What are Sustainable Communities?

What are Sustainable Communities?

Jason Segedy
on Aug 05, 2011

I am Vice-Chairing the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium. We are beginning to have conversations about what makes quality, connected, and sustainable places. I am interested in your thoughts on this topic, so I'll be throwing out some thoughts for you to react to.

Participants (15) See All

What do you think?

Anonymous
on 2014-10-26T05:55:54+00:00
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Recent Activity

Rev. Allen V. Harris
on Sep 22, 2011
"Just a quick response, Jason...  I would say "community" is not to be confused with "uniformity"..."
Jason Segedy
on Sep 07, 2011
""What will make a community livable is addressing the needs of those living in it." So very..."
Tara Sturm
on Sep 07, 2011
"This is a rather sad example of a disconnect with the community and trying to plan a sustainable..."
Tara Sturm
on Sep 07, 2011
"I don't think it's a long-shot to employ some basic principles of environmental sustainability..."
Lynn M Clark
on Sep 06, 2011
"I agree with Tara on needing the input of the residents about their needs. But it also needs to..."
Tara Sturm
on Sep 06, 2011
"I would pretty much agree with all of those qualities that you listed in a general context. I..."
Mandy Metcalf
on Aug 18, 2011
"Which is not to say that we shouldn't think about how to make Solon more transit-friendly. We..."
Mandy Metcalf
on Aug 17, 2011
"Agreed! Don't spend the money in Solon. Spend it on creating policies that benefit places like..."
Alex Keleman
on Aug 16, 2011
"Mandy, 2% in Solon without cars? Thanks for this - you made my point. People who either don't..."
Mandy Metcalf
on Aug 16, 2011
"You asked where are the great masses that can't get around by car - Solon: 2%, or 187 households..."
Nancy Reeves
on Aug 16, 2011
"I agree that we need to create well paid jobs that individuals with a variety of gifts find..."
Jason Segedy
on Aug 16, 2011
"There has to be a place in our economy for the traditional blue collar worker that originally..."
Jason Segedy
on Aug 12, 2011
"Take your time, Nancy. I'm sure that you'll come up with something great! Looking forward to it."
Nancy Reeves
on Aug 12, 2011
"(To both Jason and John) I've been thinking about policies, and have some ideas. Unfortunately..."
John McGovern
on Aug 12, 2011
"Nancy: I wholeheartedly agree with your definition of sustainability, especially when you begin..."
Ryan Noles
on Aug 11, 2011
"the other part of that I didn't respond to in the last post: I think ultimately..."
Ryan Noles
on Aug 11, 2011
"Well I think there is reinvestment, though if it is sustainable or not is arguable. I am focusing..."
John McGovern
on Aug 10, 2011
"I'd look to common sense solutions that reduce transportation cost while increasing convenience..."
Alex Keleman
on Aug 10, 2011
"As I said above: "Nothing short of draconian, NEORSD-type, EPA-inspired dictats will separate..."
John McGovern
on Aug 10, 2011
"Ryan, what do mean when you say 'a community reinvests in itself'? Who is responsible for that..."
Ronald Sarstedt
on Aug 10, 2011
"A holistically integrated whole."
Alex Keleman
on Aug 10, 2011
"Where are these great masses who can't around by car and are demanding alternatives? Come to the..."
Angie Schmitt
on Aug 10, 2011
"Well, if you have a community where you can't get around without a car and you have diminishing..."
Alex Keleman
on Aug 10, 2011
"What does "sustainable" mean, and can it be defined from multiple perspectives, or only from the..."
Peter Comings
on Aug 08, 2011
"See, I told Jason someone will have said it better. Well put."
Ryan Noles
on Aug 08, 2011
"I think a sustainable community is one that continually reinvests in itself in such a way that it..."
Arlin J. Wallace
on Aug 08, 2011
"I agree with your definition. The problem with "non specification" is that it flies in the face..."
Angie Schmitt
on Aug 08, 2011
"Yeah. I mean, we're not talking about emptying out the suburbs here. We just aren't in a..."
Nancy Reeves
on Aug 08, 2011
"Playing devil's advocate, just a bit, what if the existing infrastructure which supports the..."
Jason Russell
on Aug 08, 2011
"I would say a sustainable community is one that provides options for all residents. Offering a..."
Jason Segedy
on Aug 16, 2011 - 12:57 pm

There has to be a place in our economy for the traditional blue collar worker that originally built this region. I don't think we can have a sustainable economy without finding out what that place is:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-16/missing-toolboxes-lost-men-signal-u-s-woes-jeffrey-goldberg.html#0_undefined,0_

 

Responses(1)

Nancy Reeves
on Aug 16, 2011

I agree that we need to create well paid jobs that individuals with a variety of gifts find satisfying. Not everyone is suited (by skill or temperament) to earn a living primarily by using their mind.

