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Home > Feature Articles > Municipality Strategies for Sustainable Community Best Practices

Strategies for a More Sustainable Southern California

Sustainable communities deal with transit, green infrastructure, affordable housing, appealing retail and office space...and an attitude of longevity.

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The probability of global warming/climate change has serious land use challenges:
  • Planning
  • Compact Development
  • Infrastructure
  • Transportation: TOD/DOT
  • Housing
  • Retail
  • Sustainable Development
  • Regional Thinking and Acting
William Hudnut, Fellow for Public Policy at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, DC, presented an overview of sustainable development in Southern California: "Winning Strategies for Southern California (PDF file of PowerPoint Presentation)"

Some of the trends he pointed out includes:

  • "We are changing the paradigm from capacity to sustainability" (ref: Royce Hansen, Montgomery County Dept. of Parks and Planning).
  • America's future lies in dead malls" (Bill Fulton)
  • Well designed compact development is the answer.
  • "Good density" is well designed development that emphasizes infill to enhance and revitalize existing communities.
  • an antidote to sprawl.
Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies reports that in 2001, Americans spent $214 billion on housing --
  • 40% on remodeling
  • 60% on new construction
In the next 10 to 20 years, those numbers will be 50:50.

By 2012, restorative development will likely account for over 50% of all expenditures in the US and Europe, representing a "gargantuan new category of business opportunities in the 21st century", according to Storm Cunningham, The Restoration Economy, 2002.

America's infrastructure is a major problem. The ASCE Infrastructure Report Card in 2005 gave it grades of C and D! Roads, transit, bridges, freight, aviation, drinking waste and the national power grid all are in the same miserable shape! Why?

Federal non-defense spending has fallen from roughly 11% in 1960 to 3% in 2004.

Accessibility to public transit need to be a high priority of communities to reduce dependence on automobiles. Options include light rail, buses, heavy rail, commuter rail, and express buses for rapid transit. Choices can become easier!

There's even human power -- hiking, biking, and roller balding!

A pedestrian friendly environment is provided by walkable urbanity -- with interesting walks, tree canopies, easy access to buildings, public spaces with parks and squares, legacy architecture, and even some workforce housing for the people who make the city work!

Today it costs more to live in the city. There is a "decentralization incentive" that rewards people for moving farther away from their urban jobs. I Portland that can be $5000 -- in Orange County, that can be as much as $10,000!

But people want to live closer to their work. The majority of workers in all commute categories are at least somewhat likely to move closer to work if there were more affordable housing.

Mixed income communities can make that happen. Urban retail is needed.

The new approach to community revitalization includes a shifting focus for retailing.

  • Reinvention and reuse of buildings
  • Experiential and entertaining vs. utilitarian spaces
  • Value and specialty shopping supplemented with Internet shopping
  • Chains are replacing independent stores.
  • Public environments are replacing private realms.
  • Retail is being integrated into the community
  • Mixed use and outdoor spaces are growing in popularity
  • Parking structures are reducing the footprint of old parking lots.
  • Town centers are replacing malls and strip centers.
  • Sustainable and Green design is replacing drab throwaway buildings
  • Re-urbanization is replacing suburbanization.

Our leaders are beginning to understand the definition of sustainability, "Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Source: World Commission on Environment and Development.

Planning takes into account future needs in three areas: environment, economy and social equity.

Sustainable Development

  • Compact with high net density with amenities
  • Diverse with mixed uses and users
  • Land efficient that conserve natural and cultural features
  • Vibrant with richness of action and place
  • Connected with diverse modes of circulation and open spaces.

Green Infrastructure

America's conservation challenge is fragmentation of open land. A "green infrastructure" is a strategic approach to land conservation. Sharing is back in!

The roles of green infrastructure include:

  • To shape or direct where growth will go
  • To proect essential ecological processes and systems
  • To preserve working landscapes and resource based industries
  • To enhance environmental work (stormwater, groundwater, urban heat island, and clean air & water)
Source: Ed McMahon, ULI Senior Fellow

Tenants are catching on. One developer reports that "clients don't think it's Class A unless it's green." Green is now the standard.

The Benefits of Green Buildings

  • Conserves materials and resources
  • More efficient use of resources, and respect for the environment
  • Minimizes waste
  • Creates healthy and comfortable setting for inhabitants
  • Causes positive publicity and property value
  • Is more sustainable for sustainable communities
Together we are crafting our legacy!

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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