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Urban Development

Bringing the street to life by making innovation easier

The Doable City Reader

There is so much that can be done to make our cities happier, healthier and more prosperous places. Every day in cities around the world, citizens and city planners alike are showing us how small actions can scale up to have massive impact. And they can in your city too.

That’s what the Doable City Reader is about. In June 2014, 8 80 Cities, in collaboration with the Knight Foundation, brought 200 civic innovators from around North America together in Chicago at the Doable City Forum to share and discover methods for rapid change making. The Doable City Reader is inspired by the rich conversations amongst presenters and participants at that forum. It is a resource for any and all people who want to make change in their cities and is meant to educate, inspire and empower anyone to do so.

San Francisco’s Market Street connects the city from water to hills, through residential neighbourhoods and business districts alike. But for decades now, the street has been little more than a thoroughfare — a way to get from A to B, but not to stop in between. But a recent initiative by the city seeks to change that by doing away with its former regulations and turning city-owned land into flexible spaces called Living Innovation Zones (LIZ) for artistic exploration dedicated to connecting people.

A partnership between the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, San Francisco Public Works and the city’s planning department, the LIZs are places for community groups to come in and install temporary installations that enliven the streets without having to go through the same cumbersome permitting process that would typically halt any type of major installations, especially by smaller local groups. “We’re really asking people to push us. With permitting you often get this culture of 'no.' We’re asking them to push our limits,” said manager and planner Steve Gennrich.

The first LIZ installations included a pair of “whispering dishes” that enabled people to whisper to each other from across the plaza, a musical bench activated by hand-holding and a pedal-powered cell phone charging station.

Whispering Dishes Living Innovation Zone installation.Living Innovation Zones
Whispering Dishes Living Innovation Zone installation.
Musical bench activated by hand holding at the first Living Innovation Zone.Living Innovation Zones
Musical bench activated by hand-holding at the first Living Innovation Zone.