Abstract: This summer the city of San Francisco made significant progress in the urban agriculture policy arena. On July 29, 2014, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation allowing property owners to receive a property tax reduction when contracting out their land for agricultural use for at least five years. San Francisco was the first jurisdiction in California to lead the way and pass this unique urban agriculture incentive policy permitted by Assembly Bill 551. As a result of the legislation, any land parcel in San Francisco is now considered an urban agriculture incentive zone. Once landowners receive approval from the Planning Department to use their land for agricultural purposes, landowners are required to apply and also get approval from the agricultural commissioner and city assessor-recorder before they will see a reduction in their property tax. The policy is intended to promote urban farming and incentivize the public to start community gardens.
Abstract: Cities around the world are gaining intelligence after implementing new technologies to help them collect data, monitor city programs, and increase public engagement. One Bay Area “smart city” was recently acknowledged by the White House for its public-private partnership with Intel to help meet its Green Vision Goals for 2022. The city of San Jose teamed up with the large tech corporation to participate in a pilot project, Smart Cities USA, that will install sensors around the city to collect data on air and water quality, traffic, parking management, communication systems, and more. Besides the environmental benefits and solutions, the city also hopes to experience an increase in job creation, an improvement in the local economy, and a greater quality of life for its residents.
As city populations are expanding, local governments are turning to technologies, such as phone apps, GIS, and other software and hardware, to help monitor and manage their infrastructure and resources. Those following in San Jose’s footsteps might choose to implement similar technologies to capture new information in order to make “smarter” sustainability decisions.
Abstract: Denver, a car centric and constantly gridlocked city, has shifted investments to become a progressive transit focused city. In 2004, voters approved the Denver FasTracks program that would add 121 miles of new commuter light rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit, 57 new rapid transit stations, and 21,000 park-and-ride spots. Phil Washington, general manager for the Regional Transportation District (RTD), has mentioned his vision for the future to include commuter rail, RTD buses, B-Cycle bicycles and car-share vehicles all using a single stored-value fare card. This $7.8 billion gamble relies on the adaptation of Denver commuters, especially Millennials. Millennials (age 25-34) are less likely to own cars and 70% of Millennials report using several forms of transportation to complete trips. To promote the use of commuter lines, affordable housing has been built near many of the stations under construction. Currently, only 6% of commuters use bus and light rail, about half of the percentage for Los Angeles; however, with the current progress of the transit improvements, daily light rail boardings have increased by 15% from 2012 to 2013. The first FasTracks project, the West Rail Line, was opened last year. By 2016 a bus rapid transit system will offer service to Boulder, known for its university and clustering of tech companies. Ten out of eleven FasTrack lines are expected to be completed by 2018.
Source: Steven Morris, The Guardian, Thursday, 4/3/14
Abstract: The city of Birmingham is the latest to be recognized (and the first British city) as part of the global network of “biophilic cities” – those recognized for their open spaces and connection to nature. Eight cities are part of this club, including San Francisco, Oslo and Wellington. The biophilic cities club recognizes that nature contributes to a happy, healthy and meaningful life, and provides opportunity for the cities to be a leader in the field. While biophilic design has gained traction in offices and homes, it has not succeeded at gaining the same hold at a broader city scale. The biophilic cities club presents opportunity to create community among this common value, as well as share and collaborate around strategies and policy that support this value. This recognition for Birmingham reinforces its plans already in place, and supports the city’s goal to be a leading ‘green city’.
Abstract: Green space is being increasingly connected to better and happier living, and new quantitative and qualitative data supports these findings. More and more cities around the world are recognizing the link between access to green space and nature, increased levels of physical activity, and happiness. Parks and green areas amidst urban areas provide residents outlets to release stress, and create a healthier, more livable environment.
Source: Jonathan Strombolis and Adam Frank, The Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities, 3/27/14
Abstract: With the rise in urban expansion and growing populations, cities today are focusing more on establishing resilient communities. Resiliency is a key aspect of a sustainable city and is becoming a greater concern for both public and private leaders. Technology and open data can be solutions to many of the issues societies are facing related to population growth, such as climate change and globalization. Jonathan Strombolis and Adam Frank from Palantir Technologies discuss the benefits of cities having access to big data and specifically how Palantir has used technology and online data to help cities in the midst of a crisis. Palantir has found that problems with data analysis come down to data integration. Those managing the data must know how to organize it and how to access and use it. If managed efficiently, open data will allow all stakeholders to access the same organized information, resulting in a more effective decision making process and decreasing the social, economical, and environmental impacts on communities.
The Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) is a peer-to-peer network of local government professionals in the United States and Canada working to create “a healthier environment, economic prosperity, and increased social equity.” The organization is made up of members from 8 regional networks that collaborate on projects and share expertise and best practices in order to achieve more effective outcomes. The USDN also awards grants to members and partnering organizations for projects that focus on the challenges that many of our cities are facing.
This site presents the best thinking and analysis on sustainable urbanization and green growth in cities and regions around the world, and provides connections to ongoing discussions that define the state of the art in green city design and planning.
Contributors who volunteer their time to seek information and write abstracts on topics featured on the Global Green Cities home page include