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About this City Journal

An hybrid City Journal/Development Thread in preparation for the upcoming CJ about Ciudad del Lago.

Made from the perspective of a SC4 player, it's open to discussion about city planning, style choices and storybuilding.

Entries in this City Journal


Whew!! :zzz: Those were a really strenuous two weeks; RL is still eating me alive, just at a slower rate, so that means I can add something here. But first: 

The replies!


@Edvarz Thanks! I'm also an alternate history fan, even if alternative facts are getting a bad reputation lately, so we can go for the less frowned upon term Uchronia (the word is indeed a recent leaning from romance languages!).
You are right, definitely a latin american CJ is not something you see every day, but our part of the world is getting some attention lately, particularly from @Don_Pato (everyone, check those images, they're great!). In any case, and following the trend with fictional countries, Santa Clara isn't exactly andean, but an island that is neither on the South American nor on the Pacific plates: if you want, the closest geological relatives would be the Galápagos, including with it the crazy endemism and weird climate.
Oh, and about that offer, maybe I'll ask for it once Praiodan releases his rendering of the Bellevue Palace...

@TekindusT thanks! I hope so, too!

@MissVanleider thanks! The maps are indeed released (well, a previous but very similar version) on the STEX, so you can tinker with them if you like...
About the 'whole' fictional history, well, is not so whole... I have some guidelines about what I want the place to be currently, and I'm trying to use that to deduce an historical past for the city and the country. For the same reason, the history won't be completely fictional, as I'm trying to make it as realistic as possible, linking several key events to real history moments. To give you a hint, I'm planning to make Santa Clara to be independised from Spain not on the 1810 decade as the rest of the continent, but on the 1860s, making the Spanish-South American War a bigger event.
And yes, I tend to abuse a bit (ok, no; a lot) from difficult words when writing in English because they paradoxically make translating much easier, as they are normally brought from Latin and Greek, and hence much more known to me than their germanic counterparts. In this case, endorheic seems to be the only available word, even if 'salt marsh' could be a bit more descriptive; nevertheless, the fact is that the lake exists no more, now is just part of a canal system.

@CorinaMarie Thanks! Those maps are on the waiting, for when I get the country politics right; after all, that's my profession! The boundaries are definitive, I think, but the political parties' names and backgrounds need some extra work. What I'm trying to achieve with that is to use party politics as a handy method to give distinctness to each municipality: after all, a communist mayor won't govern the same as a christian democrat or a liberal, and those differences should be pretty obvious on urban planning, services' provision, tax levels, etc.

@kingofsimcity thanks! I like it too, but lately I've feeling a bit constrained by it, as the game mechanics doesn't work very well with sloped urbanisations, and the rugged terrain only allows so many ways to trace the roads and streets. For example, I'm already resigning to not be able to use ferries up to the last portions of both rivers, as many bridges simply require too much clearance, and 30 metres tall seawalls are already weird.
About the satellite images, I find them great not only to show the region development, but also as a template for mapping and planification, as you'll see on this entry. They really are worth the complications of straightening the captures obtained from the Region Census app.

@f3cs I hope so! You can be sure I'm a map nut, and in a planning CJ, they will be an staple. About originality, the relative lack of it is what moved me to make this journal: I was getting dry of new ideas, and group thinking is the best way to resolve that!

And a special mention to everybody who liked the previous entry: @Krasner, @Elenphor, @Akallan, @mattb325, @praiodan, @Odainsaker, @AlexSLM520, @korver, @bobolee, @Simmer2, @Bastet69008, @Manuel-ito, @MushyMushy, @Pluispixel, @Yarahi, @RandyE, @Fantozzi and @kim026.

-- + * * * + --

Chapter 2. Infraestructure Planning, part 1

This entry, as the one before, is basically more map-fueled descriptions, but now there is a bit more of interactivity. With the same satellite images shown, I did some zoning and transport maps, that will allow you to see the potential expansion of the city.

First is a decontextualized transport map, that is also incomplete. Not really useful, right? I'm posting it anyway because the JPEG compression made the other images a bit less than visible. Here the yellow lines represent avenues or widened roads, the orange ones highways (or motorways, I have to decide from which side of the Atlantic I borrow my words...), the purple lines are railroads (maybe you already recognised that curve from the ascent to the Piedra Roja mine), and the rose one (here, strangely also purple), the BRT line. Last, the parts where the lines are dotted are tunnels.


