31/3/2012 - Is Public Outreach Enough to Overhaul India's Slums? .
31/3/2012 - Bordeaux signs the Charter for a democratic use of video-surveillance.
30/3/2012 - Sustainability To Be a Centerpiece of Japan's Rebuilding Effort.
30/3/2012 - 'The State of the World's Children 2012' - increasing urbanization is a great threat to children.
29/3/2012 - Is China's Building Bubble About to Burst? .
29/3/2012 - Mexico City Pact gets new signatory and award nomination.
29/3/2012 - Cape Town leads the way for cities in Africa.
28/3/2012 - Investment in Smarter Cities Begins to Pay Dividends.
28/3/2012 - Will St. Louis Become the Next City to Demolish Its Elevated Urban Highway? .
27/3/2012 - PLATFORMA welcomes the evaluation of European support to decentralisation processes.
27/3/2012 - Decrease in irregular migration into Europe.
27/3/2012 - Detroit Drifts Towards Budget Armageddon.
26/3/2012 - Cairns : ’Cityport’ Project.
26/3/2012 - A Prelude to More Equal Road Rights for Bikers? .
25/3/2012 - No time for doubt: tackling urban risk.
25/3/2012 - Tomorrow floating parks ? .
25/3/2012 - Are Satellite Cities the Smart Alternative to Urban Sprawl or Pie in the Sky? .
24/3/2012 - Major agreement on lower-emission city growth signed.
24/3/2012 - Enter by April for the 2013 RegioStars.
23/3/2012 - Which Cities Have the Brightest Futures? .
23/3/2012 - Urbanising the global agenda -Final Report released.
22/3/2012 - How can community-led local development (CLLD) become a powerful tool for improving cities? .
22/3/2012 - Bringing Value to Low-Cost Housing.
21/3/2012 - Tap into new technology with urban mobile apps.
21/3/2012 - Reduction on public transport rates for unemployed in Catalonia.
21/3/2012 - Marseilles mayor becomes first City Changer at World Water Forum.
20/3/2012 - European cities and regions take a new step towards a more equal Europe.
20/3/2012 - Norway is hosting “Universal Design 2012 Oslo.
20/3/2012 - Light-rail Neighborhoods Gain Population.
19/3/2012 - The Politics of Urban Governance.
19/3/2012 - Leicester (UK) : easing road traffic with the ISSUE project.
18/3/2012 - Quezon City and Kentucky report achievements through cCCR.
18/3/2012 - Nantes (France) - Half of social housing heated by renewable energy.
18/3/2012 - Urban Forum sets out strong role for cities.
17/3/2012 - Where Is China's Middle Class? .
17/3/2012 - Women’s rights and security: a priority for Efus.
17/3/2012 - Emanuel Unveils Economic Development Plan for Chicago - and Innovative Plan to Pay for It.
16/3/2012 - Getting better organised to deliver urban transport services: the EPTA project kicks off! .
16/3/2012 - Group Begins Work on “Vertical Farm” in Sweden.
15/3/2012 - Cities as systems: Implications for sustainability and health.
15/3/2012 - Miami Unveils Country's First Smart Stadium.
14/3/2012 - Benefits of shift from car to active transport.
14/3/2012 - Why Is Germany Backing off Its Green Energy Promotion? .
14/3/2012 - Social dialogue: local and regional public sector must be made more attractive to young and elderly workers.
13/3/2012 - If You Build It Will They Come, On Bikes? .
13/3/2012 - Showcasing innovative solutions to urban challenges: Living Labs Global award 2012.
13/3/2012 - Public 'Food Forest' Planned for Seattle.
12/3/2012 - City Council of Nairobi and UN Habitat Launch city initiative on Public Spaces.
12/3/2012 - Celebrating Highway Removal Success Stories.
12/3/2012 - European urban regeneration: put people before professionals.
11/3/2012 - A European Model for Suburban Retrofitting.
11/3/2012 - Co-responsibility - a new relationship between local government and citizens.
10/3/2012 - The Growing Attraction of Historic Streetcars.
10/3/2012 - What cities should do about traffic congestion.
9/3/2012 - Is Housing a Human Right? .
9/3/2012 - URBACT launches urban development training scheme for elected representatives.
8/3/2012 - What's Important for Biking in Your City? .
7/3/2012 - Workplace Cycle Challenges in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
7/3/2012 - The Keys to Happiness in City Living.
7/3/2012 - Global Energy Basel 2012: ICLEI hosts roundtable on Financing the Resilient City.
6/3/2012 - City Titles That Are Up For Grabs.
6/3/2012 - A Review for Sizing up the City.
6/3/2012 - Mexico City Trash Pickers Fight for Their Livelihood.
5/3/2012 - Public services employers sign joint declaration on the role of public services.
5/3/2012 - Milan launches the campaign “Live, don’t drive” .
4/3/2012 - UN-Habitat expands its Risk Reduction and Rehabilitation work .
4/3/2012 - Examining the Impact of Municipal Budget Cuts.
4/3/2012 - European urban regeneration: put people before professionals .
4/3/2012 - The 5 Estates Project: Bringing Diverse Communities Together.
3/3/2012 - Improve our cities, improve the European economy.
3/3/2012 - New Tool for Building Sustainable Communities Debuts.
3/3/2012 - UN-Habitat announces further support to urban youth.
2/3/2012 - Why the Future of Sustainable Cities Rests with China.
2/3/2012 - Antwerp: Minding Minority Interests at City Hall.
2/3/2012 - CEMR brings new perspectives on citizenship and twinning in its white paper.
1/3/2012 - Encouraging Urban Retirement.
1/3/2012 - Promoting ethnic entrepreneurship in European cities.
Is Public Outreach Enough to Overhaul India's Slums?
