Nature recently published an interesting article that discussed what some cities are doing to stay cool amid the changing climate. Many of the examples come from large cities that are utilizing green roofs (rooves?). Anyways, while that’s all fine and dandy, most planners do not work for these select few cities nor do we work in jurisdictions that are always receptive of policies overtly geared towards mitigating climate change (i.e. rural city America and/or any city in Texas not named Austin). What can we do that will have an impact, any impact on reducing climate change?
1. Be an advocate for climate friendly development practices. This may sound self-explanatory, but sometimes all it takes is one person, at key times, to spearhead meaningful change.
2. Learn what comparison cities are doing, do the same, but find a way to frame it in a way that aligns with the culture of your jurisdiction. “Cleaner air” is likely going to go over better than “save the polar bears”.
3. Strictly enforce landscaping requirements if you haven’t been. Frame it as community aesthetics to help your argument when you get push back. Measure those trees because the climate and future generations will be better for it!
4. Require open space provisions for PUDs. Make sure the space(s) are adequate and not just paper-open spaces.
5. Consider revising tree requirements in terms of canopy instead of quantity. Check out Tigard, Oregon’s tree requirements.
6. Allow alternative compliance for landscaping requirements to be approved administratively. Allow staff to be problem solvers by approving landscape plans that might not exactly qualify, however make part of your consideration include canopy cover, open space, street trees, and other elements that reduce the urban heat island or green infrastructure principles.
7. Consider allowing off-site shared parking arrangements. Off-peak parking arrangements could reduce the need for more parking lots.
8. Consider reducing required parking for properties in proximity to mass transit stations/stops. Maybe allow reduced parking if adjacent to a street with a dedicated bicycle facility.
9. Consider reducing required parking for developments that will set aside conservation areas for stormwater infiltration.
10. Adopt the International Existing Building Code. Remember, some of the most sustainable buildings are the ones that are already there.
11. Adopt expedited plan review for LEED certified projects. Check out Salt Lake City's process.
12. Consider allowing LED lighting if the code doesn’t allow it. LED lighting is energy efficient, reduces glare, and can be automated more easily than other types of lighting sources.
13. Support higher density near transit stations/stops. Large numbers of people should be living closer to mass transit hubs, common sense. Always evaluate high density developments against current and planned transit routes.
14. Set the example. Institute an office recycling program, a daily or weekly office “Earth hour”, a “clean up” event for a park or street. Be sure to advertise your efforts.
15. Educate yourself so that you can educate others. Get LEED certified, take a course, read.
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