Category: California

Smarter parking codes to promote smart growth

local-leaders_8-2014_transportation-ordinance

Unless you’re walking to your destination in a busy downtown neighborhood, chances are good that you need parking at the end of the trip. Nowadays, several cities are changing their thinking on parking regulations in response to the growing demand for car-light living.

Typically, parking rules are used to establish the minimum number of off-street private car parking spaces that must be provided in new residential and commercial developments. This helps manage traffic and congestion as new projects and more people come to the area, and it helps keep parking demand from overtaking supply over time. However, the following cities are modernizing their approach and tackling the parking issue in new ways.

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Inside Foot Traffic Ahead: sub-urban places and the future of walkability  

Belmar-festivalFestival Italiano in walkable sub-urban Belmar, Denver, CO. Photo via Flickr.

Walkable real estate is in high demand in America’s large metros, and tomorrow’s most successful cities will be the ones that capture that market—but the walkable places they build may not look like today’s downtowns.

In Foot Traffic Ahead, our June report co-released by our LOCUS coalition and the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at the George Washington University School of Business, we ranked America’s largest metropolitan areas based on their projected future growth in development of walkable places. That list of nascent future walkable real estate hot spots included surprise contenders like Atlanta, Denver, and Los Angeles—far from the usual suspects for such rankings. Meanwhile, some famously walkable cities like Portland, Pittsburg, and Baltimore were projected to fall behind.

The difference owes to walkable sub-urban places, an unconventional category that includes both historic town-center type suburbs and modern transit-oriented developments. In our highest-projected metro areas—from Washington, DC to Atlanta, GA—a large percent of new growth is expected to take the walkable sub-urban form.

Posted in California, Colorado, District of Columbia, LOCUS, Reports | 1 Comment

Since the workshop: Chula Vista, CA strives for energy efficiency and sustainable development

chula vistaThe farmers market at the Otay Ranch Town Center in Chula Vista, CA. Photo by Kurt Bunch

Last fall, Smart Growth America visited the City of Chula Vista, the second-largest city in San Diego County, CA, to deliver technical assistance on using the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) rating system as a framework for pursuing sustainable development at the neighborhood scale. The workshop helped inform Chula Vista staff, developers and the community on the energy saving benefits of smart growth site design.

Since the early 1990s, Chula Vista has been working to address climate change and reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions through a number of programs and policies. Its Climate Action Plan (CAP) was one of the first of its kind in the State of California. The City has partnered with its local utility for the past five years to explore ways to reduce GHGs and improve energy efficiency in new development. Smart Growth America’s technical assistance workshop gave the City the opportunity to explore LEED-ND as an approach, in terms of energy efficiency and green site design, to achieving the sustainability goals outlined in its CAP.

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Councilmember Steve Hansen is working with community members to create a vibrant and healthy Sacramento, CA

sacramento-urban-agA community garden in Sacramento, CA. Photo by Annie & John via flickr.

Councilmember Steve Hansen has a history of advocating for and working with community members in Sacramento, CA’s historic downtown neighborhoods, serving in recent years on his neighborhood association, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership Board of Directors, and the Sacramento Redistricting Citizens Advisory Committee. Now, just one-and-a-half years into his first term in elected office, Councilmember Hansen is working to promote policies and encourage development that will make Sacramento’s downtown more vibrant for residents.

“We have such an opportunity – particularly in the older parts of the city – to build housing, to bring vitality back, and ultimately to create a vibrant modern city,” says Councilmember Hansen, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. “We want to respect historic structures but revitalize them, and to bring communities that were displaced by redevelopment and highway construction back to life.”

Hansen explains that redevelopment projects in Sacramento’s downtown neighborhoods currently face a number of barriers, including policies and standards that make infill development and redevelopment complicated and costly compared to new development in the city’s outer suburbs.

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Biking means business in Long Beach, CA

Long Beach, a city of more than 460,000 people in Southern California, has a goal to become “the most bicycle-friendly city in America.” The city is so committed to this idea that the slogan is even inscribed on the city hall building itself. Bike Long Beach, a program of the city’s Public Works Department, estimates that the number of people who bike or walk to work in Long Beach has tripled since 2012. A local commitment to safe and convenient bike facilities preceded this increase; under the leadership of its former mobility coordinator, Charles Grandy, the city pledged more then $20 million for bike-related projects.

Bike Long Beach also notes a 50 percent increase in cycling citywide, and local businesses are reaping the benefits. “The increase in ridership is in our business areas — it’s Retro Row, it’s Second Street, it’s the corner at Broadway and Pine,” said Alan Crawford, Bicycle Coordinator for the City of Long Beach, in an interview with the Long Beach Gazette. “That’s what we want, because if they come by bike, they are not parking cars and we now free up that parking space for people who live further away.”

These trends also reflect an ongoing effort to build stronger connections between the city’s cycling and business communities. In 2010, Long Beach pioneered the concept of Bike Friendly Business Districts, districts where merchants actively incorporate cycling into events, promotions, services and day-to-day business operations. According to April Economides, President of Green Octopus Consulting, “If we can bike there instead of drive there, we’re healthier, we’re happier, we’re opening up car parking spaces for folks who need it and we’re helping our local businesses. It just gets to the heart of everything that’s most important about creating a healthy community.”
Long Beach, a city of more than 460,000 people in Southern California, has a goal to become “The Most Bicycle-Friendly City in America.” The city is so committed to this idea that the slogan is even inscribed on the city hall building itself. Bike Long Beach, a program of the city’s Public Works Department, estimates that the number of people who bike or walk to work in Long Beach has tripled since 2012. A local commitment to safe and convenient bike facilities preceded this increase; under the leadership of its former mobility coordinator, Charles Grandy, the city pledged more then $20 million for bike-related projects.

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A closer look at Measuring Sprawl: Land use mix in Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara, CA’s high score for land mix use—the diversity of jobs, homes, and services within its neighborhoods—helped it land near the top of our recent Measuring Sprawl 2014 report’s rankings for American cities. As Measuring Sprawl 2014 explores, a high overall rating for connectivity and compactness is linked to improved health outcomes, greater economic mobility, and lower combined spending on housing and transportation costs.

Santa Barbara’s outstanding level of land use mixture is the result of 25 years of planning, design, and implementation driven by both community and local government leaders. But the city’s key policies and strategies hold lessons for every community, no matter what size or how far along in the process.

Factor in focus: Land Use Mix
Measuring Sprawl 2014 used four factors to evaluate development: density, land use mix, street connectivity and activity centering. Every major metro area in the country was evaluated on these factors, which were then combined to create a metro area’s overall Sprawl Index score.

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EPA recognizes seven communities with National Award for Smart Growth Achievement

Atlanta BeltlineThe Atlanta Beltline, one of this year’s award winners. Photo by Christoper T. Martin, courtesy of Atlanta Beltline.

This morning in Washington, DC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will recognize some of the best examples of smart growth projects in the country today.

The annual National Award for Smart Growth Achievement, established in 2002, recognizes exceptional approaches to development that respect the environment, foster economic vitality, enhance quality of life, and provide new opportunities for disadvantaged communities.

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Vice-Mayor Anu Natarajan on building better in Fremont, CA

Vice-Mayor Anu Natarajan believes her city of Fremont, CA, can be an economic leader in the region and the country. Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council sat down with Vice-Mayor Natarajan to learn more about her ideas for building on the city’s existing diversity to make Fremont more vibrant and economically competitive.

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