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Los Angeles' Eco-Village Proves Intentional is Possible in Urban Settings

The side entrance of the Los Angeles Eco-Village

Consisting of two city blocks in the intensely-urban, working-class neighborhood of Koreatown, the Los Angeles Eco-Village is one of the few intentional communities that exist in Los Angeles.

What exactly is an eco-village? Taken from the Global Ecovillage Network, an eco-village is an "intentional community using local participatory processes to integrate ecological, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of sustainability."

From a modern perspective, eco-villages are part of a larger relocalization movement seeking to construct communities based on concepts of locality and long-term sustainability.

While we may think of traditional eco-villages as being located close to nature, the eco-village movement has grown to encompass many different living models.

Many eco-villages are located in dense urban environments, as demonstrated by the Los Angeles Eco-Village.

The Los Angeles Eco-Village has a long history. This past weekend, I participated in one of the Los Angeles Eco-Village's biweekly tour to find out more.

Founder of the Los Angeles Eco-Village, Lois Arkin, told our group that the eco-village was established in 1993.

Galvanized by the Rodney King Riots in 1992, Lois was determined to create a space of healing after the tragic events of the riots.

The timing was right. After negotiations with her neighbors, a vacant 11-acre landfill site owned by the city was purchased and the Los Angeles Eco-Village was established.

Since that time, the Los Angeles Eco-Village has been applauded by many for the various community projects that they have spearheaded.

Some examples include: creating bulb-outs for more pedestrian friendly streets, a tool sharing library, community art workshop space, permaculture garden, food co-op, a community bike shop, Bimini Slough Ecological Park (pictured below) and much more.

Besides giving regular tours to the public, workshops are common at the eco-village, ranging anywhere from permaculture classes to providing an introduction to grey water systems installations.

Bimini Slough Ecological Park, Los Angeles

From an urban planning perspective, coding for eco-villages is a big challenge. Because of the unconventional nature of intentional communities (as they often seek to integrate residential, commercial, agricultural, and recreational uses in a small area), establishing an eco-village and its associated projects requires navigating municipal bureaucracy.

Lois recalls how important it was to frequently meet with city council members, as well as her neighbors, to work out potential conflicts.

How can we encourage or change zoning laws for projects such as eco-villages? Are there any eco-villages or intentional communities where you live? Please share your stories and experiences in the comments below.

Credits: Images by Victor Tran. Data linked to sources.