Saturday, October 29, 2005

Grading Done -- finally

So 8 hours later, grading is done.

Oh my god! The portfolios took at least 20 minutes each, and there are 38 students. The worse the grammar was, the longer it took. I have some ESL students, so you can imagine how long those took.

Don't get me wrong, part of the reason they took so long was because I really enjoy spending time with each student, reading their ideas, and peeking inside their understanding of planning as a result of this class. There's a certain voyeuristic satisfaction, not to mention pedagogical benefits. But in terms of me getting time to work on the thesis, holy god. UNBELIEVABLE how long this took. I should have totaled the hours, but it's gotta be in the "days" category.

I'm pretty wiped tonight, and I still have to prepare "Grade" sheets, so I think I'll do that tonight while watching a movie, and start fresh tomorrow with thesis maps.


Never quite as you plan, but still, I feel really good getting this major task done.

It will all be alright. It has to be!

Meeting thesis committee member Tuesday, so lots to do between now and then. And reading friends' theses, tomorrow, too. Yikes! The other Ms are getting close. Very exciting for them. Very sad for me.

Such is life.

Onward and upward.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Passion for Landscape

Alf Simon, director of the Landscape Architecture program at UNM, shared his 5 reasons for sustaining a passion about Landscape at an all-school assembly that showcased a speaker from each of the school’s 3 programs. Alf was so eloquent and moving that I got a copy of his list to share.

5 minutes and 5 things that I love about landscape architecture

by Alf Simon

Presented at an All-School Assembly, School of Architecture and Planning, University of New Mexico

October 25, 2005

1. Landscape the idea

§ Landscape (not to be confused with landscaping or plants) is a continuous cultural and environmental project

§ People and landscape transform and shape each other over time

§ Landscape and people sustain and reveal each other

2. Landscape is dynamic

§ The cycles of landscape range from minute to minute, hourly, daily, monthly, yearly and so on. It is fruitless to try and freeze a landscape in time

§ Process and form is the text of landscape

3. Therefore, landscape is about constant change, and the architecture of landscape is an architecture of transformation, change and uncertainty. That, to me, is exciting.

4. Even when you dream your dream takes place somewhere, and that place, that landscape that you conjure up in your unconscious, is absolutely interdependent with whatever crazy events are unfolding. The landscape of the conscious world is also interdependent with our movements, actions and values – with our lives; and that is why it is so important to make good landscapes that support, reinforce and inspire us.

5. The architecture of landscape, both as idea and as place, has the power to move and inspire more than anything that I have experienced.

These are 5 reasons why I love landscape architecture.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Heading to the weekend

So I made it through a tough week. Tonight: the last of the grading. Tomorrow: a play -- Clive Barker's Frankenstein in Love at the Vortex. Local performance poet Danny Solis is the lead, local columnist and personality Gene Grant is in it, as is Eric Bodwell. Some of my favorite ABQ boys!

I feel put through the ringer, and although I've spent all week cursing teaching and all it entails (grading, preparation, reading shit that' s not for my thesis), it's also been the source of ego boosts this week, too. Tuesday was a lecture/discussion on Transportation Planning -- of which I know next to nothing. Most of what I know I got from reading their textbook (through the prism of my other interests, of course!). The only advantage I have is that I'm a better student than my students. Otherwise? I'd be lost for sure. Thursday was a lecture/discussion on Community Development -- of which I know next to nothing (hmmm...noticing a theme?). What I know I know from sporadic lectures in other classes and ... you guessed it ... the textbook.

But both classes went BEAUTIFULLY. Maybe because I didn't try to say too much (not that much TO say, really) or maybe because I had to think really quickly about what it was that I wanted them to know. Mostly, I wasn't afraid to extrapolate from the information my larger points about the role of government and the underlying values that should inform all our planning (and political) decisions.

And we had a public meeting in the North Valley for a planning process that's just getting started that I got to facilitate, only because my normal project manager had another meeting in Socorro. It went GREAT. I was so ON. There is nothing like facilitating a community meeting. It's almost better than teaching. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to tell you which was better. There's certainly less post-stress from teaching. The hard part about community meetings is the work that comes after to capture and use responsibly all the information you get.

Last night was a meeting with fellow poets to choose poems for a local anthology published by the Harwood. Wading through over 150 entries. Arguing about the merit of poems. What's new? What works and why? What speaks to you? What's too important to leave out? What is lost if not included? What will only do a disservice to itself by being included among other poems that are sure to overshadow it and render it flimsy at best? SO FUN. Talking and laughing and advocating and putting your foot down and knowing when to let go. Mostly just reveling in being one of several poets supporting other poets through love of their poetry.

So this was a professional development week, disparate though it still seems to be. And now? Now time for grading and then THESIS ALL WEEKEND LONG. And the break has actually wet my appetite to get back into the mix. I actually want to do the map analysis to see what my data actually show. The story will uncover itself this weekend, and then all I have to do is write it up! Holy god let it go quickly.

