October 03 2013

Guerilla Planning Strikes Junior College Neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California

The Junior College neighborhood is one of the oldest areas of Santa Rosa, and one of the most walkable. The location of middle schools, high schools, and the junior college within the neighborhood has led to a high level of pedestrian traffic and social interaction between residents. Additionally, the traditional neighborhood layout and house design attract non-residents who want to experience the area’s unique sense of community, history, and walkability.

Bungolow-style homes on Orchard Street. Santa Rosa, CA

I was on such a walk the other day when, on the corner of Howard and Wright Streets, noticed a modest homemade bench and some old lattice siding nailed to two posts to create a bulletin board.  The board was covered in flyers and leaflets about community news and events; and although the bench was in need of some slight vegetation management, it was actually very comfortable.  Such is the case with many types of what is known as guerilla planning, which seeks to beautify streetscapes and lend some aspect of convenience to neighborhoods.  

The Wright Street bench and bulletin board: Santa Rosa, CA

Some urban planners don’t like guerillas because they can undermine a city’s improvement efforts, and are oftentimes simply viewed as vandals. Yarn bombing, for instance, is something that city officials are not too pleased with. Despite its quirky attitude, once the material is subjected to the elements, the rebel action loses its artsy allure and ends up desecrating perfectly functional public spaces. Alternatively, the chaining of folding chairs to bus stop posts has caught on throughout Sonoma County, and is a free and unobtrusive way to help transit riders. Meanwhile, on the other side of the nation, citizens in Raleigh, North Carolina have taken to the streets as well, using Guerilla Wayfinding to promote walkability.

Plastic chair chained to a bus stop pole on Sonoma Highway in Kenwood, CA

It is exciting to see people taking on tasks that are traditionally reserved for planning agencies and design firms. The fact that these are organic campaigns means that these improvements are tailored to the community. This is something the residents want, even if it is just a wooden bench and a piece of plywood.

Does guerilla planning constitute property crime? Or is it a real and effective way of developing community cohesion?

Credits: Images by Nick Danty. Data linked to sources.

Nick Danty

Nick Danty is a graduate of the Geography and Planning Department at California State University, Chico and currently works at the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA) in Santa Rosa. Nick has been involved in several programs at RCPA, but is most proud of the 2013 Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Project, for which he served as the project manager and outreach coordinator. A Northern California native who calls his single-family detached dwelling home, Nick is not a stranger to the ills of suburban sprawl and the toll it takes on human and physical environments. Nick’s travels to Europe and throughout North America have shown him preventing and retrofitting sprawl is possible through intelligent neighborhood design, beautiful architecture, mitigation banking, innovative transit systems and visionary urban and rural plans. He is very excited about writing for The Grid, and plans on discussing projects and programs happening at his agency related to transportation planning, climate adaptation, livability, urban land development, and environmental conservation.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 at 9:06 am and is filed under Environmental Design, Housing, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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