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    Aja B. 20+

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    Sep 20 2013: Hi George,

    I've lived in three major cities since college: Portland, Dallas, and New York. Each has its own unique past and set of challenges when it comes to equality and sustainability.... and moving from one to the other can result in more than a little culture shock. :) In regards to your question, as a casual observer, I'd say the most important decisions city leaders can make are around land use, transportation, and education.

    Portland, for example, has a much-celebrated "Urban Growth Boundary", set in place in 1979, that largely prevented the suburban sprawl you see in cities like Dallas and New York. Without the massive sprawl, most of the (much smaller) population lives relatively close to work, making sustainable and equitable transportation a lot more reasonable. But while a focus on urban density over endless sprawl brings many positive developments, increased property values can lead to a sort of "resegregation", which throws everything out of balance.... present-day New York being an extreme example.

    As for the solution... I can't say, but then I was never very good at SimCity, either. :) But I am fascinated by these challenges, as a city-dweller, and would love to know more about what we casual observers can do to help build the city of the future.

    Aja
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      Sep 21 2013: Aja, we've been supporting efforts to lock up a significant portion of the housing stock in structures that maintain "permanent affordability" through mechanisms like community land trusts. Check out the Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington Vermont which has succeeded in protecting around 20% of the housing stock as permanently affordable. Not to mention--management of the property is governed by local community.
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        Sep 21 2013: George,
        Although Vermont is a very small state, with small cities, I believe the same practices can be used elsewhere. We have state, regional and local land use plans, which encourage dense villages. This practice discourages sprawl, and supports sustainability on a local level. The land on the outskirts of the villages is often put into a land trust by the owner, which helps preserve the land and the environment.

        We also encourage and support interconnected transportation initiatives including bike/ped paths. I agree with Aja in that land use, transportation, education and low income housing can be encouraged.

        Our environmental laws encourage environmentally friendly development, and when large companies develop, there are incentives for them to build a clustered, multi use complex including low income housing, as opposed to large buildings helter skelter dotting the landscape.

        In the approx. 15 years that I've been involved with local and regional planning/permitting, we have seen quite a difference in the way we develop. Developers/designers/engineers involved with a project are becoming much more aware of creating and building environmentally friendly and user friendly projects. We are seeing projects come in with permeable sidewalks/parking lots, rain gardens, more awareness of wetlands, solar and/or wind capabilities, etc.

        The incentive has to come from all segments of our society.....people who want more sustainable cities, legislators who are interested in passing laws which support sustainability, state, regional and local plans which consistently support sustainability, and providing incentives for developers is a good idea as well:>)
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          Sep 23 2013: Colleen,
          How can you compare any town in Vermont and the plans and programs there with the cities George has identified? Burlington is the biggest town there and if I remember correctly, it looses half it's citizens when the college is closed for summer recess.

          All of Vermont is not as well populated as south San Antonio...

          You can do so much more with community planning, etc.
          There are no real poor there.... people living in shacks with open sewers and absolute poverty.

          I am not sure that people are not really looking for "sustainable cities"... I think, like me, people want to be sustainable where ever they find themselves.
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        Sep 26 2013: Mike,
        My first comment on this thread, is...
        "Although Vermont is a very small state, with small cities, I believe the same practices can be used elsewhere".

        That statement does not "compare" a town in Vt. to towns elsewhere. It states my belief that some of the plans and programs used in Vt., can work elsewhere just as well. My main point, is that it takes planning and appropriate state laws, zoning by-laws, and a sincere interest on the part of those who are doing the planning and permitting for development.

        I also state...
        "It is also important to consider ALL information...different city managers do things differently, the economic and social conditions vary, etc. Figure out that variation".

        We do have poverty in Vermont Mike, just as there are various levels of poverty around our world.

        I agree with you that people generally would like to live sustainably wherever they live. That is why a village/town/city needs to PLAN for sustainability by being aware of the variations and PLAN accordingly.

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