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Summary This is an announcement of the creation of a sustainability demonstration site in downtown Puyallup that will show a living example of abundant design that encourages vibrant community. Although it will have a café/coffeeshop component, so that in time it can become financially self-reliant, investment is needed for startup. The natural building, holistic gardens, and inspired education outreach of this project may be quite revolutionary in bringing about walkable, functional community that people can be ethically proud of and dearly love.


Puyallup is a Western Washington suburban town in a fertile river valley that is nestled in the foothills of a would-be temperate rainforest that climbs into the Cascade Mountains. The town and its region have a rich history of food gathering, salmon fishing, farming (berries, hops, daffodils), fairs, and most recently is typified as having car dealerships, big corporate stores and rampant urban sprawl. As settlement money goes to the outskirts, the downtown (civic offices, bars, antique stores, fairground and associated parking lots) have been struggling to remain economically and socially viable. Although the city and county have many planning departments and citizens groups working on developing the health of their specific jurisdictions, cohesive regional planning has been largely absent, resulting in no apparent solutions, and more-of-the-same sprawl extending into the mountains.


Towns such as Puyallup need examples of sustainable development (environmentally, socially, and economically) that strengthens the community's already existing infrastructure, in order to create a viable alternative to urban sprawl. This is a huge topic in itself.

Specific needs that exist in Puyallup are:

    * An informal gathering space for people and groups in the community working on sustainability and social issues; a place to be supported without structured meetings.
    * Solutions to address the class/race/economic disparities in the area, especially as they are exacerbated by community disintegration/urban sprawl/gentrification/corporate economics.
    * Support for local people and economies. A locally-run business that sells goods from cottage industries and projects in the area.
    * Interesting destination for downtown residents and pedestrians.
    * Hope and community. Especially for the youth of the area, but needed by everyone. Daring beauty that encourages conversation and connection.


    * Revitalization of downtown has been tremendous in the past decade. Active Main Street Association, Sound Transit station, thriving Saturday Farmers Market, new Puyallup Library, and encouraging sustainable design from the city's planners in the Pedestrian Oriented Commercial designation
    * Many vibrant projects and people in the area: local organic farms, watershed and conservation groups, the Puyallup Fair and its plethora of challenges and opportunities.
    * Regional connections: Many inspiring projects in Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia could connect with community work in Puyallup. Specific examples are WSU Puyallup extension, Evergreen State College Tacoma campus, Traditions Cafe in Olympia, etc.  

The Proposal

To build in Puyallup's downtown core a permaculture demonstration site that functions as a coffee shop/ community garden/ resource library that can support itself (monetarily and technologically) and most importantly, be an example of community needs and environmental needs met in a beautiful and easy way.

Functions of the Site:

To demonstrate the appropriate technologies/ natural building techniques best suited for this climate, and in an urban application. Many of the City of Puyallup building codes will need to be amended, following example of other jurisdictions. Also, some technologies may need to be dual to comply with code (i.e. one toilet hooked up to sewer, another one composting).


Beautiful building will be vital. Round shapes, cozy design, imaginative nooks, welcoming. Remodeling an existing building can also be possible.

    * Underground root cellar
    * Northside earth-bermed
    * Southside salvaged wood, steel, glass
    * Solar orientation of building for passive heat gain
    * Indoor cob seating and spaces.


The aim would be to incorporate as many of these technologies as is appropriate financially and otherwise.

    * Photovoltaic array:
    * Solar Heated Hot Water:
    * Passive Refrigereation
    * Passive Solar Cooking Technologies
    * Onsite Greywater Processing:
    * Composting Toilet:
    * Greenroof : Point Defiance Zoo, Tacoma
    * Water catchment: King Street Center, Seattle


Outdoor rooms that will inspire abundance and playfulness. Focuses will be on:

    * Fruit trees/berries/perennial greens/mushrooms for community members so that people will feel welcome to come onto the site and eat off of the trees.
    * Herbs for the kitchen
    * A few larger nut trees, for larger harvests
    * Native plants and wildlife habitat
    * Ecosystem components and plants that will keep the garden healthy and demonstrate low-maintenance
    * Composting of kitchen scraps, etc     
    * Chickens and ducks (at a sanitary distance away from food prep, etc.)
    * Possible pond and aquaculture
    * Earth-oven and fire-pit for pizza feeds and community celebrations
    * Community garden plot/greenhouse space for apartment dwellers.
    * Organic nursery to sell useful, locally-adapted plants

As a demonstration site there will be very clear signage on all of the interesting technologies and techniques so that self-guided walking tours with cup of coffee in hand can be encouraged.

Functions of the Building

These are ideas that may or may not be needs in the neighborhood. Design will follow on-the-ground specifics.


To be the central economic focus which will bring in resources for the other functions of the site.

ˇ Coffee-shop components: Organic, fairtrade coffee and espresso, comfortable atmosphere, Wifi internet, open late to provide non-alcoholic and youth space downtown at night.

ˇ Food: small and easy at first, expanding if there is money/staff to do so. Buffet style daily soup, grain, salad bar (with raw food component), dessert. Self-serve.

ˇ Local organic and seasonal foods. There are a handful of organic farms in the area to work with, and with greenhouses they have possibilities for salads, etc through the winter.

ˇ Wildcrafted foods and teas: berries, spring greens, mushrooms, herbs. This, and selling locally-made goods, may be a market for members of the Puyallup Tribal Nation.

ˇ Other functions of the retail space: clothing racks/displays selling local goods, stage area for open mics, etc., events bulletin board, bulk buying club, commercial kitchen available for rentals/trade.