On the other hand, I am bothered by the "poor little boy who now only has girl's work options open to him" tone of the middle part of the article."

The reality is that the equivalent occupations for women whose education ended at high school (or lower) were things like waitressing, housecleaning, etc. - things that paid them perhaps half of what their male equivalents were earning. Those jobs haven't vanished at the rate the industrial strength jobs that have always been more easily accessible to their male counterparts have. But those women, whose opportunities have always been more limited, are now competing for "their" jobs with their out-of-work male counterparts who resent (according to the article) being consigned to women's work.

The loss of solid jobs for men without a college education is tragic - but it is equally tragic that they were never there in any substantial way for women in the first place.

We do need to find a substitute in our economy for those blue collar jobs - let's just try to design a replacement that is inviting to, and accessible by, folks with pink collars as well as blue.

 
Expand This Thread
Ronald Sarstedt
on Aug 10, 2011 - 1:27 pm

A holistically integrated whole.

 
Ryan Noles
on Aug 08, 2011 - 5:28 pm

I think a sustainable community is one that continually reinvests in itself in such a way that it can leverage its assets for economic, social and cultural benefits (for the whole community). In order to be competitive, I think a sustainable community must reinvest in itself in innovative and creative ways.

 

Responses(3)

John McGovern
on Aug 10, 2011

Ryan, what do mean when you say 'a community reinvests in itself'?Who is responsible for that and what is their stake?

 
Ryan Noles
on Aug 11, 2011

Well I think there is reinvestment, though if it is sustainable or not is arguable. I am focusing more on public dollars-- when we pay taxes that money is reinvested in the community, for road repairs, programs, subsidies for development, and so on. I think that this could be done in ways that are better for our long term health than short term profit. As Angie has pointed out, it really doesn't make sense to build new interchanges and subsidize big box retail when existing streets are desperately in need of repair and older commercial districts are falling by the wayside. It seems that reinvesting in the latter is more sustainable than the former, not only for environmental reasons but for economic ones as well. I really believe that there is a wealth of assets in our region and that many of them are not reinvested in wisely or leveraged to their full potential. For example, there was a discussion on the Sound of Ideas this morning-- I forget the name of the guest, but he said that when the Federal budget is cut, NASA Glenn has historically cut programs to adjust. He suggested that instead of simply cutting programs when the money isn't there, the center should work on programs that could more directly impact the private sector, which would benefit Greater Cleveland's economy and make the center's programs harder to defund. This seems like a good reinvestment of Federal taxes into the community that would have long term impacts and may be more sustainable.

 
Ryan Noles
on Aug 11, 2011

the other part of that I didn't respond to in the last post: I think ultimately citizens/taxpayers are responsible for the structure and health of the community. I would agree that there are certain groups that have led development in certain directions, but ultimately the voting public has the power to change the direction in which their community is headed.

 
Expand This Thread
Jason Russell
on Aug 08, 2011 - 3:59 pm

I would say a sustainable community is one that provides options for all residents. Offering a variety of housing stock and several modes of transportation are available. Has a mixture of uses providing adequate tax support and provides many of the retail services that residents may need on a day to day basis (not big box).

I would also counter your question with a question. How do we make existing communities sustainable? The Solons of the region aren't going anywhere, but realities of sprawl are quickly impacting them. So are there ways to make them more sustainable?

 
Angie Schmitt
on Aug 07, 2011 - 1:50 pm

My opinion is that sustainable communities are places where you can get around without a car.

The exception would be communities that are sitting on 60-years of petroleum reserves that they intend to mine for their own consumption. But only if said community charges $11 per gallon in order to offset environmental costs.

I live in a sustainable Northeast Ohio community: Cleveland's Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, Walkscore 89%. Many of NE Ohio's neglected urban neighborhoods are ready made sustainable communities.

 
Jason Segedy
on Aug 05, 2011 - 5:55 pm

What are the attributes of a quality place?

Examples: Reliable public transit, sidewalks, bike facilities, highway access, density of development, community cohesion, mixed use, adequate parking, open space, parkland, public water/sewer service, low taxes, access to jobs, access to shopping, low crime, good schools, cultural amenities (libraries, museums, etc.), aesthetically pleasing urban design and architecture, etc.

