Category Archives: New World Planning

The odds and ends that I am putting together with which we can begin to build a truly resilient community.

Solid Planning in Portland

Lexington is so small that we can begin thinking about 10 minute neighborhoods….Do we have them already?  If so, why dont we talk more about how important that is?


Innovative Mayor Sam Adams Builds a Cleaner Portland

Portland Mayor Sam Adams

In honor of our Fast Cities Breakfast [1] coming up on June 22, we spoke with Portland mayor Sam Adams, who, in his first State of City address last February, vowed to make Portland “the most sustainable city in the world.”

And this wasn’t some populist politician’s empty promise. In his first year in office, Adams implemented the Climate Action Plan [2], a roadmap to cutting Carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050; he’s merged the Office of Sustainable Development with the Bureau of Planning to infuse all city plans with sustainability; he’s worked toward allocating $20 million for new “bicycle boulevards [3]”; and he’s started a pilot program for clean energy retrofitting.

Adams has proven that even in slow economic times, he’s still moving Portland forward as a Fast City [4].

Fast Company: In your first year in office, what would you say is your biggest accomplishment in Portland?

Mayor Sam Adams: I would say Clean Energy Works [5], which is the nation’s only consortium that offers on-bill financing for clean energy upgrades and retrofits. It addresses the hidden roadblock for sustainability, which is the lack of financing for clean technology upgrades for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings and facilities. This kind of financial tool is now needed more than ever. We’ve also embarked upon a 25-year strategic plan for the city. Called the Portland Plan [6], it better aligns the $9.7 billion in government spending that happens in Portland, and over time, make it more accountable to the public. I’m the mayor, but I’m only one of about 45 public decision makers on issues within the city.

FC: As just one decision maker, you must deal with many city officials, as well as the public. How do you keep Portland innovative in a system that tends to grind slowly?

SA: By being strategic, having a pull on the community, and taking risks. I’m always willing to put an idea out there, and in a friendly way, challenge others to come up with something better. I have a point of view, and I want to challenge others in an energetic and open way to come up with better ideas–and they often do.

FC: Especially in this tough economic climate though, how as mayor can you keep putting out bold ideas for Portland?

SA: With the federal stimulus, for example, we took our $2.4 million from HUD and the Department of Energy, and used it as venture capital to get Clean Energy Works going. We could have doled it out to individual facilities and buildings, which would have been more direct and politically expedient. But instead, we wanted to create a return on investments in a new industry. In this era of very tight revenues and budget cuts, it’s a lot about rethinking: About better aligning what you do have, and about paying attention to the quality and the effectiveness of what you’re doing.

FC: What Portland initiatives would you suggest for other big cities?

SA: Our open source and open data initiatives. We have CivicApps [7], where we’re turning over our information to the public and making government services more accountable.

Portland CivicApps

We’re also working to make every section of Portland a complete 20-minute neighborhood to strengthen our local economy. Two-thirds of all trips in Portland and in most American cities are not about getting to and from work. So if I can offer quality, affordable goods and services, eliminate food deserts, have neighborhoods with schools and parks and amenities–if I can create these 20-minute complete neighborhoods all over Portland–it strengthens our local economy. We drive 20% less than cities of comparable size, and because we don’t manufacture cars, produce oil, or have car insurance companies, every dollar that we don’t spend elsewhere, will stay in Portland’s economy. There’s about $850 million that stays in Portlanders’s pockets because we drive less. With a 20-minute neighborhood, also reduce congestion and meet our climate action plan goals.

FC: You’ve promised to make Portland the most sustainable city in the world. Do you think it’s a necessity today to view Portland with a global mindset?

SA: Yes. You have to be a city of the world. I spend a lot more time traveling than the previous mayor because part of my job is to sell the Portland brand. Otherwise, companies in China or Japan might say, Why would I hire an architecture or engineering firm from Portland, Oregon? Portland what? Part of my job is being a salesman. We have a natural strength in Portland around sustainability and clean technology, and it’s my job to help commercialize our local laboratory and export it around the world.