All this time feels positively decadent. Now I just have to not waste it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Turning corners

But today it seems doable. Fog clearing a little. A little.

Last night was a public meeting whereI actually got to do some facilitation. I can't even describe what a rush it is to lead community discussion. It feels like gathering power, focusing it in a prism, and unleashing it to tie people together in the cords of their own shared interest. Picture the scene from Little Mermaid where Ursula the Sea Witch stirs the water to create this huge maelstrom (my word of the week) that sucks in power and creates one swirl out of disparate elements.

Yeah, like that. Only instead of doing it for my own self-interest, it's in the interest of community. Community vision and action.

I just keep hoping to clear things away, clear time for thesis. But it's not happening, so I have to change the mindset and just do a little bit at a time. It takes so much mental energy to actually work on it that it hardly seems worth it for just a half-hour. That's the issue at the moment.

If I can get all the papers graded by tomorrow (hardly doable, by the way), then I can really spend the entire weekend on thesis. Maybe even finish with the maps by Monday and do a write up in time to share it with my committee.

I have a hard deadline of Nov. 8 to have things as pulled together as I can, and well, it's not looking good.

When will this END? Sooner if I work on it, I realize. Oh the paradox! Someone please send me some strength! I'm drowning over here!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

from deep in the afternoon

Feeling underwater.

I cannot believe my life this week. So surreal.

I'm floating and disconnected and panicked all at once.

Teaching went well today, but I have no idea how. I didn't know what I would say until about a half-hour before, and even as the class was going along, I had no idea how it would play out. It turned out perfectly. The timing was divine. Asked my last question with 5 minutes to go. Made my last point with a minute to spare.

Isn't that weird?

But in the meantime managed to piss off one student enough for her to contact the Chair of our Department and ask for intervention.

Hella week. I tell you!

Public meeting tonight. Then more grading.

Poetry meeting tomorrow night. Then more grading.

I thought I would have a guest lecturer Thursday, but he just cancelled, so now I have to plan for Thursday's class, too. Fuck.

Fuck fuck fuck.

And all I want to do is go to Juarez!

But I haven't TOUCHED my thesis in weeks, and I'm having a major meeting with committee member next week, so, not looking good for bubbles.

Pop pop pop.

Rainy check? Splashed hopes? Bleeding fantasies?

I want to scream and sink into the growing hole in my chest. Can't decide which would be more satisfying.

I just need TIME. Where can you buy extra?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Connection vs. Oneness

I just want to make the small but crucial distinction that while I do believe in connection, I do NOT believe that everything is "one" in the sense that "we're all connected, so why can't we just get along?" I think diversity remains critical to connectivity; otherwise, it's all just uniform. I think it takes a big leap of faith and strong moral stance to understand how we can be connected to un-like things and people. Advocating oneness is too ... totalizing and profoundly disrespectful of the uniqueness of each living, breathing, and non-living or breathing thing. We're made up of atoms, and beneath that connected by cosmic strings, but we add up to different people, individual stars, and crazy-real viruses that all share this universe equally.

It's the difference between acceptance of additive reality and imposition of reductive reality. Viva la difference!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Listening, Connection, and Community Design

So a while ago, I started my philosophical treatise on connection -- how connection is really the moral standard because it reflects the reality of the cosmos. It's gravity. It's chemical bonds. It's storytelling and love and family and community. All those things.

Today, reading Planning in the Face of Power by John Forester (a classic text, by the way), as he described the difference between listening and hearing, I made the connection that even this distinction is really at its heart a moral as well as practical reliance on -- connectedness.

You grant someone a hearing. It's institutional. You separate them from you. Their words fall upon your ears, and you make of them what you will. Listening means entering into relationship with the speaker. Meeting them halfway. Acknowledging your relationship in order that you may understand not just their words but their meaning. Forester advocates this kind of listening as the basis of good planning practice but also as essential community building, as well as engaging fully in all our relationships, personal as well as professional.

Zooming out a little, I see that this kind of engagement, this meeting halfway, this commitment to connection, is what I described below that leads to compounding interest of goodwill and good energy.

Happily, Forester's distinction serves as the basis of community design as "making sense together," which solves my biggest thesis problem, which I thought was, how can you plan a space for all these different identities? What would it possibly look like, and how can I know? According to my advisor, and now Forester, there is no prescriptive aesthetic or physical element -- there must not be. The process must be open and inclusive, and the design falls out of that earnest interaction and conversation. The design process models and begins to foster the very type of community interaction that the space should be able to support. So there.

It's all connected. QED.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Struggling to ride the wave

I had some momentum. I was writing. Things were shaping up. There's still momentum, I guess, but I'm experiencing this strange but familiar phenomenon that creeps up when things are going well. When your energy is good, it acts as this positive force-field, calling other good things to it. Suddenly you draw new connections; you have more juicy conversations with friends and acquaintances. You write poems. You meet new people. You find yourself in new situations even without trying. And it feels effortless, like when you're in the zone during a game. You're just ON.