NOTE: Not everyone would agree with these things that I’ve listed. Furthermore, many of these things are very subjective. How much parking is adequate? How “good” are “good schools”? What is aesthetically pleasing architecture?

NOTE: Many of these things that we regard as making a quality place tend to work at cross-purposes with one another: Open space vs. density of development. Adequate parking vs. reliable public transit. Trade-offs are normally required, based on the geographic context. Urban areas will have less parking, but be more transit friendly. Rural areas will have more open space, but less cultural amenities. On the other hand, everyone in every geographic context wants less crime and better schools, but the urban planning profession has virtually no ability to deliver either of these outcomes.

These “quality place” attributes also take on relatively greater/lesser importance when viewed through the lenses of:

• Geographic context (urban, suburban, exurban, rural)• Demographic context (age, income, race, class, household type)

For example, while good schools may be important, they are less important to singles and empty nesters, and more important to families with children. While access to public transit may be important, it is more important to those without cars. Access to jobs is less important to retirees than it is to working people. Similarly, being able to walk to a store may be more important to urban residents, and less important to suburban residents.

 

Responses(34)

Jason Segedy
on Aug 05, 2011

What do words like “Community” and “Place” really mean?

Planners are fond of these words. We all have a subjective idea of what a “community” is or what a “place” is. People instinctively know the difference between a “neighborhood” and a “subdivision”, and they instinctively know the difference between a neighborhood business district and a strip mall. They know that one seems like a “place” and the other does not. They know that “place” does not always equate to “political unit”.

We have places (e.g. Montrose) that are not political units, but not exactly “communities” either. We also have newer political units (e.g. the cities of Green and New Franklin) that are not exactly “places” or “communities”, but are rather collections of unincorporated places like Portage Lakes, Manchester, Greensburg, Uniontown, etc. Larger cities like Cleveland are certainly places, but they are made up of many neighborhoods that all have their own unique identities, opportunities, and challenges. Edgewater and Hough may both be places in Cleveland, but they are very different communities, with different needs and different priorities.

We also have communities that are cultural. They are collections of people with similar racial, or ethnic, or class identities, and are not explicitly geographic, but do have a geographic component to them. The Black community, the Jewish community, or the Hispanic community are examples of these types of communities.

We’ll have to make sense of what these two terms, “community” and “place” really mean. Then we’ll have to identify them. And after that, we’ll have to try to figure out if (and how, and how much) we can go about improving them and making them more sustainable.

 
Jason Segedy
on Aug 05, 2011

What does “Sustainability” really mean?

Given a long enough timeline, nothing is “sustainable”. We live in a finite universe, subject to the law of entropy. The Roman Empire was sustainable. . .until it wasn’t. Youngstown was sustainable – supporting 170,000 residents. . .until it wasn’t. Downtown Akron used to be a retail mecca. Now it isn’t. Randall Park Mall used to be a sustainable retail area. Now it is a ghost town. Today’s Millionare’s row, may be tomorrow’s gutted neighborhood. And lest anyone think decay and decline is a strictly urban phenomenon, there are plenty of examples of functional obsolescence striking suburban and rural areas.

Given these realities, how can we make our region as sustainable as possible? , While change is an inescapable part of life, instability and chaos can be minimized. How do we make the economic “booms” longer and more commonplace, while minimizing the “busts” and making them as short and infrequent as possible. And how much of this can we really do with urban planning policy, or even public policy in general?

 
Jason Segedy
on Aug 05, 2011

There are two kinds of sustainability:

• Design sustainability (dependent upon the built environment - architecture, layout, design, infrastructure connections, location, etc.) – this is more easily influenced by “planning” as we know it, and it changes more slowly.• Economic sustainability (dependent upon the caprices of the free market) – this is much more complicated, depends upon supply and demand, and is difficult to impossible for “planners” to influence. It changes more rapidly.

For example, much of the City of Cleveland is largely sustainable in the first sense, but largely not in the second. Its marketability as a place to live, work, and shop has decayed much faster than its physical infrastructure and its other “legacy” advantages. It could certainly “come back”, but pure urban planning policy (e.g. spending money on infrastructure ) probably has a limited ability to make this happen.

Many present-day suburban communities are more sustainable in the second sense, but not in the first. They are presently “marketable”, but they lack “legacy” advantages like infrastructure and built environment cohesion. Some of these conditions are more easily changed by urban planning policy, but at a high cost – new public infrastructure, more cultural amenities, more private sector investment in housing and commercial real estate. It’s really expensive. Is it financially feasible for the public sector to try to make these places sustainable in the first sense? And while it may be feasible for the private sector to invest in these areas in the short run, it may not be in the long run. Will the private sector spend the money, reap the profits, and then cut and run? What happens when the well runs dry and the private sector investment stops?