As for sustainability, there’s still vestiges of the old days when people thought of sustainably as an economic caricature. Here in Portland, we’ve shown that it isn’t a stark choice between prosperity or sustainability. We’re a city that tries to live our values: the triple-bottom line of social, economic, environmental justice.

FC: If you could only accomplish one more thing before leaving office, what would that be?

SA: It would be to grow Portland’s economy into the most sustainable and equitable in the world. I think we have it in our capacity, but we have a long way to go. We were just named the most sustainable city in the United States. We are often ranked top 10 most sustainable cities in the rarefied air of Copenhagen and Stockholm. But as I like to tell people, that should inspire us to do more because it really is high-praise for Portland, on a relatively low standard for the United States.


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Bikes as economic development

We’re still chasing auto suppliers and pimping eds and meds….bikes are the part of our real economic future….


The attraction of cycling as a green, healthy, and cost-saving form of transport is huge for consumers, especially so at a time when the environment and world financial woes dominate the zeitgeist. Businesses doing something a little different for cyclists are a strong bet for success. Here’s five we recently spotted:

1. GREEN GOOSE — As part of their package of web services allowing users to track healthy lifestyle achievements, Green Goose’s bike-mounted sensors record cycling activity and upload the data over wifi. The company also provides services to help employers encourage cycling to work.

2. E-WERK — The energy generated pushing those pedals has long been tapped to power lights using a dynamo. But why stop there? German manufacturer Busch & Müller sells a dynamo-powered power supply allowing users to charge phones, MP3 players and other mobile devices. E-Werk comes with a selection of connectors including USB.

3. VELOCOMPUTER — Some cyclists may prefer not to fit an assortment of paraphernalia to their bikes, be it for security, aerodynamic or purely aesthetic reasons. VeloComputer is a mobile phone-based alternative to traditional bike computers and uses the accelerometer built in to many modern smartphones.

4. THE HUMBLE VINTAGE — If a cyclist is away from home and hasn’t got their bike with them, they may want to rent something with a bit of personality that doesn’t clearly signpost them as a tourist. Melbourne-based The Humble Vintage refurbishes classic and vintage cycles as a rental alternative to the ubiquitous MTB.

5. BICYKLO — Aiming to make it easier to find the perfect cycle tour, Bicyklo aggregates thousands of tour offers from hundreds of operators worldwide into a single database, allowing cyclists to search by area, duration and type rather than have to seek out individual operators and investigate what they have on offer.


Filed under Economy, New World Planning

Planning for the future in SoCal – applies to us too

A video created for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) presents a serious look at what infill development would look like in Ventura and Fullerton.

Planners, ex-mayors and architects are interviewed about how the region has changed, and how infill is the solution. (And the very same issues apply to us here.)

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Turning a parking lot into a community garden

Pomegranate Center is the great firm that we’ve partnered with to help us plan and build the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden. They do community improving work all over – here is one great example.  We are fortunate to have this group working in our city – we can learn from them, and then keep it going ourselves!  This is from their website.

Crossroads Community Garden gateway

Crossroads Shopping Center in Bellevue, WA, is an extraordinary gathering place for many reasons: a superb international food court, free live music, a farmer’s market, and fierce chess tournaments.  So it was no surprise to us when Ron Sher, Crossroad’s developer, told us about his vision to turn part of a parking lot into a community garden. Pomegranate Center worked with gardeners and volunteers over three days to transform this lot into a beautiful, memorable community space.

On June 12, 2009, the sound of power tools bounced off of pavement and across the mall parking lot calling the attention of shoppers and movie-goers passing by. Over the next three days, we worked together to build a garden fence, gateway, kiosk, benches and a picnic shelter. Over 30 volunteers – including every community gardener with a plot on the site – gave their time to this project. “I knew we were getting a fence,” said Alex, a new gardener at the site and avid volunteer at the workshops. “But I had no idea it would be this beautiful!”

Crossroads is now home to yet another unique community space – a parking lot p-patch!

