Seeds of the Story Tree: VBC 18


The baby, Ester Plum, giggled as the dog licked her fingers under the table. Above them, a mostly volunteer crew of a dozen of us were planning for the upcoming Village Building Convergence, now the 18th year of the city wide barn raising event and this year working with at least 50 different communities.

The necessity of this evening’s meeting was to come to consensus on a theme for the 10 day VBC festival. Always a decision by our core planning crew, we think about outcomes and places of growth from previous years, we think of the pressing issues of current events (and pressure is everywhere for our communities!), and we think of the dreams and hopes we have to manifest for a healthy, happy, and peaceful world. Recent years we have explored the sense of Belonging, Home, and Weaving Together.

Facilitating this meeting, I joyfully listened to these wonderful activists weave ideas based on concern for diversity and equity, for honoring indigenous people, and for supporting animal and plant communities. In listing dozens of theme ideas, actions of storytelling and regeneration were common.

Working together we were able to boil down 30 ideas into one theme for VBC 18:

Seeds of the Story Tree

As we are now working with dozens of placemaking communities, this theme will guide some of our discussion as the projects progress to their June implementation. And as we start to plan evening workshops and festivities this energy of stewardship and story broadcasting will be drawn in as a guide.

We look forward to another year of serving communities and bring folks together to share in good work, hear the stories of diverse folk, and work to be consensus building neighbors. If we don’t see you soon, please make sure to join us for this year’s VBC from June 1t to June 10th!

On behalf of my dear friends and badass organizers of the VBC,
Kirk Rea, Co-Executive Director (soon to be completing a Master Recycler course, so ask me waste related questions!)


Emerson Street Painting Brings Neighbors Together

By Kate O'Donnell

On July 15th, 2017 approximately 75 Cully neighbors came together to paint the intersection of NE Emerson Street & NE 70th Ave. NE 70th is actually a multi-use path, which many Cully neighbors use to walk and bike to Scott School and other neighborhood destinations.

Neighbors have worked over the past several years to make this path more welcoming for the Cully community. A community herb garden was constructed in 2014 with the support of a CAN mini-grant. The garden was recently expanded to include a raspberry patch, community free library, benches and native plants.

Several neighbors came together in fall 2016 to add an intersection painting to this area. The
goal was to continue to enhance the path while also bringing together the diverse neighbors of
Emerson Street. Many neighbors were feeling unsafe following the 2016 election and it felt
especially urgent to make our street feel more inclusive for folks of all backgrounds.

Neighbors worked with children from Hacienda CDC’s Expresiones program to develop some initial ideas for an intersection painting design. A potluck was held in the winter to gather additional design ideas from Emerson Street neighbors. Kirk Rea from the City Repair Project and Latino Arts Collective helped refine these ideas into a more specific concept. And neighbor Mike Parziale pulled everything together into a final design.

The final design is a rainbow butterfly, which symbolizes the diversity of Emerson Street and the Cully neighborhood in general. The path is also painted with butterflies – monarchs to symbolize migration from Mexico and Central America and blue butterflies to symbolize migration from Somalia.

Planning lasted many months and included the design process, neighborhood outreach and donation solicitation. Two neighbors, Maegen Parziale and Kate O’Donnell, also attended weekly classes on community building and intersection painting through the City Repair Project from February through May.

We welcome all Cully neighbors to come visit the NE 70th path to see the new intersection painting, pick some herbs and relax on the benches. We hope to hold intersection painting block parties every year to keep the design fresh and bring neighbors together.

This project was made possible with the support of a Cully Association Neighborhood Mini-Grant, Hacienda CDC, the City Repair Project Village Building Convergence, Andando en Bicicletas en Cully, PBOT and manyEmerson Street neighbors.



by Fanny Ployart, a volunteer visiting from France


  • “Hello!” waved a happy face,

  • “Welcome here!” smiled a peaceful mind,

  • “Grab a rake and join us!” sang another one.

It all took 10 seconds, and in those 10 seconds, everything was there: Welcome, Energy, Trust, Connection… Community!

It was on a random Sunday Parkways. City Repair had organized a permaculture work party in a beautiful shared house of NE Portland. Over there, a team was actively building some garden beds, cleaning the front yard from dry tree branches or explaining the project to pedestrians passing by… doing all of this while some lazy goats and funny chickens were having a sunbath in the back!

So, what do you think happened next? Well… I took a rake and joined the happy faces! … Obviously!


We sometimes experience moments where everything suddenly makes sense. Everything is easy, and coherent; everything is here, and now; as if we just woke up in the clear reality. Those moments are so subtle, and so powerful at the same time. It’s even hard to put words on them as all is about living them… and eventually smiling with shining eyes!

