Category: Sustainability

APA California Conference 2015 Sustainability Sessions

The following is a selection of the main sustainability sessions at the Oakland Conference, including an informal pre-conference Sustainability Planning Meet-Up hosted by the Northern Section Sustainability Committee (Friday, Oct 2nd; see details below).

FRI OCT 2

Sustainable Neighborhoods Pre-conference Meet-Up (5:30-8:30pm) hosted by the Northern Section Sustainability Committee and the Sustainable Communities Division Champion (http://bit.ly/1dtKarQ) at Swan’s Market, Old Oakland.  Meet colleagues and explore a redevelopment success over wine/ beer, a tour of Swan’s Market & Co-housing, and dinner afterwards at The Cook and Her Farmer in Swan’s Market.  Light drink and snack provided, additional food and drink available for purchase. Register at Eventbrite to make logistics easy. Email apasustcomm@gmail.com).

SAT OCT 3

Pre-Conference Session No. 2: What the FLUP? Future Land Use Planning for Safe, Smart and Sustainable Communities. 8:45am-2:45pm (additional fee $75).

Session Block #1, 3-4:30pm:

  • Paradigm Shift in Water Use – Reworked Local & Global Water Policies & Programs
  • Cap and Trade and Disadvantaged Communities: How to Engage Residents and Plan Projects that Get Dollars and Make Sense

SUN OCT 4

Mobile Workshop #3: 8-12pm. From Vision to aThriving Neighborhood: Cultural Vibrancy and Economic Vitality in Mission Bay, $35 additional fee applies

Session Block No. 2: 10am-11:30am

  • Regional Equity and Sustainability from the Ground Up: Tapping Community Wisdom in Land Use & Transportation Planning
  • Three Resilient Cities: Applying the Concept of Resiliency to Land Use Planning and Decision Making.

Mobile Workshop #4: 10am-2:30pm: Green Infrastructure Bay Area: Green Infrastructure Takes in the East Bay – $50 additional fee applies, includes lunch

Session Block No. 3: 1:15pm-2:45 pm

  • Food Cities: Planning for the Regional Economy
  • Bay Area Sustainability: Wicked Planning and Conflict Identification at Local and Regional Scales
  • Creating a Cultural EcoDistrict for Generations to Come
  • The Ecological City: A Design Workshop

Session Block #4, 3:15 pm – 4:45 pm

  • Climate Action Planning: Silver Bullets, Buckshot or Blanks?
  • The Los Angeles River: Recalibrating the Role of Water, Infrastructure and Place

MON OCT 5th

Session Block #5, 8:00 am – 9:30 am

  • Sustainable Groundwater Management Comes to California: Time for Planners to Get Their Feet Wet
  • Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities: What Does it Take to Integrate Housing and Transportation?
  • Advancing Equity in Innovation Economies
  • Vision Zero: Roots for Policy Change, Improved Public Health, and Safe Streets
  • Rethinking Local in Global Context: Experiments and Lessons in Cross-Cultural Collaboration and Participatory Design

Session Block #6, 9:45 am – 11:15 am

  • Oakland Makers: Planning for New and Creative Innovative Industries
  • To Infinity … and Beyond: Exploring Post-2020 GHG Reductions

Session Block #7, 1:15 pm – 2:45 pm

  • Utilizing Integrated Utility Systems to Deliver Restorative City Goals
  • Resilience is the New Black – What Do We Mean by Resilience Planning, and Aren’t We Doing it Already?
  • Trends, Opportunities, and Challenges for Integrating Green Infrastructure with Urban Design in the SF Bay Area

Session Block #8, 3:15 pm – 4:45 pm

  • It’s a Gas – Producing BioEnergy from Organic Waste in California
  • Sustainability Jeopardy!
  • Manifest Density: A Reality Check for The Sustainable Communities Strategy

TUES OCT 6th

Session Block #9, 8:00 am – 9:30 am

  • Building Consensus for Sustainable Streets
  • Climate Action Planning and Urban Greening: Weaving Together Health, Resilience and Equity

Session Block #10, 9:45 am – 11:15 am

  • San Francisco’s Sustainability Districts: Translating Policy Into Action

Regenerative Urbanism – A Summary

This idea for a literature review of the emerging theoretical and practice arena of what usefully can be called “regenerative urbanism,” is worth the larger effort involved. Until then, this short summary and list of key resources will have to suffice.

