Category: Community Sustainability Planning

Living community patterns — bits and pieces of next-generation urban form?

On January 23rd at the Net Positive (Energy+Water) Conference in San Francisco, the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) released their recently completed Living Community Patterns (LCP) – Exploratory Strategies for a Sustainable San Francisco, a research report prepared in collaboration with the San Francisco Planning Department.

Planning teams can use this report to spur innovation to achieve ILFI’s Living Community Challenge (LCC); or they can use both documents to explore the emerging practice of regenerative planning, design, and platemaking as a route to creating sustainable places, neighborhoods, and communities.

The collaboration between ILFI and the SF Planning Department under ILFI’s Living City Grant Program arose from the 2011 Living City Competition. The research project used ILFI’s regenerative framework of the LCC and inspiration from Christopher Alexander’s “Patterns Language” to explore and develop key features of an ultimately sustainable or “living” place (neighborhood, community, and city).

Research included a preliminary carrying-capacity analysis of the city’s energy, water, and food systems. The team conducted neighborhood charrettes in Noe Valley — focused on alley greening — and in Chinatown, focused on deep energy retrofits of public housing buildings.

You can download the PDF, explore its perspective on sustainable neighborhoods and communities, and contribute to its further development with comments to For the SF experience, contact

 Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, a planner with the San Francisco Planning Department, is founder, former co-director, and research lead of Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, and an APA Sustainability Champion. “Plan-it sustainably” is a service of the Sustainability Committee.

Plan-it Sustainably Dec/Jan 2015–APA’s new Sustainability Champion program

This past summer, APA’s Sustainable Communities Division (SCD) launched a sustainability leadership pilot program: the APA State Chapter Sustainability Champion program.

The Division sought nominations and selected champions this past August and September. I was one of 10 champions chosen and look forward to working with Hing Wong, APA California’s President Elect, in beginning to develop the program.

The idea for the program grew out of the research and facilitated discussion on mobilizing sustainability in state APA Chapters that I co-developed with Anne Miller (Colorado APA Sustainability Committee) for the 2013 APA National Conference in Chicago,

SCD’s ultimate goal is to have one Sustainability Champion in each APA Chapter. Together, these Champions will form a national network, with the credibility to influence the national discourse on sustainability. The Division’s hopes for the program are that sustainability champions will . . .

  • Advance the understanding and practice of sustainability planning and be a resource for fellow planners.
  • Draw on support from others in the network and the SCD leadership to build sustainability planning capacity in their local chapters.
  • Be professionally recognized as experts who speak for sustainable planning in their community and chapter.
  • Undertake a one- or two-year term as a SCD Sustainability Champion and be supported by a co-champion.

The SCD’s goal for the initial pilot program is to recruit one Champion from each of nine regions: (1) the West Coast; (2) the West; (3) the Midwest; (4) the Great Lakes; (5) South Central; (6) the Deep South; (7) the Southeast; (8) the Northeast; and (9) New England. A second goal is to form this initial network before the 2015 national conference in Seattle.

Locally, Champions will promote sustainability within their chapters by developing a work program reflecting chapter interest around some of the following functions:

  • Being the voice for sustainability within the chapter by delivering a regular sustainability report to the chapter board, for example.
  • Functioning as the SCD liaison to the chapter and disseminating Division news in the state or region.
  • Being part of the national Sustainability Champions Network and be a subject-matter expert for planners nationally.
  • Documenting existing sustainability ‘best practices’ in the State.
  • Initiating or further developing an existing ‘sustainability track’ for the chapter conference, and possibly extending this track year-round to further institutionalize sustainability capacity within the chapter.
  • Networking with allied professional groups to develop broad-based support and greater impact for the Champions’ work.
  • Developing a sustainability committee within the chapter or taking another approach preferred by the chapter.

Next steps for me include preparing a draft work plan and beginning discussions with the California Chapter Board to identify interests, issues, and priorities to be pursued in 2015. I have started working with the 2015 APA California Conference’s local host committee through Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee to develop the sustainability track for the conference. In addition, Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee will be a key component of a likely statewide champion’s network composed primarily of interested California Section members.

