Category Archives: Local government

Walkability and the risk of mortgage default

Read the full post from Community Builders.

We’ve been thinking a lot about walkability at Community Builders lately (see posts HERE and HERE), but a recent study from University of Arizona professor Gary Pivo takes the discussion one step (ha!) further, and strengthens the economic case for walkable communities (view the pdf of the study here).

Pivo looked at the relationship between mortgage default and walk scores for multifamily housing. He found a strong inverse relationship: low walk scores were associated with high risk of mortgage default, and high walk scores were associated with low risk of mortgage default. The relationship was strongest at the extremes:

“Where walk score was 80 or more (out of 100), the relative risk of default is 60 percent lower than where walk score is less than 80. Where walk score is 8 or less, default risk is 121 percent higher.”


3 pathways to a clean energy future

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

In this final installment of our eLab Accelerator blog series (read part 1 and part 2), we are reviewing three teams who are focused on developing strategies to understand and achieve clean energy futures.

The increasing capability and affordability of renewables and distributed resources, the pressure to combat climate change, and the need for a more resilient electricity system are creating opportunities as well as challenges the likes of which our electricity system has never faced before. By working together, these teams recognize that successful solutions must address not only the technical but also the social and creative complexity facing the electricity system.


Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design Invites Proposals for Rural Communities Facing Design Challenges

The Citizens’ Institute on Rural DesignTM (CIRD) has issued a request for proposals to rural communities facing design challenges – such as Main Street revitalization, how to manage and direct growth, design community-supportive transportation systems, preserve natural and historic landscapes and buildings, protect working agricultural lands, and provide adequate and affordable housing – who are interested in hosting a local workshop in 2014-2015.

Successful applicants will receive a $7,000 stipend and in-kind professional design expertise and technical assistance valued at $35,000. The deadline for submitting a proposal is Tuesday May 6, 2014 at 8:00 pm Central Time.

For more information or a copy of the RFP, see

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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Funding, Local government, Smart growth


6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Read the full post at Gizmodo.

It seems counterintuitive, right? Rip out eight lanes of freeway through the middle of your metropolis and you’ll be rewarded with not only less traffic, but safer, more efficient cities? But it’s true, and it’s happening in places all over the world.

Many freeway systems were overbuilt in an auto-obsessed era, only to realize later that cities are actually healthier, greener, and safer without them. Like freeway cap parks, which hope to bridge the chasms through severed neighborhoods—Boston’s Big Dig is a great example—freeway removal projects try to eradicate and undo the damage wrought from highways, while creating new, multifunctional shared streets that can be utilized by transit, bikes, walkers and yes, even cars.

Okay, you’re thinking, but where do all the cars go? It turns out that when you take out a high-occupancy freeway it doesn’t turn the surface streets into the equivalent of the Autobahn. A theory called “induced demand” proves that if you make streets bigger, more people will use them. When you make them smaller, drivers discover and use other routes, and traffic turns out to be about the same. Don’t believe it? Check out these freeway removals in cities all over the world and see for yourself.


Wooden Skyscrapers Get Federal Support

Read the full story in FutureStructure.

The federal government is promoting an alternative building material for skyscrapers that’s as strong as steel or concrete, but with a smaller price tag and environmental footprint. The miracle product? Wood.

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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Green building, Local government


Smart Cities and the Technology of Walking

Read the full story in FutureStructure.

Fueled by a fundamental shift in the way people move about communities, cities, and regions, new innovations are being introduced that can make walking a high-tech exercise.


Building 21st-Century Cities Means Taking the Long View

Read the full story at FutureStructure.

Sustainability is not just intended to mitigate climate change — it’s also about finding ways to be resilient and live alongside the environment.

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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Climate change, Local government


The thorny matter of gentrification

Read the full post at NRDC.

A few days ago, I made a presentation to a group of thoughtful and accomplished philanthropists on sustainable land development.  I made a strong pitch for urban revitalization and was countered with a question about gentrification, the messy phenomenon that occurs if longtime residents of older neighborhoods find themselves priced out of their own communities as those neighborhoods become more sought-after and valuable.  To be honest, I don’t think I handled the question particularly well.

I never do, really, even though it comes up a lot.  The issue is just too thorny on all sides and, in most cases, racially charged, because minority populations are the ones who feel squeezed when more affluent, generally white, residents rediscover cities and move in.  I have a lot of sympathy for long-timers who fear losing control of their neighborhoods and, in too many cases, their very homes as rents and property taxes go up with increased value brought on by increased demand.  But, on the other hand, the environmental, fiscal and, yes, social benefits of revitalization and repopulation of our older, frequently distressed neighborhoods are so substantial that I believe strongly that they must continue.

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Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Local government, Smart growth


The Price Of Ignoring Climate Change Is Far Higher Than We Think

Read the full post at Fast Company.

In the future, society will have to pay for each puff of carbon emissions emitted today. And the bill from the damages–from rising seas and the spread of diseases–is going to cause sticker shock.


Exit Interview: Melanie Nutter, City of San Francisco

Read the full interview at GreenBiz.

Exit Interview is an occasional series profiling sustainability professionals who recently have left their job.

Melanie Nutter has been at the leading edge of sustainable cities — from the inside. For a little over three years, until this January, she served as director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, the lead sustainability agency for one of the world’s most progressive cities. Along the way, she helped pull together her counterparts at cities in North America to form a peer-to-peer network aimed at sharing best practices and accelerating the application of good ideas.

In the wake of her departure — to do consulting, for the time being — she shared lessons learned about how to push sustainability initiatives inside cities, as well as cities’ growing interest in resiliency. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Local government, Smart growth


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