Permaculture Design Project : 2012 Carmelitos Housing Apartments – Long Beach, CA

The Carmelitos project was initiated in 2012 and revised in 2019.

Carmelitos is a public housing community with high unemployment. It is situated on 68 acres in the City of Long Beach and managed by the Housing Authority of Los Angeles County. The average income per household is about $15,000 with a median age population of 25 years old, with a large number of at-risk youth.

Originally built in 1939 for military housing, today Carmelitos, with more than 2000 dwellers has a potential of a 1200 total workforce.
There are approx. 558 households in addition to 155 senior housing units:

  • 270 preschool children 0 – 4
  • 440 school age kids 5-14 (710 children)
  • 177 young adults 15-20
  • 583 basic workforce 20-44
  • 307 middle age 45-65 (1200 total workforce)
  • 140 seniors 65+


1938-39 Carmelitos General Layout
by Associated Housing Architects

In 2012 there are about 2000 dwellers living in the Carmelitos neighborhood

Vision: Create a long term self-reliant and sustainable eco-system for its residents, foster a sense of community and achieve a dynamic local economy. Inspire others to break the cycle of poverty and duplicate the model to become productive citizens.


  • An urban permaculture design to Carmelitos
  • Achieve economic security for its dwellers
  • Provide education and training for local improvements
  • Create a long term self-reliant and sustainable plan
  • Inspire to achieve a sense of community and place
  • Implement an outdoor healthy lifestyle and activities

Goal: The goal is to initiate new enterprises and jobs in Carmelitos: starting with providing leadership and training skills to create kitchen gardens for its residents including building earth ovens, small animals husbandry and children playgrounds. Then, create an array of jobs around productive orchards, a farmer’s market, rainwater-harvesting systems, use of solar energy, and also create various opportunities for celebrations and social events to bring in business.

The Basics of Permaculture

Envisioning a design system for an ecological and sustainable living by integrating the people with plants, animals, buildings, and community.

Permaculture is about productive economies: it teaches people communication skills about working together, outdoor healthy lifestyle activities and creating ecologically sound communities.

Permaculture stimulates the involvement of all residents with business opportunities throughout the community and with outdoor learning activities especially for keeping the young at-risk engaged with positive, social and productive activities on site.

The Strip Mall can become a commercial mixed-use center: shops, offices and a learning center can be included with other functions, in addition to a green, activated roof garden and solar panels. The weekly open Farmers’ Market on the street mall should be beneficial in serving the surrounding community.

Permaculture Approach

  • access to public open spaces
  • edible landscapes
  • events promenade
  • open markets
  • children’s outdoor classes
  • roof gardens on buildings
  • petting zoo
  • orchards and picnic areas
  • integrate seniors and children activities

Water Harvesting

Total roof area for Carmelitos is approx. one acre. 600 gallons per 1000 S.F make 27,000 gallons of water per inch of rain.
Run-off coefficient is 10% for evaporation and infiltration. Long Beach gets an estimated 13 inches of rain annually. 27,000 X13 =351,000 gallons per year -35,100 for 10% run-off Total: 319,500 gallons of water to store for irrigations in cisterns

In the year 2020, we could proudly observe a transformation that turned around Carmelitos from a passive to an active community by engaging its residents and particularly the youth in becoming active, productive citizens, by bringing a better quality of life to its residents and helping build a solid local economy.

The success of this project can become a model for others to follow.

A start up proposal for applying Permaculture concepts to Carmelitos should draw on a team of advisors, experts, organizers and the collaboration of the community leaders and local government.

A further detail plan should be developed including a viability demonstration project. Resources for launching such a proposition and grant opportunities should be investigated.

For more information on a permaculture design project in your area, contact us for a consultation.