So the trick is to let all these good things keep juicing you up while not letting you get distracted from your main goal. That's a tough optimum to achieve. Balance, people. Always about balance.

The opposite is also true, of course. When things are bad, you call negative energy to you, as well.

The difference between the good energy and bad energy always shifts as abruptly as a quantum leap -- it takes a tremendous surge to take you from one to the other. Usually from the outside.

But Newton explained that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted on from the outside. So my only job is to keep myself OUT of the way. To ride this wave of goodness for as long as it lasts. To pay attention while it carries me along, and to make the most of the productivity while it's almost effortless. Cause lord knows, it took a lot of energy to get here, and it will take a bunch to get back once I'm off track.

So ride the wave, baby. Ride it hard.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Blissful weekend

No thinking this weekend. Lots of non-thinking. Sleep. No sleep. Bad tv. Eating out. Soy ice cream. Jordan almonds.

And a book. Freakonomics. Interesting read.

And poetry. Performance poetry.

And soccer. Watching soccer.

Housesitting. Enjoying housesitting. Doing nothing but housesitting. Literally sitting. In a house. Going nowhere.

Life this weekend was simple and sweet. Much needed silence. And no work.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Talking vs. Writing

So I had a great meeting today with my actual committee chair. We walked through the map analysis (tedious and long, but not hard, it turns out, although HIGHLY interpretive and analytical, which will be ... challenging) and then talked through my findings so far and the direction I think this whole thing is headed.

And here's the thing: I think I'm headed somewhere. Who knows how lost I will be tomorrow, especially when in the maze of writing minutiae, but for today, I know what I'm saying, and it makes sense. Lord halleluia. Praise the goddess.

I think it is amazing that when I think in outline form or even just tell the story of my thesis, it's all right there. It makes sense. If someone could just interview me in order to graduate, this would be a cakewalk.

Somehow, in the writing, all my fears find me. My brain is too quick for me, and as soon as I write a sentence, I think of 3 other ways to interpret it, or 3 contradictory examples, or 3 other offshoots that will each take pages to explain. And I'm suddenly overwhelmed and lost. I lose the narrative; I lose the point; and I lose my nerve. It's exhausting and infuriating and really really scary.

For the moment, I am hopeful. This weekend for map analysis. Next week for write-up and more theory research. Next weekend for more theory write-up. That will take me close -- very close -- to the tail end. I talked through the conclusion today and the thing that was stopping me dead in my tracks turns out to not be an issue at all! I love that. My chair simply made it disappear with the application of a different theorist. Just like that! Change the criteria, and you change everything. That's quantum reality for you!

I'm adding Kevin Lynch's performance criteria for place, which neatly sidesteps the flaw in urban design theory, such as New Urbanism, that proposes the way something looks as an answer for a real problem. Lynch says, the way it looks doesn't matter. What matters is accessibility, control, flexibility, fit and ... I can't remember the last one. So I don't HAVE to know what a space for different identities will look like. There is no such thing. What I have to propose is a process that recognizes different groups will have different needs and cultural uses of the space and that is structured in such a way as to elicit and include all the disparate voices and balance them in the design. Plug in Lynch's performance criteria, and you will be able to tell whether what you're proposing at the end will work well for the different groups. Viola! It's a conclusion.

It's coming, it's coming, it's coming! What was clogged is unstuck, and I resolve to stay elusively slippery and free.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Strangest Dream

Last night was a rich night for dreaming. Did anyone else feel it?

I fell asleep looking at the moon; maybe that set the mood.

First there was some community event -- vast fair grounds -- and a nervousness that I might not meet up with whoever I was there to see. It was a feeling of teen-ness, that unsureness of where you're supposed to be and a hyper-awareness of how you must look. I had hooked up with a bad boy/spray-paint artist type, and I was excited to see him, but when a friend finally showed up, I snuck off with her instead and felt relieved.

A turn. We're in tents now. Lots of bodies lined up. It's night. I'm feeling discomfort, so I pickup a toothpaste tube looking thing and squeeze whatever it is in my mouth. It's like power gel with chunks of stringy ginger. I chew gingerly and try quickly to swallow. I'm telling someone about it, laughing, but as I look at the tube, I see you can "dial" the medicine you want. I'd taken whatever was dialed last. I look closer. Fertility enhancer. Whoa boy! I laugh, but as I scan the list, I see there's also some natural version of RU-186. My stomach flips pancakes. I sink to my knees and begin to cry, rocking back and forth. No one understands, and I cannot explain. I get hugs. Women continue their lives around me. I'm still on the floor in the utility room off the kitchen of some shared girls house.

I wake up late for work, glad to worry about something real.


The water only stopped at dead-end streets,
rivers hidden beside valley slums
like convicts sheltered from the rain.

Traffic ran over the city
like flash-floods in the ocean.

I tried to see my future peeking out
like Cascades behind low-slung clouds.

Instead, I found a path
through pine forests mold-blue lakes
and icicle mountains dripping down
to red arches in Moab’s desert.

