Sustainability Impact Assessment

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Link to full Sustainability Impact Analysis component of report

During discussions with the Environmental Policy Commission (EPC), several members noted that the current EAP 2030 does not: 1) discuss in depth the current and future environmental challenges confronting the city or 2) document/quantify the sustainability impacts that flow from existing and future policies, programs, and projects adopted and implemented by the City of Alexandria. What are the sustainability impacts from existing lifestyles and businesses—how we live, work and play today on future generations?

Without more data and information, the City cannot accurately gauge whether its entire Eco-City Initiative has sufficient resources and staffing to match the scale of existing and future environmental challenges as well as prioritize investments in ecosystem services. Moreover, when Alexandria policymakers make future infrastructure or development decisions, they do not have a comprehensive tool or process that can assess the interplay of potential social, environmental, and economic costs and benefits.

RECOMMENDATION: The Mayor, City Council, and City Manager should adopt a process for assessing the sustainability impact for major development and policy decisions.

Conducting a sustainability impact assessment would provide a new long-range tool that can determine how existing or proposed policy or program interventions might positively or negatively impact the city’s goals to become a healthier, sustainable and just community. When measured against baseline data such an assessment process could help the city more accurately set and achieve many of the longer range targets set forth in the current EAP. For example, if the city adopted more aggressive urban forestry efforts to exceed the proposed 40% crown coverage goal, what positive impact might that have on the city’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? They would also be able to estimate the long-range capital costs for expanding green infrastructure which in turn would provide data to make the policy and political case for developing new forms of capital improvement financing to support urban forestry and green infrastructure expansion. Sustainability impact assessments would also complement scenario planning in light of other critical environmental challenges, such as sea level rise on the Potomac from the most recent climate change data (See student policy brief by Zach Krohmal).