Co-planning a sustainable neighborhood

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Main actors

City Government, Private Sector, Community / Citizen Group

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Project area

Metropolitan Area

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Ongoing since 2018

Transforming neighborhoods through an inclusive planning process with residents and design professionals.

The Vision Quito 2040 strategy defines a neighborhood as a key principal of planning by establishing five attributes that neighborhoods should have in order to be sustainable: inclusive, ecosystemic, inhabitable, co-responsible and entrepreneur. The competition “Mi barrio ejemplar y sostenible” (My exemplary and sustainable neighborhood) was created as a mechanism for addressing these issues. Competing teams are randomly selected from a multidisciplinary group of professionals and neighborhood residents including their elected leaders, to jointly develop an agenda and plan based on the five attributes proposed in Vision Quito 2040.
The results of this community-based process demonstrate the success of neighborhood planning as a mechanism for social innovation that can tackle socioeconomic disparity and improve the quality of life for citizens. This process also revealed the possibility of transforming the neighborhood into an attractive area where professionals can develop the area themselves. Additionally, it gave residents and local leaders the opportunity to work, in many cases for the first time, with planning professionals.

Sustainable Development Goals

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Quito, Ecuador

Size and population development
With approximately 2 million inhabitants, the capital city of Quito is the second biggest city of Ecuador, after the coastal city Guayaquil. Its metropolitan district (MDQ) has approximately 2.7 million inhabitants. The MDQ extends 4,183 square kilometres, with a very low population density in comparison to other Metropolitan capitals of Latin American.

Population composition
The province of Pichicha, in which Quito is located, is home to around 140,000 indigenous people. The largest ethnic group identified by Ecuador’s national census are mestizo, a classification originating in the colonisation of the Americas. It refers to the children of criollos (Latin Americans of Spanish origin) and indigenous, although the term now simply means mixed ethnicity. This group makes up 80 percent of the population. The remainder is divided into various groups, the most significant being indigenous, largely speakers of Quechua; Afro-Ecuadorians, the dependents of slaves; and a small white population. There is also an immigrant population, with around 2% of the populous speaking a language other than Spanish or Quechua;

Main functions
San Francisco de Quito is the capital of the Province of Pichincha, and moreover the capital of Ecuador. Known simply as “Quito”, it is the second most elevated capital city in South America after La Paz, Bolivia, which stands at 2,580 meters above sea level and sits amid mountains and deep valley in the eastern Andes. The city is crossed by four tectonic faults, 192 ravines and is surrounded by 20 volcanoes, of which three are active. The Metropolitan District of Quito is 55% vegetation and is a recognized bio-diversity hotspot (Tumes-Choco-Magdalena). Moreover, Quito is known as a cultural capital, with its historic centre being a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site since 1978 because of its status as one of the least-altered and best-preserved central districts in the American continent. In recent years, there has been a noticeable influx of Venezuelan migrants who have fled their country due to internal struggles, and it has become a challenge not only to Quito but to the whole of Ecuador to manage their arrival, which amounts to hundreds of thousands. Ecuador has long been Latin America’s largest recipient of refugees, with the majority fleeting violence and repression in Colombia.

Main industries / business
Quito provides the highest percentage of Ecuador’s GDP. The main industries of Quito belong to three sectors: First, the city exports coffee, cacao, sugar, palm oil, textiles and bananas (Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of bananas). Second, it is a popular tourist destination. In 2015, approximately 1.5 million international tourists visited the capital, largely from Colombia, United States of American and Perú. Tourism in the city is largely directed to places of Catholic heritage (churches, sculptures, etc.), museums, and to textile industry and night life scenes. Third, Quito is home to many big national and multinational companies, such as the nation’s biggest corporation Petroecuador. The city is the hub of the nation’s automotive industry and the headquarters of TAME, Ecuador’s national airline. According to Ecuador’s Central Bank, Quito receives significant remittance funds from the one million plus Ecuadorians living abroad.

Sources for city budget
Quito has a high rate of tax collection when compared to other capital cities in South America, with a 12% sales tax, a 22% corporate tax rate, and a progressive personal income tax rate that sites around 35%. The province which houses Quito has two types of budget, one designed according to the needs of the province, the Preassigned Budget of Income, and the second being used to fund the institutions, programs and prioritized projects, and it is paid for with federal funding.

Political structure
Quito is the capital of Ecuador, of the Province of Pichincha and the seat of the MDQ canton. It is governed by the Metropolitan Council made up of 21 council members. The front man of the council is the Mayor, who is both mayor of the Quito seat and of the Metropolitan District. The council is tasked with promoting the city, ensuring public services, tax collection, public and private transport regulation, and city development planning.