If you would like to know more, have suggestions, or be kept informed, please e-mail

Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, is founder and former co-director of Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee ( He is the committee’s Research Program Lead, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist with the San Francisco Planning Department. This is a copy of the Plan-it sustainably column that first appeared in the California APA Northern News, Dec/Jan2015 issue <<URL forthcoming>>.

Evaluations–UCB/APA CompPlan Sustainability Criteria

During Spring 2014, Assistant Professor Charisma Acey’s undergraduate UC Berkeley class, CP 119 Planning for Sustainability, evaluated the APA’s beta version of their Comprehensive Plan Sustainability Accreditation Criteria for their final class project. Student teams applied the criteria to 11 Bay Area Cities, and their final presentations are listed below by city.

In addition, the APA Sustainability Committee created a CM event to support planner education and share the results with practicing planners in the Northern Section. The event involved attending one of three classes of final presentations and a 30-minute debrief/discussion with Assistant Professor Acey following the presentation. Approximately 10 planners attended and found the event engaging. The Committee may use this experimental event as the basis for developing a more systematic working relationship with the local colleges around sustainability.

For a description of the class, the associated APA CM event, and for links to the APA documents, click here. For more information about the exercise, please contact Assistant Professor Acey ( For more information about the APA CM Event, contact Scott Edmondson, AICP (

Links to Online Presentations (Wix or Prezi)

The rest are available as pdfs and can be downloaded:

Assistant Professor Acey’s Contact Information:

Charisma Acey, M.P.P., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of City and Regional Planning
University of California, Berkeley
228 Wurster Hall, MC #1850
Berkeley, CA 94720-1850
510 643-9658 fax 510 642-1641

EcoDistricts For Practitioners — Bay Area Workshop | OAKLAND

POSI TrainingSUMMARY. A half-day Workshop on EcoDistricts (Flyer), one leading approach for creating restorative neighborhoods and sustainable cities, Monday June 2, 2014, 8:30-NOON, MetroCenter Auditorium101 Eighth St., Oakland, CA ($145 early bird through May 12th, $170 afterwards, and a $25 APA member discount code: APABayAreaEcoDistricts), 3.5 AICP CM pending (also: 3.5 hours of LEED CE, AIA, and ASLA education credits pending). Register here.  We look forward to seeing you at the workshop.

OAKLAND HALF-DAY WORKSHOP (EcoDistrict’s description)  One learning option is an engaging half-day training course that is offering in Oakland on Monday June 2, 2014, and in other cities around the country this year (see training page and calendar). The workshop will introduce participants to the EcoDistricts framework, a four-step process management tool to guide neighborhood sustainability projects. Urban developers, from public policymakers, urban planners and designers, architects, and developers to community-based organizations will learn practical governance, engagement, assessment, and project development insights and approaches.


  • Exploring the business case for ccodistricts and understanding why scale matters
  • Identifying the key opportunities of ecodistrict development
  • Understanding the EcoDistricts framework and performance areas
  • Appreciating practical governance and engagement models
  • Assessing an ecodistrict, setting goals, and prioritizing projects
  • Applying the ecodistrict approach.

AN INNOVATIVE GEM BUT NOT A “SILVER BULLET.” Although an innovative gem, ecodistricts are not a “silver bullet.” As powerful as they are, the source of that power is the innovative process that has used to generate its current form, and that will inform its evolution as they/we embrace deeper challenges. Thus, the key lesson to take away from this workshop is not only the current approach, but the innovative process that produced it.

PRESENTER.  Adam Beck, Vice President, Programs, EcoDistricts, will lead the workshop. Adam has over 17 years of experience in environmental and social planning, with a passion for developing and implementing sustainability tools for built environment projects. Before joining EcoDistricts in 2013, Adam spent over three years with the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) developing the Green Star – Communities rating tool in collaboration with government and industry. This work is highly respected globally, being one of few rating tools that covers the full spectrum of sustainability issues across the built environment. Adam has also been involved with the World Green Building Council and the C40 Cities Initiative to strengthen global partnerships in sustainable urban development.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?  Anyone involved interested in sustainability and urban development, from public policymakers to urban planners and designers, architects, developers and advocates in community-based organizations, but especially public planners.


