PETAL INTENT The intent of the Equity Petal is to correlate the impacts of design and development to their ability to foster a true sense of Community, whether that Community is composed of half a city block or an entire borough. A society that embraces all sectors of humanity and allows the dignity of equal access is a civilization in the best position to make decisions that protect and restore the natural environment. Until all Communities aspire to such greatness, our societies will always be less than they can be. There is a disturbing trend toward privatizing infrastructure and creating polarized attitudes of “us” vs. “them”—allowing only those of a certain economic or cultural background to participate fully in community life. Although opposite on the spectrum, enclaves for the wealthy are only one step removed from the racial and ethnic ghettos that continue to plague our Communities. A subset of this trend is the notion that individuals can own access to nature itself, by privatizing admittance to waterways, beaches and other wilderness areas, cutting off most people from the few pristine environmental places that remain. Only by realizing that we are indeed all in this together can the greatest environmental and social problems be addressed. We need to aggressively challenge the notion that property ownership somehow implies that we can do whatever we like, even externalize the negative environmental impacts of our actions onto others. For example, consider these situations: when a polluting factory is placed next to a residential community, the environmental burdens of its operation are placed on the individuals who live in those houses. The factory is diminishing its neighbors’ rights to clean air, water and soil. When a building towers over another structure, its shadow diminishes that structure’s ability to generate clean and renewable energy, thereby impeding the rights to energy independence. We all deserve access to sunlight and clean air, water and soil, both within our homes and within our Communities. We need to prioritize the concept of “citizen” above that of “consumer” while elevating the notion of “community” above that of “self.” Equity implies the creation of Communities that provide universal access to people with disabilities, and allow people who can’t afford expensive forms of transportation to fully participate in the major elements of society. Indeed, most projects in the built environment greatly outlive the original owner or developer—society inherits the legacies of bad decisions and good decisions alike. Since the act of community planning leading to sizable development foreshadows a considerable environmental impact shared by all, there is an inherent responsibility to ensure that any development provides some public good and does not degrade quality of life. IDEAL CONDITIONS AND CURRENT LIMITATIONS The Living Community Challenge envisions developments that allow equitable access for all people regardless of physical abilities, age, or socioeconomic status. Current limitations of reaching this ideal stem primarily from ingrained cultural attitudes about the rights associated with private ownership. It is necessary to change zoning standards in order to protect the rights of individuals occupying buildings and communities that are “downstream” of water, air and noise pollution, and who are adversely impacted due to lack of sunlight or exposure to toxins. Past attempts by zoning standards to protect people and communities from particularly egregious pollutants resulted in sterile single-use areas. A healthy, diverse community is one that encourages multiple functions, and is organized in a way that protects the health of people and the environment. When planned development does occur, it can sometimes lead to gentrification of a community, raising property values and rental rates to such a level that it prices out the current inhabitants. A truly equitable community is one that provides a welcoming framework for people at all economic levels and ensures that a place doesn’t push out the very people that helped to improve it, or who were its original residents.