A good friend sent me this letter, written by INTBAU, an organization that advocates traditional building, and signed by CNU president John Norquist, among other advocates. It relates to the stimulus package and how the federal government can make a real difference in institutionalizing the shift toward compact, walkable communities.
Here is an excerpt, you can read the full text here.
Recent research has shown clearly that the way we build our cities and towns has a powerful effect on carbon emissions and climate change. Sprawling, fragmented suburbs generate much greater emissions per capita than compact, walkable, livable cities and towns. A combination of smart development, infill, retrofit, cogeneration and building-scale efficiencies could have an enormous impact on energy and emissions in a sector that contributes as much as 70% of energy consumption in United States.
Thus it appears there is an important connection to be developed between the stimulus spending for infrastructure, the challenge of climate change, and the development of sustainable prosperity through a wiser kind of low-carbon economy. Your administration has already identified this link and we are deeply appreciative of that recognition. Yet issues related to urban planning and architecture are seen as disconnected from other pressing issues. It is not easy to understand the importance of these factors, because they are systemic and slow to change; but for that very reason they are also persistent, and have a powerful cumulative effect. They shape our future prosperity and well-being in profound ways. Therefore we believe we must all do a better job understanding and managing the growth of our built environment – what Jane Jacobs memorably called “the kind of problem a city is.” Change on such a large scale is difficult, but that is why it needs to come from the top – from the President – and at the same time it has to grow bottomup from the grassroots level.
We therefore suggest the following priorities for national action on this topic:
1) Continue to develop measurement criteria and incentives to guide stimulus spending, with extra incentives for lower carbon scores, and penalties for higher scores, using broad metrics (not just transportation). Target stimulus spending for pilot projects that create awareness of the benefits of walkable neighborhood planning and sustainable neighborhood lifestyles.
2) Prioritize additional projects that improve and build upon existing low-carbon areas and assets, particularly historic and transit-served areas.
3) Prioritize the retrofit and conservation of the best existing buildings and neighborhoods.
4) Continue funding for large-scale public transportation projects, but tied closely to smarter regional development patterns.
5) Develop collaborative support for innovative new state programs, such as the implementation of California’s landmark AB32 and SB375 laws.
6) Establish a watchdog office that polices stimulus spending and other Federal policy, and eliminates hidden incentives for sprawl.
1) Fund more aggressive research into the comparative study of urban forms and their benefits, particularly with regard to climate change, human health and economic sustainability.
2) Fund research and development of new tools and strategies to modify and retrofit cities and towns with low-carbon systems, with the aim of carbon reduction and economic development.
3) Fund the study and research of the value of humane and sustainable place making which respects local culture, heritage, ecology and economy.
4) Fund research to identify the hidden costs of sprawl, and strategies to price these real costs.
5) Implement new tools to finance and incentivize low-carbon neighborhood development, such as pricing signals, credits, urban codes, certifications, and related resources.
6) Encourage more demonstration projects that show that a lower-carbon lifestyle can actually be more enjoyable. Develop policies that acknowledge that beautiful places are more likely to be lived in, loved, cared for, and sustained over time.
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