  • Location:  MetroCenter Auditorium, 101 Eighth St. Oakland CA 94607
  • Total Cost:
    • Early bird $145 (through May 12)
    • Regular $170
    • APA Member ($25 discount code for registering: APABayAreaEcoDistricts)
  • Credit:
    • AICP:  3.5 CM credits (pending)
    • Also: 3.5 hours of LEED CE, AIA, and ASLA education credits pending.
  • Other:
    • Beverages will be available in the room; also food/snacks at the adjacent café.

REGISTER here.  We look forward to seeing you at the workshop.

CONTACT.  Email Rina Brule, Program Manager, at, for information on the workshop or EcoDistricts, or Scott Edmondson, AICP (, the APA co-sponsor contact for APA-related information.

ECODISTRICT ORIGINS.  As part of the APA Sustainability Committee’s event series on innovation for sustainability planning (APA California Chapter Northerncontacted to bring this introductory workshop to the Bay Area. EcoDistricts is one of the leading innovators for municipal sustainability. They have taken the planning stage by storm over the past few years. EcoDistricts emerged “organically” from the on-going innovation of the Portland Sustainability Institute (PSI). Founded in 2009, the PSI systematically brought together business, higher education, nonprofit and municipal leaders to drive a set of next-generation initiatives for urban sustainability in the Portland metro region. The goal—big, game-changing ideas that weave together community livability, ecological resiliency, and broad-based prosperity. They hoped that results would fuel business and policy innovation, enhance quality of life, and create cities and neighborhoods that are not just sustainable, but restorative.

INNOVATION FOR SUSTAINABILITY PLANNING. Emerging from PSI’s innovation was a new model of public-private partnership–ecodistricts. It emphasizes innovation and deployment of district-scale best practices to create the neighborhoods of the future–resilient, vibrant, resource efficient and just–and by so doing, the sustainable cities of the future.

SUSTAINABILITY PLANNING CHALLENGE.  City Makers—Unite, is the new initiative’s challenge to urban sustainability champions. Around the world, more people live in cities than ever before. How we live in cities is one of the great challenges of our time. EcoDistricts’ mission is to inspire every city to remake itself sustainably from the neighborhood up by bringing together builders and entrepreneurs, policymakers and urban innovators to create vibrant neighborhoods, smart cities, and a healthy planet. The new organization serves the expanding network of innovative practitioners and policymakers who are substantially enhancing their communities and helping the global green neighborhood movement grow.

PLATFORM FOR URBAN SUSTAINABILITY.  Urban development leaders familiar with the ecodistricts framework, from mayors to universities to affordable housing providers, begin to see ecodistricts as a powerful way to address many of their pressing challenges, from climate change to neighborhood degradation. In response, is creating a platform for convening, advocacy, technical assistance, and research to inform and drive innovation. It is strategic in nature, collaborative in approach, and practical in application. At you’ll find people, tools, services and training to help cities and urban development practitioners create the neighborhoods of the future — resilient, vibrant, resource efficient, and just.

TRAINING OPTIONS.  There are many ways for urban developers to learn about ecodistricts. The’s approach shapes the way cities view sustainable development. They build capacity for nationwide change by providing the next generation of urban projects and leaders with the right tools: conceptual understanding, practical training, and resource support—from a faculty consisting of today’s leading industry experts.

BAY AREA EXPERIENCE–SF & Mountain View.   In 2012, two Bay Area cities attended the 3-day May intensive EcoDistrict Incubator Program, San Francisco and Mountain View (team/initial project and North Bay Shore Planning site). Over the past two years, and in collaboration with, both cities have applied the concepts to their respective cities.

(Post by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, Sustainability Committee member).