It is difficult to explain this feeling, but I am going to try to clarify it, because this intense sensation of fulfillment did not happen just this Sunday afternoon, it kept on happening again and again, each time I would meet City Repair family 😊

So, what happens in those moments that make them so precious? So obvious? So complete?  

It’s like nothing is missing. And it’s not about contemplation nor idealistic pleasure; there I started by grabbing garbage on the floor, dust was coming into my eyes, I fell on an uneven floor while sweeping branches… but whatever that was happening, I was at my place, in charge of doing one part of a whole I was supporting. In those moments, it just feels right and empowering. Yes, empowering…

After the work party, I got on board right away, working on fundraising for the exciting T-Crab project. (The T-Crab is an innovative bike-cart, that creates new convivial spaces for people to gather, grow and build learning from each other.) Once a week, I would meet the other volunteers to share the on-going works, listen to others’ opinions, bring new ideas...

Those moments were golden! They gathered passionate people; The volunteers, employees, founders… we were all part of the same boat, putting ideas into actions to have a concrete impact on community empowerment. People were coming from different parts of the world (USA, Asia, Europe) sharing permaculture values, thriving for the same goals on a local scale: the change started right here around us. The projects we were working on, were amazingly inspiring! Bringing people together through art and permaculture was nature-ally beautiful. Building those projects brought motivating discussions between us: How do we empower communities in the long run? How do we avoid creating dependence but instead cultivate innovation? What are the key factors to make changes happen? Step by step, we built actions, as a team, by empowering each one of us, by understanding and meeting people on the ground, and naturally empowering them.

I discovered that City Repair is not only about projects; it’s a whole philosophy of doing! It promotes its values at every level. City Repair believes in each one of us; From the first moment that I met Ridhi, I felt I had something to bring. No matter how long I had been around, I was powerful! Trust is the foundation of the organization and it works… from the very first 10 seconds! And from trust comes responsibility, and from there empowerment and changes!

City Repair is not about theories, it’s about actions. It doesn’t make plans out of a magic hat, it builds bottom-up! If we want to build a community, then let’s start with human connections…  with us and them together, let’s trust people, share ideas, build simple actions, little by little, and keep the vision!


It is easy to pass over those first steps of living, to plan before feeling, and to forget this subtlety, this authenticity that makes our heart beat, in only 10 seconds…  So now I am asking you, how many 10 seconds do you have in your life? How would it be like, if we remembered to connect every 10 seconds? 😊


City Repair… Thank you for this lesson of life. You are one of the most mind-blowing adventures of my year of travelling!


Story Telling Internship

Story Telling Intern

City Repair facilitates artistic and ecologically-oriented placemaking through projects that honor the interconnection of human communities and the natural world. The many projects of City Repair have been accomplished by a mostly volunteer staff and thousands of volunteer citizen activists. We provide support, resources, and opportunities to help diverse communities reclaim the culture, power, and joy that we all deserve.

The Story Telling Intern sits in our communications and media team while interfacing with all projects. This team is responsible for our newsletter, website, general social media, graphic media, and will have a high focus on creating article and blog content. With a dynamic mission and community, 20 year history, and bustling year round projects, this internship will help document the past, present, and our dreams for the future. The title of “Story Teller” is important because as a community building and nature based organization, humanizing our roles and being playful with metaphor is fundamental to our ethics and operations.

Weekly meetings and coworking times with flexible scheduling. Much remote work possible.

While this is an unpaid internship, it is an amazing opportunity to work in placemaking and diverse. Additionally, as an educational non-profit we will train you in any relevant skill you want to learn or hone within this program.

Skills employed in this program include:

  • Writing and editing

  • Interviewing

  • Social media management

  • Public speaking

  • Equity and diversity competency

  • Teamwork with self initiative

Specific tasks or outcomes of this internship include:

  • 2 articles written per month

  • Weekly social media management

  • Help create publications for annual Village Building Convergence.

  • Commit 5 to 12 hours per week

Additional skills that can benefit the program include:

  • Architectural and planning background training

  • Permaculture design

  • Graphic design

  • Fundraising and grant writing

  • Second language proficiency

City Repair holds dear equity, consensus, shared leaderships, and earth care in our service to the community and to our own collective. We encourage applications from candidates with diverse backgrounds, particularly those from historically underrepresented groups, whose professional and personal experiences will help us work toward our vision of a just and healthy world.

Applications for the Story Telling Intern will be reviewed on a rolling basis with the position open until filled. If you are interested please email a cover letter, resume, and three references (preferably combined as a single document) to Kirk Rea, Volunteer Coordinator and Placemaking Community Organizer at With questions call 307-287-0005.


Intersection Painting in Corvallis, Oregon

Corvallis Intersection Repair.jpg

The Eclipse Rides Through Corvallis” is an artistic convergence of two major events this summer: our inaugural Open Streets Corvallis festival and the eclipse. Well, maybe three. The collaborative creation of a City intersection painting process was an event unto itself.

Derby Dames street mural HR.jpg

Like all cities, Corvallis has a lot of rules. Commissions. Advisory boards. Where do you start when you have a great idea and you don’t know whom to tell? A few years ago, a neighborhood in south Corvallis expressed interest in painting an intersection, but with no city process in place and no neighborhood capacity to lead the way, the idea went dark.

Next came Jobs Addition neighborhood, a centrally located, mixed use neighborhood nestled between Oregon State University and Corvallis High School. (And home to Corvallis’ oldest public park.) Its very active neighborhood association (JANA) was already part of an inaugural Open Streets Corvallis planning team, which included yet another neighbor, long time bicycle advocate and City of Corvallis Public Works Active Transportation Coordinator Greg Wilson. He sparked the idea of painting the street ala City Repair.

Jobs Addition had the fire and capacity to shepherd the project from start to finish, which was what the City needed to see before agreeing to draft an installation process. JANA leaned on City Repair for determining materials and logistics needs; three City departments collaborated to refine rules on public art, neighbor approval of the location, City documentation, and ongoing maintenance and costs. With the process in the works at the same time it needed to be followed, that meant there was a lot of backtracking, do-overs, and last minute changes.

Coincidentally, City of Corvallis revived its Neighborhood Empowerment Grant, a program that funds neighborhood-led projects, and JANA’s proposed intersection painting project had a winning proposal. Local mandala artist Maureen Frank was asked to create a design based on input from the neighborhood. JANA wanted to create a sense of place - a unique place that hosted an inaugural Open Streets Corvallis event one day and experienced a total eclipse the next. Both events are represented in the design.

The JANA planning team recruited fellow neighbors to paint the street, although anyone was welcome. More than 30 people of all ages signed up ahead of time. At one point in the day, there were more volunteers than spaces to paint . . . in a design 50 feet across in all directions! Volunteers took turns when needed, and everyone had a chance to participate - kids, too. For the youngest among us, the artist printed copies of an outline version of the painting design that could be colored with crayons.

Maureen spent many hours measuring, creating giant templates, and measuring again in preparation. On the day we painted the street, she led each transition - chalk, primer, outline, paint. The result, from a neighbor:

“On the morning of the street mural painting, my wife had volunteered for a couple of shifts during the day and I wandered down (coffee in hand) just to see what this was all about. Ten minutes later, the organizers had put a paint roller in my hands and had me get busy. Most of my family was there through the entire day having fun being with neighbors (young and old) and watching the beautiful mural emerge through the various stages. No fewer than ten times did folks remark that they either wanted one on their own corner or couldn't believe that this was the first one going in to Corvallis! By the end of the day, even though I had very little involvement with the project as a whole, I felt that I had some communal ‘ownership’ of the mural and was excited to show it off to others.”

This is a pilot project under review, but with so much positive feedback from the community, the expectation is the City will open up the process to other neighborhoods. Details will be announced next year. Most importantly, a large group of people jumped at the opportunity to create a sense of place and light the way for other neighborhoods to do the same.

Lloyd EcoDistrict's First Intersection Painting!

The Lloyd District’s First Intersection Mural

By Devon Snyder,

The original idea for the Lloyd intersection mural belongs to Danielle Jones, a previous intern with Lloyd EcoDistrict. During her tenure with the organization, Danielle laid the groundwork for the project. When I came on in March 2016, Danielle had amassed a binder full of potential locations, design inspirations, and City Repair project tips. Throughout that summer, we worked together to create outreach materials and project timelines. When Danielle’s internship ended in September, the project was handed over to me.  

Since that day, this effort has been a labor of love (emphasis on labor). There were a number of hiccups along the way, as was to be expected with this kind of project. Trying to create something like this in a primarily commercial neighborhood proved to be a big factor for how quickly things moved along. Additionally, because Lloyd is so different from residential neighborhoods like Woodstock or Sunnyside, we knew we had to take a different approach to developing our mural. The residential community in Lloyd is still much smaller than the business community. Because of this, we saw an advantage to working with two organizations that had prior mural experience – muralist duo Travis and Jon, known as Rather Severe, and arts nonprofit Color Outside the Lines. We knew that their expertise and enthusiasm would add a lot of support to our small but growing group of engaged residents. We came across these two groups back in December, when they were working on a mural along NE Weidler and MLK. Color Outside the Lines engages foster and at-risk youth in arts education and public projects. On Christmas Eve, they had a group of kids out adding the finishing touches to Rather Severe’s mural. Many of the same youth that we saw working late into the evening back in December joined us to create our mural in August. 

