Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tools and Field Observations


There are several tools that are useful in creating ecocities. As the chapter emphasizes, an ecocity zoning map can prove to be very useful in guiding development and conveying to people what the basic beneficial features of an ecocity are. An ecocity map shows the natural areas in and surrounding the city, the places of potential high-density centers, corridors where agriculture and forests or shrubs should be in place, and clearly point out where areas of accessible transportation would have to go. In addition to this, the ecocity zoning map allows people, especially policymakers and residents, to see what the city could look like in the future if the correct actions are taken. The ecocity zoning map is therefore the framework by which cities can be redesigned and envisioned for a sustainable future.

Another tool that is very important is the Transfer of Development Rights. With this tool, the right to develop an area outside the city is purchased. This area is then designated for agriculture, forest, or open space, and the payer receives a bonus by getting the right to build in the city, where the opportunity for business and demand are higher. The development rights inside the city can be designated to meet needs of the city. For example, if there’s a lack of housing, incentives could be put into place for developers to build housing units instead of something that abounds already in the city. In the case of a Double TDR, developers receives more than what he would have otherwise had because of the higher density in the city. The TDR is an important tool for reversing sprawl and making the ecocity denser.

The Ecological General Plan is basically the guiding law that enforces an ecocity zoning map. It has all the details about where development is allowed, what the city will look like in the future, and how incentives are given for ecocity development. Together, these tools are crucial to the important task of reversing sprawl in the United States and other countries where sprawl is on the rise. Applied internationally, they could potentially reduce our overall ecological footprint by creating cities that are truly sustainable. Though it will come at an initial cost, the long-term benefits will largely outweigh the efforts. And in the process, job creation and economic growth will be typical features.

Field Observations

Gregory and I walked through The Commons during AppleFest. One of the key assets of this area is that its people have a vested interest in sustainability. Many businesses use locally made or green products; most customers are willing to pay the premium on these products that results from government subsidies and Asian imports; and the community is so involved that it seems like Ithacans have created this city themselves. There also a very strong sense of community in The Commons, and the place is designed in such a way that it attracts people.

One of the barriers, however, is better access. For people who wish to bike to that area, there aren’t enough bike racks distributed around The Commons. The ones that exist are towards the ends; perhaps these are not necessary because the demand for them is not there, but that’s something to be explored. Also, the heavily trafficked streets around The Commons need to be, over the long-term, opened for pedestrians. During AppleFest, one of the streets was closed for cars, and it was wonderful to walk in the street and see people selling their products. An affordable overhead mobility system would allow for this to happen. Such a system would increase access to The Commons and allow for people to come more often to the center area to sell their products, like they did during AppleFest. This, in turn, would increase economic growth.

Finally, The Commons would benefit from more regular events like AppleFest. It would be great to see events featuring green products, school projects, local foods (farmers market in The Commons), and celebrating community assets. These features would attract people to live in the city center and would make businesses more vibrant. A fast, radical redesign could start with the construction of the affordable overhead mobility system, followed by the eventual partial or complete closedown of some surrounding roads.

No comments: