Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Another example of settling for mediocrity in DC sustainability planning

I wrote a long piece ("Realizing all aspects of Sustainable DC: it all comes down to chickens...") last fall about DC's sustainability plan after attending DC's sustainability conference. Basically my point was that DC can't say that it's going to be the most sustainable city in North America by 2032 by implementing new sustainability policies and practices that aren't even at the level of best practice/pathbreaking practice now.

The cities that are operating at best practice levels aren't standing still, they are going to continue to improve on their current efforts, leaving DC further behind.

With regard to DC's replacement of trash and recycling cans, I wrote a couple pieces about how this was somewhat wasteful (the regular trash cans were replaced with new cans of the same size while all of the recycling cans were replaced with a new cans double the size of the previous cans) because most of the trash cans still had plenty of useful life, and that in terms of sustainability planning, the city could have taken the opportunity to improve and extend its waste collection practices to reduce yard waste ("A way for DC to begin adding yard waste collection as a separate element of waste collection and reduction programming").

Earlier this month police arrested some artists picking up the discarded trash cans, which hadn't yet been picked up by the Department of Public Works.

Today the Washington Post reports ("D.C. said it would recycle thousands of old trash and recycling bins, but many went to a landfill") that tons of the cans were not recycled as promised but dumped in a landfill.

Again, this doesn't speak well of DC's commitment to sustainability.

Of course, it's all about changing organizational culture and commitment, which is a difficult enough task even when your top officials are truly committed and not just cheerleading.

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At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

people living in residential alleys are particularly impacted by these decisions- as we cannot store these huge cans/receptacles in our tiny homes and many alley houses do not have yards. One thing went well- we actually RECEIVED new trash cans and recycle bins- whereas before all residential alleys we left out of the program and you had to call the city to get a can- that is- when they could locate us at all. I cannot tell you how many times I have called the city only to be told my house does not exist on their maps. Of course- when I pleaded to get my property taxes lowered the tax assessment guy showed up exactly on time at my door and gave me a sattelite photo- [ glossy stock- really good one] showing where my place was from orbit- "no problem finding you" I wish the cops could do this and other city agencies. However- the delivery trucks actually found our alleys here on CH which was shocking and amazing to see. Maybe there is hope after all is said and done?

At 8:30 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Richard you should really go work for CEB on best practices for urban governments!

Thoughts on the new citylab design?

In terms of alley pickup, moving to a model where you have a community trash bin rather than individual pickup would be good.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Years ago I thought about it. But cities don't like to pay for technical assistance at the rates that CEB charges.

But yep, I dithered about getting an advanced degree which would have better positioned me for something like that.

2. In theory your community can idea is good but there are issues. E.g. rowhouse neighborhoods mostly have street collection, and putting a can in the public space, even if on the street, would be problematic. (Those neighborhoods have twice weekly pick up because of space issues...)

WRT commercial pickup, I've argued that we need to do planning on a block by block basis, if only to reduce truck trips. (E.g., at 3rd. and PA Ave. SE, Starbucks, Cozi--now gone, and the Spike Mendelson places all have separate pick ups from different companies...)

3. WRT this particular, I laid out the issues last year. Basically that most of the "regular" trash cans didn't need to be replaced as they would be replaced with same sized cans. Being conservative, no more than 20% of the cans were likely broken.

4. Now I am glad that we all got larger recycling cans. For our household e.g., since I go through so many newspapers plus the other household flotsam and jetsam, we never had enough space and sometimes I would put stuff in someone else's underutilized container. I was considering buying a larger one, and then the city made the announcement...

FWIW, I am gonna write another piece about the decline of govt. execution using this, health exchanges, and the VA as examples, along with David Brooks' piece.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

so wrt #3, having CM Cheh speak out about this now, or Howland, or Gray seems so ridiculous, when these problems were easily foreseeable, and written about, at least by me.

2. e.g., David Grosso's proposal to "crowdsource" legislation seems ridiculous to me. Already they are not paying attention to the critical analysis that comes their way wrt legislation and other actions.

Why should "crowdsourcing" make any difference to their inherent willingness to be more diligent and more focused on best practices?

although it is an example of design process and method vs. "rational planning."


At 10:24 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I suspect on the recyling can issue, the new quality controls china has put in has made recycling plastic a very difficult proposition.

Of course when you EPA mandate is reduce weight by 25% and the can don't count towrds that provisions....


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