On painting day, volunteers from Wells Fargo, kids from Color Outside the Lines came together  to get creative, eat popsicles, and do some abstract feet painting. Throughout the day, we had folks from Calaroga Terrace, a senior living facility located right next to the mural site, stop by to learn about the project and bring our volunteers lemonade. Residents from Miracles Center, an affordable housing community supported by Central City Concern, also joined in; one woman even livestreamed the event on Facebook. It was a hot, busy, nonstop day for a lot of us, and in the end Travis and Jon worked late into the night to add the final details to the mural. When I went back early Monday to remove the street closure barriers, I was blown away by what I saw. The final mural was spectacular, so colorful and bright that it almost didn’t seem real. As commuters began to drive through intersection, heads gawked out of car windows, bicyclists stopped to take selfies. A resident from Calaroga Terrace out on their morning walks expressed how much they love the mural. It warmed my heart. Part of the reason why we selected the location at NE 2nd and Clackamas was because of its proximity to the senior living facility. In engaging this elder community and partnering with the kids from Color Outside the Lines, the mural was a truly multigenerational effort and a reflection of our neighborhood.  

Since the mural’s completion, we have received so much positive feedback. Volunteers, project partners, and colleagues in Lloyd continue to reach out to say how much they love the mural. Currently, we are in the midst of seeking a name for the mural and are looking for ideas from the community. So far popular suggestions include “The Cosmic Donut” and “Roundy McSplotcherson.” We hope that this piece can be a bright spot in an otherwise fairly commercial neighborhood. We see this initial mural as a foundation for other projects to be built upon and something that residents, visitors, and employees of Lloyd can rally behind and identify with as a symbol of our community. 


Beaverton's First Intersection Repair

I’ve always held this deep core belief that art has a tremendous power to heal and to create spaces for people to come together and expand from that time shared. It is constantly a goal of mine to bring people together through art making.  After working on SW Sabin St. for several months, I noticed cars speeding through the area every day, offering very little forgiveness for anyone who may be walking as part of our build site, or children of the families in our homes trying to play. Really, I didn’t see much playing from neighborhood kids in the area at all. Remnants of racist vandalism sit visible on a wooden fence across from the Habitat neighborhood projecting misplaced hate fueled by devastating misconceptions. As I grew to know and love this community, I wanted to find a way to celebrate all of the cultural diversity that exists in this space, to offer a space for people to work side by side to promote understanding, to go beyond building homes to fostering and building community. Naturally, my first instinct was to turn to community art.

I proposed the idea to my co-workers to paint an intersection mural like I had seen in so many neighborhood streets in Portland and participated in the planning of in Vancouver. We reached out to City Repair and the Beaverton Arts Commission for guidance and assistance. Both have been the guiding lights in this project, leading us to a place where we could see our dreams become a reality. After proposing the idea to the surrounding community, since after all, this is their community long after Habitat’s presence is gone, we had a design meeting and community vote, and then we collaborated with Kirk from City Repair to come up with a final polished design you see today. Then we submitted the design to the City of Beaverton Arts Commission for approval.

Our mural painting day was combined with our first ever Block Party and what a day it was! Kirk and Jerry showed up early in the morning to guide us in chalking out the design. These seasoned pros were not only skilled artists, but amazing leaders to the volunteers that showed up to help paint the mural. Their spirits undoubtedly guided the community project to its success. The painting was interspersed with a vibrant and delicious potluck, games, face painting, and Ethiopian coffee invitations from several homeowners. The streets were filled with Habitat partner families, VOSE neighborhood members, Arts Commission board members, Firefighters, and the list goes on. People of all ages from all corners of the community showed up to participate in this project. At the end of the day, this project was about the space that was created to meet each other where we are at and to be open to learning from each other to work together to create something so much bigger than brightly colored paint on concrete. To create understanding, to help us heal, to help us pause, to help us open up, to bring us together, to help us love.

Since the mural has been painted, we have continued to see the effects this project brings. I have seen kids riding their bikes around the rainbow. I have had several residents tell me how much they feel it slows down traffic. I have had so much feedback from residents, community members, and volunteers that the mural is truly a spot of brightness for them. And I have had one resident come to me with even more ideas to create a space there for the community to come together. She hopes to build a bench to peer out over the mural so that we may come and sit next to our neighbors and share that space and time.  I am so thankful to City Repair for helping us to realize this project. I know it will only continue to inspire goodness in our community.
- Koko

Located at SW 123rd Ave & SW Sabin Street

Located at SW 123rd Ave & SW Sabin Street

Chalking the design

Chalking the design

Beaverton Intersection Repair

Call for Interns or Volunteers for our Placemaking Team!