All that I made and divested of myself
shared the space of one car
with the hot pants and fur-flurries of cat and dog –
friendship strewn behind
like broken yellow lines leading home.

Summer 2002


After independence day,
they're all labor days.
Try to keep breathing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Chapter 2: Theory of Identity -- Sign and Place

Also incomplete (hmmm, sensing a pattern? Perspective, people! At least it's progress!) but gives a roadmap of where I'm headed and some language.

What can theorists tell us about this thing identity that the North Forth community wants? What are the strategies that can create the signs and symbols of community and those that will create the spaces that support community-building? In looking at the literature in various disciplines, what are the useful definitions that can help uncover potential avenues of action or possible dangers of application?

Several disciplines struggle with describing this intersection of identity and place. In addition to the planning literature, anthropology and geography also wrestle with the terms, with varying levels of emphasis on one or the other side. Anthropology tends to prioritize issues of community identity using the term “culture,” whereas geography emphasizes place. Sociologists and anthropologists both use the term “symbolic communities” in describing the way residents interact with and in place. Throwing sociology into the mix adds an emphasis on the effect on residents of the interaction between residents and a place.

Planners split their loyalty on this one, being interested in both the effects on the residents but also on the place. Community organizing literature prioritizes the residents, while urban design literature focuses on improvements to physical locations. More than the other disciplines, planning attempts to support and engender residents’ agency to effect change, usually by focusing on physical improvements to a place. While community organizing is an important and necessary prerequisite for community development, physical improvements can be a powerful motivating and reflective tool to make visible the organizing efforts of communities. Results are often more visible, immediate, and direct when focusing on specific changes to a place identified and prioritized by residents.

Cultural studies adds a strand of discussion of identity politics that helps to understand how various groups within a neighborhood interact – both in terms of how each individual is a member of multiple groups with multiplex identities and how these identities interact in space. Cultural theorists also add an awareness and explicitness about the differential of power and access that reflects the uneven playing field for different groups. Some have more resources than others and different power factors that improve their ability to assert their identity in space and plan to have spaces that reflect their identity.

While all of these disciplines touch on the elements needed to examine the 4th Street and Montaño case, none of them alone offers definitions complete enough or relevant enough to be helpful in setting a course of action. Like a jigsaw puzzle, we must find the definition pieces that help illuminate the issues and put them together in order to see a picture of this place, the people who will use it, and steps toward action. In the end, we need to find a process that will open dialogue with disparate neighbors as they plan physical improvements that provide spaces for social interaction that over time can foster community and the possibility of shared identity through a decision-making process that includes – or at least invites – everyone to participate.

The term identity as used by North Forth residents has multiple conflated meanings that are complicated to parse out but that must be untangled in order to begin thinking of concrete actions to work toward the multiple embedded goals. Only by understanding what residents hope to achieve through “identity” can proposals be made for a process to get them there and outline next steps to take. Their meanings can be loosely categorized into two emphases: 1) identity as sign/symbol or artifact and 2) identity as places that become infused with identity by providing the forum for community interaction. The first emphasis encapsulates visual or interpretive ways that residents and outsiders will be able to “see” community identity. They are the visual artifacts of community than an anthropologist could use to study the community’s culture even if the people themselves were not present to interview. In design terms, communities create this kind of identity through a name or gateways that set off the community as distinct from the areas that surround it. The second emphasis describes identity through places that can encourage interactions among residents and support community activities.

In looking at these separate but necessarily overlapping emphases, several theoretical discourses can be useful. We will use the discussion of “symbolic community” in both anthropology and sociology to look at the sign/symbol element of identity and the social science term “spatial practice” to look at the place emphasis. We will then look to cultural studies’ discussion of “identity politics” to give us a hint as to how multiple cultural groups interact in these spaces and vie for the power to infuse them with representations of culture and use them to support their own cultural activities.

Identity as Symbol

Sociology provides a body of work that looks at how various communities understand the places they live, which one would hope could be reversed and applied in a prescriptive way to form communities where none currently exist. This discussion of “symbolic communities” involves both names and boundaries, which speaks to the first of our emphases of identity.

Sociologist Albert Hunter wrote an important book in the 1970s that explored how residents identify their communities. Specifically, he studied Chicago neighborhoods, which had become the premier example of a city made up of neighborhoods, mostly due to earlier efforts of sociologists from the University of Chicago, Burgess and Robert Park. These sociologists set the theoretical groundwork for what they called “natural” communities. They sent a team of sociologist students out into Chicago’s neighborhoods and performed interviews and surveys about their neighborhoods. Based on the data they collected, Burgess and Park created a map of Chicago that carved it into 75 (a nice, round number) neighborhoods. Every few years, they would send another team of students out to gather data in these neighborhoods again in order to compare it to their previous investigations. Hunter’s contribution to this field was to start the investigation over in order to test whether the same “natural” neighborhoods would emerge. What he found was a much messier picture of Chicago than Burgess and Park’s work ever showed.

