Category: Local Leaders Council

Councilmember Ali Saleh uses smart growth to build economic resilience in Bell, California


City of Bell, California. Photo via Joshua Orizaga on Google.

The City of Bell is a small two-square-mile suburb on the outskirts of Los Angeles, CA. Following a political scandal in the early 2000s that left the city almost bankrupt, Bell has made a remarkable recovery. With their finances back on track, it is more important than ever for the city to make fiscally responsible decisions and improve the lives of residents. The city is using smart growth to make that happen.

Councilmember Ali Saleh, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, has been instrumental to the City of Bell’s fiscal stability. Elected in 2011, Saleh first served as mayor and now sits on the City Council. Saleh has supported several smart growth strategies that will improve the economy and the day-to-day lives of residents.

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Commissioner Ron Beitler on Lower Macungie, PA: A Community at a Crossroads

macungie Hamilton Boulevard in Lower Macungie, PA, overlaid with an artist’s rendering of proposed changed. Image by Kairos Design Group for Lower Macungie Township.

Creating a better, stronger Lower Macungie Township is about more than just a job for Commissioner Ron Beitler. It’s about his roots and hometown pride, it’s about his future and the future of his family. For Beitler, a vibrant Lower Macungie is deeply personal.

Beitler, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is a lifelong resident of Lower Macungie, PA, a third-ring suburb of Allentown located on the western end of the Lehigh Valley. Beitler and his wife live in a house less than three blocks away from the house he grew up in, where his parents still live. In fact, most of Beitler’s family members live in Lower Macungie.

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Maryland leaders gather to discuss leadership in smart growth at Maryland Association of Counties Winter Conference

 Maryland Association of Counties Winter ConferenceCounty Executive Rushern Baker, Councilmember Roger Berliner, and County Executive Jan Gardner describe the smart growth efforts they are championing.

Over 50 local elected leaders from Maryland, including members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, gathered on Wednesday, January 7 to discuss smart growth successes and challenges during the Maryland Association of Counties Winter Conference in Cambridge, MD. Smart Growth America and 1000 Friends of Maryland cosponsored the event.

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Mayor Joy Cooper uses holistic planning for quality of life in Hallandale Beach, FL

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Hallandale Beach Photo by Hugh Millward via Flickr.

Located on the east coast of Florida between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Hallandale Beach, FL is using holistic planning to create a more livable community for all its residents. Hallandale Beach comprises only 4.4 square miles of land but boasts a population of around 8,000 people per square foot—making it one of the densest cities in Broward County and east Florida.

Mayor Joy Cooper, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is the first elected mayor of Hallandale Beach. During her ten years in office she has worked tirelessly to create the livable and walkable community that her residents desire. Today, three major projects are continuing that legacy: implementation of a form-based code, a major redevelopment of the parks system, and a Complete Streets inventory.

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Mayor Denny Doyle uses community input to improve Beaverton, OR

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A rendering shows possible results of the Creekside Redevelopment Plan via Beaverton Facebook.

Located just seven miles west of Portland, OR, the City of Beaverton is using community input to create an extraordinary small-town experience. Already well-regarded for its great schools and green space, Beaverton is home to Nike Headquarters, Columbia Sports, over 16,000 tech employees, and one of the busiest transit hubs in the metro region. This diversified economy has given rise to a diverse Beaverton: one out of every four city residents was born outside of the U.S., and over 100 different languages are spoken in area homes.

Mayor Denny Doyle, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, has taken all of these important factors into consideration during his six years in office. He considers Beaverton’s diversity a strong asset and works hard to see that every voice is heard. The City’s commitment to community involvement played an essential role in the recently adopted Creekside District Master Plan, which aims to restore three creeks and help create a thriving downtown near the busy transit stop.

The Creekside District Master Plan was started about three years ago. Partially funded by a Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Cities Grant, the plan aims to redevelop a 50-acre area around a local creek and transit center, with the ultimate goal of creating a central downtown where people can live and work near transit. “We want this area to come to life,” says Mayor Doyle of the project’s focal point. “It has been asleep for a long time.” The planned first step involves redeveloping a five-acre area next to Beaverton City Hall, which will serve as a catalyst for the rest of the area.

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Using accessory dwelling units to bolster affordable housing

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Accessory Dwelling Units, such as this one in Northern California, can provide affordable housing and rental income for homeowners. Photo via Forbes.

Creating affordable rental housing in a community is often a long and arduous process. One strategy to combat this is for cities to allow the creation of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) through amended zoning codes. ADUs, also known as “granny flats” are small apartments built on a property with a preexisting home as the primary structure. Units typically function as studio apartments and tend to accommodate one or two people. ADUs can allow for seniors to age in place, provide homeowners with extra rental income, and fill a gap in affordable rental units.

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Building partnerships to support smart growth in Elizabeth, NJ

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A view of downtown Elizabeth, NJ. Photo via City of Elizabeth.

Home to more 125,000 residents and the largest industrial seaport in North America—all in the space of just 11 square miles—the city of Elizabeth, NJ presents unique challenges for fostering smart growth. “There’s not a lot of room to enhance our city or grow it by expanding the boundaries or adding residents,” says Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. “So the process of smart growth—and making sure there is open space as well as economic development—is extremely important for the mayor of a community like Elizabeth.”

Through 32 years of service as an elected official—22 of them spent in the Mayor’s office—Bollwage has helped guide the city in striking a balance between environmental and economic responsibilities, supported by funds and expertise from diverse sources. One example currently under construction is the Elizabeth River Trail, connecting downtown Elizabeth with the nearby Arthur Kill waterway. When completed, the trail will be 2.5 miles long and accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and features like kayak launches and public art.

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Director of Economic Development and Planning Hildy Kingma commits to sustainability in Park Forest, IL

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Local leaders are working to build a more sustainable Park Forest, IL. Photo via Facebook.

Founded in 1948, the village of Park Forest, IL is a suburb built for sustainability. Located 30 miles away from the Chicago Loop, Park Forest was one of the first planned communities built for veterans after World War II, and it was built with both automobiles and pedestrians in mind. Along with the classic suburban curved streets, the community’s original master plan was organized around open space, schools, and small commercial areas accessible on foot. In many ways, Park Forest was an early model for smart growth—decades before the term was coined.

Today, local leaders in Park Forest are committed to continuing that legacy. Hildy Kingma, Director of Economic Development and Planning and a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is one woman behind the cause. After Mayor John Ostenburg—also a member of the Local Leaders Council—challenged the Village to think more critically about sustainability, Kingma helped oversee the passage of a Comprehensive Sustainability Plan that affects every municipal department. “This is an effort that goes from the top to the bottom of our organization,” says Kingma.

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