Mukta Naik, a consulting planner with Indian housing firm micro Home Solutions, discovers that grand plans for a 'slum-free India' missed the mark on one key point: the lives of slum dwellers.
The government of India has launched an ambitious housing policy plan, dubbed "Rajiv Awas Yojana" (after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi), centered around a vision to eradicate the nation's slums. With roughly 110 million people living in makeshift homes "with variable access to basic services like water, sanitation and sewage," the government has set before itself a herculean task that, according to Naik, is completely out of touch with the lives it was meant to improve.
Two years ago, charged with the task of implementing RAY locally, social housing initiative micro Home Solutions (mHS) worked closely with a community in Sundernagari, East Delhi, alongside a community-based NGO to design a new, equitable, accessible housing development. But over the course of the project, Naik came to a number of challenging realizations.
"We learnt early on that the community detests the concept of high-rise living, has no faith in elevator technology and since they work from home, their livelihoods are directly impacted by apartment living... Sundernagari residents held a plot of land, however small, as their ideal form of housing. Our carefully created multistorey apartment design, which tried to accommodate their every expressed need, meant nothing at all to the community."
The firm found that the constraints set forth in RAY were often incompatible with the lifestyles of slum dwellers. For example, the government plan specified 25m² units for each family, the adequacy of which both mHS and residents questioned for multi-generational living arrangements – the status quo in India, especially in poor families. While mHS was able to devise a number of features to meet community needs, the plan remains on paper indefinitely.
"For professionals to be sensitive to slum dwellers' needs," he concludes, "we need to spend time in their homes, participate in their community activities, listen to their grouses and appreciate their abilities."
Bordeaux signs the Charter for a democratic use of video-surveillance
The city of Bordeaux has joined other European cities in endorsing the Charter for a democratic use of video-surveillance published by Efus and its partners as part of the “Citizens, cities and video-surveillance” project, which concluded in 2010.
There are 26 cameras in Bordeaux, a city of 235,000 inhabitants. This is a very low ratio compared to most European cities, and it shows how cautious local authorities are about this technology. The fact that Bordeaux signed the Charter further demonstrates its prudent approach.
Bordeaux first put in place video cameras in 2002 in order to monitor the access points to the city centre. Some time later, the city hall decided to install cameras around the neighbourhood of the Quais de Paludat, a nightlife hotspot. The decision was taken after consultation with the national police, local associations, and the Local Security and Crime Prevention Council (CLSPD, according to the French acronym).
In 2008, the video-surveillance system was extended to the area of the Quais de la Garonne, which was at the time derelict and closed off with fences. Since then, this area has been renovated, and includes gardens and promenades. It has become very popular during day time and at night.
Sustainability To Be a Centerpiece of Japan's Rebuilding Effort
Having just returned from a United Nations-led tour of disaster-ravaged areas of Japan, Warren Karlenzig reports on efforts across the region to rebuild along smart growth and green economic development models.
With the one-year anniversary of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident fast approaching, Karlenzig recently toured six tsunami-damaged communities and two radiation-impacted cities in Northern Japan as part of a UN Center for Regional Development (UNCRD) fact-finding mission, one of the first (if not the first) from outside the three affected prefectures to meet with local leaders on reconstruction and post-disaster management planning.
Although the full rebuilding effort will not begin for several years due to a number of factors (unstable ground, waste removement, etc.), many communities have already submitted reconstruction plans including land use schemes to the national government, and Karlenzig points to the plans of two particular tsunami-ravaged cities that stand out for being smart growth models.
In Ishinomaki,a pre-tsunami city of about 160,000 which had the most tsunami deaths of any city, "has a plan to virtually wipe clean its remaining 'ghost' downtown to create a mixed-use residential-commercial zone that will be 2-3 times as denser than before," writes Karlenzig. He also sees transit-oriented redesign as a strategy being utilized to keep and attract younger citizens.
With the country scrambling to replace the 25-30% of the nation's energy supply that came from now mostly shuttered nuclear facilities, quickly growing the country's renewable energy production will be of importance nationwide, and as the basis for developing the economies of disaster-ravaged areas.
"Rikuzentakada, a city of 22,000 (2,000 died in the tsunami), is making plans to make 'new energy' a key part of its redevelopment vision. This city which was reported to have been "wiped off the map," by 65-foot (19.2 meter) waves is today pursuing national government subsidies and private investments to create large-scale distributed generation of renewables, including PV solar, land biomass (wood), marine biomass and offshore wind."
Later this month, Karlenzig's delegation will work with UNCRD to develop recommendations based on their visit.
'The State of the World's Children 2012' - increasing urbanization is a great threat to children
More than half of the world’s 7 billion people now live in urban areas. What does this mean for children? UNICEF has dedicated the 2012 edition of its flagship report, The State of the World’s Children, to the situation of children growing up in urban settings. Cities are known to generate economic growth – but, as the report reveals, not all children are benefiting from urban expansion. In this increasingly urban world, the absence of a sustained focus on child rights means that some children are being left behind.
Is China's Building Bubble About to Burst?
Peter Day visits Ordos, a largely empty new city in Inner Mongolia, and sees evidence that the great Chinese building boom, which did so much to fuel the country's astonishing economic growth, is over.
Conceived of 20 years ago, as a new town for the hundreds of thousands of residents that the "great Mongolian coal rush" would bring to the region, and virtually empty today, Ordos is believed to be the largest ghost town in China.
For Day, and other financial experts, Ordos is "merely the most spectacular example of a new Chinese phenomenon, in many cities - unsold flats, unlet shops, empty office blocks," which together form the warning signs of an impending economic collapse.
