Ecocity Mapping for Urban Villages

Urban Villages Overlay with Bus and BART Routes

With funding from a Climate Protection grant award from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Ecocity Builders worked with doctoral students in City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, to bring Ecocity Builders’ President Richard Register’s concept for Ecocity Mapping into a simple GIS-based mapping method to identify potential and existing centers for economic and cultural vitality.

Existing or potential “urban villages” are urban environments with a concentration of amenities, shown in the urban planning literature to help lower carbon emissions by reducing vehicle miles traveled, that would serve as cores of urban villages.

The mapping method calculates distances from residences to amenities such as grocery stores, transit stops, restaurants, schools, and parks. Combined with groundtruthing, the mapping method reveals existing and potential vitality centers that can serve as a road map for developing citywide and area-specific plans. Ecocity Mapping also serves to reveal how the built environment is related to topography, water systems, and the transportation network.

Citizen Input

Our next step was to pilot the approach in an Oakland neighborhood and use the mapping to help inform a sustainable “urban village” specific plan.  We formed a partnership based on common goals and mutual respect with traditionally marginalized Village Bottoms community in the West Oakland. Our collaboration resulted in the Village Bottoms Cultural District plan and we continue to work together on project development and plan implementation.

Calculating greenhouse gas reductions

Our research showed that applying the Sustainable Urban Villages approach to the City of Oakland can potentially save an equivalent of 67,200 tons of CO2 emissions annually by 2020. Additionally, we calculated CO2 emissions reductions specific to proposed actions in the Village Bottoms neighborhood. Findings suggest that the Sustainable Urban Villages approach can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our cities, while improving the quality of life in our urban environments.

For more information:

1. Final Ecocity Mapping Report to Bay Area Air Quality District [PDF] 18MB

2. Village Bottoms Cultural District Plan [PDF] 4MB

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