Now, let's put this into its context:


Much better, no? Also, it is more evident that a lot of work is still waiting to be done, both on tracing already built networks and on building them! Here, the main obstacle is to decide what to zone on the non-developed areas, to get an idea of what would be the best network design for it. Or not! To keep with realism, not everywhere transport infraestructure has to be good: I plan abstractly on underserved poor neighbourhoods, conectivity problems around the port (too much close to the city centre), and suboptimal solutions to the not-very-friendly terrain. The point is to decide where those good and bad solutions will be.

So let's go to the zoning:


I did some work on this, and already covered more than the currently built terrain, but there are still relevant portions without adequate zoning. 

Let's make this a bit more understandable: see that long stretch of orange that looks like a bicycle pump? That's the Central Station, with the terminal building on the left. Just under that (or south of that) is the Historical Centre. The pink zone at its west is the Government Quarter, and north of the station is a non-zoned area, that corresponds to the old harbour (guess which custom will be used there...). Those dark blue shapes will be the CBD, along the main north-south highway. I think most of the map is very self-explanatory, but something escapes from it: those suburbs on the northwest corner cannot be more different to the ones on the south, simply because of class:


Now it's more evident: the darker the shade, the poorer the residents and workers. As it is predictable, the port sorroundings are the poorer ones, as the local workers live there, and the rich people flies from industrial pollution. Remember, this is a Latin American CJ, there ought to be urban segregation. In general, I plan for rich people around the Calfú river (the one at the northwestern portion of the region), and for poor people on the nearby of the port and the mine, with the middle class located either at the city centre (soon to be gentrified, sorry) and the more dull areas of the northeast and north, acting as a buffer between rich and poor people. In any case, don't be surprised to find some places where just a tall fence separates a resort from a slum: that's as realistic as you can get, and the overall geography almost asks for it.

More detailedly, there are a handful of places where some unconventional development will alter the general distribution of zones and wealth.


  1. The Still-Unnamed-Island will be a nature reserve, destined to be MMPed with a very diverse range of flora, to simulate a Fernandezian Cloud Forest. As is the case with many temperate regions around the Pacific, the native flora has been displaced by silviculture and "feral" forests of introduced species: expect Cascadia redwoods on everything but this tiny island, as the shipbuilding industry demanded long and straight trunks, not huge ferns and leaves to feed dinosaurs.
  2. The second canal from the Colorado lake (it has a name now! its because the algaes!! now there aren't red algaes anymore there *:( ). I projected it as being built some years after the dawn of the container era, when the increased ship traffic encountered a bottleneck on the original Desaguadero canal. I have to work on its sorroundings: will they be just tall rock walls, or some kind of lowland to give continuity to the port area? It will depend on:
  3. The bulk port area: I projected here a bulk port, to reserve the original port to containerised loads, but I'm still doubting if doing a dock on the west side, around the new canal; or on the east side, to avoid the factories on that side to cross the river to ship their output. It can be both? Maybe, but I would need to more more earth, to widen the water area.
  4. One of the still unnamed peninsulaes, which is an alternative location for the bulk port: mostly flat, it can be good as a fuel port too. Remember that Santa Clara literally sprouted from a cracked tectonic plate, so it has metal ores, nitrates and silicates, but no old minerals: neither gems, nor uranium, nor fossil fuels; so, every vehicle and almost all power plant on the country has to run on imported fuels, and there has to be a place to unload all that petrol and gas.
  5. Conveniently, that place would be hidden from this nice touristic shoreline. Hit by the westernmost winds of the Humboldt current and populated by the hard rocks that avoided the Loberías sound to go even deeper, this beaches aren't safe to bath on them, but  are nonetheless a very attractive destination for relaxing: expect some Copacabana-styled locals enjoying the clean water and the marine breeze (much colder, in any case), and several condos crawling on the hills. How to connect the place with the rest of the city? I don't know exactly.
  6. Going back to the historical element, this little estuary is the placement of Puerto Viejo (literally 'Old Port'), a small fishing cove that was once the original seat of the Santa Clara capital (or more precisely, only) town. My problem with it is related to their environment: there are agricultural fields at its west, and a copper mine to its north (place 8). How to justify it to be still a small coastal town instead of an industrialised port? Or should I abandon the idea of a small cove and to overhaul the place? Consider that the trend to have UNESCO protected areas is very recent, so a relatively poor nation could have been already tempted to destroy their heritage to reduce costs...
  7. This other place is more justifiable as preserved: Quiñenco is a small lake just dammed up before the estuary of the Blanco river, and its fresh waters help a micro-climate to bloom between two big hills. It is the perfect place for a touristic site, and that's what I'm planning there. The problem is: to make the place as protected as is, the northern hill has to be terraformed and grow to a scale where the planned airport to its north is on a very absurd (or dangerous) placement, so I'm thinking on moving it to place 9.
  8. Now there is the Piedra Roja Mine: I want it to be an open pit mine, even if it is really difficult, just because is also more flamboyant, as a CJ has to be *:D. It already has it's own very toxic tailings dam, but the terraforming is due. I'll probably dedicate a whole entry to decide where to mine the hill.
  9. This plateau looks like a better option to build the airport, but as the area is not flat, some earthworks will be needed.
  10. This is maybe the biggest project of the list: a full secondary city to connurbate Ciudad del lago with. Of course it won't be as important, but I want it to have its own centre, structure and history, for which a full entry will be needed: I don't even have a name! 