"Western financial experts who fear a bursting of the Chinese real estate bubble point out that the Chinese economy is more dependent on house building than the United States economy was, before the sub-prime lending bubble burst in 2007," notes Day.
Mexico City Pact gets new signatory and award nomination
The Global Cities Covenant on Climate – the Mexico City Pact gains a new momentum in 2012 by being nominated for the Prince of Asturias Award in the category of International Cooperation. The nomination is presented by Carlos Fuentes, one of the best living Mexican writer and 1994 winner of the Prince of Asturias Award in literature . It is also supported by UNFCCC, UN-HABITAT, IPCC and H.E. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil and 1994 winner of the Prince of Asturias Award in international cooperation.
Meanwhile, with the recent signature of Lord Mayor Andrew Montague of Dublin (Ireland), number of signatories to the Mexico City Pact exceeds 240 cities from over 50 countries.
Cape Town leads the way for cities in Africa
Cape Town continues its role as a pioneer sustainable development city in Africa by implementing Green procurement.
International communities, including Africa, are facing the dramatic consequences of climate change, excessive use of natural resources, threats to biodiversity and increasing poverty. These challenges cannot be addressed without making the shift to more sustainable production and consumption practices. Recognizing the need for action Cape Town has adopted and created guidelines in implementing green procurement.
Green Public Procurement (GPP) refers to a public procurement system with intent to maximize its benefits and minimizing its disadvantages to the natural environment and associated resources, thereby promoting environmental sustainability by applying the procurement processes. One of the main goals of the policy is to “to promote resource efficiency and reduce the negative environmental implications of daily operations of the City.”
Learn more about the work that Cape Town is doing in promoting sustainable development at: www.capetown.gov.za
Investment in Smarter Cities Begins to Pay Dividends
Pete Swabey tells the tale of the development of smart city technology by IBM and Cisco, which has now reached a point of maturation in which significant lessons, economic opportunities, and future applications can be discerned.
In only seven years since its initial seed investment, by the Clinton Foundation, smart city technology – "the use of networks, sensors and analytics to make cities more efficient, productive and habitable" - has begun to affect the ways in which cities operate, evidenced by a profile piece by Natasha Singer, in the The New York Times, on Rio's citywide system (developed by IBM) integrating data from some 30 agencies.
While Swabey recounts the larger strategies guiding the tech giants in their quest to corner the expected $57 billion global market to supply cities with “smart” systems by 2014, Singer focuses narrowly on the Rio initiative, IBM's pioneer project and world's most fully integrated smart city application.
Rio's challenges (poverty, sprawl, crime) and opportunities (host to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics), provides a unique crucible in which to develop and test such technology. Singer describes the system's foundation in IBM's incorporation of hardware, software, analytics and research, and the development of a virtual operations interface. Singer also looks at the system's performance in responding to recent crises such as a 20-story office building collapse.
The Integrated Operations Centre software that IBM developed for the Rio project is now a commercially available product and Zhenjiang, a city of about three million people in eastern China, has already bought the new system to manage public transportation, reports Singer.
Will St. Louis Become the Next City to Demolish Its Elevated Urban Highway?
Alex Ihnen writes about the fast moving proposal to convert 1-mile of the elevated I-70 highway separating downtown St. Louis from its historic riverfront.
Recently the city's development corporation released its "Request for Proposals for Downtown Multimodal Access Study," the most significant step yet in efforts to convert a portion of I-70, adjacent to the famed Gateway Arch and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial park, into an urban boulevard, reports Ihnen.
According to Ihnen, "The aging Interstate and the challenge of activating an urban national park recently led to yet another attempt to redefine the city's riverfront. In 2009, the National Park Service completed an overdue general management plan, the first in the park's history. While proposing various options, the plan stated that the NPS 'prefers and strongly supports the removal of the Interstate highway' adjacent to the Arch."
A groundswell of local groups have lined up behind efforts to demolish the elevated highway and "Development Strategies, a real estate, community and economic development consultant firm estimated that removing I-70 and replacing it with an urban boulevard would created more than $1.1B in new development opportunities for the city."
PLATFORMA welcomes the evaluation of European support to decentralisation processes
PLATFORMA* welcomes the first review of the European Commission programmes for aid delivery in support of decentralisation processes in third countries.
These programmes provide considerable support to decentralisation reforms, which are essential in poor and fragile countries where efforts aimed at state building and public sector reforms are greatly needed.
Moreover, PLATFORMA supports a number of the recommendations outlined in the evaluation, including a call for the Commission to establish a unit dedicated to local governments and issues. The evaluation also encourages the setting up of training sessions on decentralisation and local governance for the staff of EU delegations and Commission headquarters.
Finally, the European platform underlines that, at a time when the instruments for European external action are being negotiated for the period of 2014 to 2020, this publication constitutes an ally for local and regional governments.
This study, published on 12 March 2012, was conducted by a consortium of independent experts in 77 countries having benefited from aid delivery in support of decentralisation processes between 2000 and 2009. Through this aid delivery, the Commission aims both at bettering local governance and rendering access to local services more efficient.
Decrease in irregular migration into Europe
Irregular migration frequently makes headlines, and in Europe, policymakers are under increasing public and political pressure to address both the flows and stocks of unauthorized migrants in each country. Within EU Member States, national governments define, identify, and respond to irregular migration in very different ways. However, with the removal of internal borders within the Schengen area, European governments are collaborating intensively on the management of their external borders. The reactive nature of EU irregular migration to border management operations and return policies suggest that continued and large-scale investment in border enforcement are likely to be needed alongside related policies that combat the root causes of such migration. This is described in ‘Irregular Migration in Europe’ by Christal Morehouse and Michael Blomfield.