What is “marketable” today may not be “marketable” tomorrow and vice-versa. So, our challenge is to strive for both “design” and “economic” sustainability without bankrupting the region. How do we do this? Can we do this? What will it mean for our older urban core areas and for our newer suburban areas?

This is a huge challenge. It could be credibly argued that our entire American economic system is unsustainable (it is predicated on short-term profit and continually expanded consumer demand – convincing people to buy bigger houses, bigger cars, and more stuff that they don’t necessarily need). This whole system is going through a major convulsion right now. The house of cards may be coming down. Demand is shrinking, the real estate market is in chaos, energy prices are unstable, and, most importantly, we, as an American society have trillions of dollars in future unfunded liabilities. How this plays out will have an influence upon whether or not our particular part of the world can truly be “sustainable”. We are not a “closed system” in Northeast Ohio, and we are locked into what happens with the national economy, whether we want to be or not. How much ability do we realistically have with this project to actually change this dynamic?

 
Jason Segedy
on Aug 05, 2011

What are we going to be advocating/championing/promoting?

If our Consortium is going to do anything to change Northeast Ohio, we are going to have to eventually champion and advocate for certain ideas, causes, and public policy priorities. We have to judge some ideas more worthy than others, and pursue those ideas to the exclusion of others. What should these ideas be?

Examples of public policy goals that we could pursue are things like:

• Stop “greenfield” development, and focus on “brownfield” and “infill” development• Spend much less money on new infrastructure, and focus on maintaining the infrastructure that we already have• Get more people living, working, and shopping in urban core communities• Build marketable new housing in urban areas• Promote higher density development/mixed use across the region, with a special focus on urban and older suburban areas• Improve urban design/architecture/built environment aesthetics across the region• Create a stable and cohesive built environment that is more attractive to residents and businesses

Many of us may not agree on these particular policy prescriptions. So we have two challenges before us:

1) Find out which policy prescriptions we agree upon2) Figure out how to effectively implement them so that we can transform our region

Challenge #1 will be difficult, but doable. Challenge #2 is predicated upon successfully navigating Challenge #1, and it will be much, much harder.

Creating a more sustainable region is going to take a lot of wisdom.

 
John McGovern
on Aug 10, 2011

I'd look to common sense solutions that reduce transportation cost while increasing convenience and of course safety.I'd think that these types of solutions would have similar appeal to small towns, suburbs, and big city neighborhoods. For the more conservative minded folks, I'd highly suggest looking at the work of Paul Weyrich and William Lind. Much of their work has been published by the American Conservative Magazine and the American Public Transit Association. Both are ardent supporters of StreetCars as a conservative ideal in the sense that they are a tried and true technology for moving people around a city. To an extent, they share a similar philosophy for bicycles. William Lind is now a full time Clevelander and would most certainly be someone to engage as this process moves forward.

 
Nancy Reeves
on Aug 06, 2011

Hmm.

Those are not the definitions would have occurred to me. When I think of sustainability, what comes to my mind is a much broader environmental, social, and economic sustainability:

* Minimizing our impact on environmental resources so they are still available for the by decreasing use, re-using resources, not creating new dead zones (like the lime lakes in New Franklin) - and reclaiming those we have created in the past (like the ongoing reclamation of the lime likes)

* Using resources in a way which meets the social needs of the community - community building spaces (parks, schools, gathering places, etc.), a feeling "ownership" of decision making over important community issues, access to resources (locally accessible medical care, sources for food and goods), making participation in the life of the community accessible and inviting to the full spectrum of its members (not marginalizing members based on age, ability, race, gender, religion, ethnicity).

* Making full participation in the community economically accessible to everyone in the community by including affordable housing , medical care, food and goods (a range of quality products at reasonable prices - rather than the "convenient" stores which make the business of living even more costly for those with fewer economic resources) .

This kind of sustainability has elements of the two versions of sustainability you have mentioned. For example, obsolescence, planned or otherwise, is not environmentally sustainable - but affordable durable housing and goods that are not well planned are not always marketable - either in isolation, or intermixed with less affordable housing and goods, for either short or long term - and would not invite participation by those on either end of the economic spectrum. So - when I think of sustainability it includes much more than either of the two definitions you have suggested. (And, that also makes it an even bigger challenge!)

 
Jason Segedy
on Aug 08, 2011

Nancy, you did a great job of speaking to some of the environmental and social elements of sustainability. The reclamation of the Lime Lakes was quite a project.

