Sarah Lucy Estephan

Sarah Lucy Estephan

San Francisco, CA, US


Mini village

Mini Village looks at dormant suburban neighborhoods in the city of San Francisco as a testing ground for a mini village model.

The focus of this proposal is to revitalize suburban neighborhoods which have grown exponentially throughout metropolitan regions in the past two decades. Strict zoning policies, restricting the infusion of residential and commercial neighborhoods, have resulted in low-density housing districts which lack a sense of community more than ever before. 

The Mini Village takes cues from a traditional village typology, where there is close proximity between resources, dwelling, and production, and businesses are integrated within the neighborhood communities at a human scale. In major urban centers like San Francisco, where a deficit of land and a booming tech sector has resulted in the highest rents on the planet, densification, and activation of underutilized resources have become increasingly crucial. 

This project is a call to local jurisdictions to densify the suburban fabric of our cities, to relax the constraints of our failed past urban planning initiatives and to invest in local and small productions in an effort to create activated, diverse, and progressive micro-communities. 

This proposal aims to be a model that is adaptable to any residential neighborhood that lacks a sense of community and has a need for mini economies to create additional urban hubs in the outskirts of megacities. 

At the core of our proposal is the economic incentive for private landowners in selected districts to forfeit a 2.5’ strip of their rear property setback to make a 5’ walkway for communal use within the Mini Village (the “micro communal strip”). At which point, they will be entitled to build an additional dwelling unit and potentially, a commercial workspace on their own lot. This micro communal strip, owned by the community and managed by a homeowner’s association, activates circulation and gardens within the surrounding businesses and introduces new possibilities to live and work in areas which would previously be uninhabited. 

Progression in the densification of our cities, particularly in underutilized residential districts, requires an incremental yet substantial change in both legislative and social attitudes towards growth. The Mini Village initiative would not only respond to a desperate need for housing but would revitalize communities and act as an incubator for the growth of small businesses. 

Co-designed with Nastaran Mousavi for the Mini Living Future Urban Home Competition.

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Status: Competition Entry
Location: San Francisco, CA, US
My Role: Co-designer