Event–APA General Plan Sustainability Assessment of Bay Area Cities

SUMMARY. Explore APA’s proposed new approach to assessing general plan sustainability in one of three 2-hour sessions from 11am-1pm on May 1, 6, and 8, room 106 Wurster Hall, UCB, Berkeley, 2 AICP CM credits pending. Each session will include a 1.5-hour undergraduate final presentation of city assessments from 11am-12:30pm (see city schedule below) followed by a discussion with Professor Acey for attending planners from 12:30-1pm. Also, review the APA program (APA Comprehensive Plan Standards for Sustaining Places) and documents (links below). Please RSVP (optional; attend anyway!) or send questions to Scott Edmondson, AICP,   We look forward to seeing you at the workshop.

Are you interested in exploring how to integrate sustainability into a city’s general plan, and more specifically, learning about the APA Sustaining Places Initiative’s new criteria (see APA Standards) for preparing and assessing general plan sustainability (see Resources below)?

Then review the APA’s beta criteria and documents (links below) on APA’s Comprehensive Plan Standards for Sustaining Places, and attend one of three 2-hour University of California (UCB) undergraduate class presentation in the Department of City and Regional Planning (2 AICP CM credits pending).

Time/Dates/Cities.  The undergraduate class presentations will be held from 11am-12:30pm on May 1st, 6th, and 8th (20 minutes per presentation), with a half-hour discussion for attending planners led by Prof. Acey from 12:30-1pm.

  • Thursday, May 1:   Mountain View 11:00 – 11:20  |  San Jose 11:20 – 11:40  |  Oakland 11:40 – 12:00  |  Fremont 12:00 – 12:20.
  • Tuesday, May 6:    San Rafael 11:00 – 11:20  |  Berkeley 11:20 – 11:40  |  San Francisco 11:40 – 12:00  |  Petaluma 12:00 – 12:20.
  • Thursday, May 8:   Richmond 11:00 – 11:20  |   Dublin 11:20 – 11:40  |  Emeryville 11:40 – 12:00.

Location.  Room 106, Wurster Hall, University of California, Berkeley (map) Your professional participation in planning education would be welcomed.

Please RSVP (optional, attend anyway!) or send questions to Scott Edmondson,  (copy “Info/RSVP for APA GP Assessment Presentations” into the subject line).  Professor Acey, the students, and I look forward to exploring this emerging topic with you at one of the presentations.

Summer 2014 Workshop & Wider Discussion. Because general plans are one of our most powerful tools as planners for advancing municipal sustainability, Professor Acey and I may develop a half-day workshop on the topic later in the summer once the final lessons from the class project are formulated. The purpose of this workshop would be to generate a wider discussion among Bay Area planners about their experience adding sustainability to their general plans, and then distilling best practices along with the implications for on-going innovation and next-generation best practices. This latter point would be the basis for forging a collaboration agenda between university teaching and research in partnership with Bay Area planners.

Background.  The APA Northern Section Sustainability Committee’s Scott Edmondson, AICP and UCB Department of City & Regional Planning’s Assistant Professor Charisma Acey (see bio) designed this short event to capture and extend the value of Professor Acey’s undergraduate class project (CY PLAN 119 Class: Planning for Sustainability) to the professional planning community. The class project will involve two products:  (1) the rating and evaluation of the sustainability of each city’s general plan; (2) an evaluation of the rating tool and process. For the second product, students will calculate a statistic to measure the degree to which raters apply the criteria consistently and then formulate the implications for the APA’s proposed criteria and method.

RESOURCES:  To prepare for  the presentations or to explore the topic in more detail, you can review any of the following resources on the class assignment and  on the APA Comprehensive Plan Standards for Sustaining Places.

  1. Class Assignment.
  2. APA Program Description (page down to the “Draft Standards” column title).
  3. APA Program Background.
  4. APA Standards Report.
  5. APA Evaluative Matrix.
  6. APA Pilot Communities.
  7. Earlier APA work:  PAS Report No. 567, Sustaining PlacesThe Role of the Comprehensive Plan, by David R. Godschalk FAICP, William R. Anderson FAICP, 2012, a collection of best cities’ best practices. See review in the APA Northern News, Plan-it sustainably column (here, Nov 2011).

