Welcome our new intern, Kamron!

Say hello to Kamron, our newest intern working on our Pollinator Pathways Initiative!

Kamron is currently studying Community Development at Portland State University because his passion is in understanding how human society and the natural world meet and how to blend those two parts more seamlessly as well as how people use and create space.  

Growing up in a suburban town, he felt the disconnection between the natural world and home.  Seeing subdivisions cut into forests and wetlands made him wonder how could these two be more integrated rather than divided.  In high school, his dad helped him discover some of the healing properties of stinging nettle, Urtica dioica specifically for allergies. Since then he became fascinated with the connection plants and people.

Kamron grew up in the Portland area and enjoys being in the wilderness, hiking, camping, backpacking, running, and eating.  He has a background in ecological restoration and education.  Working with native plant species he realized the holistic qualities of these plants- restoring the health of the soil, water and air as well as providing food, shelter and medicine for animals including humans. Some of his experience includes working/volunteering in native plant nurseries, on various ecological restoration projects in the Portland area, maintained City of Portland swales, rider surveys with Trimet, and working on a trail crew.

He expects to further explore topics such as urban planning and design, land use, permaculture and ecology.  He can see himself working on projects where ecological restoration, urban planning, ethnobotany and permaculture meet, but ultimately the future is unknown. Tomorrow is a mystery!

Send him a hello by emailing climate@cityrepair.org.

Charles Eisenstein on "Interbeing"

This article, written by Taz Loomans, is originally posted on her blog site, Blooming Rock, where she posts news and musings about sustainability, urbanism and architecture, as well as leading a monthly book club meet up on the those topics. 

“The definition of love is self love, expanding the definition of self to include other.”

This captures the essence of what philosopher and author Charles Eisenstein had to say at the First Congregational Church in Downtown Portland last month. Eisenstein’s talk served as a shot in the arm for weary activists in the audience of the event organized by The City Repair Project.

Eisenstein began by lamenting the world we live in. It “is set up against the path that makes our hearts sing,” he said. For one it measures the kind of work that men do and invalidates the work women do. “The entire world we’re accustomed to,” he continued, “is an outgrowth of the mythology of separation and well being comes from the domination of the other and nature.” The world as it is emphasizes the separate self where growth means the conversion of nature into products and human relationships into services.

As a counterpoint to the separate self narrative, Eisenstein posits the concept of “interbeing”, which can be understood in his example of the rain forests. If we think of ourselves as existentially connected to the rain forests, then if they hurt, we hurt. It hurts because what is happening to the rain forests is happening to us, he says. Essentially, interbeing asks us to “love every being on this planet as we love our own children.”

Eisenstein acknowledged that the paradigm of the separate self still dominates the world we live in, but it’s weakening and breaking down. “We are in between stories, the old story is breaking down. Just look at marriage as an institution, for example. It’s no longer what it used to be in so many ways.” He went on to say that, “something similar is happening at a collective level and many of us are entering into a bewildered stage. Though the old story is still dominant, it is hollowing out; our work is to help hollow out the core.” This is both hopeful and daunting to the people trying to make change.

And how do we do the work of hollowing out the core? It’s not by just participating in work that is having a large scale impact. We can do the important work of “disrupting the story of separation” by working at whatever level we are at. Eisenstein coached activists not to worry about scaling up their efforts but to do what they are doing well, no matter how small the scale is. “If you trust the story of interbeing, your job is to do your task well, whatever you’re doing, on a family level, on a local level or a national or global level. Maybe it will scale up, maybe it won’t. Or maybe it’ll take a more mysterious path that you can’t know in advance,” he says.

Eisenstein also advised the audience to take heart and be patient with the struggles they face. Because we are in between stories, what’s next has not become apparent yet, and all we have for reference are the old institutions, which are slowly crumbling. “There are not yet new institutions to welcome us, we’re trying to build new institutions without a guide book,” he acknowledged and that’s why it’s hard! But he urged people to not give up and keep the faith that their work, no matter how small, has an impact somewhere else. Eisenstein cited the work of Sheldon Aldridge and said that any change that happens in one place creates a field of change somewhere else.

To find out more about what Eisenstein’s philosophy, check out his most recent book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.

 Charles Eisenstein.

Charles Eisenstein.

Open internship to support houseless communities

Village Coalition Internship

Since the founding of Dignity Village (pictured above) in the early 2000’s, we have been supporting houseless people with design support, community builds, policy advocacy, and giving a spotlight and platform to community members. We recently helped Right 2 Dream Too (R2DToo) design  their new village (shown at the bottom of this document) and are an active member of a Village Coalition which is crafting design and policy to aid the creation and implementation of houseless villages in Portland.

We are looking for an intern to join the City Repair team to support our houseless support initiatives. We have a large need for program support through December as we work with a multi-organizational Village Coalition and there is a probability of extending the program through our June 2017 Village Building Convergence. As this program has started with deadlines quickly approaching, a highly flexible and adaptable nature is required. 

While this is an unpaid internship, it is an amazing opportunity to work in placemaking and with houseless communities to innovate our society’s responsive systems to creating shelter for everyone. 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:

  • Houseless and Affordable Housing Advocacy

  • Community Built Facilitation and Designing

  • Program and Event Management

  • Collaboration and Conflict Resolution

  • Sustainable Urban Planning

  • Diversity and Equity

  • Administrative Duties


Specific tasks or outcomes of this internship include:


  • Attending Village Coalition meetings and possibly sub-committees

  • Tracking city council decisions on emergency housing and houseless villages

  • Aid planning community events, such as teach-ins, presentations, and gallery exhibits

  • Write articles and reports for City Repair and Village Coalition

  • Represent City Repair to community partners and citizens


Additional skills that can benefit the program include:


  • Construction and building experience

  • Architectural design training

  • Permaculture design

  • Graphic design

  • Fundraising and grant writing

  • Public Speaking


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 Village Coalition 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 kirk@cityrepair.org. With questions call 307-287-0005 (no text).

