Vacant Lot Transformation for Green Jobs and Neighborhood Revitalization

Vacant Lot Transformation for Green Jobs and Neighborhood Revitalization

I just found this little blue-print I drew up for a vacant lot by one of my houses in Pittsburgh. I never had the chance to put this into place, but it would be wonderful to have more non-consumerist places to spend time between home and work.

Break it Down!

There’s tons of space in Pittsburgh and tons of bricks from demolitions so it would be pretty great to build a rainy or very sunny day pavilion as you see in the top left corner.

The top right corner would hold the Constance Street community bread / pizza oven and would also benefit from spare bricks.

Going down the top center are several long picnic tables.

Trees are much needed on this highway-side of Pittsburgh’s Northside so some nice fruit and shade trees in the middle of a block will sooth the residents and be beautiful and delicious. Sporadic dots both labeled and unlabeled represent trees.

The bottom center of the lot includes plans for some weird seating to be designed by one or several of Pittsburgh’s many amazing artists.

And at the very bottom, a lovely long row of soil-cleansing, sun-worshiping, smile-making sunflowers!

Let’s Make Green Jobs Fixing Our Communities

We have so much public land that’s being wasted as over-grown and trash-filled lots. At the same time, we have so many under and unemployed people. Let’s find a way to create and fund jobs that would enhance our communities, like rehabilitating abandoned lots, while putting under-worked Americans back in the workforce.

I’m underemployed myself and I’d jump at the chance to have a part-time job cleaning up and beautifying my neighborhood.

Give Me Work and Give Me Beauty

We want bread but we want roses too!

Love to and From San Francisco

Love to and From San Francisco

105 years after the legendary earthquake that shook San Francisco to the ground, I lived through my first San Francisco earthquake. I didn’t even feel it, but I was there when it happened.

You probably don’t know, but I skipped out of Pittsburgh last month and now I’m living and working in the Bay Area. To celebrate San Francisco, I will share some of my favorite scenes so far:

My first sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge:

My bicycle on a greenway:

Bikes are everywhere. These are bikes that people use to ride to work, friend’s houses, grocery stores, coffee shops. I love it.

And I enjoy this amazing tree outside my window that provides incredible shade and a home for many wonderful birds.

This temporary street furniture suited me just fine! I got to a friend’s house way before they did recently and found this lovely table and chair set up so I just made myself comfortable and got to work. When I was done, some lucky person in need of a new table and chair moved it to their place.

I’ll probably furnish my new place in much of the same way.

I’m fond of this one-man band set-up of a charming fellow I met on Market St.

I’m still the newest lady in San Francisco so every single thing is new and amazing to me. Send me all of your recommendations so I may take them seriously!

What are your favorite places?

to eat? to drink? buy books? read books? to frolic? to ride your bike? to hide from the world?

Tree Chop in Progress in Lawrenceville

Tree Chop in Progress in Lawrenceville

One of the only lovely shade trees in Lawrenceville on Fisk Street is currently being “pruned” to make way for ugly wires.

I don’t have a working camera on me so I tried to use the camera on my computer and got this picture.

It is still full at the top but pretty soon it will look like these poor trees around the city. (see last week’s post on Unintentional Topiary: When Trees are Butchered)

Now they’re almost done and this tree looks like it was hacked to pieces by someone with a significant rage problem.

This is a horrific business and maybe not as glamorous or compelling as the oil spill but is just another indication that we as Americans continue working to bend nature to accommodate our need for luxury. This is infuriating and devastating to watch.

Maybe it’s time that we start figuring out how we can afford fit ourselves in around nature.

I’ll get a picture when they’re all done and post that later.

The United States is Now Criss-Crossed by Nearly Four Million Miles of Roadways

The United States is Now Criss-Crossed by Nearly Four Million Miles of Roadways

And what we need more trees, less highways.

Photo by flickr user shawnconna

I found this article the other day when browsing the site of the very excellent organization Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest and thought it was worth sharing. Notice especially the part in italics:

Why Shade Trees? The Unexpected Benefit

Davis, CA (November 1, 2007)- We would all prefer to walk down a tree-lined street to one without trees, but did you know that the street itself prefers to run under trees? This report examines the cost-saving benefits of having shaded streets. All other factors equal, the condition of pavement on tree-shaded streets is better than on unshaded streets. In fact, shaded roads require significantly less maintenance and can save up to 60% of repaving costs over 30 years.

After more than 100 years of road and highway building, the United States is now criss-crossed by nearly four million miles of roadways. Add in all the parking lots, private roads, driveways, and road shoulders, and the total amount of paved land comes to approximately one percent of the total area of the contiguous United States. The cost of maintaining this asphalt can be lowered through urban tree planting.

