Over time, experience with citizen-involvement in urban planning and community initiatives reveals a single recurrent theme – sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. This approach may mean proposing specific ordinance text which address desired outcomes (rather than relying on staff to do it), convening groups of individuals in order to develop independent, “off the grid” (such as the Transition Town movement), or going as far as to raise money and find volunteers for public projects.
With respect to urban planning, one such “guerilla” approach to livability is that of “Tactical Urbanism,” which is a pattern that features the following five characteristics (as defined by the Streets Plans Collaborative’s manual Tactical Urbanism):
- A deliberate, phased approach to instigating change;
- The offering of local solutions for local planning challenges;
- Short-term commitment and realistic expectations;
- Low-risks, with a possibly a high reward; and
- The development of social capital between citizens and the building of organizational capacity between public-private institutions, non-profits, and their constituents.
In a play which seems to be the missing chapter from the first volume of Tactical Urbanism, graduate student Matt Tomasulo placed signs (actually, the very signs peppered throughout this article) in order to provide wayfinding and encouragement for would be walkers. Overall, 27 signs were placed at three different intersections within downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. The signs were part of the Walk Raleigh project and featured an arrow, a destination, and a QR code that allowed walkers to get directions to the featured destination.
Unfortunately, as with most things guerilla, the signs were deemed as illegal (due to lack of permits). It is worth noting that according to the Raleigh News and Observer, Raleigh City Planning Director Mitchell Silvers (who also happens to be the current President of the American Planning Association) wasn’t entirely sure which city agency was charged with removing the signs. Silvers removed the signs himself and returned them to Tomasulo.