 Right 2 Dream Too's new location in dreamscape.

Right 2 Dream Too's new location in dreamscape.

 Right 2 Dream Too's new location base map.

Right 2 Dream Too's new location base map.

Connect the Park Blocks on 8/20

On Saturday, August 20th, City Repair will transform O'Bryant Square in downtown Portland, at SW Park Ave and Washington Street. Known as "Paranoid Park" or 'Needle Park," this one-block zone has a bad reputation and an old-drab design. This event will re-envision what this park can look like and what activities can be engaged in on a regular basis by doing a one-day temporary placemaking event. Partner's shaping the space include Friends of O'Bryant Square and Oregon Humanities.

Volunteers are needed to help set-up, engage activities, and take down the space. Click here to sign up here. Many hands are needed!

This transformation is a part of "Connect the Park Blocks" a one-day open street fair route along NW and SW Park Ave - from NW Hoyt to SW Market. This event will allow people to walk, stroll, jog, and visit local business between the North and South Park Blocks and be clear of parked cars and vehicle traffic. We envision a Park Avenue that is an active space open and welcome to everyone. This project will also promote the Green Loop concept. Hosted by Better Block PDX, Oregon Walks and the Green Loop Project, the goal is to increase foot traffic and build community! RSVP here!



Weaving Together, Community Event 7/31

Brought to you by City Repair/VBC, Don’t Shoot PDX, and Speaking the Unspeakable® Facebook event page with current updates: https://www.facebook.com/events/260773790970192/

At VBC 2016, we embarked on a journey of weaving together, asking questions to explore what it will truly take to confront oppression. There are no easy answers or solutions, but what was clear is that these conversations must continue. 

With recent events around the country, the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the Dallas 5, and so many more over the years, we are a nation rocked with grief, in all its many phases and stages, including denial, resistance, and deep mourning. Hearts tender from scars ripped open reveal the weeping wounds of this nation. 

“Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight & continue to pull back the veil.”

Let us come together and hold each other tight as we hear each other’s voices, songs, poetry, and words. Let us feel each other’s sadness, grief, anger, rage, and unfounded hope. Let us speak, cry, hug, and dance. Together.

We continue to ask the question of what will it take for us to weave together as community across the many ways we have been divided against each other, and within ourselves, to confront the oppression that is intended to keep us separate. This history etched into our bones will not define us, but inform us. This painted skin we wear will be seen for what it is, skin deep. This life we are living is ours. We are the keys that will unlock our future. Together we will be as relentless as the ocean waves crashing upon the shores to reshape the landscape of our lives, to advance justice that we may know peace.

Join us in Weaving Together…

Holladay Park
Between NE 11th Ave and NE 13th Ave on Multnomah Street. 
4 – 7 pm

3:30p – Gather Together
4:00p – Opening Circle
4:20p – Community Heart Share and Speak Out
4:50p – Small Group Rap Sessions
5:15p – Collective Harvest
5:30p – Community Heart Share and Speak Out
6:00p – Closing Circle
6:30p – Clean-up

~*~*~ Flow of the schedule may change ~*~*~ 
*** Portions of the evening will be Live Streamed ***

You are invited to bring a picnic and share in food together. Please, no alcohol. 

We are gathering in peace and love, with honesty and courage. We are weaving together. We are sharing our hearts and challenging our minds. We are naming our experience and being witnessed. We are creating a safe space for the full expression of our humanity.

We are going on a journey of deep listening, of being in connection with each other, of sitting in the fire of discontent and not turning away. We are inviting an exploration to see where this question we have asked will lead us – What Will it Take for Us to Weave Together to Confront Oppression? Let’s release any expectations or attachments to how far we travel, what the terrain will look like, or the specific ground we will cover. 

More than anything, people need to be heard, with deep listening, full presence, and an openness to step outside of our beliefs, our boxes, and our comfort zones. The request is that we suspend judgment, allow for difference, and invite vulnerability. 

Base assumptions we are working from:
~ Racism, sexism, & classism are real and woven into our human experience in modern times
~ This ism schism is intrinsically connected to a "power over" belief system
~ The effects of colonialism are still playing out today
~ Life as it has been must change
~ People joining together will be powerful in creating meaningful change

…Join us…


Summer Volunteer Opportunities

Here are some briefs for our summer projects. Besides supporting a few intersection paintings, City Repair is designing and building ephemeral placemaking, or tactical urbanist, installations. We’re looking for volunteers to help with the planning and capacity building (meetings + team designing) as well as the day of work such as installing, activating programming, and take down. For any interest please contact Kirk at kirk@cityrepair.org so we can plug you in.

1. Oregon Walkways: Connect the Park Blocks
Aug 20th. Event runs 10 am to 4 pm plus build out and take down.

This event organized by Better Block PDX will shut down traffic downtown between the North and South Park Blocks to reimagine the space as being more geared toward foot traffic and community building structures. To support the initiative City Repair will design and build a structure that will support sustainability initiatives and community building programming. This may reflect work we’ve done at Earth Day Festivals in town.

NEEDS: 1) pre-event planners ASAP 2) day of building volunteers (save the date!)

THEMES: Tactical Urbanism, Community Building, Urban Design, Houseless Rights, Natural Building, Appropriate Tech

2. Oregon Walkways: Cully Camina
September 18th. Event 11:00am – 4:00pm plus build out and take down.

We are thrilled to team up with the Cully Neighborhood for Oregon Walkways: Cully Camina, the pilot in a new series of pedestrian-focused open streets events. Cully Camina, held Sunday, September 18th,, will encourage participants to explore the Cully neighborhood on foot and use the streets for play. City Repair will be designing and building natural-materials into beacons along the route and leading some activities.

