Alleys and parklets and water and sustainability
Fairy Alley, Austin Neighobrhood Partnership Program. The street is painted with sparkly designs and the fence has a mural at Fairy Alley on Thursday, March 26, 2015. The project was completed as part of the city's neighborhood partnering program. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Alleys. San Francisco has released a Living Alleys Toolkit document, in support of their alley improvement program in the Market Octavia neighborhood. A section of the report lists/provides links to similar programs across the US, such as An Action Guide to Greening Austin’s Alleys, produced by the Public Interest Design Studio at the University of Texas Austin, Texas and the Alley Network Project in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood.
The Austin guide lists 17 tools:
1. Permeable Pavement
3. Rain Gardens and Bioswales
4. Native Landscaping
5. Alley Gateway
6. Street Graphics
7. Edge Treatments
8. Garbage Bin Corral
9. Rain Barrel
10. Address Marker
11. Compost Bin
12. Alley Furniture
14. Traffic Calming
15. Edible Alleys
16. Closed Alleys
17. Alley Flats
Other noteworthy alley urban design initiatives are Laneways projects in Melbourne, Vancouver, and Toronto.
To be honest, while the projects are cool, most aren't fully applicable to DC, since most of DC's alleys are used for trash collection, which requires unimpeded throughway for heavy vehicles.
On the other hand, trash could be "walked out" to the street, which could allow for alternative treatments in alleys.
Parklets. In Philadelphia, the University City Business Improvement District (sponsor of The Porch project at 30th Street Station), did a study of parklet projects, The Case for Parklets: Measuring the Impact on Sidewalk Vitality and Neighborhood Businesses, which challenges the conventional wisdom that parking is the most important element of commercial districts, supporting the patronage of neighborhood businesses.
DC Water Authority. DC Water (DC Water and Sewer Authority) is doing a series of town meetings, on a ward by ward basis. ANC Commissioner Kent Boese wrote a blog entry ("Brief Notes from the DC Water Ward 1 Town Hall Meeting").
Mandated by the Federal Clean Water Act, mostly rates will go up to pay the $2.6 billion cost to build a system to fully capture stormwater without it being combined with sewage and discharging it into the area rivers without treatment during major storm events.
Interestingly, they are proposing a "lifeline rate," of a lower charge for the first 4 hundred cubic feet of water consumed each month (each "ccf" is 748 gallons), almost like the "homestead" tax reduction for owner occupied houses. That would save people not quite $1/month.
Also see "Saving US Water and Sewer Systems Would Be Costly," New York Times.
Sustainability in Los Angeles (and elsewhere). The Associated Press has a story, "LA Mayor Envisions Greener, More Walkable City in the Future," on Los Angeles' new sustainability plan. DC now faces more competition to be the "most sustainable American city" within 20 years. From the article:
Among LA's short-term goals: Install 1,000 new charging stations for electric vehicles; clean up contaminated groundwater in the San Fernando Valley and create more green jobs.
In the coming decades, the city wants to achieve zero waste, replace its municipal fleet with electric vehicles, expand the use of recycled water and help residents cut down on car trips.
Some of the goals were previously announced, including the call for a 20-percent reduction in the city's per-person use of fresh water by 2017 to deal with the drought.One quote in the article irks me:
"For years, living sustainably in the urban environment has been given more lip service than action," Joel Reynolds of the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement.The reality is that even without special programs and accommodations, denser living in the urban core, especially in transit cities, is far more environmentally sustainable than suburban or exurban living, as David Owen makes the case in the book, Green Metropolis.
Residents in dense cities, especially in New York City, use less space per capita, and consume less energy and less gasoline, and produce less waste per capita.
Sure goods and services are trucked in, but this is the same case for suburban residents.