We are recruiting interns, or volunteer organizers, for our 2018 Placemaking season. This role will support our direct services to communities we're helping to create permaculture gardens, natural buildings, and intersection repair. We have released our Request for Proposals (RFPs), otherwise known as Placmaking Applications, so the work has already begun!

To apply for the position, email a letter of interest and resume to We'll be reviewing applications as they come in and are building a team of 3 to 5. Below are the position details: 

Organization Name, Address, phone number: 
The City Repair Project
1421 SE Division Street

Internship Title:  
Placemaking Intern

Supervisors' Name, position title, phone and email address:
Ridhi D’Cruz

Kirk Rea,

Organization vision statement
The City Repair Project fosters thriving, inclusive and sustainable communities through the creative reclamation of public space.

Organization mission statement: 
City Repair facilitates artistic and ecologically-oriented placemaking through projects that honor the interconnection of human communities and the natural world. The many projects of City Repair have been accomplished by a mostly volunteer staff and thousands of volunteer citizen activists. We provide support, resources, and opportunities to help diverse communities reclaim the culture, power, and joy that we all deserve

Internship is unpaid, but we are exploring grant funding.

Internship Description
The Placemaking Intern assists in the following areas with facilitative leadership and within a larger team that provides direct service to communities implementing placemaking projects using intersection repair, permaculture gardening, and natural building. To read a personal reflection of a past intern, click here.

General Responsibilities

  1. Archival and documentation work including:

    1. Cataloging  past placemaking sites, government departments (eg: ONI), neighborhood coalitions, sister nonprofits/ community-oriented partners

    2. Systematize past, present and future partnership-building opportunities on google spreadsheets

    3. Support with program management for 2017 VBC Placemaking program

  2. Community Engagement

    1. Identify and outreach to potential/ interested new partners, especially marginalized groups

    2. Help host informational, culturally-responsive, and educational community engagement events, presentations, and workshops

    3. Work directly in the field and on-site with the communities City Repair serves

  3. Community Outreach

    1. Publicize events online and in-person

    2. Identify and attend tabling opportunities at fairs, conferences, and community building events hosted by sister organizations etc.

  4. Communications

    1. Support with the creation of the placemaking site component of the Village Builder Event Magazine

    2. Upkeep placemaking-related information on the website including

      1. FAQs

      2. Galleries

      3. Maps

  5. Peer-mentoring and collaborative leadership

    1. Co-create learning goals and areas of growth for the intern to pursue their passions and build their skill set

    2. Take on tasks through guidance and self-direction. We will co-create a work plan to meet learning goals.

    3. Write reflections on experiences.

10-15 per week, commitment expected when started through early-June, with summer 2018 extension an option as well as a smaller time frame (such as one term). Tuesdays are current  meeting and community workshop days. Occasional weekend workparties. A schedule can be made to fit changing schedules, especially due to class and other work.

    Rolling deadline. We are hoping to hire 3 to 5 interns.

Placemaking Course for VBC 17

Join us for this exciting course catered to inspire both long term and newcomer village builders alike! CLICK HERE TO RESERVE YOUR SEAT.

Based on the 20+ years of community-building experience with the City Repair Project under the guidance of ecological architect, Mark Lakeman, the course hones its successful approach to inspiring citizen-initiated community improvement and offers participants a condensed training on how to initiate both community projects and organize local Village Building Convergence events in your city.

This course will take place in four evenings during the internationally recognized Village Building Convergence (VBC) in Portland, Oregon (which runs June 2 - 11th). During the day, participants will have dozens of hands-on community site projects to choose from to attend and gain direct experience. These include natural building, permaculture, and community art installations. Participants will also have the option of participating in more days and evenings of VBC before and/or after the course.

We will explore topics like:

  • Principles of Placemaking and the origins of the City Repair Project & the VBC
  • How ecological and social design considerations intersect to strengthen sense of place 
  • Reclaiming the commons, and re-indigenizing our relationship to place
  • Recognizing public art, natural building and permaculture as effective community-building strategies
  • The Placemaking Process Template for successful community projects
  • Effecting poltical change at a local level
  • How City Repair's work can connect with allied organizations and movements, in Portland and beyond, in any place in the world.

Participants who complete the course will earn a 12-hour certificate of training in Urban Village Building Design from the City Repair Project.

Instructors Include:

  • Mark Lakeman, Founder of City Repair and Communitecture Architecture and Planning firm.
  • Marc Tobin, City Repair Executive Director
  • Ridhi D'Cruz, City Repair Associate Director
  • Priti Shah, City Repair Operations Director
  • Kirk Rea, City Repair Volunteer Coordinator
  • Matt Bibeau, City Repair Affiliate 

Cost: $160 for 4 evening sessions (Sunday June 4 - Wednesday June 7)

Costs includes 4 hearty vegetarian dinners. If you have specific food needs, check with us and we will do our best to accommodate (there will always be vegan and gluten-free options).