Detroit Drifts Towards Budget Armageddon
As the city runs out of cash, Detroit leaders are balking at a restructuring deal proposed by state officials to establish a joint advisory board to address the city’s financial troubles without a state-appointed emergency manager.
Steven Yaccino reports that a number of city officials, including Mayor Dave Bing, have voiced their opposition to the "cooperative" solution proposed by Michigan state officials, as Detroit moves perilously close to running out of cash.
In an effort to head off the need for a a state-appointed emergency manager, "[t]he agreement proposed Tuesday, which must be signed by the mayor and the review team, would establish a nine-member Financial Advisory Board that would have authority to approve budgets, the sale of assets and changes to contracts, including collective bargaining agreements with the 48 unions that represent city workers," writes Yaccino.
While city leaders acknowledge that drastic measures must be taken to avoid fiscal collapse, they object to the extent to which the city forfeits control in the proposed agreement. "The offer, Mr. Bing said in a statement, 'circumvents the role and power of the City Council as the legislative body, waives the ability of elected officials to contest any aspect of the agreement, and dismisses the unprecedented effort and concessions made by the City’s labor unions to avoid an economic catastrophe,'” reports Yaccino.
With a state review team scheduled to deliver recommendations to the governor on a path forward by March 28, the time frame for agreement by city leaders on emergency management measures is quickly closing.
Cairns : ’Cityport’ Project
The Cityport project concerns 41.5 hectares of the waterfront of Cairns and is judged essential for the economic development and tourist attractiveness of the city. Launched in 1996 with the construction of a Congress centre, various developments have since been achieved including a 250 moorings yacht harbour and a cruise terminal recently rewarded (see info of 10/01/2012). Another listed warehouse is now going to be reconverted. It will be integrated in over a kilometre of promenade on the waterfront. An aquarium is also announced.
A Prelude to More Equal Road Rights for Bikers?
The bicycle rights movement is on the rise as two new California laws give bike riders more equality on the road, reports Eric Jaffe.
Over the past two months, two new laws have expanded safety and access rights for oft-neglected users of the road, bike riders.
In Berkeley, a new "anti-harassment law gives riders the option of filing a civil suit against any driver who assaults, threatens, injures, or intentionally (and maliciously) distracts them." Modeled after a similar law passed in Los Angeles last September that expands on potential penalties for harassment beyond merely criminal remedies, offenders would be subjected to costly fines.
Nearby, in the city of San Francisco, an updated version of New York's "Bikes in Buildings" law of 2009 is expected to be signed into law shortly. "The ordinance will compel commercial property owners to permit bikes inside the building unless there's "secure alternate covered off-street parking" on the premises, or unless unique circumstances related to elevator safety merit an exemption."
These two laws may not mark the beginning of a nationwide trend, but they represent an important start in providing long-overdue rights for bicyclists, declares Jaffe.
No time for doubt: tackling urban risk
This publication was developed in an effort to complement and inform the internal process of defining urban intervention strategies in the Americas in order to manage urban risk related to health and sanitation; food security and nutrition; road safety; social, economic and political violence
Tomorrow floating parks ?
After the reutilisation of containers for urban usages, will tomorrow be the turn of oil platforms ? This is the concept proposed by Waterstudio, a Dutch architects studio, with the "Sea Trees" project. These vertical floating parks represent, according to them, a solution for creating new ecosystems and solve the lack of space in too dense cities. Utopia or a reality tomorrow in certain port cities?
Are Satellite Cities the Smart Alternative to Urban Sprawl or Pie in the Sky?
Kai Laursen argues for satellite cities as a promising alternative to accommodate population growth, while preserving open space and farmland, and minimizing urban sprawl.
Laursen sees infill development alone as inadequate to meet the world's long-term need to house 9 billion individuals by 2050.
Rather, he sees a solution in developing satellite cities, which he defines as "planned cities...surrounded by greenbelt areas and..connected to the greater metropolitan area by an efficient rail system...[and] differ[ing] from suburbs, subdivisions, and bedroom communities in that they have municipal governments distinct from that of the core metropolis and employment bases sufficient to support their resident populations."
In his utopian vision, Laursen imagines a "satellite solar city" that would be carbon neutral and car-free, and utilize seemingly every novel energy and transportation concept currently in circulation, including personal rapid transit (PRT).
Major agreement on lower-emission city growth signed
UN-Habitat and the European Commission (EC) have signed an agreement to begin a new project that encourages cities to lower their emissions as they grow. International local government member association, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, will serve as the main implementing partner.
The project entitled ‘Promoting Low Emission Urban Development Strategies in Emerging Economy Countries’ (URBAN-LEDS) responds to the European Commission’s priority objective of climate change mitigation. It recognizes the fact that cities emit a large proportion of the world’s greenhouse gases and can take decisive steps to reduce emissions as they expand. This EUR 6.7 million project will run from 1 March 2012 to 31 August 2015.
Upon signing the agreement with the EC, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Dr. Joan Clos, remarked: “The post-World War II trends for urban growth are simply not sustainable. The city of the 21st century must be equitable, environmentally sustainable and prosperous. Through urban low-emissions development strategies that promote improved urban planning, mobility, energy, water and solid waste management, this project will allow us to promote more sustainable patterns for urban development. It will also offer a platform for cities to share their experiences and lessons with other cities around the world, and advocate for policies that better address climate change in urban areas.”
This global initiative will work primarily in four emerging economy countries: Brazil, South Africa, India and Indonesia. In each of those countries, the project will help model cities to formulate and adopt Urban Low-Emissions Development Strategies, and then share those experiences within their countries and beyond.
At the same time URBAN-LEDS will facilitate a broader interaction between local authorities and global climate actors, to ensure that local governments are appropriately integrated into the global climate mitigation regime. The project will help to ensure that the promotion, recognition, recording, verification and integration of actions taken by cities to reduce emissions are enhanced.