As 21st century planning and design accelerate out of the first decade, a variety of emerging ideas and practices in the planning-design-build professions with roots in the 1990s and beyond are coalescing around the theme of living – living cities, living buildings, cities alive, ecocities, biophilic cities—or more generally, living systems. The core concept of this theme and living systems is “regeneration.” Hence, the title regenerative urbanism, planning, design, etc.

These emerging, coalescing trends can be interpreted as laying the foundation for the next step in sustainability planning—a necessary sustainability ‘pivot‘ from a net-negative, “doing-less-harm” mitigation approach or “paradigm” to a net-positive, “doing-good,” regenerative city paradigm. This shift represents a fundamental change not only for the planning-design-build professions, but for society itself. William McDonough and others have been characterizing this shift as one from a 19th century physics model of society, the economy, etc., to a 21st century biology model. Although simplistic as stated, and needing further development, this simple brushstroke helps illuminate a new source of understanding, innovation, and solutions with real potential for resolving the daunting, some might say impossible challenges humanity faces.

The posts and resources below provide a quick view into a subset of this emerging new regenerative systems paradigm.

APA California 2015 Conference Sustainability Sessions — The Upcoming Sustainability “Pivot” From “Less Damage” to “Regenerative Urbanism,” https://norcalapa.org/?s=regenerative&post_type=sustainability-blog#sthash.I5FhCIR0.dpuf

Toward a Regenerative Sustainability Paradigm for the Built Environment?! http://www.sustainability2030.com/sustainabilityclips/2013/12/1/toward-a-regenerative-sustainability-paradigm-for-the-built.html

 The Regenerative City 2030 Challenge, http://www.sustainability2030.com/state-of-sustainability-j/2015/1/25/the-regenerative-city-2030-challenge.html

Regenerative Planning & Design–Connecting to the Essence for Higher Value, http://www.sustainability2030.com/sustainabilityclips/2013/11/27/regenerative-planning-design-connecting-to-the-essence-for-h.html

 A Talk with David Waldron — Regenerative Neighborhood Sustainability, http://www.sustainability2030.com/sustainabilityclips/2013/12/1/a-talk-with-david-waldron-regenerative-neighborhood-sustaina.html

Regenerative Design and Development – A Pioneer’s Perspective — http://www.sustainability2030.com/state-of-sustainability-j/2012/5/23/regenerative-design-and-development-a-pioneers-perspective.html

Living Future’s Living Cities – Explorations of a Positive End Game, https://norcalapa.org/sustainability-blog/plan-it-sustainably-august-2012/#sthash.xlg011MW.dpuf

Mobilizing APA State Chapter Sustainability & the New Sustainable Community Division, https://norcalapa.org/sustainability-blog/connecting-apas-state-chapters-on-sustainability/#sthash.w6dSe55D.dpuf

Plan-it sustainably Column (Dec2013)–“Biophilic Urbanism” On the Rise Excerpt, https://norcalapa.org/sustainability-blog/plan-it-sustainably-column-dec2013-biophilic-urbanism-on-the-rise-excerpt/#sthash.QuLjV1PM.dpuf

Planning meets biomimicry? https://norcalapa.org/sustainability-blog/planning-meets-biomimicry/

Living community patterns — bits and pieces of next-generation urban form? https://norcalapa.org/?s=regenerative&post_type=sustainability-blog#sthash.d83XSGbD.dpuf

SPUR – Regenerative Design 091311 6 pm, https://norcalapa.org/sustainability-blog/spur-regenerative-design-091311-6-pm/

Regenerative Neighborhoods – scaling up from net positive buildings, https://norcalapa.org/?s=regenerative&post_type=sustainability-blog#sthash.I5FhCIR0.dpu