Additional Consulting Package: We are also offering additional customized consultations for individuals or groups for an additional $140. 

This package includes a 2-hour consultation for your project/organization scheduled with our Placemaking Team between Thursday June 8 and Sunday, June 11. 

If a group selects this, only one additional consulting package is needed for the group to attend, as long as the group is associated with the same project.


Office Grand Opening!

On Friday, April 29th, for PDX Design Week, City Repair held an open house along with our office mates, Communitecture, Portland Permaculture, Witch Hazel Design, Born and Raised Construction, and Safer States. We had so much support and joy with folks coming who have been a part of our community since day one over twenty years ago. Here are some photos of the occasion...


City Repair perspectives from Costa Rica

Article below by Marc Tobin, Executive Director of City Repair.

Marc, center, teaching a permaculture class in Costa Rica.

Marc, center, teaching a permaculture class in Costa Rica.

From mid January to the beginning of March I had the great pleasure of spending time in Costa Rica, which included sharing the work of City Repair. I taught in a permaculture design course, and a networking gathering, and later shared City Repair work with people at Envision festival. While I traveled, I met locals and travelers and visited rural and urban ecovillage projects.

Throughout the whole time I had great conversations with people from Central America, Europe, various cities in North America, and Australia about how City Repair’s placemaking work might be adopted to their communities.

I was pleasantly surprised to meet a number of people, from Guatemala to North Carolina, who had already heard of and been inspired by City Repair’s work.

A huge part of my trip was constantly learning form the people and places I encountered. This learning has given me some whole new windows into communities that are new to me and their expressions of place.

My trip began with five days in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. While Costa Rica is rightly known for its wild areas, most people in the country live in the San Jose metropolitan area. Walking around the city, I noticed all sorts of little differences in urban form compared to U.S. cities, from smaller building setbacks, to more open stormwater and different ways that traffic is managed.

One thing I noticed was a relative abundance of gathering places in San Jose. A Nicaraguan architect that I met later in my trip explained to me that the city of Tenochtitlan (where Mexico City now stands) had great large public plazas, which, after European contact, influenced the Spanish to bring plazas into their urban design. This led to the Spanish having more public places in their urban design than England, which in turn led to Latin Americas cities having more plazas than American cities. I haven’t had a chance to research into this history myself since I’ve been back, so I’m very curious about learning more about this.

With San Jose having a greater abundance of plazas and murals than in most U.S. cities, I got to wondering if they even have a need for City Repair there. Then I started meeting local Costa Rican community builders and “solutionary” activists from San Jose and other Costa Rica cities and rural communities, and ones from Nicaragua and Guatemala, who assured me that there is a great need there for many aspects of City Repair’s work.

Some of these community initiators are already working on projects that are very much aligned with City Repair’s vision. They saw a lot of potential value in partnering with City Repair and using our templates and process, while also retaining their own identity with their local grassroots organizations. In essence, a local organization can be both autonomous and also be the host for a City Repair “chapter”. To be a chapter, they can agree to a set of guiding principles to City Repair’s work, while having a lot of flexibility in what that looks like. In this way, it’s a network, or mycelium model, rather than a hierarchy.

To help them set this up, I am looking forward to consulting with community leaders in various cities in Latin America when I go there again next year. To support this, I will need to find funding, probably from individuals and organizations in the “global North”, in countries with greater economic wealth, who are interested in funding our consulting work with communities in Latin America. This will allow the Latin American communities to focus their own resources on their local communities, which seems most fair and practical, given the significant difference between many of these countries’ economies and exchange rates and that of the U.S, Western Europe, and Japan for example. We’ve identified some potential sources. We are also seeking help with funding for this, so if this work of bringing City Repair more broadly internationally speaks to any of you reading, and you’d like to contribute directly to this work or knows of organizations that might, please contact about it.

The template that we develop for bring this work to Latin America can also be one that we adopt to bring it to other parts of the world. For example, in Costa Rica, I dialogued with someone who works some of the year in Burma, about having me teach and consult there, especially with the Buddhist monk community. There’s a great opportunity to explore in community the commonalities between permaculture, placemaking, and Buddhism, and since I studied Buddhism, I can already see a lot of parallels.

One inspiring aspect of my work in Costa Rica was in working with people involved with rural land and community repair. While City Repair is, as is apparent from its name, focused on urban areas, we’ve also been exploring how to apply our work to rural areas. For most of my trip I was staying at a community and farm named Verde Energia, which is located in a remote hilly area between the town of Puriscal and the Pacific coast.