Also:  APA National Workshop at the 2014 Conference in Atlanta (1-day): Comprehensive Plan Standards for Sustaining Places (W404), Saturday, April 26, 2014, led by David Godschalk, FAICP, on the Comprehensive Plan Standards project (for info or to register click here). At the workshop, the APA plans to unveil the finalized plan standards. They anticipate that previous pilot communities testing  will produce a valuable workable program. If the pilot testing is successful, the APA will announce the launch date for the program at the workshop. However, if significant questions remain, APA will reevaluate whether or not to continue program development.

(Post by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, Sustainability Committee member)

New Division’s New Sustainability Program

APA’s new Sustainable Community Division’s new sustainability program offers insights and resources for amplifying national, state, and local initiatives. With the election of Bob Kern as Chair of APA’s new Sustainability Community Division, the division is poised for it’s first full program initiative (read it here and excerpted below for convenience). It is illustrative of upcoming directions for APA Sustainability and a powerful platform of resources for State APA Chapters and local planners.

Program:  The Division needs to promote active engagement with sustainability issues. There is already significant knowledge and discussions occurring about sustainability. The Division should add value by promoting members’ leadership and expertise. Bob’s vision for our Division is to strategically direct efforts into three areas.

The first area is to focus on a communications campaign. Sustainability is too often misunderstood or dismissed by people because it is not well defined. This campaign would redefine sustainability in ways that better connect with public and private sector decision-makers.

The second initiative is to build a sustainability leadership network nationally and in APA state chapters. This network would grow a movement of planners across the country that advances sustainable solutions in their respective regions, but have a national “toolkit” of materials to catalyze and leverage their efforts.

The third initiative I envision is a virtual training and best practices program. These online resources would be complimented with in-person sessions at national and state professional meetings. Developing a core curriculum with a handful of topics such as comprehensive planning, zoning, etc. is an important first step.

Mobilizing APA State Chapter Sustainability & the New Sustainable Community Division

Making the connection between advancing sustainability planning, APA State Chapters, and the new APA Sustainable Community Division was the topic of one of the Division’s by-right sessions at the National APA Conference in Chicago (April 2013), the Mobilizing Sustainability Facilitated Discussion (Sunday, 3pm).

Mobilizing an effective response to the sustainability threat, with climate change being the front-line assault, is the ultimate planning challenge. Our effectiveness now will make the decisive difference. We are winning a few battles but losing the war, and the window of opportunity is closing. The widening gap between the expanding sustainability challenge and accelerating socio-economic-environmental trends underscores the urgency of an effective response. Our current trajectory is one of catastrophic climate change from society’s lagging and insufficient response. The complexity of the challenge, from understanding to transformation, further confounds initiative, motivation, and sufficient progress. Under these conditions, business-as-usual is no longer an option and best practices are necessary but insufficient. Intentional, focused, and on-going outside-the-box experimentation and innovation, scaling, and implementation are essential.

Fortunately, planning is well positioned to rise to the challenge and lead successfully. Although its core competence, or “silo” expertise is often understood to be land use, its core method is integrative, innovative design and planning. This core methodological expertise has been applied to the wide variety of issues within planning’s domain. It now needs to be focused on the complex systems challenge of sustainability. This application has already begun in the emerging arena of regenerative design and planning (Living Building Challenge) arising from the longer tradition of ecological planning. It focuses on the endgame of eliminating the sources of systematic environmental impacts and on creating net positive impacts. It uses this focus as a way to gauge and motivate the level of creativity and on-going innovation needed for ultimate success.

Coincidentally and fortunately, this method simultaneously transforms the economy, which is the essential component of sustainability success (see RMI’s Reinventing Fire campaign for an innovative cross-sector initiative that uses sustainability as an innovation platform to invent the new perpetually prosperous ecological economy). In this way, the traditional win-lose relationship between the environment and the economy is transformed into a win-win relationship. With this approach, sustainability becomes a prosperity platform and method. It is the current economy’s systematic violation of sustainability principles that is undermining the integrity of the regenerative global life support system and primary economy that we call nature and its capacity to continue in any ecologically rich, diverse, and productive state. With a compromised biosphere, society will find it difficult to impossible to continue.