NEEDS: 1) pre-event planners ASAP 2) day of building volunteers (save the date!)

THEMES: Tactical Urbanism, Community Building, Urban Design, Equity and Anti-Gentrification, Natural Building, Appropriate Tech

3. Permaculture Team - Pollinator Focus

We have a working team that supports getting our communities plant donations by both growing our own and asking for plant donations, while also offering permaculture consultations and aiding workparties. We are already looking ahead toward the next VBC, especially as we are proud to announce we received a grant from the Community Watershed Stewardship Program to develop pathways of stormwater managing and habitat building plantings. We will be doing outreach at events like Sunday Parkways (7/24, 8/21, 10/2) and will begin raising plants and modifying landscapes early autumn.

NEEDS: 1) team members for working group 2)tablers and activity leaders for outreach events

THEMES: Pollinator Habitat, Watershed, Permaculture, Group Work, Fundraising, Direct Community Service

4. New Headquarters Construction

We are currently moving into a new HQ at 1421 SE Division Street and will have have workparties on either Thursdays and Saturdays throughout the summer. We’ll confirm dates through newsletters, but also keep an eye on our Facebook Events or our website’s calendar. Work will include landscaping, office remodeling (carpet removal, wall demoing) and some supply moving. Our next workparties are this Thursday (7/7) from 5 pm to 8 pm with and Saturday (7/9) meals provided. Please RSVP to volunteer@cityrepair.org.

THEMES: Retrofitting with Sustainable Practice, Permaculture, Construction

Besides just giving back to the community through your service, here's an option to gain benefit from volunteering through the PDX Time Bank:

PDX Time Bank is a community of members who share their services with one another. At its most basic level, time banking is simply about spending an hour doing something for somebody in your community. That hour goes into the Time Bank as a Time Dollar. Then you have a Time dollar to spend on having someone do something for you. Create an exciting relationship with your community, neighbors and friends! In the world of time-stressed schedules, the PDX Time Bank is an answer to nurturing a little more of what you love to do in exchange for what you don't know how, want, or have time to do -- created through the power of sharing the community wealth of talents. 

To join, go to www.pdxtimebank.com and submit an application by clicking "become a member". Besides trading services individual to individual, organizations like City Repair can give time dollars to folks volunteers who provide services.

Doors of Love, for Orlando

At the beginning of July, City Repair contributed to a community built art installation of 80 donated doors with messages of love and hope after the mass shooting in Orlando, FL. The Doors of Love were installed at the Portland Pride Festival where anyone could write or paint messages of support or express feelings being brought on by the tragedy. The installation was then moved to City Hall and will be up through July 15th. 


Heather takes Portland: Post-VBC reflections on Placemaking and “Community”

Story and photos by Heather Liang, a City Repair summer intern, who is studying "Growth and Structure of Cities" at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. 

“What if I went to Portland for the summer?” –me, May 9th , 2016 1:02 am.
“omg how am I in Portland? How did this happen?” –also me, May 29th , 2016, 12:10 pm.

Landing in Portland at the end of May, I had no idea where to begin exploring and discovering the city that would be my home for the next two months while I interned with The City Repair Project. Of course, I was excited, but I was also wholly terrified. Having planned the whole trip in less than 3 weeks, and not knowing anyone in the city, I had no idea how to navigate public transportation, which obligatory tourist sites to visit, which streets to stroll, what art to see, how to meet people, and whether or not I would be able to feed myself. Over a month in and a great deal of those anxieties still remain, but I have learned that I can make pretty passable Chinese food, and more importantly, I have met some of the most incredible and inspiring folks through City Repair.

“Portland is one of those cities you can immerse yourself in and feel comfortable.”

Starting to work with City Repair just days before the Village Building Convergence opened was the true definition of hitting the ground running. After a quick crash-course from the core team, I found myself in the full swing of VBC, on a completely unexpected and foreign adventure.

Between visiting placemaking sites around the city and helping out at the central venue, I met folks from all walks of life coming together to learn about and celebrate permaculture, sustainability, art, community, and personal and collective growth. I engaged in and witnessed so many genuine connections and valuable conversations about the nuanced processes involved in the change and growth of our city spaces.

In college, I am majoring in Growth and Structure of Cities, studying the ways in which built environments impact aspects of social environments and vice versa. My academic interests drew me to City Repair’s initiatives to reclaim and transform public spaces to benefit the growth and development of the city. Approaching VBC (and Portland) with this framework in mind, I was – and continue to be – in awe of the existing interconnectedness between physical and social environments here, and the sheer force of the collective community effort aiming to strengthen that connection. I think that the placemaking sites perfectly demonstrate this effort. By allowing people to take ownership of and transform their physical environments, the inception and creation of these sites foster a certain sense of camaraderie, not just between people in the neighborhood, but also between people who come out to create and maintain the sites.

“It takes a village,” and that’s exactly what we have.

A professor and mentor of mine has an aversion to the word “community” because he thinks that it has been overused to a point of vagueness. He encourages us to unpack what “community” means whenever we feel the itching desire to use the word, which in Cities classes is often. As a result, I have become pretty sensitive to this word. Unsurprisingly, “community” came up often during VBC – it is, ultimately, what folks came together to find and to build. By bringing together people with common interests to collaborate with, learn from, and engage with each other and their surroundings, VBC provided a framework that encouraged small and large communities alike to flourish and grow.

What I found most impressive about VBC, and what I am convinced makes Portland so unique, is the willingness that people have to connect with others. Everyone seemed so friendly and genuinely willing to listen to one another and put work and heart into each other’s projects, which seems to be what ultimately makes possible not only these projects but also long-term change. Maybe that is the key to “community”.