Verde Energia was started by folks from the U.S. who wanted to genuinely connect with and bring benefit with the local community. The site was chosen was land that was once primary rainforest, but had been cut and turned to cattle land and suffered terrible erosion. This provides a huge opportunity for land restoration to a diverse rainforest state using permaculture principles to also obtaining an economic yield. Costa Rica in general is a worldwide ecological hot spot, so there is a great leverage in restoring this land, from a biodiversity and carbon sequestration perspective.

The founder of Verde Energia, Josh Hughes, and his partners at Black Sheep consulting, are now protecting more acres at different sites in their region. They found that getting donations to restore rainforest was not working quickly enough, so they developed permaculture business plans for these sites, that restore the land, while putting in highly productive permaculture forest gardens which grow “superfoods” like turmeric, ginger, sacha itchi berry, and cacao, as well as a variety of fruit. The areas are perennial polycultures, rather than monocrop orchards.

They are able to hire locals for many aspects of the operations and pay them much more than the going rates. In our permaculture design course that I co-taught with Steve Ganister and Sara Czarnieki, we offered three full scholarships for Costa Ricans who are each engaged in projects that will help bring permaculture to more people in their communities.

When I return I want to more deeply engage in traveling and learning from local communities around Costa Rica. One of my greatest learnings and impacts on me was from the local culture. There is a type of social “warmth” and interest in social connection that I found in Costa Rica, among the Costa Ricans, and among a lot of the foreigners who have sense located there. In the U.S., if I am facilitating a group of strangers, I might have to lead a bunch of team building exercises with them to get them to engage in ways that seem to be more of the mainstream norm in Costa Rican culture. There’s also a lot of pride in the biodiversity and nature in the country, in a way that seems to be one of the main pieces of national identity. For me this was somewhat of a welcome contrast from the U.S., where it seems that only a small subset of the population connects their national identity to healthy diverse landscapes, and where patriotism in the U.S. often has a more militaristic and competitive association. In the U.S., to be proud of place on a national scale is imbued with having to better than or over someone else. In Costa Rica, on the other hand, I encountered locals who seemed to me to take a lot of national pride in the abundance of diverse plants and animals like monkeys, sloths, and toucans.

Both the socially open attitude and celebration of natural abundance tie in with the national slogan of “Pura Vida”, meaning “pure life”. One way I see “pura vida” is in appreciating the magic of life, as expressed in the people and nature around us. This is different than the approach that I often see in the U.S. of dissatisfaction with one’s current reality and needing things to be more and different. In the U.S. the norm is often “we will be happy sometime in the future, once we have the biggest and best [fill in the blank]”, whereas the pura vida approach is one of reminding ourselves to choose to celebrate life itself, in it’s pure essence, and that is possible to do in any moment.

Some of my new Costa Rican friends warned me to not fall into the trap of being a northerner on tropical vacation who only sees their country as some sort of paradise, while not engaging in the real pressing social and environmental issues that they face. This is very important, as there are many environmental and social threats and challenges there. I’ve committed myself to including the voices of some of these local activists and writings they recommend into future courses and consultations that I participate in. I have a long ways to go in my own understanding of the place and culture, so rather than try to pretend I’m an expert on that any time soon, I will work to make prominent space for those who are deeply engaged in that work, and humbly learn.

After the permaculture course, I led workshops and providing one on one mentoring at an event called NuSeed, put on by a great organization called NuMundo. Numundo’s work is to provide virtual and in person connection, networking and visibility for sustainable community projects through ought Latin America. These include urban community garden sites, rural permaculture farms, yoga centers, eco-solutionary hubs, ecovilages and intentional communities. NuSeed is their big annual in person networking, education, and mentoring event. There was an incredible group of change agents there from around the world. Teaching them about City Repair’s work had a great social leverage effect, because they are all generally leaders of organizations themselves. I can’t even keep up with all the follow up on the many exciting ideas for collaborations that came out of that event.

We then took that energy and community that we had built at NuSeed into the Envision Festival, where we held a social and environmental networking space. This space provided an ongoing place for anyone at the festival to drop in and engage in meaningful conversations around important projects, while drinking cacao from a local permaculture farm. I connected a lot of people to City Repair in this space. This is one example of the work that City Repair has a long history with, of bringing opportunities to get involved with deep service work into events where the overall focus is on revelry. On the other side of the same coin, City Repair is great at bringing the fun to the hard work of placemaking.

