Turning a Community into an 'EcoDistrict'

LPA San Diego Managing Director Matt Winter spends his spare time working on an "EcoDistrict" in the San Diego neighborhood of Pacific Beach, best known for surfers, taco stands and million-dollar homes.

EcoDistricts are the brain-child of an international nonprofit organization that advances a new standard for community development, focused on creating "equitable, sustainable and resilient neighborhoods." The group promotes a certification process to encourage communities to move beyond talk and take action.

EcoDistricts provide "a protocol for communities to take a collaborative, holistic, neighborhood-scale approach to community design," Winter says.

Winter is the co-founder of the nonprofit beautifulPB, which manages the Pacific Beach EcoDistrict's certification status. In recent years, beautifulPB has dedicated a new community garden, created the PB Parks project (which earned a $460,000 grant from the San Diego Association of Governments) and worked with the local government to make "placemaking" an official use category in the municipal code.

The impact of the PB EcoDistrict has been widespread, helping to connect the local nonprofit community together under one umbrella. It also led to the creation of a developer EcoDistrict checklist for a new construction, now considered the standard for development in PB, and supported efforts to create new bike paths and art programs in the area.

As a registered EcoDistrict, Pacific Beach has become the model community for the City of San Diego Climate Action Plan, a package of policies that will benefit San Diego's environment and economy. "This is next-level development and planning," Winter says. "We're at the forefront of a change in how we think about communities."

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