Key Metrics

The 10 Most Sustainable Cities That Will Thrive As The World Crumbles

Source: Fast Company

Abstract: Arcadis, a Dutch design group, has recently evaluated the sustainability performance of 50 cities by examining data based on the three key metrics: people, planet, and profit. This Sustainable Cities Index examines such factors as health, education, income inequality, work-life balance and green space; energy emissions, pollution, natural disaster risk, and sanitation; and business environment, economic performance and GDP per capita. Cities around the world are represented in the top 50, with Frankfurt, London and Copenhagen leading as the top three. Based on this evaluation, European cities seem to be achieving the greatest balance among all three factors, while cities in other parts of the world are not reaching the same overall success—they may be exceeding in profit for example, yet are low in people, or high in people and low in profit. Utilizing all these factors for growth, and development evaluation and decision making, can support long-term innovation solutions and best for quality of life.

Contributor: Devon Bertram


Cities of Possibility

2014 Good City Index

Source: GOOD Magazine

Abstract: GOOd Magazine has identified 50 cities around the world that “best capture the elusive quality of possibility”—a true measure of a city’s heartbeat. As defined by GOOD, a “City of Possibility” incorporates a hub of progress, civic engagement, street life, a defining moment, connectivity, green life, diversity, and work/life balance. These cities inspire resident and visitors alike .

Contributor: Devon Bertram


The Vertical City on the Rise

Is the Vertical City a Viable Solution for Sustainable Living?

Source: Lloyd Alter, Treehugger, 11/7/14

Abstract: While the Vertical City may be controversial, it is considered by some to be the new urban form that can support solutions to the latest pressing environmental problems. Kenneth King and Kellogg Wong have developed an involved and detailed manifesto and a soon-to-be-released coffee table book, VERTICAL CITY: A Solution for Sustainable Living, that seeks to inspire and describe how the vertical city can address environmental, financial, and sociopolitical concerns and satisfy key objectives within each of these areas. As countries such as China and India are growing rapidly, it is worth examining how they may incorporate such concepts into new urban planning and design.

Contributor: Devon Bertram


Regenerative Cities

Herbert Girardet Shares His Insight and Expertise in a 2-Part Interview Webcast

Source: Sustainable Cities Collective, 11/12/14

Abstract: Eco-development strategist Herbert Giradet’s latest book Creating Regenerative Cities moves beyond sustainability and discusses a model in which there is no waste and everything gets reused in a closed loop approach. This 2-part interview webcast offers insight from Giradet on the concept of regenerative cities, the current state of affairs, and how cities have the opportunity (and responsibility) to implement practices and policies that support this more holistic approach.

Contributor: Devon Bertram


Latin America & the Caribbean

Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative

The Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative (focused on Latin American and Caribbean cities) is a technical assistance program under the Inter-American Development Bank that helps intermediate cities in Latin America and the Caribbean identify, prioritize, and structure projects to improve their environmental, urban and fiscal sustainability.

The program includes valuable resources and tools that may be of interest for cities undergoing evaluation in regards to sustainability action plans, resiliency plans or assessing various development plans. Tools include an Urban Dashboard that highlights indicators, studies and profiles of the cities within the program, as well as cities’ Action Plans, and a valuable Sustainable Cities Methodological Guide that identifies the phases of city action plan development, and the associated activities and deliverables associated with each phase.

Contributor: Lauren Romanazzi


Urban Agriculture

SF Approves California’s First Tax Incentive for Urban Ag

Source: Eli Zigas, SPUR, 8/5/14

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.

Link to the ordinance:

Contributor: Lauren Romanazzi


Smart Cities USA

San Jose Implements Intel Technology for a Smarter City

Source: Intel Newsroom, 6/11/14

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.

Contributor: Lauren Romanazzi


Transit Focus

How Denver Is Becoming the Most Advanced Transit City in the West

Source: Taras Grescoe, CityLab, 6/24/14

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.

Contributor: Carolyn Garrett

Tokyo Street

Resilient Cities

The Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative (PCSI), a joint program of the Asia Society and the Urban Land Institute, has released a new report, Creating Resilient and Livable Cities. The report, which builds on expert dialogue at PCSI’s 2nd Annual Forum in Manila this past March, presents practical strategies for creating tomorrow’s sustainable cities and addresses how good governance, disaster preparedness, planning cities for people, and building resilient infrastructure contribute to creating more livable and more resilient cities.

Read more and download a copy of the report at


Biophilic Cities

Birmingham Joins San Francisco and Oslo in Global Green Cities Club

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’.

Contributor: Devon Bertram


Urban Green Space

Urban Green Space Makes People Happier Than Money

Source: Luisa Zottis, TheCityFix, 4/29/14

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.

Contributor: Devon Bertram


Big Data

Can Big Data Save Lives?

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.

Contributor: Lauren Romanazzi



Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN)

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.

Contributor: Lauren Romanazzi


About This Site

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

Devon Bertram, MBA in Sustainable Management, 2014, Presidio Graduate School, and Sustainability Manager, YR&G

Carolyn Garrett, Pre-Business and German Studies major, class of 2016, University of Arizona, and Bay Area Council Economic Institute summer intern, 2014

Lauren Romanazzi, Master of Public Administration (MPA) candidate, Sustainable Management, 2016 (expected), Presidio Graduate School, and Graduate Student Intern, City of San Jose, Environmental Services

Global Green Cities of the 21st Century is sponsored by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. For more information, see Contact Information and Website Terms