Friday, 1 March 2013

Smart Growth

Smart growth is an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in compact walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl. It also advocates compact, transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, including neighborhood schools, complete streets, and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices. The term 'smart growth' is particularly used in North America. In Europe and particularly the UK, the terms 'Compact City' or 'urban intensification' have often been used to describe similar concepts, which have influenced government planning policies in the UK, the Netherlands and several other European countries.
Smart growth values long-range, regional considerations of sustainability over a short-term focus. Its goals are to achieve a unique sense of community and place; expand the range of transportation, employment, and housing choices; equitably distribute the costs and benefits of development; preserve and enhance natural and cultural resources; and promote public health.


[edit] Basic concept

The concept of "Smart Growth" emerged in the early 1990's, driven by "new guard" urban planners, innovative architects, visionary developers, community activists, and historic preservationists. It accepts that growth and development will continue to occur, and so seeks to direct that growth in an intentional, comprehensive way. Smart Growth principles are directed at developing sustainable communities that are good places to live, to do business, to work, and to raise families. Some of the fundamental aims for the benefits of residents and the communities are increasing family income and wealth, improving access to quality education, fostering livable, safe and healthy places, stimulating economic activity (both locally and regionally), and developing, preserving and investing in physical resources. There is a need to distinguish between Smart Growth "principles" and Smart Growth "regulations". The former are concepts and the latter their implementation, that is, how federal, state, and municipal governments choose to fulfill Smart Growth principles. One of the earliest efforts to establish smart growth forward as a regulatory framework were put forth by the American Planning Association. In 1997, the APA introduced a project called Growing Smart and published "Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook: Model Statutes for Planning and the Management of Change." [1] The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines smart growth as “development that serves the economy, the community, and the environment. It changes the terms of the development debate away from the traditional growth/no growth question to how and where should new development be accommodated” [2]
Smart growth is related to, or used in combination with the following concepts:
The smart growth approach to development is multifaceted and can encompass a variety of techniques. For example, in the state of Massachusetts smart growth is enacted by a combination of techniques including increasing housing density along transit nodes, conserving farm land, and mixing residential and commercial use areas. [3]Perhaps the most descriptive term to characterize this concept is Traditional Neighborhood Development, which recognizes that Smart Growth and related concepts are not necessarily new, but are a response to car culture and sprawl. Many favor the term New Urbanism, which invokes a new, but traditional way of looking at urban planning.
There are a range of best practices associated with smart Growth, these include: supporting existing communities, redeveloping underutilized sites, enhancing economic competitiveness, providing more transportation choices, developing livability measures and tools, promoting equitable and affordable housing, providing a vision for sustainable growth, enhancing integrated planning and investment, aligning, coordinating, and leveraging government polices, redefining housing affordability and making the development process transparent.[4]
Related, but somewhat different, are the overarching goals of Smarth Growth, and they include: making the community more competitive for new businesses, providing alternative places to shop, work, and play, creating a better "Sense of Place," providing jobs for residents, increasing property values, improving quality of life, expanding the tax base, preserving open space, controlling growth, and improving safety. [5]

[edit] Basic principles

There are 10 accepted principles that define Smart Growth
  1. Mix land uses
  2. Take advantage of compact building design
  3. Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
  4. Create walkable neighborhoods
  5. Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
  6. Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas
  7. Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
  8. Provide a variety of transportation choices
  9. Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective
  10. Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions

[edit] History

Transportation and community planners began to promote the idea of compact cities and communities in the early 1970s. The cost and difficulty of acquiring land (particularly in historic and/or areas designated as conservancies) to build and widen highways caused some politicians to reconsider basing transportation planning on motor vehicles.
Architect Peter Calthorpe promoted and popularized the idea of urban villages that relied on public transportation, bicycling, and walking instead of automobile use. Architect Andrés Duany promoted changing design codes to promote a sense of community, and to discourage driving. Colin Buchanan and Stephen Plowden helped to lead the debate in the United Kingdom.
Government subsidies for infrastructure have disguised the true cost of sprawl. Examples include subsidies for highway building, fossil fuels, and electricity.

[edit] Electrical subsidies

With electricity, there is a cost associated with extending and maintaining the service delivery system, as with water and sewage, but there also is a loss in the commodity being delivered. The farther from the generator, the more power is lost in distribution. According to the Department of Energy's (DOE) Energy Information Administration (EIA), 9 percent of energy is lost in transmission. [6] Current average cost pricing, where customers pay the same price per unit of power regardless of the true cost of their service, subsidizes sprawl development. With electricity deregulation, some states now charge customers/developers fees for extending distribution to new locations rather than rolling such costs into utility rates.[7]
New Jersey, for example, has implemented a plan that divides the state into five planning areas, some of which are designated for growth, while others are protected. The state is developing a series of incentives to coax local governments into changing zoning laws that will be compatible with the state plan. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities recently proposed a revised rule that presents a tiered approach to utility financing. In areas not designated for growth, utilities and their ratepayers are forbidden to cover the costs of extending utility lines to new developments—and developers will be required to pay the full cost of public utility infrastructure. In designated growth areas that have local smart plans endorsed by the State Planning Commission, developers will be refunded the cost of extending utility lines to new developments at two times the rate of the revenue received by developers in smart growth areas that do not have approved plans.[8]

[edit] Rationale for smart growth

Smart growth is an alternative to urban sprawl, traffic congestion, disconnected neighborhoods, and urban decay. Its principles challenge old assumptions in urban planning, such as the value of detached houses and automobile use.