Overall, throughout the entire trip, it was amazing to see the enthusiasm and joy that people got from connecting with others from different parts of the globe and different cultures, but with a common care for the earth and people. I realized that the power of the joy in this kind of working together is far greater than the forces of separation, cultural division and scapegoating that has been recently so obviously manifesting in U.S. politics and many other places in the world. People will find a way to make friends and allies across all kinds of barriers, and while that might not get nearly as much press as the divisiveness, that connection is happening every day, around the world, in many small ways that do add up to greater global awareness and connection.

Some of the early epiphanies for City Repair came from Mark Lakeman’s travels into the jungle in Latin America. After 20 years, there is a new way that this important cultural and geographical cross pollination is happening, and I feel honored to be part of that.

All of this adventure was possible because the rest of the amazing City Repair admin team in Portland: Mark L, Ridhi, Kirk, and Priti, along with the incredible City Repair volunteers, kept a dizzying array of City Repair projects and services thriving that whole time. That team deserves so much admiration and support for consistently keeping the home fires burning, of Portland based administration, placemaking, VBC, and volunteer engagement, which provides a solid core for any of our efforts to share our work with more of the world.

PRESS RELEASE: Closing Reception & Design Charrette: Argyle Village

Saturday, December 17, 2016 - 11:00 am to 2:00 pm

Parking lot at Pacific Northwest College of Art

511 NW Broadway, Portland, OR 97209

Portland’s design community, the media, and the general public are invited to an outdoor reception and design charrette in the parking lot of the Pacific Northwest College of Art this Saturday, from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm. This event is both a celebration of the successful completion of 14 “sleeping pods” supported by the City of Portland, and the launch of the planning process for “Argyle Village,” a new village community proposed for the Kenton neighborhood that will employ all 14 pods.

This will be the only chance to tour all 14 pods and speak with the designers and houseless people who collaborated to design them. It will also mark the beginning of the site development process for “Argyle Village,” a proposed village community for the Kenton neighborhood.

The pods were designed and constructed by volunteers from PSU’s Center for Public Interest Design, City Repair, the ReBuilding Center, Open Architecture, and the following firms: SERA Architects, Holst Architecture, Mackenzie, SRG Partnership / Howard S. Wright, William Wilson Architects, Scott Edwards Architecture, LRS Architects, Communitecture, MoMaMa, Mods PDX + Shelter Wise, and Architects Without Borders-OR.

Invitees to the reception include the residents of Dignity Village, Right2DreamToo, and Hazelnut Grove, students and faculty from PNCA, PSU's School of Architecture, supporters of the Village Coalition, Portland’s design community, and the general public.  

The Partners On Dwelling Initiative is sponsored by the Village Coalition, a coalition of urban villages and their allies in and around Portland, including Dignity Village, R2D2, and Hazelnut Grove.

For more information, visit:



PRESS RELEASE: Panel: The Future of Portland’s Tiny House Village Movement

Saturday, December 10, 2016 - 11:00 am to 12:30 pm

Mediatheque at Pacific Northwest College of Art

511 NW Broadway, Portland, OR 97209

Portland's tiny house village movement extends back more than fifteen years, with the founding of Dignity Village, a self governing membership-based community in NE Portland composed of formerly houseless residents. Saturday’s panel discussion is a chance for attendees to understand thePartners On Dwelling (POD) exhibition in its historical context and learn more about the social ingredients necessary for a self governing community, the benefits of living in a small village, the legal and political impediments to establishing additional villages, and the solutions that professional creatives can offer to major social problems.

Panelists will include Mark Lakeman (cofounder of The City Repair Project, Principal at Communitecture), Andrew Heben (Program Manager atSquare One Villages and author of the book Tent City Urbanism), Vahid Brown (Housing Policy Coordinator for Clackamas County and cofounder of the Village Coalition), Sergio Palleroni, Director of Portland State University’s Center for Public Interest Design, and leaders from the houseless community. It will be moderated by David Bikman, a volunteer member of the Village Coalition.

The POD exhibition is taking place in collaboration with PNCA, a major hub for creative innovation, and co-sponsored by Portland State's Center for Public Interest Design. The exhibition's intent is to illustrate the impact that thoughtful design can have on public perception of housing insecurity. By demonstrating how easy it is to build a safe, affordable, and attractive community for Portlanders in need, the POD Initiative hopes to catalyze the construction of similar clusters of tiny homes throughout the city.  The POD Initiative is an invitation to Portland's creative class to direct their passion and expertise toward the challenge of providing low cost, abundant housing to all who need it.

Invitees to the panel include the residents of Dignity Village, Right2DreamToo, and Hazelnut Grove, students and faculty from PNCA and PSU's Schools of Architecture and Social Work, supporters of the Village Coalition, local architecture firms, and the general public.  

The POD Initiative is sponsored by the Village Coalition, a coalition of urban villages and their allies in and around Portland, including Dignity Village, R2D2, and Hazelnut Grove.

For more information, visit: