ages and cultures.

Conveniently located lifelong learning, supports the entrepreneur in all of us, and creates a climate of possibilities, a community going for its dreams and aspirations.

Add Open Space to the mix, and now woods and urban forest, fields and ponds are bringing the richness of the seasons and nature to our door steps.

Nature has evolved mastery in stacking uses, creating vast mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationships in healthy environments. There is no waste to throw away.  There is no “away”.

Designing a Sustainable Urban Village is the first step. Once all the future residents, parties and players are satisfied on paper, a demonstration showcase site can be created.  Having lunch and experiencing a walkable lifestyle becomes a powerful incentive in ushering  in the emerging sustainable economy; a future built in real, lasting value.

Image courtesy of Floornature

A Map to the Pot of Gold-Sustainable Urban Villages

Here ya go… one simple diagram to guide your people to the New American Dream- Sustainable Urban Villages.



Every community needs a Coalition for Sustainable Community!Together, we can make sustainable real!… READ MORE >>

Share Your Ideas of A Sustainable Urban Village in Santa Fe!

What would you include in a Sustainable Urban Village in Santa Fe, that made it so great, you’d move in?! The September issue of the Green Fire Times is going to be a compilation of ideas and visions, and you’re invited to contribute!

Download the flyer here. Download tri-fold brochure here. (two sided print). Share this invitation with your friends and networks! Submittal deadline for article and images is August 5.

Image courtesy of Spears Architects

Suburban sprawl could well have run its course. It’s time for something new to emerge and resurrect the economy. Polls have shown that 1/3 of the Boomers are looking for a simpler, walkable lifestyle, and 88% of their children, the “Millennials” want to live in a creative, alive urban environment. 9000 Santa Feans currently commute to their jobs in town. Many of these people (and others) would welcome an alternative to car-dependent sprawl. This sizable unmet market demand could help the emerging sustainable economy….emerge!

Because this is a new market, your ideas and visions are key; Design it to your specs and needs, and I believe the planning and construction industries will work to make it real!

What would make this neighborhood so compelling, so supportive and fun, that you would move in??!!

Download the flyer here. Download the tri-fold brochure here. Share this invitation with your friends and networks! Submittal deadline for article and images is August 5.

Brian Skeele, June 16, 2011


A Deeply Affordable Sustainable Urban Village (SUV); a lively, 3-4 story, mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood with enough density to make the commercial successful, say 5000 residents within walking distance.

Located Where?

To give these sorts of visionary ideas a place to focus, let’s look at an area in Santa Fe that has the potential to actually be transformed for the betterment of residents and businesses. With 72% paved parking area, Rail Runner access (commuter train), vacating car dealerships, an art/design college at one end, a hospital at the other end, and nearby Santa Fe High, De Vargas Middle School, two elementary schools, and Llano Library, St Michaels Drive is a good choice for visions of a major redesign.

SUVs can exist in rural, suburban, as well as urban locations. The key is to have the commercial and services supported by the residential within pedestrian-friendly distances, making non-car ownership a viable option. Not having to purchase, maintain, fill up, and insure a car is a substantial savings, and frees up disposable income for a wide range of benefits, such as local food, innovation start ups, as well as creates a healthier, walking lifestyle.

In a rural community, farming families and farm employees need affordable lifestyles, including affordable housing, transportation, land, water, organic fertilizer, etc. A rural SUV with the focus on agricultural production is an essential part of a regional food “shed”.

Similar dynamics exist in a suburban environment. Evolving into a pedestrian-centered lifestyle will increase the vitality and resiliency of up and coming mixed use, mixed income community. As we surpass global peak oil production and gasoline prices continually rise, the long commute is deeply threatened. Soccer Mom chauffeurs are soon to listed on the endangered species list.

Benefits Why

If Santa Fe was to create a SUV, the benefits could well be substantial;

A compelling reason to visit Santa Fe-with a world renown demonstration showcase site, a destination attracting eco tourists, students, government officials, and business owners from around the world, such has happened in Gussing Austria.
economic growth-as in Gussing, many companies focusing on sustainability relocated (50 companies) and 1000 jobs were created.
a significant revival of the local construction industry
the development of Santa Fe’s capacity to collaborate.
a Pathways curriculum, hands on, relevant learning, giving high school students the real world challenges that deeply respect and call forward their innate capacity.
Neighborhoods can once again become vibrant and alive- with safe, pedestrian- friendly streets and a simpler lifestyle supporting rich diversity; a mix of incomes and housing, young families and retirees, employers and employees, artist and patrons – a lifestyle that’s based on real, lasting values; a lifestyle that’s good for people, good for the planet, and good for the polar bears!