In each of the communities, he interviewed 10 residents and asked them to name “their part” of Chicago and describe the boundaries. He also gathered detailed socio-economic information (race, ethnicity, age, occupation, etc.) about those he interviewed. While his work ended up contradicting much of Park and Burgess’ claims of “natural communities,” Hunter was much less concerned with showing up shoddy and unethical sociological methodology as he was in understanding how people understand their community identity. How can anyone tell when a community exists? How can residents tell? How can researchers tell?

While Burgess set out three identifying spheres that played out and sometimes overlapped in a community – one economic, one cultural, and one political, Hunter found that communities could be described with just two dimensions: one socio-cultural and one spatial. For the first dimension, he used the presence or absence of name as his indicator of identity, and for the second, he used residents’ descriptions of boundaries (Hunter 4).

Subsequent research by a professor from Columbia, Sudhir Venkatesh, uncovered evidence that Burgess and Park’s “natural” communities were not natural at all. The communities were defined based on easily extractable data and boundaries that allowed easy study in subsequent years. The communities were as much an artifact of sociological methodologies as they were residents’ perceptions, if not more. Further, Venkatesh showed that the persistent identity of these communities was a result of a protracted campaign by the researchers in the interest of long-term study. After they carved Chicago up into neighborhoods, the sociologists approached city officials and business directories to lobby them to use the neighborhood names in their study. Their efforts were successful. Even to the present day, the Chicago white pages are organized by neighborhood, many with the original Park and Burgess names, although the boundaries have shifted somewhat. In addition, the sociologies approached the U.S. Census Bureau and lobbied that it collect information according to their boundaries, effectively institutionalizing their work and providing an on-going source for data and comparison across time (Venkatesh 2001).

Taken together, in addition to cementing Chicago as the birthplace of neighborhood study in sociology, Park and Burgess’ efforts literally changed the political landscape of Chicago. Politicians had neighborhood interests to represent where literally no recognized neighborhoods existed before. Not only were these neighborhoods made up of real people whose interests were consolidated into a name – sometimes names chosen for them by Park or Burgess – but they had regularly collected data attached to them that could be used to show progress or decline. Depending on the circumstance, this could be used to the advantage of residents, politicians, or business interests.




(Discussion of relevance to 4th and Montano case)

If we put boundaries into place with gateways or other physical design measures, does that mean they work to create place? Create community where none exists? Or is fractured?

And if not, or if it's too problematic or too disparate from goals that are really more about place than identity, what if we start with a focus on PLACE?

Identity as Place

The seminal theorists in this discussion are French social scientists interested in space, culture, and how the two interact. Foucault, de Certeau, Lefebvre, and Bourdieu lay the theoretical groundwork to look at how communities interact in space to form culture, reflect culture, fight for power, and make meaning. In Lefebvre’s terms, “spatial practices” are the individual and cultural way residents use spaces. In a very real sense, spaces are only as real as the interactions that happen in them. A sidewalk isn’t really a sidewalk if no one can or does walk on it. A parking lot is working as something other than a parking lot if community festivals take place there – festivals that simultaneously build community in an active way and also reflect community that already exists. The two emphases of identity noted above match Lefebvre’s distinction between “representations of space” and “spaces of representation.” Representations of space would be gateways or names for an area that signify the community they reference. Spaces of representation are the places that allow for dialogue about community and the interaction that constitutes it.

A huge body of work comes from this theoretical foundation, including the work of geographers, Edward Soja primary among them. In planning, one thread of theoretic discourse centers on the term “spatial practice,” including Helen Liggitt and David Perry.

While these theorists do talk about power, and therefore it should be possible to apply their discussion to real-world situations, in which various cultural groups within a community have various levels of power in terms of political access, economic resources, cultural resources, traditions of community interaction and discussion, education, and racial stratification, how that actually plays out on the ground and in the design process for physical spaces is more difficult to discern. To explore how various cultural groups exert and contest power and representation in community spaces we will need to look to cultural studies’ discussion of identity politics, although again, this discussion tends to be analytical and not prescriptive. We will hope that the analysis can be applied in the 4th Street case to ensure that multiple identities can engage in a process that recognizes multiplex identities, cultural identities, and place identities as part of an active dialogue and design program.


The whole argument rails against modernist conception of representation of space but then can only stay in the realm of the academic. Get out of the academic and into specifics, where these relations are actually happening! As opposed to in the purely intellectual realm, where they’re NOT. Modernism is in the head on the paper. Postmodernism as presented here should start in the street. And if it’s still a paper theory only, then fuck it. Not useful!

One of the primary issues in evaluating their process and action plan is who’s been represented so far, and who will be represented in the future? How can you assure you’ll speak to the people who have access to that history/culture you want to “celebrate”?

How can you plan to represent a culture in a place moving forward?

§ Identity politics readings—space for identity can be made. Space is cultural. But the hole in the reading is don’t talk about what it looks like on the ground. Need a combo of anthropology/geography for that.

For physical aspect, we do have designers like New Urbanists that do certain things well. But universalist in their “humanism” that leaves out identity politics. Gendered, cultural spaces don’t factor in. Everyone will like it! Pedestrian friendly, but for whose feet? Tends to be agist and classist. Youthful yuppies, yes. Poor minority folks? not so much.