Comprehensive Ecological Design for a Carbon Neutral World, http://www.sustainability2030.com/sustainabilityclips/2011/8/12/comprehensive-ecological-design-for-a-carbon-neutral-world.html

SSI2030’s New Year 2013 Challenge: Catalyze an “Educating the World for Regenerative Success” Campaign, http://www.sustainability2030.com/state-of-sustainability-j/2013/1/19/ssi2030s-new-year-2013-challenge-catalyze-an-educating-the-w.html

Whole Systems Methodology is Alive in 2013, http://www.sustainability2030.com/sustainabilityclips/2013/11/30/whole-systems-methodology-is-alive-in-2013.html

[Post prepared by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at the SF Planning Department.]

Nature in the City — Recent Biophilic Planning Waves and the Deeper River

A recent post in the APA Sustainable Communities Division Newsletter (http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=0a196b8525f96edf44a4b3f53&id=50187e3c1b, e-Bulletin for 05/21/2015) included the following snippets of recent nature-in-the-city resources and events.   The larger movement these snippets represent is that of biophilic city planning and design being pioneered by, among others, the Biophilic Cities Network (launched October 2013, as the culmination of an international research project on the topic by Professor Timothy Beatley, University of Virginia, sponsored by the Summit Foundation; see http://biophiliccities.org). This thread grew out of the research of E.O. Wilson, Stephen Kellert, and a core group of researchers in the 1990s and early 2000s on biophilia and the biophilic hypothesis that spawned the biophilic design initiative in the architectural community in the late 1990s.

Biophilic design and biophilic city planning are in their infancy (the latter more than the former), but represent a powerful integration of research on the relationship of nature to essential components of human development and character with architecture (interior and exterior) and urban planning. Because 90% of an urban person’s time is spent inside, 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban areas (forecast to be 80% by 2050), and human constructed environments, from buildings to cities to regions, are largely destructive of nature and maintain human-nature connections poorly if at all, this research on the biophilic hypothesis has serious implications for design and planning. The potential import of this essential connection challenges designers and planners to “construct” nature in ways that maintain the connection for fundamental human development and community well being; if not simply our survival as a species and a precursor to the civil society required to realize the ideals of democracy and the “holy grail” of the “good society,” and sustainability.

The two leading spatial sustainability planning “frameworks,” if not “movements, the Living Community (Imperative 9, p 36) and Building (see p 5) Challenges (International Living Future Institute) and the EcoDistricts Protocol (see Performance Area 7, p 12; EcoDistricts.org) have embraced the biophilic concept and try to apply it–at least simply–in their approaches.

One powerful synthesis of the research and emerging paradigm is Stephan Kellert’s Birthright–People and Nature in the Modern World, Yale University Press, New Haven Conn., 2012. The following are other key resources:

SCD Newsletter Snippet (052115)

The most recent Global Roundtable conducted by The Nature of Cities (TNOC) engaged 14 photographers in Imaging the urban wild–capturing the vibrancy of  “nature nearby” found in several cities around the world.  Nature provides services from storm water management to habitat to beauty in urban areas, making cities rich in biodiversity, human society, sustainability, resilience, and livability.

Urban nature also helps the economic bottom line. City Lab reports on How a Quick Glimpse of Nature Can Make You More Productive, referencing results  from an Australia-based research team soon to be  published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.  These results support other recent findings on the restorative power of nature. Take a peek out the window! Image: Green roof, Vancouver, BC, NNECAPA/Flickr

[Post prepared by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at the SF Planning Department.]

APA California 2015 Conference Sustainability Sessions — The Upcoming Sustainability “Pivot” From “Less Damage” to “Regenerative Urbanism”

The sustainability sessions in APA California’s Conference 2015 reflect emerging best practices in sustainability planning across the planning-design-build professions.  Topics covered include water reuse, urban food, GHG cap & trade, green infrastructure, spaces for makers, health, affordability, district-scale initiatives, equity, innovation economics, and resilience (the new sustainability).   These innovative techniques and policy trends can be interpreted as laying the foundation for the next step in sustainability planning–a ‘pivot‘ from a net-negative, “doing-less-harm” mitigation approach to a net-positive, “doing-good,” regenerative city approach (see summary http://bit.ly/1efG7QD).