Community Library

Separate upstairs room that has sustainabilty/community/political literature available in one space. Possibilities for catalogue/loaning to be intertied with the city's, while the collection retains easy browsing ability for those interested in the above topics.

    * Binders on hot conversation topics in which everyone can add articles and information. Peak oil, land conservation, economic justice, local referendums and politics. An informal forum.
    * Meeting and classroom space. Tables and equipment in library for study groups, classes, community meetings, etc. Space for possible elective classes for Puyallup School District students that the schools do not have the resources to teach.

Housing Lofts

Upstairs with separate entrance. Small, but sufficient for the caretaker/interns to live on site. Allows for greater flexibility in open business hours and easier maintenance of site.

    * Caretaker: full kitchen unnecessary, cozy living space
    * Intern housing: Could be flexible to also be rentals or B&B type lodging (although for renting the full kitchen would be necessary)
    * Shared toilet room (composting) and bathing room (solar hot water, greywater) for all upstairs residents.
    * Laundry could also be done onsite but closer to greywater processing. Could be available for neighbors as well.


Startup Needs

Land (although ownership may not be necessary)


Building Materials and Resources


Photovoltaic System

$16, 000

City-provided infrastructure

Toilet System: Sewer


Kitchen Equipment


Café Furniture/Equipment


Plants for Garden: (cheap, bareroot)

Foodstuffs for ___ months</P>




Maintenance Needs

The goal is that the amount of money coming in from the retail outreach will be able to support these needs after a few years. Ideally, this project will one day be run by a collective of people sharing living wage salaries and returning profits back into the project. At the startup phase, a collective may not be possible. The project could start small by paying the caretaker a yearly stipend, as food and lodging are included in the job. Interns and volunteers may be available to work for food, board, and education. The following table assumes yearly maintenance needs

Caretaker Stipend


$11/ hour

Tools and Repairs




Sources of Revenue:

Food/Coffee Sales

1st Year

2nd Year

Sustainable Equilibrium

Workshops and Tours (advanced, many workshops will be free)

Rental of Commercial Space (kitchen, garden, parties, etc.)

Apartment Rental/ B & B (when not intern housing)




The above proposal outlines a project that is sorely needed in Puyallup and as an example around the world of what can be done by a community to counteract urban sprawl and promote sustainability in a region. On the neighborhood level though, this project can immediately start to correct the wrongs of an extensive asphalt and poor human design that literally drives people away from each other. Without community spaces that people love, many issues (economic justice, corporate responsibility, supportive neighborhoods) will never be able to be resolved by the people themselves. Conversely, with a place that inspires hope and involvement, long-lasting sustainable solutions are possible.

Appendix 1

Aquaculture: Using a water ecosystem to gain food harvests (fish, water-plants, etc.)

Cob: A natural building material made up of clay, earth, sand, straw, etc. Very strong, and very easy to mold into beautiful, interesting shapes.

Collective: A group of people having co-ownership of a project.

Composting Toilet: A toilet that naturally breaks down human waste through having the correct balance of carbon/nitrogen/oxygen, etc.

Earth-bermed: Building up soil, etc on the northside of a building to increase insulation efficiency and conserve resources.

Greenroof: Also called 'Living Roofs' these roofs are built up, with an impermeable membrane, atop existing roofs to grow plants, hold stormwater, insulate the building, etc.

Greywater: Water from sinks and showers that is separate from 'black' water (toilets). Greywater can be safely cleaned and reused in the landscape through natural reed-bed ecosystem functions.

Natural Building: Building with local and/or renewable resources in an easy to maintain and non-toxic way. In this region, examples are building from salvaged wood, cob, strawbale, etc,

'Passive' Technologies: Technologies that use renewable resources to directly get a job done without the need for electricity. Examples are using the sun to directly cook food, or using cold below-ground temperatures/water to keep food cool.

Perennial Plants: Plants that live for many years and thus create food at much lower maintenance than many common vegetables.

Permaculture: A design system for creating sustainable human habitats. The 'how-to' that many non-indigenous cultures have lost knowledge of.

Photovoltaics: Solar panels that create electricity from the sun's light.

Solar Orientation: In the Northern hemisphere, orienting a building to the South to optimally gain heat and light.

Sustainable/Sustainability: Lifestyles and technologies that are able to support humans as well as healthy ecosystems; i.e. can be sustained.

Wildcraft: Food, medicine, materials etc. that are gathered from a wild ecosystem rather than grown.

Appendix 2

Other Resources:

The author of this proposal assumes that as initial caretaker and/or member of a collective working on this project, her skills and resources are highly pertinent.

  • Skills: networking, growing food, markets, cheffing/wildcrafting, organization, familiar enough with basics of many appropriate technologies, building techniques, business, and teaching to be confident taking these tasks on.
  • Money: Reliable with good credit and zero debt. Able to support herself during the construction phase of this project. (???!!???)
  • Labor: Able to give 100% to this endeavor for the first few years of its existence, and wanting to share responsibilities with others who join on. Very driven and quickly able to pick up new skills.
  • Community Connections: This is a strong point and the reason why the project is feasible in Puyallup. The author has grown up in the Puyallup area and has done extensive anti-sprawl research in the community a few years ago. Through that work she knew well the areas farmers, activists, county and city planners, politicians, librarians, business owners, etc. Though not as focused, she also has many connections in the Puyallup area to churches, schools, neighbors, friends.
  • Regional Connections: A huge support network through the Puget Sound of farmers, non-profits, business owners, nursery growers, engineers, accountants, lawyers, technicians, designers, teachers, chefs, builders, public health advisors, etc. While many may not be able to financially support the project, all are more than willing to give time, and share skills and resources.
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Page last modified on January 19, 2007, at 05:49 PM