§ Successful/legitimate will be– cultural practices, community centers and meeting spaces, art spaces for LOCAL artists)

What are the dangers of trying to represent culture in physical space? (i.e. how will you know you’re doing it wrong?)

§ Disneyfication.

§ Valuing exterior more than interior (what these people will like)

§ Co-optation

§ Cultural appropriation (would involvement mitigate this?)

How will you know when you did it/doing it right?

§ Involvement. Know who there is to BE involved and then decide on an appropriate/acceptable measure

§ Spaces for cultural practices – know what people want and that there is space to accommodate. Don’t forget the NEW/ONGOING cultural development of this place as a community

§ Imagability. People from outside can recognize it. Distinguished from surrounding. Distinctive in the way you want it to be.

§ Community Use. Place works well for community. People like it. Use it. Walk on the streets. Know more of their neighbors. Have community events.

§ Lively Economy. Place works well to support level and types of business you want. 4th Street is as lively as you want it to be and filled with people accessing it the way you want.

How do you do it?

§ Community Design Process – explain

What are some things that might come up?

§ Common things done?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Excuse my french

Bourdieu bores even god
Foucault’s faux-pas are for the birds
and de Certeau needs a breath mint with water chaser

French theorists in general
are foot soldiers
in a march

toward Antarctica
to bathe in liquid seas.
Need direction?

Follow the pointing fists
straight back to palm readers,
cause these boys?

They got nothing you need.

Chapter 3: Process and Participation

Woefully incomplete, but this starts to lay out the picture of the area and its constituent neighborhoods and then begin to analyze who was there at the community visioning workshops and possibly who was not.

The North 4th Street and Montaño area is approximately 1.2 square miles (760 acres) with about 2500 residents comprising 1300 households. Exact data are hard to obtain due to the smallness of the area and its boundaries that do not correspond with U.S. Census or Mid-Region Council of Government Data Analysis Sub-zones. While 49% of the area is in residential neighborhoods, 10% is still in agricultural use, and about 75 businesses are in the commercial corridor along Fourth Street. Reflecting the City and State as a whole, 40-45% of residents identify themselves as Hispanic, with Anglos making up the balance, and 42% of the population is between the 20 and 49 years of age. The residents live mostly in single-family housing, and there are two apartment buildings and two condominium complexes.[1]

Six City-recognized neighborhood associations make up the North 4th Street and Montaño area, with a seventh new, but still unrecognized neighborhood association on the western edge of the area near Los Poblanos fields and Rio Grande Boulevard. The neighborhood on the south and west side of Montaño Road does not have an organized neighborhood association and has the second-lowest income and the highest percentage of Hispanic residents (69%).[2]

[1] From the Data Analysis Sub-zones, Mid Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), U S Census, 2000.

[2] From the City of Albuquerque, Office of Neighborhood Coordination, 2005.

In consultation with the planning team, the Coalition committed to carrying out a process based on Philip Herr’s Swamp Yankee methods to develop and implement a community–based vision. Following the Swamp Yankee Planning model, the 4th Street and Montaño citizen participation process was designed to create a dialogue among distinct interests across a common set of questions and to build consensus about the area’s vision, needs, and priorities[1]. Area residents and business owners were recruited to participate in two carefully planned workshops aimed at defining a vision and goals for the area. In an initial workshop, participants would define the vision goals that would shape the area’s future. A second workshop would bring the citizens together with experts and city planners to ratify the vision and work collaboratively on strategic actions to implement the four goals that framed the vision. This grassroots process was intended to result in broad consensus on a community vision and agreement on an implementation strategy. The Coalition anticipated that after the citizen process, residents would be in a strong position to negotiate with officials about design charrettes and technical planning studies, and the Coalition would be able to broaden its base of activities and participation through new members and agreed upon direction and goals.

Residents and business owners who represented important perspectives and interests in the community were systematically contacted and recruited during the month before the first workshop. The executive committee of the 4th and Montaño Area Improvement Coalition identified an initial list of key community leaders to be recruited to participate. The four facilitation team members contacted these individuals to invite them to participate and ask for referrals to other residents and business owners to contact. The facilitation team kept track of addresses and interests for each person contacted and referred in a matrix that separated the area into five geographic areas (NW, NE, South of Montaño, and Outside the Area) and four interest groups (Seniors, Youth, Renters, and Business) that eventually totaled 145 residents and business owners/managers and developers. The goal was to recruit participation from 7-10 members in each of these affinity groups.

[1] For more detail on the Swamp Yankee model, please see Appendix X, “Negotiating a Vision for the Heart of Albuquerque’s North Valley: Practice and Principles for Community-Based Citizen Participation,” co-authored by Ric Richardson and Mikaela Renz. Presented at ACSB Conference, Fall 2005.

