Opinions in the nation's capital are mixed about Mayor Vincent Gray's turn toward making the District of Columbia a national model for clean energy, urban farming, green space, and car-free transportation options.
The Washington Post reported Dec. 13 that the mayor has formed a "Sustainable DC" initiative to "strengthen city efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and lay the foundation for proposals that would revitalize an administration criticized for lack of vision."
"Although the details won't be finalized until spring, the plan could include more solar panels on government buildings, gardens in vacant city lots, new walking and biking trails, storm water retention ponds and turning waste into fuel," The Post said.
Washington has been taking strong steps to make biking safer and more comfortable, as a New Urban News commentary pointed out in July. The Capital Bikeshare program, which was inaugurated in September 2010, has quickly attracted thousands of riders. Many streets have been outfitted to offer cyclists safer conditions.
Washington also won a 2011 CNU Charter Award for a land-use study on the potential for a 37-mile streetcar system, as we reported last April when it was presented it as New Urban Network's Plan of the Month.
However, some environmentalists have expressed skepticism aboout whether Mayor Gray's sustainability initiative will have a substantial impact.
Some of the actions being contemplated, such as requiring most buildings to have solar panels, are probably good from an energy or environmental perspective, but are not particularly related to urbanism. In other cases, the value of the intiatives will depend on the details. Storm water retention ponds, for example, have been criticized by new urbanists for often failing to add to the character of cities and neighborhoods.
The Post says nine working groups have been formed to deal with climate, energy, food, transportation, and other topics. They are expected to report their findings in late February 2012 so that the administration can produce a draft plan by April.
For more in-depth coverage on this topic:
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• See the October-November 2011 issue of New Urban News. Topics: HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods, Parking reform, transit-oriented parking policy, Obama vs. Congress, West Virginia town revitalizes, suburb remakes its center, ecological dividend, cul-de-sac makeover, thoroughfare manual, and much more.
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• See the September 2011 issue of New Urban News. Topics: Walk Score, sprawl retrofit, livability grants, Katrina Cottages, how to get a transit village built, parking garages, the shrinking Wal-Mart, Complete Streets legislation, an urban capital fund, and much more.
• See the July-August 2011 issue of New Urban News. Downtown makeover, agrarian urbanism, bike sharing, bike-ped issues, TIGER III livability grants, unlocking remnant land value, selling the neighborhood, Landscape Urbanism vs. New Urbanism, new urban resort, granny flats, The Great Reset.
• See the April-May 2011 issue of New Urban News. Transit-oriented development, “cycle tracks,” gentrification versus revitalization, HUD grants, economic silver linings, light-rail development, pocket neighborhoods, close-in Maryland housing less expensive, transit outperforms green buildings, Charter Awards, shift to smaller stores.