On a side note - it is so interesting to me that the one concrete attempt at building a "new urbanist" development in Summit County ended up being built right near one of the Lime Lakes. The neighborhood has the "urban form" that it takes to be sustainable, but it should have been built on a brownfield in the core of Barberton, rather than where it is located. They got one part of "sustainability" right (urban form) but not the other (location).

But I digress. . .

Similar to the question that I posed to Angie, do you have any specific public policy positions that we should be incorporating and pursuing as part of our regional effort?

 
John McGovern
on Aug 12, 2011

Nancy:

I wholeheartedly agree with your definition of sustainability, especially when you begin to talk about ownership and stake. Reconnecting inner city communities to a sense of ownership over their lives and city assets will be a critical first step. The EverGreen Model seems to fulfill some of these needs, though its long-term viability is not yet proven.

I wonder aloud on how policies might shape these perceptions of ownership?

 
Nancy Reeves
on Aug 12, 2011

(To both Jason and John) I've been thinking about policies, and have some ideas. Unfortunately my plate has been pretty full this week so my ideas are not yet ready for prime time. I hope to have some time next week to add some thoughts about policies.

In my mental rambling, I hadn't gotten to anything specifically connected to ownership - but I'll keep that in mind as I start to put my thoughts on paper (or at least in a more coherent assembly of pixels).

 
Jason Segedy
on Aug 12, 2011

Take your time, Nancy. I'm sure that you'll come up with something great! Looking forward to it.

 
Angie Schmitt
on Aug 07, 2011

Just one little quibble. Being marketable is not the same as being economically sustainable.

New exurban areas are totally reliant on growth to maintain the low-tax rates that are their biggest selling point. But obviously, that is an unsustainable long-term financial strategy.

Today's Solons will be tomorrow's Garfield Heights unless a more sustainable approach is taken. And unlike Garfield Heights which as some nice legacy amenities, parks, convenient commutes, walkability, Solon will just have a bunch of cheaply built houses, Wal-Marts and schools.

 
Jason Segedy
on Aug 08, 2011

Angie, do you have some suggestions on strategies that we should be advocating with our sustainable communities initiative? Specifically, I was interested in any ideas that you might have for revitalizing urban neighborhoods (which are typically "sustainable" but not "marketable" -- in the sense that I was using the term.)

Also, do you have any ideas for stopping greenfield development in undeveloped areas that might be "marketable" but are unlikely to be "sustainable"?

One of our challenges will be coming up with workable and implementable policy solutions. Any ideas that you (and the other posters) have would be appreciated. We need as many good ideas as we can get!

 
Angie Schmitt
on Aug 08, 2011

Yes.

We should have a fix-it-first policy for infrastructure immediately. We should not be expanding our infrastructure, in my opinion. That would help put naturally sustainable communities on an even playing field with those that are not.

Second, we need very large incentives for infill development and brownfield remediation.

Wherever our zoning codes discourage density, they should be rethought and rewritten.

Anything we can do to encourage walking and biking is huge. We should make spending on these modes a much bigger priority, along with transit.

As for making our exurban communities more sustainable. The most important thing is to quit subsidizing unsustainable sprawl by subsidizing sprawling infrastructure.

Regional revenue sharing would be good too.

 
Nancy Reeves
on Aug 08, 2011

Playing devil's advocate, just a bit, what if the existing infrastructure which supports the sprawl between Cleveland and Akron (or even between Cleveland and its medium distance suburbs) is what needs to be fixed.

Do you still want to the fix-it-first policy to apply?

 
Angie Schmitt
on Aug 08, 2011

Yeah. I mean, we're not talking about emptying out the suburbs here. We just aren't in a financial or population position to be building new suburbs, is my opinion.

That being said, roads are definitely in the worst shape in the region's urban communities.

 
Peter Comings
on Aug 08, 2011

Sustainability equals adaptability which, to me, seems to demand NOT specializing, whether you draw the circle of community around one city or a region.

 
Jason Segedy
on Aug 08, 2011

Peter, could you elaborate a bit more? I think I know what you are driving at, but if you could elucidate your comment, I'd appreciate it.

 
Peter Comings
on Aug 08, 2011

Others will have said it much better in other posts but it goes something like this:

Suburbs as bedroom communities are great until the work center they wrap around fails, or gas prices go up, or we build more homes than we can fill.

Detroit worked great as long as the auto industry held up. As it failed (though maybe not for the exclusive reason), so did the city. Though I hear it's making a comeback through ... diversification.

A sustainable community must be open minded.