At some point in the recruitment process, this categorization was further refined to break into geographic areas that almost fit neighborhood association boundaries. Lee Acres and Los Alamos each became its own group (#10 and #8 respectively). The Northwest quadrant was broken into the Gavilan/Guadalupe Village group (#6) and the West of Guadalupe Trail Group/Los Poblanos (#5). Business owners/managers group was kept separate from developers during the recruiting process but was combined at the first workshop when few actually attended (#11). The planning team and Coalition members were not able to recruit sufficient participation from Renters or Youth to warrant their own groups, so participants were divided by geographic area into the existing groups at the first workshop.

While business owners and managers and developers showed interest in the workshops and enthusiasm about attending, most likely many could not justify taking the time away from work to attend a process that at best might not benefit them for some time. Some may have questioned the tie between their business and a visioning process, and it is possible that some simply don’t have much interest in area improvements or loyalty to this particular area. Out of 58 business owners/managers or developers, only seven attended the first workshop, with one additional business owner attending the second workshop, primarily because his business supplied lunch for the group.

The pool of renters was considerably smaller than other pools, as the area has few rental units. In addition, the original list of key community members identified by the executive committee only included one renter (of a house in the Los Alamos neighborhood), which indicates that renters were not as well-connected to the social network that extended from the executive committee. This supposition is not too surprising, as renters typically have not been in the area as long as other residents, which contributes to the lack of time to make these social connections, but as a group, renters also tend to be less actively engaged in the community, as many likely do not see their position as long-term. Repeated calls to the apartment complex manager did not lead to any contact names.

As for youth, while fifteen were contacted, many were involved in other activities, and several were unwilling to commit to an all-day workshop on a Saturday during the summer. Several had to go to weekend jobs.

Sixty-five people signed in at the first workshop, including six public officials or city planners. Forty-four signed in at the second workshop, including one public official and three city planners. Based on a cross-check of both lists, 81 people participated in total, so there was an overlap of at least 28 people who came to both workshops, including four public officials and planners.

Group Participation from Sign-in List at Workshop I

Affinity Groups


5: “West” (Gavilan/Guadalupe Village)


6: “West of Guadalupe Trail" (Los Poblanos)


7: Seniors


8: Los Alamos


9: South of Montaño


10: Lee Acres


11: Business/Developers


12: Out of Area


* Not from Contact List


**From Contact List but unknown affinity




At each workshop, participants were asked to indicate with a red dot where they live or work on the same map of the area. Participants from outside the area were asked to put a dot off the map in the direction of their home. The map of where residents live shows 91 total dots in the area. Compared to the sign-in list, at least 10 people across the two workshops did not sign in but did indicate where they lived on the map.

Geographic Areas


South of Montano








West of Guadalupe Trail


Lee Acres


Los Alamos


Out of Area












Assessing the representation of the Hispanic community at the workshops is problematic, as demographic data were not collected. A count of Spanish surnames, itself a problematic indicator of ethnicity, shows that while 33 individuals from the contact list (31 families) were contacted and invited to participate, only 15 attended either the first or second workshop. Two of these individuals were not on the original contact list. At best, 50% of those with Spanish surnames contacted actually attended a workshop, which is better than the 39% success rate for the overall contact list (145 contacted, 57 signing in). Of the individuals who signed in at either the first or second workshop, only 20% had Spanish surnames.

Overall, 17 people signed in at one of the workshops who were not on the original contact matrix, which represents 23% of those signing in at the workshops. Information for these participants is limited to their names and the overall number of dots placed on the “Show us where you live” map, which had 91 total dots for both workshops, while only 81 people signed in. Only two of these individuals had Spanish surnames. One was the wife of the business owner delivering lunch. This information calls into question the idea of whether it was only the executive committee who did not have ties to Hispanic residents in the area. Again, firm conclusions cannot be drawn on the basis of Spanish surnames alone. The lack of information for those not on the contact list also complicates counting the numbers of individuals in each affinity group. The counts listed below do NOT include those signing in who were not recruited from the contact list.

It is also important to note that by nature of being from the original contact list, more is known about the participants, so they are counted throughout the course of this analysis. Those not from the contact list, which we can assume also means outside of the immediate social network of the executive committee but perhaps tied to it on a secondary level, do not show up in the subsequent analysis of the groups. It is also possible these residents heard about the workshops through the media or the mass mailing to all households. They represent an important segment of the population – those not immediately connected but active enough to show up to a Saturday workshop once they obtain the information through possibly impersonal media. This population, or perhaps this percentage, could be expected to participate in future planning activities given similar notice. One can assume that personal contact and recruitment would improve the success rate with these individuals.

At the initial community visioning workshop, each geographic area and each interest group were seated at separate tables with the assumption that they would share common concerns and goals. Each of the tables had an assigned facilitator to guide the discussion through a series of four maps of the entire area. The first map asked participants to identify the places special to them. The second map asked for good and bad happenings or trends in the area. The third map focused on a utopian vision. Residents could dream about what their area should be like regardless of political or economic reality. The fourth map asked for priority actions that should be taken in the real world of political and economic restraints to move toward the ideal vision. During the lunch break, maps from each of the tables were displayed in gallery style, and participants were encouraged to tour all of the maps and compare other interests to their own. The afternoon was spent reporting each group’s findings. A facilitator recorded the common items and themes, and an urban designer drew a composite map of the common physical elements and improvement suggestions.