Light Straw Clay Building Retrofit

Over the first weekend of April, City Repair volunteers continued to help make sustainability history! We joined a workparty for the first permitted Light Straw Clay retrofit in Portland. Thanks to Communitecture for the original design and for Wolfgang, June, and Frances for leading the build!

Check out photos from the event with thanks to photographer Amit Ziman!

Note the long black tube which is a tumbler to efficiently mix the clay and straw. 


This article was originally published on Blooming Rock Development's website by Taz Loomans, an architect, City Repair adviser, writer and advocate for sustainable building practices and community-oriented design living in Portland, Oregon. 

I don’t like starchitects. But I was very sad to hear about the death of Zaha Hadid yesterday. At 65, it was too soon, considering architects tend to mature and do some of their best work late in their careers. (For example, Frank Lloyd Wright received the commission to design the Guggenheim Museum when he was 76 and designed the Price Tower when he was 85.) Dame Hadid had a lot of great architecture still left in her, and it is a true loss for the world never to see it.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about Hadid. I stand in awe of her, her amazing career and her sheer strength to reach the heights she did in a very white male dominated profession. And yes, even I, a person who decries random forms for buildings at the expense of people’s experience of them, am moved by the sexy shapes of her buildings. My favorite Hadid building is the Sackler Gallery in London, which is breathtakingly sexy.

But Hadid did not make it easy to like her. CityLab reports that she said, “it was ‘not my duty as an architect’ to take actions over the deaths of the migrant workers Qatar during the construction of the Al-Wakrah Stadium.” She was also criticized for taking commissions from abusive regimes, such as the Heyder Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan, which she did unapologetically. I consider this lack of acknowledgement of social responsibility from Zaha a blind spot for her and a blind spot for the profession as a whole. Both her designs for Al-Wakrah and Heyder Aliyev got much critical accalim for their groundbreaking aethetics. But no matter how tempting it is, it is impossible to separate formalistic design achievement from its social implications and while Hadid got much praise for her design, she has also received much criticism for turning a blind eye to the larger social impacts of her work.

Hadid wasn’t an activist in her architecture per se, but she was a very successful activist in just being who she was, an Arab Muslim woman starchitect. Hadid is the only solo woman honored with the highest prize given an architect – the Pritzker Prize. If you look at thePritzker Prize laureates of the past, you will mostly see photos of white and Asian men. Kazuyo Sejima is the one other woman honored by Pritzker, in partnership with her male colleague Ryue Nishizawa for the work of their firm Sanaa.

Hadid didn’t like to harp on the importance of being a woman of color in a field of white men. CityLab quotes her, “‘I used to not like being called a woman architect. I’m an architect, not just a woman architect,’ she told CNN in 2012. And yet: ‘Guys used to tap me on the head and say, ‘You are okay for a girl.’ But I see the incredible amount of need from other women for reassurance that it could be done, so I don’t mind that at all.'”

For me, as an Indian Muslim woman architect, Hadid’s stardom in architecture has been incredibly important and inspiring. Regardless of how I feel about some of her stances, seeing a brown woman playing with the big boys like Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhas and Norman Foster and reaching the very top of the profession matters a lot.  It shows what’s possible for someone like me. We’re not all going to be Zaha, but just knowing that it’s possible for a minority woman to reach such heights is a huge step towards having more women, and more women of color, excel and achieve great things in architecture.

It was no cake walk for Hadid. She faced a lot of sexism along every step of the way on her rise to the top. She was known to be a difficult boss, unrelenting and uncompromising. In the very competitive and cut-throat world of starchitecture, her femaleness and race made her a target for more biting criticism than if she were a white man.

Stephen Bayley’s profile on Hadid for The Spectator is an example of how she was disliked for “deliberately creating buildings that ignore their context, have “questionable functionality” and are usually over budget,” as reported by Dezeen. Every starchitect I know of does just this! Do Gehry, Koolhas, and Foster buildings fit into their context, have greater functionality and come under budget more than Hadid buildings? No. Than why was she singled out for these things and told that “architecture would be better off without her”, as Bayley claimed?

Perhaps it’s because she was a woman leader. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook says in her book Lean In, “our entrenched cultural ideas associate men with leadership qualities and women with nurturing qualities and put women in a double bind. We believe that women are not only nurturing, but they should be nurturing above all else. When a woman does something that signals that she may not be nice first and foremost, it creates a negative impression and makes us uncomfortable. If a woman is competent, she does not seem nice enough. If a woman is really nice, she is considered more nice than competent. Acting in stereotypically feminine ways makes it more difficult to reach for the same opportunities as men, but defying those stereotypes and reaching for those opportunities leads to being judged as undeserving and selfish.”

And thus, it was not an easy road for Hadid. And perhaps her early demise may have partially been caused by the very difficult path she took in life. She was called a diva, a bitch, and hard-hearted. She had her blind spots for sure. And I certainly didn’t agree with all of her viewpoints. But she persisted. She overcame. She pushed through the gargantuan hurdles posed by architecture for women and women of color. And she made it to the top of the mountain. And by doing so, she opened a door that was sealed so tightly shut that no one knew it even existed. The door to women and women of color to reach the very top of the architecture profession. For this and her bold architecture, I, for one, think architecture is a thousand times better off for having Hadid.

Photo Credit: Photo “by James Mitchell – FlickrLondon Aquatics CentreCC BY-SA 2.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27744007″

NOW RECRUITING VBC 16 Hearth Collaborators!!

The theme of the 16 Annual Village Building Convergence (VBC) is "Weaving Together: What Will It Take?" We aim to have a robust evening program that contains educational and entertainment options for our audience. Over the past 16 years we have had the pleasure of hosting numerous musical and artistic acts all of sizes, backgrounds, and genres. We create a beautiful and inspiring place, where people are free to move and choose from several different workshop and entertainment options. VBC is a family and community-based event, and we aspire to create a diverse and empowering place for many types of experience.We encourage all interested parties to apply to be a part of our evening program and help create VBC16 to be a memorable community gathering! 