And what more appropriate place to hold this conference than the City of Oakland? The San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose Bay Area has been innovating for sustainability since the Brundtland Report (http://bit.ly/1CFWgVA ) first issued the challenge in 1987 and the UN Earth Summit (http://bit.ly/1LEU3Sn) put it on the world development agenda in 1992.

Key Bay Area innovations include:

  1. Joint Venture Silicon Valley Indicators (annual, since 1995; http://bit.ly/1dtII8M)
  2. Blue Print for a Sustainable Bay Area, Urban Ecology (1996; http://bit.ly/1HvtLRW)
  3. Sustainable Oakland Program, City Council (1997; http://bit.ly/1Lz45DK)
  4. Sustainability Plan for the City and County of San Francisco and a new Commission on the Environment (1997; http://bit.ly/1LESV1b and http://bit.ly/1Ip6ZtN)
  5. Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Communities Regional Initiative and the Compact for a Sustainable Bay Area (1998-9; http://bit.ly/1efFuXt and the Compact http://bit.ly/1LET6cM)
  6. Marin Countywide Plan: Sustainable Marin – Nature, Built Environment & People (2007; General Plan (http://bit.ly/1GWjwT4)
  7. San Jose’s Envision 2040 General Plan (http://bit.ly/1IIjZq5 ) & Green Vision (http://bit.ly/1R0M6dW; 2007)
  8. Plan Bay Area 2040 (2013; http://bit.ly/1IIgQXf)
  9. Palo Alto Forward: Sustainability + Mobility As A Service (2015; http://bit.ly/1Lz4q9p)

In recent years, APA National has strongly embraced sustainability with powerful initiatives:

  1. Policy Guide on Planning for Sustainability (2000; http://bit.ly/1Km6SPK)
  2. Sustaining Places Initiative (2010; http://bit.ly/1Lz4tC3)
  3. Sustaining Places: The Role of the Comprehensive Plan (PAS 567, 2012; http://bit.ly/1NuDTbW)
  4. Comprehensive Plan Standards for Sustaining Places (2013+; http://bit.ly/1CFVAzw)
  5. Sustainable Communities Division (SCD; 2013; http://bit.ly/1GW8j5b)

The APA California Chapter supports sustainability through its annual conference and its Sections’ local initiatives. The Northern Section Board under Hansom Hom’s leadership launched its Sustainability Committee in January 2011 to provide a resource to advance sustainability planning best practices by establishing a learning/practice network (Committee http://bit.ly/1gQx2ge). As of 2013, it was one of only five sustainability committees of APA State Chapters nationally (Summary, http://bit.ly/1Lz4E0b). Recently, the California Chapter under Hing Wong began working with the Sustainable Communities Division’s (SCD’s) local Sustainability Champion to accelerate and deepen sustainability planning in California (summary post, http://bit.ly/APASCDSustChampProg; and SCD Newsletter Article, p 4, http://bit.ly/1Km7chf). The Chapter’s upcoming Oakland conference continues this tradition of innovation with a rich set of sustainability sessions and workshops that illuminate the leading edge.

Three sessions submissions prompted by the Northern Sustainability Committee were made the competitive proposal process. They illustrate key threads of the emerging, next-generation approach to sustainability planning—an ecosystems approach to regenerative city planning that delivers higher value and multiple benefits compared to traditional “silo” approaches. Explore this approach in these two sessions.

