Module IV – Sustainable Plans & Codes

During Week 5, our class read an overview of sustainability plans and codes.  The articles we read are summarized below:

As sustainable development aims to meet current development needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their need, there are inherent conflicts between economic development, environmental preservation, and equity.  David Godschalk in “Land Use Planning Challenges: Coping with Conflicts in Visions of Sustainable Development and Livable Communities” presents three conflicts: property, resource, and development.  He also discusses value conflicts in livable communities and compares New Urbanism and Smart Growth principles.  Godschalk says there are three value conflicts between livability and sustainability: growth management, green cities, and gentrification.  He applies the three value conflicts to Denver’s planning ecology as a case study to determine how Denver responds to these issues.

The purpose of Philip Berke’s “Evolution of Green Community Planning, Scholarship, and Practice is to provide a historic context for the evolution of planning practice and the connection between development and the environment.  He describes five primary dimensions of green communities: harmony with natural systems, human health, spiritual well being and renewal, livable built environments, and fair-share community.  Then he discusses planning in different eras: Early Utopian Visions, Design with Nature and the Environment Movement, Linking Local Actions to Regional and Global Solution, and Sustainable Development as a New Planning Agenda.

In “Are We Planning for Sustainable Development?” An Evaluation of 30 Comprehensive Plans by Berke and Conroy thirty comprehensive plans were coded for sustainability based on six predefined sustainability principles. The plans were divided into two separate groups, those that use sustainable development as an organizing principle and those that do not. The study found that the sustainable development concept has little effect on the amount of sustainability principles within the plan. Jacksonville, FL received the highest score and it is not organized by the sustainability principles. The authors’ site two reasons for this: 1) due to political acceptability, sustainability words may have been purposefully left out, 2) planners may not have been exposed to the sustainability concept; plans were written from 1985 – 1995. Plans written during this time were advancing the livability of the built environment. “Findings further show that plans have not branched out into nontraditional subject matter involving a host of other sustainability principles” (Berke and Conroy, p 30). This suggests that a new approach from planners must be taken and that sustainability should be incorporated as a ‘fundamental aspect of planning education… should be an axiom of planning’ (p 30). This would include expanding planning to be more creative in land use and urban design, and basing progress on data.

Author Kent E. Portney profiles eight cities in Chapter 7 of Take Sustainable Cities Serious: Austin, Boulder, Chattanooga, Jacksonville, Portland, Santa Monica, San Francisco, and Seattle that scored in the top nine spots in his twenty-four cities’ scores on the “Taking Sustainable Cities Seriously” index (Portney, p 71). These eight cities may be getting sustainability right, he argues, but even in his conclusion Portney does not claim with certainty. The cities are unique in their demographics, size, location, political characteristics and growth rates. What the cities do share is a documented effort towards making their city sustainable. A few interesting facts:

  • Chattanooga sustainability efforts started in 1970’s well before other cities profiled.
  • All cities grew prior to sustainability initiatives with Chattanooga as the exception.
  • All cities profiled have an indicators project with the exception of Chattanooga.
  • NGOs/nonprofits started or added significant momentum to cities sustainability.
  • Sustainable city populations are Republican, Democratic and in between.

The final two articles we read look at contemporary principles and practice of local planning, Sedway’s Transforming Policy into Reality and Mandelker’s Zoning Code Form and Function.  Sedway focuses on the implementation of planning policies at the local level.  He describes obstacles to implementation and how to develop an implementation program.  Mandelker describes the different types of zoning, who participates in zoning and the associated procedures.  He also discusses the challenges related to zoning reform and some of the inadequacies of zoning.


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