Photo by flickr user scratch n sniff

Asphalt streets are a combination of filler materials, known as aggregate, and a binder- asphalt cement- on top of one or more layers of gravel and compacted soil. As pavement temperatures rise, the binder evaporates and breaks down and the pavement begins to harden, making it easier for cracks to form. Tree planting along roads provides shade, thereby improving pavement conditions. According to research conducted by this study, 20% shade on a street improves pavement condition by 11%, which is a 60% savings for resurfacing over 30 years. Read Tips for Street Shading Trees

Three Easy Things You Can Do

1. Learn to identify the trees in your neighborhood

2. Become a tree tender at your local urban forestry or tree organization

3. Write to your local legislators to voice support to fund tree planting programs

Which Way to Go? Planning Walking and Biking Routes

Which Way to Go? Planning Walking and Biking Routes

What is important to you when you plan a bicycle or walking route?

For me it’s easy:

I just prefer

1. Shady trails or tree-lined streets

2. Car-free or car-light

I like to reduce my potential for interacting with automobiles.

Two of my bicycle riding co-workers were recently surprised when I said that a shady route was one of my main considerations — they’d never thought of it; and I was surprised they never noticed. There is a massive Pleasure Differential between riding under a tree-lined street or path and riding under the relentless sun.

What would make you walk or ride your bicycle more?

Unintentional Topiary: When Trees are Butchered

Unintentional Topiary: When Trees are Butchered

When trees face technology, trees are usually the loser, but so are we. With power lines strung around the city, rather than buried, there are few options for trees to grow to maturation, leaving the streets hot and without shade.

We're Number One... in What?

Oh right, football and hockey.

A tree might grow in Brooklyn, but one is butchered in Friendship.

I don’t think this is supposed to a topiary sculpture, but it looks like someone turned this beautiful tree into a turkey.

Stories from the Neighborhood

Stories from the Neighborhood

Hello Everyone,

I’ve been a bit scattered and unproductive since I found out last week that my friend John Metzler was unexpectedly killed last Thursday. John was well known and loved around Pittsburgh for his disarming personality and his work salvaging trees from around the city and giving them a new life in his sculptures and furniture.

Photo of John Metzler in front of the Urban Tree Forge, Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette

I’ll write more about him later when I’ve had more time to think but if you’d like to learn more about John Metzler and his amazing work, here are some resources: You can find out more on the blog for his project, the Urban Tree Forge, the Pittsburgh Art Blog has a lovely memorial with great pictures, the Post Gazette, which had profiled him just two weeks prior has an obituary.

There will be a tree dedication ceremony in John’s honor held at Allegheny Commons Park on Sunday, May 23rd at 12:00 P.M. Potluck lunch to follow at the New Hazlett Theater.

Here are some other news from around the neighborhood, nation, and world.

Adrienne Maree Brown issues an invitation to attend the US Social Forum. The USSF will be held in Detroit June 22-26 with over 1,000 workshops and over 20,000 grassroots activists from around the world.

Let’s Go Ride a Bike published a lovely interview with bikey future-mama Joanna Goddard who goes everywhere by bicycle in New York City. Joanna writes her own blog Cup of Jo as well as writing for a number of other publications and riding her bicycle throughout her pregnancy.

And by way of Free Public Transit: Clemson Area Transit has become the nation’s largest fare-free transit service, providing 2 million free rides per year, and growing.

And in parking news, a few weeks ago Streetsblog made the case that the best real estate in a city should not go to parking:


It might seem like a simple idea — that having an enormous parking lot in front of a business makes it unattractive to pedestrians and disrupts the fabric of a neighborhood. Unfortunately, this is the way that huge swaths of American towns and cities are designed.

It’s worth checking out Kaid Benfield‘s longer and more thorough piece “For walkability and community, put the building on the street and the parking in back” from the NRDC Switchboard.

How to Turn a Vacant Lot into a Pizza Parlor – GOOD

How to Turn a Vacant Lot into a Pizza Parlor – GOOD

Great article from GOOD Magazine.

Seven steps to figure out how to get a community oven in your neighborhood.

How many parties have you walked into only to find the living room empty and a crowded kitchen, everyone huddled near the stove or around the table? Maybe it’s the smell of food. Maybe it’s the warmth of the stove. Maybe it’s our ancestral heritage. Kitchens are the hearts of our homes, so why not for the whole neighborhood? “Community ovens can be the glue that keeps a neighborhood together,” says Ray Werner, a Pittsburgh based community oven builder. Want to build a hearth for your hood? Here’s how to get started.

I want to build a community oven! I live on a street that doesn’t have any green space except for two vacant lots and so I drew up this very professional design to make better use of the space:
I graduated from the School of Looseleaf Design
The top right hand corner of the paper is the Oven.
I imagined the fairly large vacant lot having:
  1. Fruit trees: a row of fruit trees to provide shade and food for residents.
  2. Picnic tables throughout, of course.
  3. Sunflowers.
  4. Weather-proof seats designed and installed by local artists.
  5. And a pavilion.
Because buildings are often being demolished in Pittsburgh, there are a lot of extra
bricks lying around. So why not also build a pavilion so residents can escape their homes even if it’s raining, and still have a place to sit outside? A place to read, or sketch, or lament, a place to meet with friends, a place where you can sit comfortably outside your home without having to buy anything?