Learn more about the Village Building Convergence and apply for: 

Deadline for all applications is March 10, 2016


Facilitated by Communitecture, a collaborative design session on January 27th, 2015 investigated Placemaking opportunities for the PDX Green Loop and included City Repair, PDX Permaculture, Witch Hazel Design, and artist Brian Borrello.

The Green Loop is a city led initiative to create a pedestrian and bike friendly greenway that circles through the four Portland quadrants, thus creating a continuous green zone around the city. The goal is to include public design and installations inspired by Placemaking projects.  

With Communitecture and City Repair always designing and serving communities in this topic, how can we not propose the city some ideas? More dreams lay ahead, but check out this photo album of our group design process...

City Repair Project: Portland Gems and Growing Pains

Originally posted on October 21, 2015 by Hundredgivers (Author: Kathryn Thomsen).

Most people in Portland are somewhat familiar with City Repair Project, the grass roots organization born out of a harmless act of transgression that began with painting a neighborhood intersection. Some may also recall an odd-looking truck with wings called the T-Horse that roved neighborhoods serving free tea and cookies. 

As the story goes (told in numerous news articles and talks around the world) Mark Lakeman, City Repair’s co-founder, and a group of neighbors tried to get permission to create a more friendly gathering place in their intersection but the city refused. Determined to take back their public space, the group did it anyway and the rest is history. The city is now onboard, and reclaiming public spaces with colorful intersection paintings, tea carts, mini libraries, and cob benches are fairly common in Portland.

Years ago I lived within a short walk of Share-It Square, one of Portland’s first painted intersections. I found plenty of excuses to wander over with a friend, have a cup of tea, and enjoy the warm neighborly vibes.

Earlier this summer, I reached out to City Repair using a generic email on their website. An organization run by volunteers, I thought it might take a while to get a response so I went ahead and added a link to show off some of their good work on my community webpage.

I heard back later in the summer from a staffer at City Repair with a short thank you note, apologies for letting the email slip by, and suggestion to meet. Ridhi D’Cruz, an organizer, part-time place-making manager, and volunteer everything else let me know that City Repair was winding down after their busiest time of the year.

Ridhi has been with City Repair organizing events and working with volunteers for the past four years while working on a recently completed graduate degree in anthropology at Portland State University. Ridhi is from Bangalore, India, where she finished her undergraduate degree in psychology, sociology, and English literature.

“I was living on the fringe at a time when it wasn’t the norm and my friends and family thought I was crazy,” said Ridhi. Her idea of fun back home was painting murals on public walls when she could convince the property owners that it was in their best interest. She did this in her free time when she wasn’t busy working with local nonprofits training staff about information technology and communication development or helping sex workers find a better life.

“My father taught me how to learn by breaking things down things step by step, and asking a lot of questions. This really annoyed my teachers.” After persistent encouragement from her very wise father, Ridhi came to the conclusion that he was right. He suggested she leave home and go to graduate school in a place that would feed and support her creative, activist spirit.

Listening to her animated descriptions of what she’s accomplished already in her life, I realized that Ridhi is a driving force for local and global change. She’s a true gem of a person working for the common good and like many of us, trying to figure out how to earn a living this way.

Ridhi is also involved in a community she calls “the homestead” (Ujima Center). Founded on the principles of permaculture and natural building, it’s a demonstration that is part of theVillage Building Convergence (VBC).

Like me, many Portlanders may be unaware that VBC – which is a 10-day urban permaculture and place-making festival occurring every summer for the last 15 years – is the City Repair’s largest program. A lot of events happen during VBC: neighborhood intersection paintings, permaculture and sustainability workshops by day, and live music in the evenings.

It takes all year to prepare VBC’s 42 or more events that happen mostly at the beginning of the summer, with about half as many projects also taking place throughout the summer. Volunteers work closely with City Repair’s core team consisting of an executive director, board of directors, and a few part-time staff (including Ridhi) who earn a small stipend to make all this happen.

“I’m not sure that it’s possible to get a total count of volunteers involved with City Repair,” said Ridhi. “We have roughly 40 committed team leads and team member volunteers who get more active towards VBC launch in the summer. Many more show up at the events. If we had to place a monetary value on the work they do, I’m not sure we could.”

City Repair is dependent on committed individuals like Ridhi, a team of evolving volunteers, and a tiny budget. Although they have received some grants in the past, with such a small team, it’s hard to go after consistent funding sources. A lot rides on an annual fundraising event happening on Halloween weekend called Howl. Other funding comes from speaking engagements, book sales, and small private or in-kind donations from local business partners.

One of the biggest challenges facing City Repair these days is keeping up with the requests for help from cities all over the world. Cities want to replicate the Portland place-making model on shoestring budgets. Often they have a hard time making a business case to get this type of activity included in the budget.To enable the organization to keep up with this increasing demand for services, City Repair is moving towards a consulting model that charges for its time and expertise. Ridhi finds this transition challenging. “We don’t want to discourage cities from following through with this important work.” She looks to executive director, Marc Tobin, to forge this new path.

The team leans on their co-founder, Mark Lakeman (who refers to himself as ‘old growth’) with his visioning and speaking talents, to convince cities around the world that they cannot live without a program for community place-making.

Regarding new directions, Ridhi said the team is spread very thin. Partly due to City Repair’s subculture context, most of the events happen in southeast or northeast neighborhoods. With more funding and staff support, the organization would be able to make services more accessible to communities in need and expand to outlying areas. They hope to generate more interest from wealthier neighborhoods such as northwest and southwest, and more direct involvement from Portland’s business community.