”In the next four decades, our urban population will double. The way we design and build our cities now will define the future success of our commitments to prevent global warming reaching to dangerous levels. We need to demonstrate that shifting urban development to a low emission path can offer both a better urban livelihood to billions of people and yield immediate, direct, cost–effective and scalable greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Through its vast experience and capacity on stimulating local climate action worldwide, ICLEI is glad to contribute and support this historical partnership,” said Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, Secretary-General of ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability.
Enter by April for the 2013 RegioStars
Applications for the 2013 RegioStars awards are open until 20 April 2012
Local and regional authorities, organisations, agencies and universities can apply until 20 April 2012 to be eligible for the 2013 RegioStars awards. The awards identify good practices in regional development and highlight innovative practices which could be inspiring to others.
The 2013 award categories include a special ‘CityStar’ award, launched in time for last year's awards to showcase integrated approaches to sustainable urban development. Other categories include:
• Smart growth: connecting universities to regional growth
• Sustainable growth: supporting resource efficiency in SMEs
• Inclusive growth: social innovation – creative responses to societal challenges
• Information & communication: promoting EU regional policy with short videos
The awards offer an ideal opportunity to showcase your city’s achievements at European level. Finalists will be invited to present their projects before an independent jury during the OPEN DAYS 2012 in October 2012, and the awards ceremony will take place in Brussels in early 2013.
Which Cities Have the Brightest Futures?
Zipcar has released the results of their first Future Metropolis Index, which the company commissioned to recognize cities that demonstrate smart urban planning and policymaking, reports Ariel Schwartz.
Using data collected between July 2011–January 2012 KRC Research, the 36 largest cities in the country were ranked according to their achievements in providing innovative, sustainable, vibrant, efficient, and livable environments for their citizens. According to Schwartz, "These are arbitrary measures...But the measures do provide at least an outline of whether a city is future-forward or not.
In the overall rankings, "San Francisco comes out on top thanks to its many parks, arts-related businesses and jobs, high percentage of hybrid cars, and widespread use of public transportation."
Leaders in individual categories include Atlanta for innovation, Tucson for sustainability, San Francisco for vibrancy/creativity, Washington DC for efficiency, and El Paso for livability/optimism.
Urbanising the global agenda -Final Report released
The key outcomes and highlights of local governments’ action at the UNFCCC COP17/CMP7 in Durban, South Africa (28 November – 9 December 2011) are featured in it this comprehensive final report now available and attached for your convenience.
The final report focuses on the COP17/CMP7 negotiations breakthroughs - in which nations agreed on a platform for establishing under the UNFCCC a legal binding instrument applicable to all Parties to extend and improve the commitments of the Kyoto Protocol, and on the “Durban Local Government Convention: Adapting to a Changing Climate” – a high level parallel platform to the UNFCCC COP17/CMP7, resulted in the adoption of the Durban Adaptation Charter.
Building on the recognition of local and sub-national governments as governmental stakeholders in the agreement of the Cancun climate conference in 2010, this momentous Adaptation Charter, together with the Mexico City Pact and carbonn Cities Climate Registry, demonstrates once again local government’s political commitment to pushing forward the urbanization of the climate agenda and tackling climate change through concrete measurable, reportable and verifiable (MRV) actions.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit www.iclei.org/climate-roadmap
How can community-led local development (CLLD) become a powerful tool for improving cities?
Drawing on experiences from the URBACT programme, experts in urban development have put forward their first answers in an article entitled ‘Implementing “community-led” local development in cities. Lessons from URBACT’. http://urbact.eu/en/header-main/news-and-events/view-one/news/?entryId=5131
Bringing Value to Low-Cost Housing
Ron Nyren looks at 10 affordable housing developments across the world completed in the last five years that demonstrate good design and low-cost housing are not mutually exclusive.
In the hands of capable designers and progressive developers, a new generation of affordable housing is proving that such projects can bring value to residents and the communities in which they're located.
"Though tight budgets may restrict options for materials, architects have found ways to add variety, mixing exterior textures and colors, breaking up massing, and integrating art into the architecture. Careful siting leaves room for generous outdoor open spaces—whether landscaped courtyards or public plazas—that provide places for residents to get to know each other or enjoy a respite from life in the city," writes Nyren.
The projects that Nyren cites to prove his argument can be found in cities as diverse as San Francisco, Winnipeg, Brooklyn, and Renton, Washington. Nyren documents each project with an image and short description that makes for an inspirational argument for those who lament that good design can only be afforded by those with deep pockets.
Tap into new technology with urban mobile apps
Competition launched for mobile apps designed to enhance the urban experience
The New Cities Foundation has launched an ‘AppMyCity!’ competition calling for innovative mobile apps that ‘improve the urban experience, connect people and make the city a more fun, fair and sustainable place’.
To be eligible, mobile apps must: be available in iOS, Android or Windows Phone; have been launched in 2011 or 2012; and have a clear urban focus in the area of mobility, sustainability, equity, citizenship, retail or art and entertainment.
Finalists will be invited to the New Cities Summit 2012 on 14-16 May in Paris to present their apps. The winner, judged by a panel of technologists, entrepreneurs, academics and city leaders, will receive €5,000 to invest in promoting their app and an invitation to spend a week in a world class research lab.
You can apply via Twitter or Weibo before the 22 April. For further details, visit the AppMyCity! website.
Reduction on public transport rates for unemployed in Catalonia
200,000 unemployed people will have an 80% discount on public transport in Catalonia. The Government of Catalonia introduced this measure to facilitate mobility to find a new job.
