Last night, I had the opportunity to hear Shannon Spanhake; the Deputy Innovation Officer for the City and County of San Francisco speak about what the City is doing, to create economic opportunities within their City. At the center of what she is doing, is working on innovation ecosystems to create job opportunities, create a better government/citizen experience and to improve the urban infrastructure of San Francisco. During her talk, she spoke about Living Innovation Zones, which address the fact that many of the codes and codices that we have adopted over the years, in the City planning and municipal management areas of cities are antithetical to innovation. The concept of LIZs, is that in specific zones of the City, these types of codes that can be a limitation to innovation and the associated risks of doing things that have not been done before, are either modified, or even removed, from the path of people who might have great ideas, but, not great capital.
Why would a community seek to removed these codes, which obviously have been placed to protect the fabric and structure of the City, just to enable people, who often have more ideas than capital, when we all tend to want to see our cities encouraging capital centric development. Isn't it appropriate for a City to seek economic development from those who have money, than from those who need it?
Not really. One of the hallmarks of large corporations, is that they are rarely good corporate citizens anymore. They are the driving force of the economy in that they seek to create wealth in a variety of channels, and many of us benefit from that. However, increasingly the case is, that research, development and design are not seen as avenues for profit within that structure. Further, these companies do not foster community sustainability. A truly sustainable community is founded in the ability to live, work and play within the community itself, and one facet of that is to develop economic stability as well as economic opportunity within the community. Shannon is doing this in San Francisco using tools such as Open Government, creation of Living Innovation Zones, finding new ways for government to act, or for people to interact with government.
As always, I find these dinners that I attend, as a guest of The Hub, and UIX Global, as well as the Berkeley Economic Development Agency to be stimulating and challenging to what I think I know about community and city. Much of what Shannon spoke about was pertinent to San Leandro, many of the challenges we face are different, in that we do not enjoy the visibility or reputation of San Francisco. However, we have our own opportunities and our own built in limitations, that ideas such as a LIZ, such as co-living and Open Government could begin to address.