Local Self-Reliance: Green Parking Lots, Neighborhood Governments, Balancing Inequities and More

Read about reports by community groups that investigate problems and solutions.

| March/April 1982

  • Lattice Parking Lots

  • Lattice Parking Lots

For the past several years, the good folks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) in Washington, D.C. have been working to help urban residents gain greater control over their lives through the use of low-technology, de-centralist tools and concepts. We strongly believe that more people (city dwellers and country folk) should be exposed to the institute's admirable efforts.

It's amazing how much valuable information on local self-reliance exists but fails to reach the people who could best use it. For one reason or another, a book or report may receive so little publicity that even ILSR staffers have a hard time tracking it down! Here, however, are some new and interesting publications that we did manage to locate. One or more of them just might intrigue you, too.

Improving Urban Environments

Not many people know about it, but a group called The Climate Project — which works out of Dayton, Ohio — has been making cities more livable for several years now. The Climate Project recently published an unusually detailed report on its "grass parking lot" experiment. The 30,000-square-foot area, which is big enough to accommodate some 80 cars, is paved with lattice concrete therefore allowing grass to grow in the spaces between the paving strips. The checkerboard lawn, in turn, helps keep the surrounding area cool, reduces costly water runoff and improves the appearance of the lot.

In its report, The Climate Project covers the zoning regulations and required permits, site description and design, specifications, the choice of plant materials available to anyone wanting to duplicate these efforts, costs, and the organization's efforts to evaluate the undertaking.

Establishing Neighborhood Governments

Neighborhood government was quite a popular subject of discussion 10 or so years ago, but you don't hear much about it now. In fact, no city or town in America has what can properly be called a functioning neighborhood government — that is, one which has the power to tax or to legislate.

There are, however, scores of community councils that have gained the official recognition of local governments and that advise administrators on neighborhood issues. We also tracked down a detailed plan for neighborhood government proposed by a municipal judge in Cleveland. In Cities Within a City, Burt W. Griffin describes a two-tier system under which Cleveland City Hall would be responsible for collecting taxes, doing the accounting and central purchasing, and distributing funds to "sub-cities." The latter organizations would run such municipal services as street repair, snow removal, local park and real property improvements, refuse collection, fire control and law enforcement. Griffin has an intriguing idea, although he does raise as many questions as he answers.

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