  • The Ecological City: A Design Workshop, SUN, Oct 3rd, 1:15 pm – 2:45 pm (Session Block #3). Explore the challenges, opportunities, and a framework to apply ecological ideas to city planning around three goals: (1) connecting humans to nature; (2) connecting sites to ecosystems; and (3) integrating systemic impacts into decision-making.
  • Bay Area Sustainability: Wicked Planning and Conflict Identification at Local and Regional Scales, SUN, Oct 3rd, 1:15 pm – 2:45 pm (Session Block # 3). Climate change and sustainability are “wicked” problems representing conflicts over the greater good. Using Plan Bay Area and sustainability plans of 11 cities across the region, this session will provide tools for conflict identification and methods for planners to help adversarial stakeholders find common ground while retaining their core values.
  • Utilizing Integrated Utility Systems to Deliver Restorative City Goals, MON, Oct 5th, 1:15-2:45pm (Session Block #7). This interactive session will present a pioneering restorative city framework and an Integrated Utility System (IUS) model that planners can use to unlock new levels of environmental, social, and economic sustainability performance. It will also outline a “turnkey” approach to assessing, designing, financing, and delivering an IUS at no cost to cities.

In addition, the Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee will host a pre-conference meet-up social (complimentary wine/appetizers) and then tour of Swan’s Market and Co-housing, followed by dinner at Swan’s Market (5:30-8:30pm FRI Oct 2nd; details here (http://bit.ly/1UzCfs6).

Conference Sustainability Sessions

Please see the following post in this Plan-it sustainably blog for a list of the more than 30 conference sessions anticipated on the topic of sustainability. You may also find this summary of regenerative urbanism useful.

(Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, is the founder/past co-director/current Research Lead of the California APA Northern Sustainability Committee, a Sustainable Communities Division Sustainability Champion, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist with the San Francisco Planning Department.)

Sustainable Neighborhood Pre-Conference Tour and Social

The APA California Northern Section Sustainability Committee and the APA Sustainable Community Division’s Champion Program hosted Sustainable Neighborhood Sustainability Committee Pre-conference MeetUp at Swans Market in Old Oakland on Friday, October 2, 2015. About 30 members enjoyed complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres, toured the adjacent C0-housing project (one of the oldest in the Nation) with the project sponsor, two residents, and the lead planner, and afterwards enjoyed dinner at The Cock & Her Farmer in Swan’s market. a Summary and the event invitation follow below.

EVENT SUMMARY

Hors D’oeuvres and dinner were hosted in Swan’s Market courtesy of  Romney Steele, Owner, The Cook and Her Farmer (THANK YOU Romney!). Romney is a chef, small business owner, cookbook author, food writer, and community builder. She opened her latest Project, the Cook and Her Farmer in Swan’s Market with Steven Day a year ago last summer and provided insights about the business side of this successful urban regeneration project.

For the Co-housing tour, we were fortunate to hear insights about this 15-year old urban regeneration and innovative land use project from some of the key players.

  1. Josh Simon, Executive Director EBALDC (East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation)
  2. Neil Planchon and Michael Coleman, Swan’s Market Cohousing Residents
  3. Patrick Lane, Redevelopment Manager with the City of Oakland’s Economic & Workforce Development Department, Project Implementation Division

Josh has worked with East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation for 14 of the last 21 years as both Executive Director, and Director of Real Estate. His career has been dedicated to working with coalitions of organizations to develop and maintain healthy vibrant neighborhoods and the creation of “Community Hubs” such as Swan’s Market. Josh brings both the technical expertise to develop affordable housing and mixed use community facilities, as well as the clear sighted leadership necessary for the best neighborhood driven outcomes.  Neil has been working actively involved with the Old Oakland Neighborhood Association for 13 years, and with the Cohousing Association of the US for the past 8 years, a non profit whose mission is to promote the awareness and development of cohousing and to provide sustenance to existing cohousing communities in the United States. For the past 11 years, Patrick has worked collaboratively on any number of the City of Oakland redevelopment projects including Swan’s Market. He was also formerly a Manager in the City of Oakland Redevelopment Agency.

The insights into this project provided by the core team were eye-opening in terms of what it takes to make the initial idea work and then keep it working, not the least of which is stakeholder commitment and the occasional serendipitous happenings. Neil provided an invaluable book as a resource, Cohousing–A contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves (just published 2nd edition).

