I’m Saana, a 28-year-old architect and researcher from Lauttasaari. I’m running for city council so that I can help build my home town into a more sustainable, equitable and beautiful place to live for all of its residents.

I strive for a city which values the environment, equality, fun city life and transparent government in which all citizens can participate, whatever their background.

I’m running for city council for the first time in Helsinki. During the current election cycle, I have been part of Espoo’s building committee and a trustee of the city’s property office. I am a trained architect who specialises in urban planning, and I’m currently working on a doctoral thesis on land use and participatory urban planning.

Previously, I worked for the City of Helsinki urban planning department and I was in charge of area planning for Kruununhaka. I also worked on developing walkability and outdoor environments in the city center and Helsinkiwide, and worked with infill building plans. I also run a small florist business alongside my other work.

I live in Lauttasaari with my partner, our dog Selma, and three wonderful housemates. In my spare time, I like walking in the woods with my dog, gardening, and playing board and video games.

Election Themes

A Beautiful and Sustainable Helsinki

Everyone in Helsinki deserves a beautiful and green living environment which is built and repaired in an environmentally friendly way.

What is beautiful is more sustainable! Let’s invest in the quality of building and make new houses and neighborhoods such that we want to cherish them for the next couple hundred years. Helsinki needs more ambitious climate action. The building industry and especially building with reinforced concrete creates a huge amount of emissions, which requires fast and tangible action. Let’s renovate existing buildings instead of demolishing them, let’s build more with wood, and let’s make better environments for walking and more green spaces in the city!

Helsinki’s diverse natural environments are immensely important for the wellbeing of people, animals and ecosystems. I’m writing a doctoral thesis in a project that studies the health and wellbeing impacts of urban green areas and accessibility. Through this work, I have become even more convinced of the need for more green spaces in cities’ central areas. Nature and parks provide a place to breathe in the city, they cool the environment during the summer heat, they absorb urban runoff water, they provide opportunities for play and leisure, and they are the most beloved parts of the city. Let’s treasure nature in the city and bring in more green!

An Equitable and Accessible Helsinki

Helsinki’s environment and services need to be accessible and safe for all. In a functional city, you can move effortlessly and safely with a wheelchair as well as a bicycle, with a stroller or a suitcase, all year round. Accessibility needs to be improved not only on the physical aspects of the city but also especially in social, healthcare and digital services. For example, accessing mental healthcare services is much too difficult at the moment, and the risk of services ending suddenly is much too great, especially for those in difficult situations. This has to change.

The development of different parts of the city must be based on their existing strengths, communities and identities. Helsinki has diverse and unique areas that have distinct challenges and needs for their development and which can’t be solved with one-size-fits-all solutions. There needs to be support for residents’ activities and events, for example by making it possible for them to use spaces and common areas in a flexible manner. The development of the different areas’ identities has to be supported by involving residents and local actors in planning. It’s also important to ensure that development projects displace existing residents and businesses.

The equality of different parts of the city needs to be promoted by ensuring that resources are divided fairly and that they prevent for example gaps between schools’ results and capacities. In the 1990s, Helsinki was a forerunner in preventing economic and social segregation. The same procedures still work, as long as Helsinki’s ambitious goals are realised also when developing existing residential areas, not only when creating new ones. It is important to continue to prevent the growth of the gap between different schools’ learning results by directing additional resources to the schools with the most challenges.

Transparent and participatory decision making

Residents should have an opportunity to observe political planning processes more transparently and to genuinely influence their environment. By its nature, urban planning is solving conflicts between various actors and developing a shared living environment in a fair and sustainable manner. Helsinki must be more transparent and critical about conflicts of interest in regards to urban planning. At the moment, a huge amount of decisions are made behind closed doors before plans are brought to politicians. Civil servants should have the opportunity to talk about unfinished plans, so that elected officials and residents could evaluate various options instead of one plan that has already been developed for a long time. The city as an organisation needs to expose itself to genuine discussion and make conflicts and prioritisation processes visible, so that decision making can be transparent and truly democratic.