 
Arlin J. Wallace
on Aug 08, 2011

I agree with your definition. The problem with "non specification" is that it flies in the face of conventional economic wisdom. Specialization is a key tenet to capitalism. I believe that local economies (sustainable, non-specialty) should be the basis from which macro economics are derived, not the other way around. When the macro is the base, local economies become VERY specialized and can suffer immensely from market changes (case in point; the "Rust Belt"). Local economies should have a microcosm of all industries and the macro should be extensions of those. I believe that would make the whole system (macro economy) more sustainable (agile). This model would also maximize the use of all means of production and labor, because growth is derived as opposed to assumed. Market shifts would be the ripple effect outward instead of tsunamis inward.

 
Peter Comings
on Aug 08, 2011

See, I told Jason someone will have said it better. Well put.

 
Rev. Allen V. Harris
on Sep 22, 2011

Just a quick response, Jason...  I would say "community" is not to be confused with "uniformity" even if there is typiclly some factor that defines the boundaries of that community.  Obviously, for the arts community it is a commitment to art, but the type of art form and medium could be wildly different.  Most of us use the word community to define a geographic entity.  It is here that I believe we tend the most to think "uniformity" as a synonym.

Here in Ohio City/the Near West Side where I live and work and spend the majority of my time, I believe we have an ongoing struggle trying to build "community" without enforcing (intentionally or unintentionally) "uniformity."  For us (maybe for most of Cleveland?) the uniformity that tends to get lumped with community is economic/class uniformity.  It is so very hard for us to live in community with people of a different economic strata.

To put a real-life situation on this theoretical dilemma, all we have to do is look at the recreation of Market Square Park, across from the West Side Market.  While I was one of the most vocal critics of the park in its deteriorated state (and, quite frankly, an art style that lent itself to deterioration... but I digress!) I am also one of those who anxiously awaits to see if the newly renovated park will serve the interests of *all* of those who have been using it over the years.  Yes, I mean an economically diverse community.

The intersection of Lorain and W. 25th St. is one of the most used transit intersections in the city.  A large number of folks, the vast majority middle- or lower-income folks, transfer or enter the RTA system at this intersection.  And yet it is clearly the epicenter of an urban revitalization that, by almost any indicator, is oriented toward middle- or upper-class citizens.

Will the community that has historically used the park for much of the day be displaced as a new, more upwardly-oriented community takes its place?  Or will the park be accessible (and by this I mean emotionally as well as physically) by all persons of all economic levels?  I do hope so.  I am committed to doing my part to help it be so.

Okay, so not such a short response!  LOL!

~Allen

 
Alex Keleman
on Aug 10, 2011

What does "sustainable" mean, and can it be defined from multiple perspectives, or only from the "Smart Growth" point of view?

The President of the Ohio Townships Association was recently on a radio talk show with Lavea Brachman of Greater Ohio. For the most part both sides presented their expected talking points in a respectful give and take. But as they wrapped up, the Township guy said something to the effect of "well, some people will always prefer to live on 2+ acre lots, " to which Brachman countered, "but that's not sustainable!"

Not sustainable? Who gets to make that call? If the point of view is that anyplace that needs a car to get around is unsustainable, then we are attempting to bite off too much with Sustainable Communities.

Nothing short of draconian, NEORSD-type, EPA-inspired dictats will separate American from private transportation. Kind off a tall order for our little NE Ohio group.

Smart Growth advocates talk about encouraging "Quality Places." OK for them, but I don't want my MPO or state governments using my tax money to judge the lifestyles whose taxes largely support their efforts.

Sustainability and Quality Places are like the term "art" --the properly schooled readers of CC feel they are in the position to tell the rest of us what is "quality" or "sustainable."" Yet some of these same forum posters have demonstrated that they don't know the difference between a Peninsula or a Parma, and don't really care. It is all suburban sprawl to them, to be regulated and whose taxes must be redistributed.

There is some value in making our improving our communities in ways that could not on their own. I have taken the time to attend two meeting of SC, in part because I feel the concept has some value.

I went to the meetings to urge them not to stack the panels with SG advocates as he RPI has, with a single point of view, or their results will quickly become irrelevant.

As much as their may be agreement here, an approach that urges suburbs to "change their evil ways," while giving urban areas a pass for poor government decisions will not play in Peoria, in Columbus, or most City Councils.

 
Angie Schmitt
on Aug 10, 2011

Well, if you have a community where you can't get around without a car and you have diminishing fossil fuel resources, can you see how that presents a sustainability problem? Nevermind what the do-nothings in Columbus think. They're passing laws about abortion that they know will be struck down in court. I don't think we can hold our breath and count on them to save us.