Administrative structure
Ecuador is a country that for administrative purposes is divided into provincias (provinces), cantones (cantons), and political parishes. Quito belongs in the Pichincha province, and in its form of Metropolitan District of Quito it is a canton. Quito, in its most local definition—equivalent to a parish—is the seat (centre) of the MDQ canton. The canton is made up of 55 parishes, and the urban parishes are what is known as Quito. The administration of all the parishes is handled by 9 administrative zones. In each of these, there is a council person assigned by the mayor of Quito in charge of managing the parishes within the zone. These zones were created to decentralize institutional arrangements and to manage civil participation.

In the city of Quito, neighborhoods have become an important part of the planning process. There are more than 800 organized neighborhoods in the city. Neighborhoods have a leadership structure that is voted for in local elections and their representatives are supported by a legal structure that allows communities to apply for funding through a participatory budgeting process. Among other responsibilities, community leaders work with residents to develop a neighborhood agenda. Through workshops, community leaders are trained to build direct connections between local communities and the Municipality. However, developing an agenda and formulating technical projects for participatory budgeting is a daunting task. 
The objective for the competition is to establish working groups between neighborhood residents and technical teams to facilitate and guide a community driven development agenda. 
Other objectives are:
  • to introduce design competitions as an effective tool for city planning, one that allows design professionals and citizens to work together and become part of the process.
  • to establish a replicable management, planning and project implementation process for Quito’s neighborhoods that strengthens the participatory budgeting system and promotes investment in sustainable development.
  • to encourage citizens to adopt sustainability concepts that will enable them to transform their neighborhood into a sustainable area through a well-designed decision-making process. 
  • to encourage professionals and universities to support and include in their programs the application and design of sustainable neighborhoods.
1) Call to action
Neighborhoods and multidisciplinary technical teams where invited through a variety of media channels to participate. CAE-P, the local professional architects’ association, supported and co-organized the competition.
2) Confirmation of teams
Neighborhoods were able to sign-up with or without a working agreement with a technical team. Most neighborhoods signed up without an agreement since they did not have any previous experience working with architects, planners or any other type of design professionals. Simultaneously, technical teams signed up and were matched with neighborhoods through a lottery type process.
3) Workshops with technical teams
The professional teams attended two mandatory workshops:
a) “Model for sustainable neighborhoods” developed by Instituto Metropolitano de Planificación Urbana for Vision Quito 2040a 
b) Moderation techniques to enable a participatory process with the community.
4) Proposal development
Teams were given six weeks to develop the proposal. The design competition requested that technical teams develop the proposal on site and established three mandatory design workshops with the community with specific goals for each workshop.
5) Judging
A multidisciplinary jury comprised of five members analyzed the proposals and chose four winning proposals - one for each are of the city (South, North, Center and Valleys). The jury also chose four honorable mentions. The Municipality will finance the initial project of each winning proposal up to USD$200,000. Winning technical teams received a prize of USD$5,000.
6) Implementation
Winning technical teams will be hired to further develop the projects that were awarded USD$200,000. Projects will commence in 2019.

Initial projects will be financed with the funds allocated for the competition. Teams are encouraged to establish partnerships with the private sector and NGO’s to access funds for financing additional projects. The citizens in the competing neighborhoods have pledged through organized mingas (voluntary work) to build and obtain funds for additional projects.

62 neighborhoods signed up for the contest. 28 neighborhoods completed the process and as a result have a sustainable development agenda with more than 20 projects for each neighborhood.
Due to a a carefully outlined process, many neighborhoods and professionals are interested in participating in a future competition.
Design professionals can now see an opportunity for the development of more sustainable and resilient neighborhoods. 
1) The contest demonstrated that for many professionals, it is a challenge to work at this scale and in less developed areas of the city.
2) Finding additional financial resources for project implementation.
3) Replicating the project on a larger scale to reach more neighborhoods and residents.
4) Continuity in the following municipal administrative periods.
1) There is a great necessity for design and project implementation in most neighborhoods in the city of Quito.
2) The project is replicable and transferable to other cities.
3) The process created strong bonds between design professionals and residents of the neighborhoods.

City references:

Visión Quito 2040 y su Nuevo Modelo de Ciudad
Plan Metropolitano de Desarrollo y Ordenamiento Territorial PMDOT 2015-2025.
Hacia un modelo de ciudad sustentable: Red Verde Urbana y Ecobarrios
Other references:
New Urban Agenda
Sustainable development Goals

External links / documents

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Antonio Salvador
Quito, Ecuador

Antonio Salvador

Individual | Director de planificación estratégica urbana

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