Crossroads P-Patch Painting

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Lexington 2030 – A Vision

What will we be like in 20 years?  20 years ago this summer, the first Bush war for oil began its intial stages.  Tim Berners-Lee was formulating his idea for the world-wide web – yeah the web as we know it hadn’t been born.  The world’s population was 5.2 billion humans.  (Today, it’s 6.8 billion. When I was born in 1964, it was 3.2 billion)

This vision acknowledges the imminent threats of energy descent, and climate change, and the end of globalization.  It accepts the fact that “local” is the path to independence.

This is based on Portland’s climate action plan primarily, as well as other peak oil plans such as Bloomington’s.

I’ve been thinking about what Lexington should be doing to prepare for its next comprehensive plan.  I’m betting on business as usual – denial is very strong here – but I’m also beginning now to sound the alarm:  business as usual will not improve or even maintain our quality of life.  And that’s really all we have, isn’t it?

This is not about my values.  This isn’t a choice between values.  The world is changing rapidly to the negative. We must act now to protect ourselves and our place.

Here’s the goal:  An 80% reduction in carbon usage by 2030.   

An 80 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2030 will entail re-imagining the entire community— transitioning away from fossil fuels and strengthening the local economy while shifting fundamental patterns of urban form, transportation, buildings and consumption.

A vision:

■ In 2030, Lexington and Fayette County are at the heart of a vibrant region with a thriving economy, rich cultural community and diverse, ecologically sustainable neighborhoods.

■ Personal mobility and access to services has never been better. Every resident lives in a walkable and bikeable neighborhood that includes retail businesses, schools, parks and jobs. Most people rely on walking, bicycling and transit rather than driving. Pedestrians and bicyclists are prominent in the region’s commercial centers, corridors and neighborhoods.

Public transportation, bikeways, sidewalks and greenways connect neighborhoods. When people do need to drive, vehicles are highly efficient and run on low-carbon electricity and renewable fuels.

■ Green jobs are a key component of the regional economy. Products and services related to clean energy, green building, sustainable food, green infrastructure, and waste reuse and recovery providing living-wage jobs throughout the community, and Lexington is one of North America’s  hubs for sustainable industry and clean technology.

■ Homes, offices and other buildings deliver superb performance. They are durable and highly efficient, healthy, comfortable and powered primarily by solar, wind and other renewable resources.

■ The urban forest and green roofs cover the community, reducing the urban heat island effect, sequestering carbon, providing habitat, and cleaning the air and water.

■ Food and agriculture are central to the economic and cultural vitality of the community, with backyard gardens, farmers’ markets and community gardens productive and thriving. A large share of food comes from farms within the region, and residents eat a healthy diet, consuming more locally grown grains, vegetables and fruits.

■ The benefits of green infrastructure, walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, quality housing, and convenient, affordable transportation options and public health services are shared equitably throughout the community.

■ Residents and businesses use resources extremely efficiently, minimizing and reusing solid waste, water, stormwater and energy.

■ The Bluegrass region has prepared for a changed climate, making infrastructure more resilient, developing reliable supplies of water, food and energy and improving public health services. Policies, investments and programs are in place to protect the residents most vulnerable to climate change and rising energy prices.

What do you think?

If you care about these issues at all, the City of Portland and Multnomah County Climate Action Plan is a must read:

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Filed under Economy, Environment, New World Planning, Peak Oil

Buffalo Ditches Zoning

Maybe a city has to hit rock bottom before it actually practices “innovation” rather than just preaching it.  If so, we’re not ready to be innovative….and that’s a shame because we could really use it.
Buffalo Green Code: Mayor Brown announces zoning code overhaul

Buffalo Green Code: Mayor Brown announces zoning code overhaul EB_Blue April 23, 2010 9:12 AM Comments: 7 Mayor Byron Brown announced today his administration is moving forward on implementing a green, form-based code in Buffalo.

Mayor Brown chose the Larkin District as the backdrop to announce his Earth Day plans for what he’s dubbing the “Buffalo Green Code,” a replacement code that will completely scrap Buffalo’s existing zoning ordinance, an unwieldy document last updated in 1951.

Listen to the podcast from today’s event here.

