The Junior College neighborhood is one of the oldest areas of Santa Rosa, and one of the most walkable. The location of middle schools, high schools, and the junior college within the neighborhood has led to a high level of pedestrian traffic and social interaction between residents. Additionally, the traditional neighborhood layout and house design attract non-residents who want to experience the area’s unique sense of community, history, and walkability.
I was on such a walk the other day when, on the corner of Howard and Wright Streets, noticed a modest homemade bench and some old lattice siding nailed to two posts to create a bulletin board. The board was covered in flyers and leaflets about community news and events; and although the bench was in need of some slight vegetation management, it was actually very comfortable. Such is the case with many types of what is known as guerilla planning, which seeks to beautify streetscapes and lend some aspect of convenience to neighborhoods.
Some urban planners don't like guerillas because they can undermine a city's improvement efforts, and are oftentimes simply viewed as vandals. Yarn bombing, for instance, is something that city officials are not too pleased with. Despite its quirky attitude, once the material is subjected to the elements, the rebel action loses its artsy allure and ends up desecrating perfectly functional public spaces. Alternatively, the chaining of folding chairs to bus stop posts has caught on throughout Sonoma County, and is a free and unobtrusive way to help transit riders. Meanwhile, on the other side of the nation, citizens in Raleigh, North Carolina have taken to the streets as well, using Guerilla Wayfinding to promote walkability.
It is exciting to see people taking on tasks that are traditionally reserved for planning agencies and design firms. The fact that these are organic campaigns means that these improvements are tailored to the community. This is something the residents want, even if it is just a wooden bench and a piece of plywood.
Does guerilla planning constitute property crime? Or is it a real and effective way of developing community cohesion?
Credits: Images by Nick Danty. Data linked to sources.