COMING NEXT: Discussion of what the Workshop I maps show.

Pretty Graphics

So I'm a little stalled on the writing. The theory was harder to write than I feared (and I feared a LOT), and I got a false start. Riding to work this morning (twice -- forgot my coffee! D'oh!), I got another grasp on a different and hopefully less imposing point of entry.

Last week, had a meeting with my last committee member who asked the devastating question: how do you know? If you're going to say they're leaving out segments of the population, what have YOU done to contact those missing people? Ummm. Yeah. That's problematic.

But looking at the data this weekend (Whoa! I have data! Trippy...), I think these segments weren't left out, or not as left out as I was claiming. The issue moving forward is how to insure that they stay represented -- in the process but also on the ground in any physial proposals made. That's a tricky question with no good answer. How do you know when space works well for people?

The issue with all the theory is this: you can talk all you want about spatial practices and the possibility of political and cultural spaces of representation, but how do you design that? Most of the readings spend a lot of time laying the theoretical groundwork for political and cultural identities to show up in urban spaces, and there are some case studies of things that have worked in other places, but because places are such unique compendia (ooo, who's been reading theory, who has?) of layered identity, it is almost by definition impossible to find a good model for the place I want to talk about.

How do you balance on the razor thin wire between making recommendations for designing places that accomodate the different spatial practices of different cultural, individual, and community identities and stereotyping these interactions just to be able to move forward with some kind of real-world recommendation?

Let me just say: it's hard. How do you know when you're doing it right versus doing it at best poorly and at worst racist-ly? The short answer is: as much as possible, have the people design the spaces they will use.

But how possible is that? How much do they want to do that? Isn't there something to be said for the division of labor that someone somewhere should have some clues about where to start? And how high on their list of priorities is designing community spaces? I think it should be high, but ... there are economic realities that undercut "place" as a priority concern.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Silver linings

One of the things I really enjoy about my life is that as long as there are poems, I can never really lose out in relationships.

I can be hurt, but when the residue of discomfort washes away -- and it always does -- what remains is a little artifact of my life. I may not be very good at relationships, but I am a good collector of poems. Somehow, I find this comforting, and tonight, it is enough.

What I value most is balance. I find the word in almost every sentence I speak. I used to hate the Greek ideal of moderation. How can that be an ultimate goal? If it's good, it's good right? How can more not be better? One very wise professor spent a few minutes after class one day explaining that instead of moderation, it's really about the optimum. Water is good for plants, but there is an optimum amount that really lets them flourish. More or less, and they just don't grow as much.

I like to think that in my life, I strike a balance between risk and safety, love and solitude, that allows me to grow in optimal conditions. Most of the time, this is enough.

Tonight, it is enough that I can capture moments in words.

Some classic lines from today:

Me: Thanks, Leo-who's-a-gemini.
Leo: Aquarius.
Me: Right, aquarias. I was close!

Me: Maybe we can just do what we're doing until we get it out of our systems.
Him: Right. I think I've already done that.
Me: Well okay then!

Me: Wait, wait. I'm having a contraction. Hold on.
Him: Ummm. Okay.
Me: Now, what were you saying?

Me: I have SO MUCH TO WRITE, and I'm still fucking around with the SECOND PARAGRAPH.
Lady behind me at Flying Star: (silent glare)
She exits.

And what are they left with? These boys who let me slip through their fingers like so much sand? Memories that fade and start to tell lies. The realities surrounding my poems may change, but at least the poems themselves are true. Stay true. Speak to me in silent moments.

May the wide open moments outnumber the small. This is my prayer on a thunderous evening when all he wanted was to be a friend, when the truth is, I don't put up with this from friends.

Not the ones who stay.

He said I had a good sense of humor, but he never understood why I laughed so hard at him.

Isn't it obvious? You're ridiculous in your fear. We all are. What you think will happen is so far from me. It always was.

I'm left with thoughts of the next one. Will he be big enough to risk seeing me? Inviting me in? Letting me stay?

Will I choose one who can actually love me with wide open arms? Which part of me doesn't believe that's possible? Which part of me chooses broken men?

It is time to ask for more. It is time to seek out wholeness. It is time for quietness and volcano mesas. Time for ant trails and lava rock as porous as an open mind.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Talk to me, Santiago


Speak to me, Santiago.
Tell me of your streets.

Relate the story of your sparkling high rises,
how the bowl of your city spills over its edge.

You peer into my little Albuquerque world, Santiago,
but I want a window into yours.

A love taught me to love you, Santiago.
He lied to me about many things, but never about you.

I want to come to you, Santiago.
In your rain. In your silence that speaks of your history.

Send me a salt-sea wind, Santiago.
Use it to tell me hello.