As the new Division and State Chapters wrestle with how to expand and amplify society’s sustainability response and rise to the leadership challenge, planning’s core competence and evolving practice of regenerative design and (Busby-A Pioneers Perspective) can be tapped as a model and one essential source of innovation towards success.

In beginning to address this situation within their sphere’s of influence, the APA CA Northern and APA CO Sustainability Committees conducted an informal research project beginning in the fall of 2012. The inquiry briefly examined the current practice and challenge of sustainability planning by State APA Chapters. The resulting article summarizes the findings and develops the issues and implications for moving forward. It formed part of the foundation for the facilitated discussion and a LinkedIn discussion. The research led to the facilitated discussion working group consisting of sustainability committee directors from APA MA and APA FL State Chapters. Links to these materials are listed below. The facilitated discussion session included breakout discussions that addressed the following questions.

1.  What would it take to mobilize sustainability planning in your state APA chapter?

2.  What are the ways for state APA chapters to collaborate on sustainability planning for mutual benefit?

3.  What are the best ways that the new Division can promote innovative sustainable planning and support state chapter planning efforts?

4.  Your action commitments?

Session presenters will summarize the breakout discussions and post them subsequently. The presenters will also constitute the core of an informal work group of the new division on this topic and subsequent initiatives will be announced through the new Division’s blog and web site. Review the materials, contribute to the LinkedIn dialogue, and join the response.


  • Summary of Session’s Breakout Discussions (PDF)

Sustainability Division Events at the National Conference

If you have a Linked-In account, go here to read the info and join the discussion.  Or just read the following:

Sustainable Communities Division events at the 2013 APA National Conference

Preliminary programs for this year’s national conference (in Chicago, April 13-17) are arriving in your mailbox this week. Mark your calendars for the three events hosted by the Sustainable Communities Division:

  • Sunday 3:00pm, FACILITATED DISCUSSION: “Mobilizing Sustainability Planning” Join the dialogue between APA state chapters and the new Sustainable Communities Division
  • Sunday 4:30pm, DIVISION BUSINESS MEETING + RECEPTION (not yet in the program) Everyone’s invited to our annual projects organizing meeting — over drinks and food!
  • Monday 1:00pm, DIVISION SESSION: “Best Practices in Sustainable Community Planning” How can planners and regulators lead the way in crafting more sustainable communities?

Want to see more action like this pushing sustainability to the forefront of planning practice and the APA? Join our new Division and make us stronger!

Ten Dimensions of an Eco-City

Abstract (Sage Journals) – Environment & Urbanism, Jeffrey R Kenworthy, Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia.

Making existing cities and new urban development more ecologically based and liveable is an urgent priority in the global push for sustainability. This paper discusses ten critical responses to this issue and summarizes them in a simple conceptual model that places the nexus between transport and urban form at the heart of developing an eco-city. This involves compact, mixed-use urban form, well-defined higher-density, human-oriented centres, priority to the development of superior public transport systems and conditions for non-motorized modes, with minimal road capacity increases, and protection of the city’s natural areas and food-producing capacity. These factors form the framework in which everything else is embedded and must operate, and if they are not addressed only marginal changes in urban sustainability can be made. Within this framework, environmental technologies need to be extensively applied. Economic growth needs to emphasize creativity and innovation and to strengthen the environmental, social and cultural amenities of the city. The public realm throughout the city needs to be of a high quality, and sustainable urban design principles need to be applied in all urban development. All these dimensions need to operate within two key processes involving vision-oriented and reformist thinking and a strong, community-oriented, democratic sustainability framework for decision-making.

San Francisco Takes the Leading Edge

After many years of the SF Environment’s path-breaking accomplishments, including the formative 1996 Sustainability Plan whose foundation is still at the leading edge, SF Planning is also accelerating sustainability with completion of recent plans, formation of a multi-agency sustainability-ecodistrict program, and exploration of promising frameworks.