A big thanks to Kate Howe, a planner with VIA Architecture, and Director of the San Francisco Office, who took the concept, found the event location, lined up the tour guides, organized the hosting at The Cock & Her Farmer, signed in attendees, and generally made this event a success. Also, a big thanks to Katja Irvin and Rae Smith, who worked with Kate to make this event happen.

Swan’s Market

EVENT DESCRIPTION

What–Social/Tour/Dinner:  Meet colleagues and explore a redevelopment success over wine/ beer, a tour of Swan’s Market & Co-housing, Old Oakland and dinner afterwards at The Cook and Her Farmer in Swan’s Market.  Light drink and snack provided, additional food and drink available for purchase.

Explore this historic 1916 produce market adapted for small restaurant kiosks as well as a co-housing project. Tour guides will discuss history, redevelopment and co-housing (1 CM Credit Pending).

When: Friday, October 2nd, 5:30 – 8:30 pm:

  • 5:30-6:15:  meet-up, soft start, complimentary wine/snack (in Swan’s Market)
  • 6:15-6:30:  talk (in Swan’s Market)
  • 6:30-7:30: tour (market & co-housing: Guides from EBALDC & Oakland Planning)
  • 7:30-8:30: dinner at The Cook and Her Farmer or other venues at Swan’s Market.

Where: Swan’s Market, 907 Washington St (enter from 9th Street between Clay & Washington), Old Oakland (4 blocks from 12th St. BART). Map (click).   Enter off 9th Street (between Clay & Washington) through glass doors to a few “APA”-marked tables in the center of the room.

Please REGISTER at Eventbrite to make logistics easier.

Questions:  SustCommAPA@gmail.com; also scott.edmondson@sfgov.org

[Post prepared by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at the SF Planning Department.]

Measuring Urban Sustainability: Evaluating the APA’s New Sustainability Accreditation Criteria

Cross-post from UCB IURD Blog, by Professor Charisma Acey.

See also, the APA/UCB Class events:

[Post prepared by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at the SF Planning Department.]

Sustainable Water Policy Challenges

[cross-post from California Planning, March 2015, Vol. 15, Issue 02, p. 8 (here)]

Imagine waking up one morning, turning on the tap, and water does not flow . . . , for the next 1,000 years, or it’s saltwater, or toxic! Extreme paranoia or our new normal? Hopefully the former! Yet each day we read stories about continuing seawater intrusion, the worst drought in 100 years, fracking and other sources of ground water contamination, some of which are permitted by regulators, and the specter of a substantially dryer southwestern United States, including California. In addition, climate change presents society with complex uncertainties about future climate conditions, varying from the semi-benign to cataclysmic . . . (read more on page 8).

[Post prepared by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at the SF Planning Department.]

Passive House Brussels Tour – Benchmark for NYC Plan

BePassiveInterested in a seeing-is believing tour of Passive House HQ Brussells?  Why . . . , not!  In September 2014 NYC Mayor De Blasio released an energy efficiency Plan for NYC called ‘One City: Built to Last‘. The Passive House standard is celebrated in the plan as the target benchmark for future energy performance of both new build and existing building stock.

Passive house is a proven building standard “on the rise.” In fact the region of Brussels went from dead last in EU building energy efficiency in 2007 to first place in 2012. In that time period, they added 15 million square meters of passive house. How did that happen? It was the brainchild and brilliant system intervention of Joke (‘Yoka’) Dockx, Director for Energy at the Brussels Institute for Management of the Environment.

Want to find out more? Check out the links below, OR . . . , take a “seeing is believing” tour of Brussells, the Delivering the ‘One City Built to Last’ Strategy for NYC, Fact Finding Mission: Passive House HQ Brussels from Sunday, May 17 to Wednesday, May 2o (PDF Brochure;  organizer:  Bronwyn Barry, CPHD, Assoc. AIA Certified Passive House Consultant, Director – One Sky Homes).  Meet Joke and other leading practitioners, learn the key concepts, and tour the inspiring projects.

Register online ($1,995 + flight) by clicking here. If you require any assistance please contact us at events@passivehouseacademy.com.