Since 12th March 2012, unemployed people in Catalonia can travel by public transport with a bonus of about 80%, depending on the territorial area. The Government of Catalonia has introduced important discounts on public transport for unemployed people in order to facilitate their mobility to find a new job.
This initiative potentially includes almost 200,000 jobseekers with few resources. Special rates have been applied in integrated long-term tickets customized.
Marseilles mayor becomes first City Changer at World Water Forum
The Mayor of Marseille, Mr. Jean-Claude Gaudin this week became the first high level personality to sign up to UN-Habitat’s new I’m a city changer campaign.
He signed up during the sixth session of the World Water Forum where UN-Habitat and its World Urban Campaign partners launched the city changer initiative to raise awareness on positive actions that can be taken to improve the world’s cities.
"I support this awareness campaign, and the city changers movement. I support the vision and efforts of Dr. Joan Clos as Executive Director of UN-Habitat and former Mayor of Barcelona,” he told a news conference.
Through various international events, I’m A City Changer will aim to put cities and towns at the heart of the solutions for insuring sustainable urban development for the benefit of future generations.
“In signing up, Mr Gaudin demonstrates his commitment to the campaign and in sharing best practices in improving city life,” Dr. Clos said.
The City of Marseille is strongly engaged in the organization of the sixth World Water Forum which recognizes the city for its expertise in water provision and its international reputation as an attractive economic, cultural and touristic venue, as well as for its clean land and marine environment.
The I’m A City Changer seeks to highlight important urban matters such as water and sanitation delivery. Today, according to UN-Habitat research, one out of four people in the world is living in slums or sub-standard housing without proper access to water and sanitation, or security of tenure.
I’m A City Changer presents a change in the urban paradigm. It aims to convey to every city decision-maker the potential in changes in urban strategies and policies, and encourages citizens to adopt new attitudes towards life style and consumption.
European cities and regions take a new step towards a more equal Europe
On 8 March 2012, at the occasion of International Women’s Day, local and regional elected representatives from a number of European countries have launched the Observatory of the Charter on Equality of Women and Men in Local Life. It is in this context that they have published the column below and call upon municipalities and regions all over Europe to commit to the Charter and to the principle of gender equality.
Norway is hosting “Universal Design 2012 Oslo
Public Space: Inspire, Challenge, and Empower”
Six Norwegian municipalities invite UD2012 participants to visit and observe their UD solutions on the days before and after the conference.
The inviting municipalities are part of a national developed project on universal design and have been working systematically to translate the UD principles into clearly defined actions.
From Oslo the excursions can take you in any direction, and will give participants the opportunity to see more of our beautiful country.
The excursions are organized by the municipalities themselves, please contact them directly for information and sign up.
Light-rail Neighborhoods Gain Population
About 83 percent of St. Louis neighborhoods with light rail access gained population between 2000 and 2010, even as the city as a whole lost residents. Eighty-seven percent of the population gains were in neighborhoods categorized as "very walkable," according to WalkScore.com. Downtown St. Louis, with the highest walk score in the city (92), has gained nearly 3,000 new residents since 2000.
The Politics of Urban Governance
- "One of the shortcomings in much of governance research is that it has been too much concerned with the cast of actors and the configuration of collaboration."
“One of the shortcomings in much of governance research, not just urban governance, is that it has been too much concerned with the cast of actors and the configuration of collaboration.” Being interviewed is Jon Pierre, author of The Politics of Urban Governance. “I have always worked on several projects at once and have also tried to be active in more than one research field. In some ways, the book is reflective of that work strategy as it incorporates not just urban politics and urban social theory but also institutional theory, public management, and globalization analysis.”
Leicester (UK) : easing road traffic with the ISSUE project
Leicester City Council and De Montfort University are leading THE ISSUE project, which will foster cooperation between scientists, engineers and development agencies from different regions, using the latest space and information technologies, to develop more effective methods of easing road traffic and improving the urban environment.
THE ISSUE programme will create a vibrant partnership of regional research clusters to bring together and coordinate already-existing and projected R&D programmes relevant to Traffic, Health and Environment both within the clusters and more widely in the broader European research community.
The partners involved are The University of Nottingham, Astrium Services (Leicester), the Molise region in Italy, the Midi-Pyrenees and Aquitaine regions in France and the Mazovia region in Poland.
Quezon City and Kentucky report achievements through cCCR
Quezon City, Philippines has completed conducting an inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from government operations. Additionally the central Kentucky city of Berea, US has been recognized for achieving an initial milestone in a program to conserve energy, reduce its carbon footprint and advance sustainability.
Both these programs were conducted in partnership with ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability under the mantel of Carbonn Cities Climate Registry.
The carbonn Cities Climate Registry (cCCR) is a global mechanism that encourages local governments to regularly and publicly report on their greenhouse gas reduction commitments, GHG emissions inventories and climate mitigation/adaptation actions. The cCCR was developed by local governments for local governments.
The cCCR enables cities and local governments to publicly register their greenhouse gas reduction commitments, report performance and showcase actions.
Read more about Quezon City, Philippines.
Read more about Berea, Kentucky, US.
Learn more about cCCR.
Nantes (France) - Half of social housing heated by renewable energy
The Urban Community of Nantes Métropole is planning the extension of its two district heating systems. Both systems will supply schools, tertiary buildings, residential buildings, and a hospital. The progressive extension until 2017 will eventually allow to heat half the inhabitants in Nantes. In 2017 the district heating systems will be supplied by combustion of waste (41%) and wood (43%).
Urban Forum sets out strong role for cities
The first European Commission Urban Forum sent a powerful message about the special role of cities in the future cohesion policy.