In the Pacific Northwest driving has been declining for about 5 years even as the population has grown. How will this region fare against that region when gas is $6? For that matter, how is it faring right now?

What are we doing to adjust to the changes that have taken place in the world and that will inevitably take place going forward? Unless this region adapts to new realities, it will continue to grow less and less relevant. Energy use is just one aspect but a general resistance to change hasn't served this region too well.

We should be thinking about how we can make Solon a place where you don't need a car. Where a senior or a teenager or a disabled person or a poor person has freedom and mobility. I really don't see any reason not to.

 
Alex Keleman
on Aug 10, 2011

Where are these great masses who can't around by car and are demanding alternatives? Come to the Akron METRO meeting this week - METRO will tell you only one line justifies frequent service and upgrades.

RTA cuts service in Lakewood, which is our most densely populated community, and only mass transit advocates noticed. They put in a circulator shopper line to counter protests, but cut it when there was little ridership.

Solon will never be city for those without cars. It wasn't built that way. Neither was most of NE Ohio in 20th century cities (including Shaker, home to two rapid lines). You can seek to the decrease trips by making walking and biking safer, which is what I have been promoting in my town.

The fossil-fuel sustainability argument might be valid if I believed that anyone promoting it actually cared about car owners who may have to pay more instead of simply trying to get them to give up driving. You would want them to pay more.

At the point they're no longer wiling to pay higher gas prices, alternative fuels will develop that still allows them to motor around on their own schedules, much to the consternation of planner everywhere. They will develop because there will be a market, and the potential base for it (everyone who wants personal transportation) will make it cost-effective to develop. We are not there now; for all the moaning about $4 or $5 gas, it is still cheaper than orange juice and gets you around more effectively.

 
Mandy Metcalf
on Aug 16, 2011

You asked where are the great masses that can't get around by car - Solon: 2%, or 187 households with no car,7,554 total households in Solon,Cuyahoga County: 14% households with no car,78,005 households without a car in Cuyahoga County,one in seven people in the county without a car,Cleveland: 25% households with no car,E.Cleveland: 33% households with no car,Lakewood: 14% households with no car, Parma: 7% households with no car,Chagrin Falls: 7% households with no car

.

 
Alex Keleman
on Aug 16, 2011

Mandy,2% in Solon without cars? Thanks for this - you made my point. People who either don't have a car, don't want a car, or can't drive, generally don't move to Solon. They are better off in the other areas of the County. If the whole county is 14%. averages being what they are, the inner ring must be closer to 25% without cars - and buses serve them.

I wasn't saying no transit - I was saying to try to put in transit to serve a very small percentage of the community is a waste of resources, and "unsustainable." Alternatives like Rideshare and Paratransit exist to serve those non-car households in low percentage areas. An even bigger waste of resources is using Sustainable Communities to try to remake a community with high percentage of car ownership like Solon into a Cleveland Heights when that kind of lifestyle already exists for those who desire it.

 
Mandy Metcalf
on Aug 17, 2011

Agreed! Don't spend the money in Solon. Spend it on creating policies that benefit places like Cleveland Heights. If that comes across as flippant, it's not meant to be. Our region will rise and fall with the success of the urban core and the inner suburbs. The Solonites can afford to fend for themselves, buy their kids cars, pay more for gas if they want to. Our urban neighborhoods need everyone's help, help from Solonites, in crafting collaborative policies that turn them into the sustainable, dense, job-attracting places that they have the potential to become. In the end this will benefit everyone. That in my opinion is the point of the Sustainable Communities grant.

 
Mandy Metcalf
on Aug 18, 2011

Which is not to say that we shouldn't think about how to make Solon more transit-friendly. We should. But there are more important funding priorities for the region.

 
Alex Keleman
on Aug 10, 2011

As I said above:

"Nothing short of draconian, NEORSD-type, EPA-inspired dictats will separate American from private transportation. "

Then we learn today that in an EPA-controlled economy is already here.Today's PD:

http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2011/08/endangered_bats_may_scuttle_tw.html

Endangered bats could derail Twinsburg's initial attempts to redevelop the site of a mammoth auto plant that closed during Chrysler's 2009 bankruptcy. ...the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which won't issue a wetlands development permit unless the Fish and Wildlife Service is satisfied.

 
Tara Sturm
on Sep 06, 2011

I would pretty much agree with all of those qualities that you listed in a general context. I tend to believe that higher density areas with access to alternate transportation options, mixed use development, and employment opportunities make for more livable and sustainable communities.

