Urban Planning 101

Rain City Housing – Ideas for Occidental Park


If the services are able to stay near Occidental for the foreseeable future, than something needs to be done on the streets where they stay (Main St., James St., Occidental Park)

a home for every person

RainCity Housing and Support Society is a grassroots organization built around compassion, purpose and a commitment to delivering progressive housing and support solutions for people living with mental illness, addictions and other challenges.

The people who benefit from the services of RainCity Housing are treated with dignity and respect, and are offered a safe place to live, independence and improved quality of life.

Since 1982, RainCity Housing has provided shelter and housing for thousands of people in the Lower Mainland. With a proven track record, a strong leadership team, and a clear vision for the future, RainCity Housing is a leader in finding workable, cost-effective solutions that ultimately benefit everyone in our community.

RainCity Housing is an independent, non-political, non-religious, charitable organization based in the Lower Mainland. Canadian Registered Charity #12711 5780 RR0001 – See more. 

Urban Planning 101: Big Chain Store Are Landmarks


Chain stores are important markers in the streetscape. People include mass-produced brand associations in with their perspectives of a local street. The globally marketed image, which builds up strong recognition value, also attracts potential shoppers to previously unknown areas.

Single landmarks, unless they are dominant ones, are likely to be weak references by themselves. Their recognition requires sustained attention. If they are clustered, however, they reinforce each other in a more than additive way. Familiar observers develop landmark clusters out of most unpromising material, and depend upon an integrated set of signs, of which each member may be too weak to register. The marks may also be arranged in a continuous sequence, so that a whole journey is identified and made comfortable by a familiar succession of detail. –Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City, p. 101)


Urban Planning 101: Shops Give Away Bags


The effectiveness of advertising, endorses marketing strategists’ efforts further to strengthen the sustainable distribution of their bags through unusual design, (hopefully) sustainable, waterproof materials, and the potential for re use. From global brand labels to the local baker and food store, everyone is trying to communicate his or her particular advertising message via unusual bags.

For those looking for stimulating cocktail stories, this from the history of shopping bags.

Walter H. Deubner ran a small grocery store in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was looking for a way to give his business a boost.

By Careful observation, he noticed that his customer’s purchases were limited by what they could conveniently carry. So he set about devising a way to help them buy more purchases at one time. It took him four years to develop the right solution: a prefabricated package, inexpensive, easy to use and strong enough to carry up to seventy-five pounds worth of groceries.

Damn him.

Then, in 1852, Francis Wolle and his brother invented the first paper bag in Jacobsburg PA. By 1870, the invention was enhanced and the paper bag found its way to retail, creating the first game changer. Paper bags remained the standard for carrying groceries for over 100 years, through the growth of the cities and the development of suburban grocery chains. 

The next great game changer was developed in 1975. At that time, the first plastic bags were introduced at retail, beginning with industry pioneers such as JC Penney, Sears, and Kroger. Plastic was a great solution to the challenges and opportunities of the time: Wood pulp was now expensive, oil was cheap. Plastic was considered the technology of the future! Making plastic bags required less energy, less water, the finished bags took up less space, was more durable for customers, and cost about 1/3 the cost of paper bags.

Around 2000, the world recognized that we had to do something to dispose of these durable bags which were staring to pile up in our environment and were killing our marine and wild life. We realized that over 4 billion bags are littered per year, enough to circle the earth 63 times! Infrastructure was developed for recycling bags, which had the potential to be a great solution to the bag problem. However, only about 7% of the 400 billion bags produced per year in the US alone actually make it to recycling. 

Environmentalists began lobbying their legislatures around 2005 to begin banning the use of plastic bags at retail. Over 63 communities have now embarked down this path. 




Urban Planning 101: Tourists Carry Bags


The street has always been and will continue to be, a form of advertising.  From small entrance signs to large display windows and billboards to plastic and paper bags, a broad spectrum of marketing strategies has developed.

Even with the sustainability movement, shopping bags have become an increasingly popular object of advertisement. They are constantly present on the public street, they catch the eye of potential customers, and used by global brands and bakeries alike. Bags are personal. When the merchant hands over the bag (as advertising philosophy suggests), it becomes “my bag.” This contributes to why bags help strengthen brands and help with recognition.

Full bags create positive associations and guide tourists across long distances. With reusable bags shoppers choose more organic and environmentally friendly items, and they also buy more indulgent foods, such as cookies and ice cream, compared to other shoppers. The bag colors may have been strategically placed to influence your spending. For instance black bags, the signature color of sophistication (hello, little black dress), dominates high-end makeup packaging and can even make inexpensive blushes and lipsticks seem more upscale. 




Urban Planning 101: More people are out when it’s sunny

photo (1)

Couple enjoying sun in Occidental Park.

Man’s relationship with the sun is primal—especially in Seattle. People will find chairs and places to sit or stand to enjoy its warmth. Every day/all day, chairs in cafes are turned according to the sun. Pedestrians follow sunny sidewalks and well lit public squares. They alternate between sun and shade. When there’s a farmer’s market out, vendors will try to keep the vegetables in the shade. Pedestrians will put on sunglasses—we are rumored to buy more here than anywhere else.

The sun helps sales. Sometimes customers come in to a shop to escape the sun, other times the shops lose customers to street vendors—who have more spatial flexibility. Interesting examples from Tapai and LA include roaming performance troupes that travel on a truck bed while disseminating sounds of their performance in the streets. Notice the loudspeaker that’s mounted on top of the mobile mini shrine.


Another interesting thing to consider is what people buy when it’s sunny compared to when it’s raining. A team of IBM analytics experts noticed that on rainy days customers were more likely to purchase cakes, while on sunny days the choice food was paninis. Small businesses can’t guess the success of their inventory by looking at the weather and sales reports separately, but together, they can uncover a new outcome. Now the bakery knows what to bake based on the weather forecast.


Check out their meeting notes and find out.


Urban Planning 101: Small businesses put their trash bags on the street


Back Alley, Washington & 1st Ave.

There are some logical reasons for trash lying on the streets. In an ideal world, all trash would be placed in an out of the way location where we didn’t have to see it. It stinks, it is unsightly, it is unhygienic, and it reminds us of our disproportional consumption. However, there are some advantages to having trash on the street. It is, in fact, an important prop on the theater of the street. The shop owner takes it out, often several bags of it, to the edge of the sidewalk or the back alleys. Over the course of the day homeless people rummage through it for bottles, cans, or other potential reusable items. By the next day the bags are taken by trash collection. The streetscape is activated an involved in the processes of the everyday. To many who live here, trash is an eyesore. To others, it is a transparent example of the functions of the people that live there.

What is it to you?


If you’re passionate about zero waste, sign up to receive their meeting minutes, and provide them some suggestions.


Urban Planning 101: Neighborhood Literacy


Photocredit: doodlebugsteaching.blogspot.com

Neighborhoods speak. The citizens that live in them need to understand their language.

Considering the urban background not from the abstract perspective of an urban planner but from the viewpoint of an attentive observer, I’m going to try to learn more about my neighborhood from sayings, observations, and bite-size truths. I’ll try to do short essays as I learn how to read the neighborhood.

I’m curious about the topic of neighborhood literacy, from a pedestrian’s perspective. With these Urban Planning 101 posts, I want to learn what to notice if I want to understand the neighborhood. Over time, we can learn to detect patterns in the relationships between people and the neighborhood environment.