“Our zoning reform effort will act as the foundation for the new place-based economic development strategy for Buffalo’s neighborhoods in every section of the city,” the Mayor said. “The new Buffalo zoning ordinance will be known as the Buffalo Green Code. It will embody 21st century values about economic development, sustainability, and walkable, green urbanism.”


The announcement sets the stage for Buffalo to join a progressive vanguard of cities – including Denver and Miami – that are replacing conventional, use-based codes with streamlined, form-based regulations built to encourage mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods. Buffalo’s new Green Code is also intended to support economic development by simplifying and shortening the development review process.


“The new Buffalo Green Code will be the first opportunity Buffalonians have had in nearly sixty years to establish a new regulatory framework for the development of our neighborhoods,” said Brown. “Zoning is the tool by which we build our communities. It determines what gets built and where. It’s essentially Buffalo’s DNA. The process to re-imagine the city’s future and write a code that matches the community’s vision will be an exciting opportunity for the people of Buffalo. As this process gets rolled out, over a period we expect to take three years of serious work, I invite all citizens in every section of the city to participate and take an active role. We need your help and we need your input.”


The Mayor was joined by a cadre of planning staff and citizen supporters, including Howard Zemsky of the Larkin Development Group and Rev. Darius Pridgen of True Bethel Baptist Church. On hand to describe how the process will unfold was Jacques Gourguechon, the principal of the renowned Chicago planning firm, Camiros,which is partnering with Boston-based Goody Clancy to write Buffalo’s new code. “I love the term the ‘Green Code’ that the Mayor is using,” said Gourguechon. “I think that this is exactly our philosophy in how we’re going to look at this.”


The Larkin District, now undergoing millions of dollars in mixed-use redevelopment, was described by Zemsky as one of the acute examples in the city of the disparity between the outmoded mandates of the 1951 zoning code and the community’s vision. “It’s great we’re going to have a new zoning code that puts people and sustainability and livability and quality of life ahead of the automobile,” said Zemsky. “We couldn’t be happier. We hoped when we started this project that we would have a Mayor that would embrace a visionary rewrite of the 1951 code and I think we should all be very grateful that we clearly do.”

Special thanks to David Torke for these images and for recording the podcast. Check out Torke’s slideshow for more images from today’s event.



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Alternative Transportation in Fort Collins

This is from a report I did for Bluegrass Tomorrow – Bluegrass Innovision 2018:  Lessons in Innovation – I’ll post more later… the whole thing here:

“IMAGINE… a modern, world-class community, continuing to transform from a small city to a progressive metropolitan center, successfully channeling “growth” into positive “community development”.  (from the city website…)

Wouldnt that be nice to have here?


Building on a 20 year old concept (and thus proving that a good idea never dies), community leaders are planning the creation of a central transportation and development spine in the heart of the city. The Mason Corridor is a five mile Bus Rapid Transit and pedestrian/bike path that will, over time, take on a regional aspect as it connects with other communities in the region as well as Denver, 63 miles to the south.

Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, combines many of the features of rail transit with the flexibility of busses. BRT is a very cost-effective technology, at a fraction of the cost of light rail; the entire corridor will be implemented for less than the cost of one mile of conventional rail. The bike and pedestrian path within the corridor will connect with others throughout the region. Community leaders are planning for this corridor to provide the framework for future economic development and serve as “the foundation to encourage community partnerships, private investment, active living, and attractive, urban lifestyles.”

This corridor is a fundamental connection between the city, Colorado State University, and local business and neighborhoods. It is quite simply an example of “growth without sprawl.” Station areas along the BRT system will include entertainment, housing, workplaces, retail, dining and parks. This type of development around station areas is often called Transit Oriented Development or TOD. TOD’s foster attractive and sustainable communities that appeal to a variety of lifestyles and are seen as a way to bring life to the community and foster the vision of Fort Collins as a regionally and nationally renowned destination. The project’s total estimated price tag is $74 million with an estimated 96 percent, coming from federal and state funding grants. A Congressional earmark for $11.2 million to begin the first phase is pending.

for more info:


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