The forum saw the leaders of Europe’s big cities exchange directly with representatives from the European Commission on how best to foster sustainable growth in the years ahead. We were represented by our vice-president, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Mayor of Warsaw, as well as mayors and politicians from Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bratislava, Leipzig, Lille, Lisbon, Lodz, Manchester, Naples, Sofia and Turin. The high-level discussions took place in the presence of two Commissioners, Johannes Hahn for regional policy and Connie Hedegaard for climate action, as well as Carsten Hansen, Danish Minister for housing, urban and rural affairs, Jan Olbrycht MEP and several directors from the Commission.
The outcomes of the meeting will contribute to the thinking around developing EU instruments for promoting integrated urban development and innovation in cities and urban areas. This support should ensure that cities are able to fulfill their potential to contribute to economic recovery in Europe.
Speaking at the event, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz called for:
· cities to be full partners in the national processes that will establish investment priorities affecting them
· funding priorities that are flexible enough to allow cities to target the needs on the ground
· a clear urban dimension across all thematic priorities
EUROCITIES press release on the Urban Forum: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/PR_EUROCITIES_Urban%20Forum_160212.pdf
EUROPOLITICS – ‘cities at the heart of economic recovery’: http://www.europolitics.info/cities-at-heart-of-economic-recovery-art326502.html
Photos from the Urban Forum: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eurocities/sets/72157629064080170/
Where Is China's Middle Class?
According to Nate Berg, they're not to be found in the country's new megacities. In an article for The Atlantic Cities, Berg discusses a recent paper analyzing the outdated law preventing China's growth and prosperity from trickling down.
The paper, authored by geographer and University of Washington professor Kam Wing Chan, and published in the journal Eurasian Geography and Economics, points to a Mao-era rule, "that draws a harsh line between those from urban areas and those from rural ones," as the culprit.
Berg describes the conundrum created by the rule, called hukou, this way: "Urban citizens are given access to social services and welfare programs, including public education and affordable housing. Rural residents are not. Status is hereditary, meaning that once a family is in one tier it will always remain in that tier. This has been a problem for many rural residents who want to leave their agricultural lifestyles to earn the higher wages in cities working in factories or construction, but who are faced with slum-like living conditions and an effective low ceiling over their social and economic mobility.
The larger global effect is that the rising Chinese middle class that was supposed to purchase the goods manufactured in the developed and developing world with their new-found disposable income may never appear.
Women’s rights and security: a priority for Efus
On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, celebrated today throughout the world, the European Forum for Urban Security (Efus) reaffirms that the fight for women’s rights and security is one of its priorities, and calls political decision-makers at the local, national and international level to increase efforts to guarantee those rights.
For the past 25 years, Efus and its members have led a great number of initiatives and programmes aimed at improving the living conditions of women, and to raise awareness among the general public and institutions about the need to guarantee full equality of rights. These principles are stated in Efus’ Saragossa Manifesto (2006), and guide its work in the areas of violence against women, urban security, and sexual exploitation, to name but a few.
Emanuel Unveils Economic Development Plan for Chicago - and Innovative Plan to Pay for It
A day after introducing an ambitious economic development plan for Chicago, mayor Rahm Emanuel wasted little time in unveiling a crucial element for implementing the plan - a public-private mechanism for funding infrastructure improvements.
The regional plan introduced on Wednesday, called "A Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs," "was developed by World Business Chicago, the city's non-profit economic development agency and is viewed as the first step in a continuing process to tune up the region's hefty but sluggish economic engine," reports Kathy Bergen.
The plan's 10 strategic goals, focused on encouraging greater collaboration to boost economic development, range from directives to diversify and grow the city's economic and jobs base, to ways to boost exports and develop next-generation infrastructure.
This last goal became the jumping-off point for a press conference held on Thursday, with former President Bill Clinton, to announce Emanuel's plan for a public-private mechanism called the Chicago Infrastructure Trust to fund investment in energy-efficiency improvements, transportation and other projects. The infrastructure bank, a common funding source utilized in Europe, Asia, and South America, would leverage upfront private investment to pay for public works projects that would provide a long-term revenue stream to re-pay investors and borrowers.
Emanuel has already indicated which project may be the first to utilize the new funding mechanism, report Kristen Mack and Jon Hilkevitch. "The first project on tap is roughly $200 million in energy efficiency repairs to city buildings and schools. Emanuel estimates the city can reduce its energy bill by more than $20 million a year. It would use that money to pay back the private loans, he said."
Getting better organised to deliver urban transport services: the EPTA project kicks off!
Accross the EU, local authorities are organising themselves to better answer to the new regulatory framework in which to operate public transport. The EPTA project has been designed to study the local institutional context, including elements such as Public Transport Authorities or PT executive agencies.
Group Begins Work on “Vertical Farm” in Sweden
Plantagon recently broke ground on its very first vertical farm in Linkoping, Sweden. This prototype building will be called the International Centre of Excellence for Urban Agriculture, and it will serve as a facility for scientists to test new technologies aimed at improving urban farming.
Cities as systems: Implications for sustainability and health
Cities are complex ‘socio-technical’ systems, the sustainability of which is vital to citizens’ well-being. We focus on two connected systems, transport and energy, to draw out implications for health and sustainability and consider the challenges of the multi-level, coordinated governance needed to keep cities running and resilient. We draw three main conclusions. First, there is a need to build knowledge about urban transport, land use and energy in a more integrated way. Secondly, there is a need for greater horizontal policy integration, emphasising appraisal of co-benefits of policies, and policy experimentation. Thirdly, rather than growing cities waiting for detailed and perfect knowledge about urban issues and policies, they need to adopt precautionary policies on sustainability, if important opportunities to address the pressing issues of energy insecurity, climate change and maintaining health and wellbeing are to be successfully taken.
