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Sustainability interview: Peter Newman and Timothy Beatley

Sarah Kuck and Julia Levitt, WorldChanging
… Sustainability experts share a similar view about both the opportunity and responsibility facing the United States. And they believe that the change must take place first in our urban communities.

Newman, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University in Western Australia, coined the term “car dependence,” and has devoted his life’s work to helping governments understand the urgent need for improved public transit and land use in the 21st century. Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities at the University of Virginia, believes cities and nations should more freely share solutions for policy and development, to help us face the common challenges of sustainability and combating climate change.

The two colleagues recently co-authored the book Resilient Cities, which describes how intelligent planning and visionary leadership can be strong weapons for cities facing climate change and peak oil. They also collaborated on Green Urbanism Down Under, a book that explores the many strides Australia has taken to encourage renewable energy, compact development, successful public transportation and more, and helps translate those ideas into examples for the United States to follow.
(17 February 2009)

America’s Top 15 Emptiest Cities

Zack O’Malley Greenburg, ABC News
These Once Boom Cities Are Now Quickly Turning Into Recession Ghost Towns

… Cities like Detroit and Dayton are casualties of America’s lengthy industrial decline. Others, like Las Vegas and Orlando, are mostly victims of the recent housing bust. Boston and New York are among the lone bright spots, while Honolulu is the nation’s best with a vacancy rate of 5.8 percent for homes and a scant 0.5 percent for rentals.

Still, empty neighborhoods are becoming an increasingly daunting problem across the country.

… empty neighborhoods are becoming an increasingly daunting problem across the country. The national rental vacancy rate now stands at 10.1 percent, up from 9.6 percent a year ago; homeowner vacancy has edged up from 2.8 percent to 2.9 percent. Richmond, Va.’s rental vacancy rate of 23.7 percent is the worst in America, while Orlando’s 7.4 percent rate is lousiest on the homeowner side. Detroit and Las Vegas are among the worst offenders by both measures–the Motor City sports vacancy rates of 19.9 percent for rentals and 4 percent for homes; Sin City has rates of 16 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively.

“It’s a mess,” says Vegas developer Laurence Hallier. “Right now, things are just frozen. Everybody’s scared.”
(22 February 2009)

In Maricopa, Ariz., a Paradise Found and Lost

James R. Hagerty, Wall Stret Journal
Builders rushed into this one-time agricultural crossroads during the housing boom. They put up beige stucco houses on winding streets, with names like Heavenly Place and Good Vibrations Lane. They lured young people who couldn’t afford homes in nearby Phoenix or its costly suburbs. The population soared to 37,000 last year from 1,400 a decade ago, making Maricopa one of the nation’s fastest-growing towns.

Now, it’s become a dead end for some of those people.

“We’re trapped,” says Tracy Campbell, as she watches her 2-year-old daughter romp on a playground.
(24 February 2009)

Sonoma Mountain Village: Is Green Suburbia Possible?

Adele Peters, WorldChanging
… the development company has done an enormous amount to improve the efficiency of the systems within the Sonoma Mountain Village, meeting the small community’s water, energy and transportation needs with state-of-the-art green features like on-site renewable energy. BioRegional asserts that “every resident is no more than a five-minute walk to groceries, restaurants, day care and other amenities offering local, sustainable, and fair trade products and services.”

The village center, which was designed around the reuse of existing buildings, will include a year-round farmers market, grocery stores and other businesses, entertainment options, and telecommuting desks. Alternative transportation services will be plentiful: free bikes, electric vehicles that connect to the smart grid, a biofuel filling station, plug-in hybrid carshare, and carpool concierge services. Thanks in part to lobbying by Codding, a commuter rail line linking the suburb to nearby cities has also been approved, and will be a ten-minute walk from the community.

The community will rely very little on outside resources. A combination of energy-efficiency technologies like passive solar heating will make buildings at Sonoma Mountain Village zero carbon by 2020. On-site renewable power will supply the rest of the energy required. In 2006, an enormous 1.14MW solar photovoltaic installation was installed on the roof of an existing building, which, among other things, will power the world’s first zero-carbon data center. The existing solar power array will likely be quadrupled in the future.
(19 February 2009)