From R/UDAT to SDAT: A Sustainable Community Vision
Then: In 1982, seeking direction for Healdsburg’s economic future the community applied for R/UDAT’s assistance and was accepted. The R/UDAT, Rural/Urban Design Assistance Team, was sponsored by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) who put together expert teams of volunteers including planners, economists, urban designers, landscape and building architects specific to each unique community project.
The team came, listened, and worked with local citizens, community stakeholders and decision-makers in an intense 4-day, whole community planning process, resulting in the highly successful “blueprint” that contributed to our becoming a world-class wine tourism destination. The summary report is a fascinating 32-page document. The cautions are also instructive.
Now: Today, 35 years post R/UDAT, citizens and council members ask, “Is it time to update our vision? What’s our next step in honoring our success while ensuring a resilient, sustainable and affordable town in the future?”
Last May, 120 citizens including local government representatives attended the Sustainable Tourism Forum hosted by the Healdsburg Coalition to discuss those challenges in an open process. This was an example of the community mobilizing itself toward making collaborative decisions. Participants who were familiar with the 1982 AIA report asked, “could we ask the R/UDAT to return with their impartial team of experts and no skin in the game, to help us tackle today’s complex economic and environmental challenges?”
It turns out that the AIA now also offers an SDAT, Sustainable Design Assessment Team, with a crucial sustainability component. From the AIA website,“The SDAT program helps communities develop a vision for a sustainable future and a realistic, attainable roadmap to get there.”
In November, 25 residents formed a Steering Committee, and received support to apply from over 20 community organizations and the City Council. The community submitted its application on December 4, and learned in January that the AIA accepted their proposal. The SDAT visit is planned for this August, with community meetings on August 13 and 15 at 6PM at Healdsburg High School.
Since 1967, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has run Design Assistance Team (DAT) programs. These are results-driven community design programs based on the principles of interdisciplinary solutions, objectivity, and public participation. The programs combine local resources with the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of nationally recognized professionals who volunteer their time to identify ways to encourage desirable change in a community.
SDATs have led to new construction and development, new public agencies and organizations, new parks and open space, new zoning ordinances, political change, affordable housing, commercial and economic revitalization, preservation of historic districts, landmark preservation, pedestrian systems, comprehensive plans, changes in growth patterns, and cessation of inappropriate development.