Gaviotas-World Class Sustainable Village

This article points out the incredible power of human ingenuity.  As I keep taking steps toward sustainable lifestyles, I run into all manner of inner limiting belief systems.  A major one is “Don’t Make Mistakes”. The correct answer is rewarded in school. But check out the learning from Gaviotas. Try stuff, learn from “the mistakes”…. genuis appears through trial and error.  So Go For It!!! There aren’t mistakes, they are the path to amazing.

It became clear to us that most of the successes at Gaviotas were not a result of brilliant planning but of a trial and error process, replete with wrong turns and detours.

Gaviotas showed us that there is not an orchestrated march toward a finished product—there is only the process, the unpredictable evolution of strategies and ideas… READ MORE >>

Map to the Sustainable Gold! Part 3

Continued from Part 2…An Interactive Website and a Brochure are the 1st elements of the map to the Sustainable Urban Village!

The idea of the brochure, is as I come across people who might want to submit their ideas,  I can leave them with some info, the guidelines and a reminder. And something they can pass on to a friend.

Another interact tool I’m conjuring up works off of Zoomify. The idea is the viewer can zoom into a site plan, look around, and click on points of interest (“hot spots” in Zoomify speak), and more info comes up. So it’s like a narrative, a walkthru.  This is very useful.

Al Moore's St Mikes center section

A year or so ago, the City of Santa Fe commissioned seven planners/architects to come up with their ideas on how St Michaels Drive could be remodeled.  My experience, standing looking at each of these site plans was pretty empty.  A couple of days later, one of the architects, Al Moore, gave me a verbal tour through his ideas, and the neighborhood came alive…It was a fabulous place to live…sexy,  contemporary architecture, a fun creative environment.

So here’s my idea…not only would Al provide a written tour with Zoomify, but other viewers could take Al’s layout, and change the names/functions of the buildings.  You could create a whole ‘nother mix of commercial businesses and  services using the same layout. Or you could invite your friends, classmates, or fellow employees to participate, and together another Village mix would be created.  Name em, post em to the  website, and everyone can vote on their favorites!… READ MORE >>

Map to the Sustainable Gold! Part 2

All together now…  “We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine…We all live in a yellow…”

I’ve embarked on this adventure that leads, I fully believe, to the promised land, the gold at the end of the rainbow, the treasure…Sustainable Urban Villages.  I bought this map from a guy in the alley…. the story unfolds from Part 1…

treasure map

Yar Maties, we be in the hunt for the Sustainable Gold!

The Map, as best as I can read it,  says we’re starting with Stories from a Sustainable Future.

Over a short  meeting in Seth’s office, he offered to make Sustainable Urban Villages the theme of an entire issue (40 or 48 pages). I immediately saw the opportunity: we could get the word out across North Central New Mexico…  one of those “Yar Mates, thar she blows!” moments…

I’ve put a draft  of a brochure together. The front panel reads:
What if You Could Design Your Thriving, Alive, Resilient, and Sustainable Future?

What Would Make the Design of Your Neighborhood So Compelling, You’d Move In?!… READ MORE >>

Yar Maties! The Map to a Sustainable Pot of Gold!Part 1

As I’m gathering the images for this post, the kick off of the Map to the Sustainable Gold, the sound track kicks in… I’m hearing the theme to Gilligan’s Island.  Please feel free to insert your favorite sea shanty! Hey, how bout “Yellow Submarine!”

treasure map

Yar Mates!, we be in the hunt for Sustainable Living!

The Map, as best as I can read it,  says we’re starting with Stories from a Sustainable Future.

If the stories are compelling enough, and the stories are from people who want to move into a Sustainable Urban Village, all the stakeholders will stay committed and persevere to the end! There’s that’s my theory, anyway.

The treasure needs to really compelling, as all manner of monsters may come roiling out of the depths!

If the landowners, investors, Architects, planners,  city policy persons, the secondary mortgage market, etc can see the value, they too will add their creativity to make this SUV real… READ MORE >>

Better than Democracy?

How do you capture lightning in a bottle?  Human ingenuity is the greatest asset we have, and since the times call for innovation on all levels, I’m saying it’s time to tap the lightning.

tapping into the power...human ingenuity

This Sustainable Urban Village I am proposing, needs a governance system that’s built on human ingenuity and innovation.  Check out this video on Dynamic Governance… and imagine feeling similarly about your neighbors, as these people feel about their fellow employees.

Even though businesses are the subject, why wouldn’t these dynamics transfer to a neighborhood where all the residents and businesses are organized around a great, sustainable place to live and work?  Sign me up!!!… READ MORE >>

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