Over the past five years, some of San Francisco’s major projects have included award-winning sustainability plans. They set the stage for the current sustainability and EcoDistrict initiative. These plans include:

  • Treasure Island
  • Bayview-Hunters Point Shipyard and Candlestick Point
    • Sustainability Plan (click: Development Projects | Hunters Point Shipyard & Candlestick Point | Sustainability | then scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Sustainability Plan.”)
  • Transit Center District Plan (home page)
    • The Plan (19 MB PDF) (see Chapter 6, District Sustainability)
  • Park Merced

A year ago, SF Planning convened a multi-agency team to advance citywide sustainability through coordination and collaboration. The team includes SFPUC (water, wastewater and power), SF Environment, Capital Planning, Public Works, and the Redevelopment Successor Agency. To deepen their sustainability planning capacity, they participated in the Portland Sustainability Institute’s EcoDistrict training this past May.

The team engages in on-going dialogue with monthly program development meetings and presentations to create a common basis for collaboration and program development. Key presentation topics have included transformative energy and water infrastructure, infrastructure ownership models, new business models for smarter cities, optimizing district-scale energy and water systems, and integrated water resource management (click here; scroll down). This cross-silo group’s evolving EcoDistrict approach encompasses the district scale, neighborhood scale, and industrially zoned land. Coordinating private development and public infrastructure improvements through new modes of finance and stakeholder governance to create the next generation of sustainable urban infrastructure and planning capacity is this group’s emerging focus.

Other SF Planning initiatives include applying an EcoDistrict approach to the Central Corridor Plan (scroll down) and a pilot neighborhood (upcoming), exploring the Living Building Challenge (LBC) and the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD), and participating as a partner city in the International Biophilic Cities Research project. The LBC is an award-winning strategic framework (see BFI announcement too) to achieve net zero and restorative building and community impacts, from the room to regional scale. Also under assessment, and related to the LBC, is The Natural Step’s 20-year old transformative FSSD. It integrates tactical initiatives into a powerful strategic approach for ultimate citywide sustainability. The FSSD includes stakeholder process to catalyze needed public and private sector economic innovation that eliminates environmental impacts or transforms them into restorative effects. As a result of eliminating environmental impacts, sustainability becomes a platform for the economic innovation that creates the ecologically sustainable regenerative economy that underpins a sustainable society in the biosphere.

This past May, SF became a partner city of the Biophilic Cities Research Project, which, coincidentally, is a key component of the LBC. The biophilic hypothesis, for which there is accumulating evidence, is that humans are hard-wired to need connection with nature and other forms of life for their health. Biophilic planning and development provides that connection by infusing a city with an abundance of nature. As Professor Beatley more eloquently states, biophilic city planning and design “is about redefining the very essence of cities as places of wild and restorative nature, from rooftops to roadways to riverfronts. It is about understanding cities as places that already harbor much nature and places that can become, through bold vision and persistent practice, even greener and richer in the nature they contain,” thus meeting our human need for connection with nature.

In a related initiative, SF Planning may collaborate with SF Environment in launching their urban biodiversity program, of which two SF Planning projects may be key components: Green Connections and the Urban Forest Master Plan. A key challenge of formulating urban biodiversity programs is the degree to which pre-development ecosystems should serve as the value and decision basis for formulating the program compared to a more creative hybrid approach. The latter approach would reflect pre-development values but include new elements to forge an ecosystem that includes the built environment. Enriching, extending, and harnessing natural ecosystem services to the urban area’s metabolism and economy could be part of the design challenge of urban biodiversity programs. In addition, global warming’s likely substantial reduction in the water supply of the western United States presents the crux design constraint.

Invitation:  Are you advancing innovative sustainability planning in your city? Feature it in the Plan-It Sustainably column of the Northern News, and/or post a longer description with links on this blog. Send your idea or post to Scott Edmondson, or simply author a guest post. What is or is not working? Join the conversation; add value; move the Section’s sustainability needle!

Monthly Resources:

Sustainability Committee Update:

(NOTE: This is a cross post from the shorter Plan-it sustainably Column, Northern News, November 2012 <<link forthcoming>>, by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, co-director, Sustainability Committee, APA, CA Chapter, Northern Board).