[edit] Environmental protection

Environmentalists promote Smart Growth by advocating urban-growth boundaries, or Green belts, as they have been termed in England since the 1930s.

[edit] Public health

Transit-oriented development can improve the quality of life and encourage a healthier, pedestrian-based lifestyle with less pollution. The United States Environmental Protection Agency suggests Smart growth to reduce air pollution.

[edit] Elements

Growth is "smart growth", to the extent that it includes the elements listed below.[9][10]

[edit] Compact neighborhoods

Compact, livable urban neighborhoods attract more people and business. Creating such neighborhoods is a critical element of reducing urban sprawl and protecting the climate. Such a tactic includes adopting redevelopment strategies and zoning policies that channel housing and job growth into urban centers and neighborhood business districts, to create compact, walkable, and bike- and transit-friendly hubs. This sometimes requires local governmental bodies to implement code changes that allow increased height and density downtown and regulations that not only eliminate minimum parking requirements for new development but establish a maximum number of allowed spaces. Other topics fall under this concept:

[edit] Transit-oriented development

Transit-oriented development (TOD) is a residential or commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport, and mixed-use/compact neighborhoods tend to use transit at all times of the day. Many cities striving to implement better TOD strategies seek to secure funding to create new public transportation infrastructure and improve existing services. Other measures might include regional cooperation to increase efficiency and expand services, and moving buses and trains more frequently through high-use areas. Other topics fall under this concept:

[edit] Pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly design

Biking and walking instead of driving can reduce emissions, save money on fuel and maintenance, and foster a healthier population. Pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly improvements include bike lanes on main streets, an urban bike-trail system, bike parking, pedestrian crossings, and associated master plans. The most pedestrian- and bike-friendly variant of smart growth and New Urbanism is New Pedestrianism because motor vehicles are on a separate grid.

[edit] Others

  • preserving open space and critical habitat, reusing land, and protecting water supplies and air quality
  • transparent, predictable, fair and cost-effective rules for development
  • historic preservation
  • Setting aside large areas where development is prohibited, nature is able to run its course, providing fresh air and clean water.
  • Expansion around already existing areas allows public services to be located where people are living without taking away from the core city neighborhoods in large urban areas.
  • Developing around preexisting areas decreases the socioeconomic segregation allowing society to function more equitably, generating a tax base for housing, educational and employment programs.

[edit] Policy tools

[edit] Zoning ordinances

The most widely used tool for achieving smart growth is the local zoning law. Through zoning, new development can be restricted to specific areas, and additional density incentives can be offered for brownfield and greyfield land. Zoning can also reduce the minimum amount of parking required to be built with new development, and can be used to require set-asides for parks and other community amenities.
Related to zoning ordinances, an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) is a tool that several U.S. cities now use to contain high density development to certain areas. Some believe that UGBs contributed to the escalation of housing prices from 2000 to 2006, as they limited the supply of developable land.[11] However, this is not completely substantiated because prices continued to rise even after municipalities expanded their growth boundaries.

[edit] Environmental impact assessments

One popular approach to assist in smart growth in democratic countries is for law-makers to require prospective developers to prepare environmental impact assessments of their plans as a condition for state and/or local governments to give them permission to build their buildings. These reports often indicate how significant impacts generated by the development will be mitigated, the cost of which is usually paid by the developer. These assessments are frequently controversial. Conservationists, neighborhood advocacy groups and NIMBYs are often skeptical about such impact reports, even when they are prepared by independent agencies and subsequently approved by the decision makers rather than the promoters. Conversely, developers will sometimes strongly resist being required to implement the mitigation measures required by the local government as they may be quite costly.
In communities practicing these smart growth policies, developers comply with local codes and requirements. Consequently, developer compliance builds communal trust because it demonstrates a genuine interest in the environmental quality of the community.

[edit] Communities implementing smart growth

The United States Environmental Protection Agency[12] has recognized these cities for implementing smart growth principles:
The Smart Growth Network has recognized these U.S. cities for implementing smart growth principles:[13]
In July 2011, The Atlantic magazine called the BeltLine, a series of housing, trail, and transit projects along a 22-mile (35-km) long disused rail corridor surrounding the core of Atlanta, the United States' "most ambitious smart growth project".[14]
In Savannah, Georgia (US) the historic Oglethorpe Plan has been shown to contain most of the elements of Smart Growth in its network of wards, each of which has a central civic square. The plan has demonstrated its resilience to changing conditions, and the city is using the plan as a model for growth in newer areas.[15]

[edit] Smart growth, urban sprawl and automobile dependency

Whether smart growth (or the 'Compact City') does or can reduce problems of automobile dependency associated with urban sprawl have been fiercely contested issues over several decades. An influential study in 1989 by Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy compared 32 cities across North America, Australia, Europe and Asia.[16] The study has been criticised for its methodology [17] but the main finding that denser cities, particularly in Asia, have lower car use than sprawling cities, particularly in North America, has been largely accepted — although the relationship is clearer at the extremes across continents than it is within countries where conditions are more similar.
Within cities studies from across many countries (mainly in the developed world) have shown that denser urban areas with greater mixture of land use and better public transport tend to have lower car use than less dense suburban and ex-urban residential areas. This usually holds true even after controlling for socio-economic factors such as differences in household composition and income.[18] This does not necessarily imply that suburban sprawl causes high car use, however. One confounding factor, which has

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