Well, this ended being a really long entry, and I guess you'll have a lot to tinker with. I'm eager to read your opinions, suggestions, critics and proposals!



This is the Ciudad del Lago metropolitan region. A legally sanctioned 24 kilometres side square, built on the estuaries of the rivers Calfú and Huillinco, and just north of the Loberías Sound, a medium-sized ocean inlet that marks the point where the continental rift meets the sea.

Ciudad del Lago is the capital of the Republic of Santa Clara, a small island country just away from the coasts of South America; with a size comparable to Hainan and an overall geography that reminds the one of Mauritius, this nation of about 4 million people inhabits the only emerged part of the rift that divides the Santa Clara and Nazca plates, giving their land important natural riches but also an unparalleled exposition to the effects of natural disasters and climate change.

As with other small countries in Latin America, Ciudad del Lago concentrates an important part of the country population: with about 2.5 million people on its metropolitan area, about 60% of the santaclareños it's also a laguino. As a consequence of this, and of its privilegied location as a safe port along the maritime routes of the Pacific Ocean, Ciudad del Lago is the main centre of the industry and finance on the country. Some extractive industries are also located on the city sorroundings, more noticeably the Piedra Roja copper mine, which compensates its poor concentrations of the metal on its rocks with an unsurpassable emplacement, just a few kilometres away from the nearest seaport.

This port, located on the basin of an old endorheic lagoon, has served the city since colonial times and is now adapted to recieve up to panamax-sized ships; nevertheless, its most glorious days, when the Panama strait wasn't built yet and it controlled almost half the Pacific sea trade, are gone for good. And while there are offerings from the Chinese government to finance the expansion of the port to be able to manage post-panamax ships, the santaclareños aren't really convinced that their country future lies on the maritime traffic.


As you can see from the maps, most of what is defined in-story hasn't been completed in practice: the current population is around 350.000 sims, the seaport is only terraformed, the mine just has its railway but no buildings at all, and important parts of the urban planning are lacking. As the idea is to simulate the look and feel of a typical latin american capital, many adaptations from the typical gameplay have to be done: careful zoning to avoid losing the rhythm of a dense and diverse city centre that extends to wealthy neighbourhoods, while even denser suburban slums sorround the port and the railways; a delicate balance on the building selection, incorporating foreign elements on an authentic way, while keeping local, rural and even native references active, and to develop on a geography that is different to all latin american capitals: a deep and complex sound, internally navigable, with lots of brigdes, at once dividing neighbourhoods and connecting them.

* * *

For now, this is all. I've begun to make more detailed and interesting maps about the planned sectorisation of the city, and its respective roadmap design, both situations that requiere a lot of participation to decide where and how to urbanise and build. Then will come some open-ended conversation about storybuilding and alternative history. I hope you got interest on this dev CJ, be it to take the time to criticise it or to promote something. I'm open to your opinions!


P.S.: when writing here, a serif font is something written from the in-story perspective, as it will look on the final CJ, and a sans-serif text is a dev-oriented one, written as a player.