Community Project – North Portland Intersection Painting

Originally posted by Pro Photo Supply  on February 5th, 2015 by Daven Mathies. 

Last July, a small handful of Pro Photo Supply employees headed to North Portland to help document the painting of the N Killingsworth Ct. / N Borthwick intersection. Street paintings are not uncommon in Portland, but this one is particularly special. As a project organized by the Multnomah County Health Department and STRYVE, this was the first of many street paintings and community projects targeting areas historically affected by violence; often youth violence. By bringing together youth of different ages, community and government organizations, schools, churches, and even passersby, this street painting is far more than just a work of art. It is a conversation piece; a reason to stop and ask questions, educate yourself, and share the story behind its creation. Many people connected to the project had a hand in its design, meaning the painting is not a result of just one artist’s vision. It stands as a beacon of hope and unity for the entire community.


As a business, Pro Photo Supply strives to be connected to the community as much as possible. When we were asked to play a role in this project by providing photographic equipment and training, we jumped at the chance. Part of the program included employing high school students and recent graduates in media jobs for the summer, and it was with this group of youth that we worked most closely. Even though I didn’t get the chance to meet the students until the first day of the project, I was immediately blown away with their desire, drive, and capability in quickly learning and applying video production skills. Literally within an hour, we had set up an interview area and handed off production entirely to our new crew: camera, sound, and interviewer. All I did was help hold a diffuser. The video above was shot almost entirely by these youth.

On a personal level, participating in this project made me feel more connected to the Portland community in two days than I have felt in the past four years of living here. I met so many amazing people and heard some incredible stories. I lived in North Portland for over a year when I first moved to the city, and this project exposed me to new perspectives that taught me a lot about an area that used to be my own backyard.

A common question from people not connected to the project was, “How can a street painting stop violence?” It’s a question that is answered again and again in the video above, but for me, the main reason is very simple: it brings people together. People who otherwise may never see each other or be exposed to each other’s lives, desires, struggles, intelligence, compassion, and creativity. When you see everyone around you working for the same cause of peace, you cannot help but feel hopeful.

To everyone at the Health Department, STRYVE, PCC, the students, youth, and community members who came out to paint the street on that hot July weekend, know that as a business, Pro Photo Supply is proud to have had the opportunity to sponsor this event. But as individuals, as members of this community, we are much more than that. We are humbled, we are hopeful, we are thankful, and we had a heck of a good time getting to know you and helping to document this amazing project. And especially to the media crew: you guys rocked it. It was our pleasure to work on your set.

The Passing of a Family Member

With a gentle strength, warm humor, and abundant care and love, Eugene Daniel Santos Vibar arrived into the City Repair family over a year ago. In great sadness, we mourn his passing.

Many of City Repair organizers first met Eugene while taking the Urban Permaculture Design Course with Mark Lakeman and Matt Bibeau. As fellow students and teachers, we bonded around sustainable agriculture and social justice. Eugene, thriving on these ideas and work, became a volunteer with us, and quickly took responsibility as a core organizer and coordinator for our main program, the Village Building Convergence.

Eugene would be everywhere and do anything. As nutrition co-coordinator, Eugene was responsible for our meals and was out building relationships with donors and gathering supplies, then back setting up, leading volunteers, cooking up a storm, and finally washing dishes. Committed to his community service Eugene made himself present from beginning to end of the task at hand, never shying away from the dirtiest or difficult parts.

In City Repair, we strive to remove barriers that lead to social isolation, from physical structures like a lack of public places, to the way we interact with one-another socially and culturally. In this endeavor, Eugene touched us deeply with his emotional and experiential transparency by always openly sharing his feelings and philosophical transformations as he developed in his activism. He would share his deepest emotions and feel free to cry (usually from joy!) in front of us while in a large group. Such vulnerability, intimacy and rawness can be tough to show in a society that can be overly sanitary and emotionally narrow.

While he is no longer with us in this physical realm and while we grieve and integrate this different world into our systems, Eugene is still weaved into the fabric of who we are and the work we do. There is no way to concisely describe the depth and positive impact our beloved Eugene has touched this community.  

On Sunday, Nov. 29th we invite the community to a wake and memorial for Eugene from noon to 7 pm at 1815 NE 46th Avenue. This is a come and go and as you need potluck, and there will be time to verbally share your heart, contribute to a scrapbook that will be given to his family, and be present to support one-another.

Facebook event page info here.

Shared, Modest, Humble, Tiny, Teeny, and Eeantsy-Beantsy Homes

By Mark Lakeman, originally posted on Communitecture.net

To Begin With:
It seems that tiny homes and tiny home villages are all the rage these days. From individuals to communities, people all over North America are talking about smaller, simpler, more ecological and community-oriented modes of living. They’re not just talking, they are building, attracted to affordable ways to lower their cost of living, while also refusing to work thirty years just to pay for a place to sleep and store stuff. They have numerous motivations, including to simplify their lives while off loading accumulated mountains of stuff, have less debt, and to increase their quality of life by having more free time. Not so much a rejection of the classic “American Dream” as an updated vision for living, this broad movement is gaining ground because it is relevant to the pressures, demands, and realities of modern life. Perhaps more than anything else, though, the overall movement appears to driven by an aesthetic search for meaning, beauty, and liberty.
Wait though, because the movement to reduce and simplify is even broader than just tiny home enthusiasts. It actually includes a much wider spectrum of scales of experimentation, design, innovation, and real building projects. All of the scales are driven by similar motivations. For the purposes of this brief article, I will describe some of the options that have emerged, including Shared living, modest homes, humble homes, tiny homes, then getting down to teeny, and then finally eeantsy-beeantsy. Then there are the villages, clusters of these scaled-down palaces where people create entire landscapes of mutual benefits and shared cultures. Here we go!