You did mention that many of those qualities are very subjective, and I think that's the most important point to make-- because really what will make a community livable is addressing the needs of those living in it. Though I'm all for new urbanist design initiatives and architecture that goes beyond the typical big box or concrete plaza, design that is approached in conjunction with the opinions and preferences of the residents is what is most essential. I think without really engaging community members the result ends up disjointed or positions that area for unavoidable gentrification problems. Whereas you want to pull in business to advance the economic vitality of an area and increase property values, etc, ensuring that any decisions made will enhance the economic and cultural opportunities of those already in the community is incredibly important. Assessing the demographics you're working with will not only attract businesses and allow you to approach the aesthetic design of a place in a way that is culturally and historically relevant to community members, but will also help instill that sense of community that is so important to the concept of livability and increase the chances that new measures will be successful in accomplishing their goals (be that thriving of new business, etc).

Whereas I know you're not swooping in and asking for the perfect equation for a "livable community, " I figured I'd offer my two cents on the subject. I think the fact that these questions are being asked at all is the perfect first step in establishing what will work-- because it ultimately depends on the needs of residents. It's going to vary by community, though. I'm done now :)

 
Lynn M Clark
on Sep 06, 2011

I agree with Tara on needing the input of the residents about their needs. But it also needs to inlude their vision of what a sustainable community is and on what level it should be considered.

It is far too complex to really grasp the concept of a sustainable community. If we could draw it on paper it would work well until we moved people in. Where are the studies of community that have successfully 'sustained' themselves? What can be duplicated to make those models work elsewhere?

 
Tara Sturm
on Sep 07, 2011

I don't think it's a long-shot to employ some basic principles of environmental sustainability (as we have evidence of certain methods that are effective in reducing storm water runoff, decreasing traffic flow, etc), but for a holistic view of sustainability, it's going to come down to what is practical for the residents to be less environmentally impactful, and relatively self-sufficient as a community (economically, culturally, and otherwise). So providing job positions that are ideal for the resident demographic types (and at a varying degree of educational levels), assessing how many residents own vehicles and what public transportation use rates are like, if they would be increased with more funding allocated to improving that infrastructure, etc. I think there are definitely some solid foundational concepts of sustainability that can (and certainly should) be discussed with residents of the area, but being practical about how services will be used and received will be more advantageous to the residents themselves and decrease the risk of failed programs and wasted funds.

 
Tara Sturm
on Sep 07, 2011

This is a rather sad example of a disconnect with the community and trying to plan a sustainable community without the input of those that would be living there:

http://sustainablecitiescollective.com/kaidbenfield/20212/residents-award-winning-transit-oriented-development-say-no-transit

I still think these planned communities are fantastic, and it's a shame that this one didn't get the kind of reception they had intended it to. I think the author was correct in saying that the line should have been fully committed (to draw the kind of resident that would make use of that system). But I think we can definitely learn from this example. You can't leave people out of the panning equation.

 
Jason Segedy
on Sep 07, 2011

"What will make a community livable is addressing the needs of those living in it."

So very simple. So very true. And not so very obvious -- until you mentioned it. It is an excellent point.

It is an especially profound point because I think it applies to all communities and people of all socio-economic backgrounds. We tend to focus on social, economic, and environmental issues in public sector development planning - with the general emphasis being on generating tax revenue, improving economic opportunities for residents (and maybe) protecting the environment. The private sector generally (there are notable exceptions) tends to focus on making money.

What we all tend to overlook is that creating community is about more than economic opportunities. There are low-income communities in our region that are nevertheless nice places to live. There are affluent communities that meet all of their residents' economic needs, but do not meet many of their social (sense of community, sense of place) needs. The residents may not even be aware of it.

I know that participants that come from a more libertarian or rationalist bent may "pooh-pooh" the idea of a "sense of community", but it is a powerful force and it is difficult to appreciate not having one if you have never experienced it, or never expected that you could experience it. It's like trying to explain color to people that are color-blind.

And I would argue that our hyper-modern, high-tech, individualistic culture is color-blind in the sense that I mentioned above. A lack of community and pride of place is not an urban/suburban; black/white; rich/poor problem; I think it is an American problem. We've all been taught that we live in a virtual world, and a material world; and that given enough technological wizardry and enough gadgets and material possessions; place doesn't matter. It is the cult of the individual and the cult of the global - the public sphere and the specific place is assumed not matter anymore.

But it's not true. . .It's never been true at any time in human history. People will always matter and place will always matter, regardless of how much technology, money, or things any of us possess. Those things don't really change the equation that has been true for thousands of years of human history, they just make the historical lessons easier to forget and ignore.

 
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