LINKS:

[Post prepared by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at the SF Planning Department.]

Planning for low-carbon communities

Making meaningful progress towards California’s climate mitigation goal — reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 — is one of the front-line sustainability challenges facing planners. This reduction is the minimum required globally to stay within a safe trajectory of global warming and, hopefully, climate re-stabilization. Meeting this challenge requires planning for — and producing — low-carbon communities and economies by 2050.

UC Berkeley researchers released a report last year whose title reflects its key finding: Suburban sprawl cancels carbon-footprint savings of dense urban cores.  The study uses local census, weather and other data – 37 variables in total – to approximate greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the energy, transportation, food, goods and services consumed by U.S. households, so-called household carbon footprints. The study shows that transportation and house size remain a community’s highest contributing factors to GHG emissions because fossil fuels are presently our primary source of energy. Thus, even a “smart growth,” dense, new-urbanist community will increase a region’s GHG emissions if people have to drive to work, for shopping, etc .

Building on the study, Chris Jones of UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory and David Burch of Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), discussed their on-going work at a SPUR-SF evening forum on February 24th. The forum addressed the planning and behavioral changes required to produce low-carbon communities. Their research suggests that responding effectively to climate change will require a more nuanced, place-based approach.

In addition, David Burch and his BAAQMD colleagues are compiling a new, neighborhood-scale Bay Area GHG emissions inventory. The inclusion of consumption-related GHGs in the inventory (emissions from production of goods elsewhere that are consumed locally) will create a more accurate estimate of the region’s true carbon footprint and a benchmark for local low-carbon community planning.

The BAAQMD is also collaborating with UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory to identify the role of smart planning tools and place-based solutions in meeting California’s 2050 GHG emission reduction goals. Solutions would vary by community, as already shown by the lab’s Cool California City Challenge.

The BAAQMD and UC Berkeley collaboration are conducting a Yolo County case study that is developing short- and medium-term strategies applicable to any community. Short-term behavioral strategies include campaigns to encourage purchase of electric vehicles and residential solar energy systems, home weatherization, and energy savings assistance programs.  Medium-term planning strategies include creating incentives for residential size and location efficiency, completely phasing out natural gas as an energy source for residences, and transitioning to renewable power, including for transportation.

It’s a challenging task for any community to reduce GHG emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. Is your community on track? What would it take to meet the 80 percent target?

Watch this space. We’ll be reviewing some possibilities in upcoming posts.

By Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, and Josh Hohn, AICP

(Note: This is a cross post of the Northern News’ “Plan-it sustainably” Column, March 2015 (upcoming), editing by Naphtali H. Knox, FAICP, a service of the APA California Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee. The SPUR evening forum panel was moderated by Josh Hohn, AICP (jnhohn@gmail.com), Lead, Northern Section’s Energy Work Group, and supported by Dave Javid, AICP (davejavid@gmail.com), co-director of the Section’s Sustainability Committee. Scott T. Edmondson, AICP (scott-e@sustainability2030.com), is founder, former co-director, and research lead of the Section’s Sustainability Committee, and an APA Sustainability Champion.)

Low-Carbon Communities Event

6:00 – 7:30 PM, SPUR, 654 Mission Street, SAN FRANCISCO. Beverages and light snacks available. A new, neighborhood-scale greenhouse gas inventory of the Bay Area suggests that responding effectively to climate change requires a more nuanced, place-based approach. The authors of the study – Chris Jones of UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, and David Burch of BAAQMD – will present their findings and lead a discussion about necessary planning and behavioral changes. Co-presented by the APA California Northern Sustainability Committee and the Planners Working Group on Energy and the Built Environment. Free for APA and SPUR members, $10 for non-members. For more information, click here, or contact Josh Hohn at jnhohn@gmail.com.

[Post prepared by Scott T. Edmondson, AICP, founder/past co-director and Research Program Lead of the Northern Section’s Sustainability Committee, one of the APA Sustainable Communities Division’s Sustainability Champions, and a strategic sustainability planner-economist at the SF Planning Department.]