Re-Inhabited Homes: At left, a small mansion in NW Portland where between 1975 and 1999 dozens of artists thrived in a live-in arts collaborative called ‘The Last Thursday House”. It was an artist’s dream, of collaborative, shared culture and inspired community. This where Portland’s Last Thursday movement started in 1990 when a tremendous monthly, four-level vertical arts festival began, and happened in great style every month until 1999. At right, Sellwood’s Planet Repair Institute where five permaculture activists live and lead “re-villaging” projects in the blocks around their home.

Shared Living: Re-inhabiting The Normal
It’s powerful and important to point out that, since before the 1960’s economic pressures and obvious benefits have moved people to combine their incomes and share their living environments. Whether in the popular form of individuals sharing space and costs in previously single family homes, or in the emergence of rural and urban ecovillages, decades ago many people found that they could simplify and reduce costs while improving their quality of life by living with people with whom they found common ground. Such arrangements could occur at almost any scale, from an ordinary home to a mansion. These kinds of local models have certainly emerged organically in a universal way, from city to city, in response to similar pressures that characterize modern life. These pressures include devaluation of the dollar, which erodes individual buying power, which in turn drives up the cost of living even as more and more people increase the overall demand on limited resources. So, sharing has emerged as a natural strategy in reaction to modern economic dynamics. However, there have clearly been enormous benefits in the rediscovery of the benefits of community living. I can personally attest to this story, because I have lived in shared “community houses” since 1976. In fact, as a child living among dozens of young artists, my life was immeasurably enriched and my formative creative life was given quite the leg up because I was surrounded by inspiration.

Modest Home: The image here is of a modest Portland Craftsman home, renovated as part of Sabin Green, the famous urban infill micro-cohousing project we designed in 2008. Now it will remain vital and functional for many decades to come. At about 1000 square feet, it’s much smaller than what is usually being built in 2015, but plenty for a modest family. However, its’ scale and charm remain extremely attractive, and more affordable, than bigger and newer homes. It still fits perfectly into the humble scale and character of most Portland neighborhoods. 

Modest Homes: 800 to 1200 square feet
Then there are “Modest Homes”. How to define these, when in the last few decades the average sized new American home has grown from around 900 to somewhere over 2000 square feet? For today, let’s say Modest can range from between 800 square feet (The upper limits of an Accessory Dwelling Unit or ADU) to 1,200 square feet. This scale of home has become an intentional choice by many families and individuals, partly motivated by cost factors, partly by a strong disdain for the grossness of scale that has become common, and mostly by a desire for modesty, personal balance, aesthetics, and a desire to not consume too much. In our architecture studio, the homes that we design in this scale range are happening mostly as part of urban-infill cohousing projects. People who want to inhabit this scale, usually young families and midlife couples, also want the benefits of shared living with neighbors that they can collaborate with in terms of shared community and land stewardship. Usually working with Orange Splot LLC, these very popular and influential cohousing projects include Sabin Green, Peninsula Park, Woolsey Corner, and also Cully Grove where we consulted. The individual homes within these varied projects range from 500 to 1500 square feet.

This ADU became quite famous, making quite a splash on national TV as the story of this 580 square foot home was replayed over and over. Located within the Sabin Green cohousing community, it has an innovative floor plan that is subtly subdivided by a central spiral stair, and it has everything a home needs to provide.

Humble homes: The ADU
Until the advent of the Tiny Home, the most frequently invoked alternative, simple-living idea in the common urban vocabulary was the Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADU. Also known as a Secondary Dwelling Unit (SDU) or “Granny Flat”, in Portland where we do most of our design work, the ADU is usually designed and built from about 400 square feet up to the legal limit of 800 square feet. However, they can also be as small as you might like. The key distinction that qualifies an additional structure on your site as an ADU is that it is considered a distinct, new address and has its’ own separate kitchen. It can have as many bedrooms, bathrooms, and other features as you like, as long as it fits within the size limit and is the second home on a lot. The scale of these projects used to be based upon a scale ratio so that no new ADU could be larger than 1/3 the square foot area of the existing primary home, which would be required to already exist on a given site. No more though, as that limitation has been removed, and any new ADU can be as large as 800 square feet outright. One last bit- ADU’s can be built as separate structures, or they can be located within an existing house, carved out of a basement or a converted second floor. They can also simply be attached to an existing house. There’s a great deal of flex in the way you can approach the design.

This 700 square foot accessory building includes a kayak workshop with tall ceilings on the first level, and a small office above. The office features a bath with shower and a certified kitchen. Additionally, guests are able to stay there if it’s absolutely necessary.

Also Humble: Accessory Buildings
Among all of the possible tools in the urban infill and voluntary simplification toolbox, accessory buildings offer some of the most flexibility. Though this kind of building cannot officially house “habitable” sleeping areas, it should be mentioned here because the activities that can be included are certainly complimentary to sleeping and living. Uses that can be accommodated include home offices, creative or production spaces, play rooms, certified kitchens, workshops, and other functions. These small buildings can be taller (20 feet high) than an ADU, and also up to 800 square feet in size.

Tiny Homes: These 180 square foot tiny dwellings were built using the “detached bedroom” provision in the residential code of Portland, Oregon. For those who say that “the code is the problem”, here’s a prototype that shows the way forward.

Tiny Homes: On or Off Wheels!
Perhaps the most famous version of the tiny home idea is the one on wheels. Much has been written about them, and they are extremely popular. Tiny homes on wheels are not quite like mobile homes. They are usually not aerodynamic, designed to drive around from place to place. Much more sturdy and well-built, tiny homes on wheels are more homey, energy efficient, and meant to stay somewhere for a long while. On the other hand, the built-in mobility allows someone to easily move if they want to. There are lots of upsides to mobility, but there are also limits that include planning and building codes. For instance, most cities will not permit a mobile structure to be slept in as a ‘habitable structure” unless they are located in a zone that allows a trailer park. If they are to be legally habitable they will also need to meet structural and energy codes. These are easy enough to meet, but they usually require a permanent location that costs money. The up-to-code design will cost more money too, as will the land, and then we begin to move away from what motivated the desire for a tiny home to begin with. However, this situation will not last, because as demand increases it becomes more likely that the planning and building code challenges will be resolved. 
While this very attractive mobile version can face difficulties, the permanent version is well underway. Many people don’t realize that cities can already have codes that will allow versions of a tiny home to be built. For instance, in Portland, Oregon we have a provision that allows for “detached bedrooms”. These are classified as additions to your existing home, as if you’ve simply added a new bedroom. But they can be separate, as small as can be, have one or more bedrooms, and feature a bathroom. If you’re a little creative you can also shift the sink outside of the bathroom to create a quasi-kitchenette. You can potentially have several of these on your site, as long as all your structures and hardscape fits within your total lot coverage limitation. It’s also true that , using the detached bedroom code, you are able to build a habitable ADU-scale building without triggering “tax reevaluation” based on current value assessments. The main functional difference is that this ADU-like version can’t include a complete kitchen with a range, but it can include a functional kitchenette with a sink, hotplate, refrigerator, dishwasher, and other common appliances.

On the left, a 200 square foot strawclay studio in NE Portland that accommodates a variety of uses. On the right, a 120 square foot hybrid cob and compressed straw structure that serves as a community sanctuary and multi-use space, located in the Sellwood neighborhood.

Also Tiny: Accessory Structures
These popular structures do not require permits, and have historically been limited to 120 square feet, as is still true in most other cities. However, in Portland the size limit has been raised to 200 square feet, and a typical residential site is able to have as many as three such structures as long as they don’t help to exceed the overall square foot limit for structures and impermeable hardscape. Though not technically “habitable”, these little buildings usually take the form of small studios, saunas, sheds, or storage units. However, this scale has also proven to be an ideal size for ecological experimentation, often used for natural and recycled building demonstration projects. They are also sometimes used for guests when absolutely necessary. That these don’t require permits has made this “type” a more accessible way to build functional, multi-use places.


On the left, a 56 square foot “Teeny Home”, located at the Planet Repair Institute in Portland’s Sellwood Neighborhood. Used mostly for summertime guests, it is enough for a couple to stay awhile, or for an individual to live in for an extended period. On the right, a teeny home in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood that features two sleeping bays that extend outward from the main space of 38 square feet.

Teeny Indeed !
Very simply, “Teeny Homes” are smaller than tiny homes. Teeny seems to begin when you go below 85 square feet. C’mon, now that’s just teeny. There’s pretty much just enough room for one space inside, a do-everything room for sleeping, studying, eating lunch, meditating, or having a guest over. There are a few of them around though, and they are sometimes confused with doll houses or kids playhouses. They are real though, and if they are built to the energy and structural code then people can live in them (legally!), and they are more cozy than anything that is larger in scale. Such projects can also be built without permits, but then they are not technically “habitable”. However they are built, they are the most intimate spatial experience that you can have, the kind of place that gives you sweetest memories like nothing else before in your life.

This Eeantsy Home was built by a dedicated surfer, to be super-inexpensive, low-maintenance, and utterly minimal in every way so that the surfer could minimize her belongings and needs while maximizing time in the ocean.

Eeantsy-Beantsy Homes
Yes, these exist. You may ask yourself “but, but, but how is this even possible?” You may say “no, only in Hong Kong could this be happening, with those sleeping tubes I saw in National Geographic!”, but you’d be wrong. They are around in every town. These are for people who are really clear minded, don’t buy into consumerism, and love to be in nature and get plenty of exercise. They tend to rely on bikes and public transport, and may share a distant relation in Henry David Thoreau. These small structures are big enough to house a bed, cabinets and shelves, some lighting and a guest. They are also small enough to be self-heated by one’s own body, or by simply aiming the windows towards the sun. COZY !!!
Yet…ultimately, HOW SMALL CAN WE GO? When I was asked recently whether tiny homes, and villages of tiny homes may be THE answer to affordable housing or even to homelessness, my answer was “yes for sure, for this moment!” Personally, I am absolutely enamored by the idea of simplifying and reducing as an expression of better priorities and personal liberation. But I also answered “no, not in the long term”, because I see these initiatives as only a partial solution in the present time. As building smaller does indeed do all that we want it to do, at the same time we can already see that the powerful pressures driving gentrification and the overall cost of living are systemic and relentless. Unless we can successfully address and resolve the unbearable contradiction of our society’s voracious appetite for “growth” within our Earth’s finite biosphere, nothing we can invent will ultimately prove sustainable. In response to ongoing economic pressure as the cost of land and living only increases, the pressure to reduce in scale will clearly never end. So I’m asking you, the reader to consider the question of “how small can we go?” Can we get shorter, or thinner, or halve our personal scale every few years in response to the cost of living, as we keep making our places smaller, teenier, or even microscopic? How small can we go, and how much are we willing to give up as we try?
For now, let’s take the steps that are in front of us, learn as we go, and then see what our next steps will be. This is a powerful movement, one that brings more to everyone through sharing, simplifying, and reducing our individual and combined impact. I’m betting that as building and planning codes adjust in response, so will bureaus and leaders, developers and bankers, and very likely everyone else.

Want to learn more about building small? You may be interested in the upcoming 2015 Build Small Live Large Summit on Friday November 6, 2015. It will be held at the PSU Smith Center. The summit will cover topics like ADUs, cluster cottages and small house communities, space-efficient design strategies, and much more. You can register here.