Miami Unveils Country's First Smart Stadium
IBM is partnering with the Miami Dolphins to bring its "Smarter Cities" technology to South Florida's Sun Life Stadium, reports Sam Laird.
Imagine a future in which your local stadium sends you personalized alerts about which parking lots have ample capacity, where to enter the stadium and skip the lines, or provide updates on inclement weather. Well the future is here, reports Laird.
It makes sense that technology originally developed by IBM for its "Smarter Cities" initiative, and run through its cloud-based Intelligent Operations Center, would find useful application at a large stadium. "With 75,00 seats, 24,000 parking spots, 1.5 million square feet of space and the world’s largest point-of-sale vending system under one roof, Sun Life Stadium functions almost as its own little city when the Dolphins play or a famous performer comes to town," writes Laird.
According to project officials, the partnership between IBM and the Dolphins will make Sun Life Stadium, "the most advanced venue of its kind in North America. The "Stadium of the Future" is set to have its first trial run during this evening's international soccer friendly between Mexico and Colombia.
Benefits of shift from car to active transport
Leaving the car at home and start bicycling and walking proves to have health and environmental benefits. One recent study estimates these benefits in financial terms.
Though environmental benefits of shift from car to active transport are largely know to the public, yet there is a lack of awareness on the health benefits from the increase physical activity due to a shift.
Health benefit due to physical activity quantified
The most effective way to increase physical activity in our daily life is to shift from car to active transport: bicycling and walking. This would contribute on the one hand to reduce congestion, noise and pollution in our cities, and on the other hand to have a significant health gain for both the individual and the society.
The study "Benefits of Shift from car to Active Transport" conducted within the EU’s TAPAS project (Transportation Air pollution and Physical ActivitieS) estimates the health gain evaluating four effects: 1) the change in exposure to ambient air pollution for the individuals who change their transportation mode, 2) their health benefit, 3) the health benefit for the general population due to reduced pollution, and 4) the risk of accidents. In order to measure these impacts on a common scale, researchers used monetary valuation.
Why Is Germany Backing off Its Green Energy Promotion?
In one of the countries leading the world in green energy adoption, a program to support solar energy has become a victim of its own success, reports Bjørn Lomborg.
It seems that Germany's enthusiasm for solar energy, where the government has doled out more than $130 billion in subsidies to its citizens to encourage them to invest in solar energy, does not match the country's ability to generate enough energy from sunlight to meet its overbuilt capacity and does little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Lomborg, "On short, overcast winter days, Germany’s 1.1 million solar-power systems can generate no electricity at all. The country is then forced to import considerable amounts of electricity from nuclear power plants in France and the Czech Republic."
"Indeed, despite the massive investment, solar power accounts for only about 0.3 percent of Germany’s total energy. This is one of the key reasons why Germans now pay the second-highest price for electricity in the developed world (exceeded only by Denmark, which aims to be the 'world wind-energy champion')."
Even worse for solar energy proponents, "this sizeable investment does remarkably little to counter global warming. Even with unrealistically generous assumptions, the unimpressive net effect is that solar power reduces Germany’s CO2 emissions by roughly 8 million metric tons—or about 1 percent – for the next 20 years."
Social dialogue: local and regional public sector must be made more attractive to young and elderly workers
The local and regional government sector needs to be made more attractive to both young and elderly workers in order to avoid labour shortages, encourage them to continue working and, more importantly, to diversify the range of skills available.
Such was the main conclusion of a webinar (online seminar) held on 28 February 2012 on recruitment and retention with a special focus on youth and elderly employment, these two age groups being the most vulnerable in the labour market, especially in times of crisis and austerity.
If You Build It Will They Come, On Bikes?
Eric Jaffe reports on a new study that aims to conclusively answer the question of whether bike paths and bike lanes actually promote more bike riders.
While recent studies in Seattle and Minneapolis reached opposite conclusions on the subject, Jaffe looks to a new study published in the March 2012 issue of the journal Transportation that attempts to clarify the confusion, and the results are positive for bicycle proponents
"Even after controlling for a number of factors — including land use, climate, socioeconomic status, gas prices, public transport and bike safety — they still get a clear result: 'cities with a greater supply of bike paths and lanes have significantly higher bike commute rates,'" writes Jaffe.
Of course, in the end Jaffe cannot leave the question settled, as he references another recent study in Stafford, England, scheduled for publication in Transport Policy that shows a more nuanced outcome on rates of recreational biking and bicycle commuting. "The important lesson for policy makers is that bike paths and bike lanes may both increase ridership, but in different ways. While the former may encourage recreational riding, that doesn't necessarily translate into everyday cycling."
In the end, Jaffe reconciles the divergent results: "with each study of this kind that's completed, it seems more clear that in many cities, for many different purposes, there does appear to be some fundamental demand for sustainable transportation just waiting for a share of the urban landscape."
Showcasing innovative solutions to urban challenges: Living Labs Global award 2012
A shortlist of nominations for the Living Labs Global award 2012 was announced on 5 March 2012
Innovative solutions are essential for tackling major urban challenges in areas such as mobility, health, safety, carbon emissions and education. The Living Labs Global award 2012 brings together 21 cities, home to more than 90 million inhabitants, to serve as testbeds for solution-providers to pilot groundbreaking solutions to common challenges.
The partner cities, including seven EUROCITIES member cities, are required to present a real challenge, take part in a transparent jury process and invite the winning solution provider to implement a pilot scheme in their city. Each city manages one category, from ‘data for better health: facing obesity’ in Eindhoven to ‘enhancing visitors’ experiences in cities’ in Barcelona. Juries from each partner city, made up of local and international experts, judge ‘showcases’ – innovative solutions presented by solution providers – according to several criteria, including climate impact and ability to execute the proposal. Five ‘showcases’ are then placed into the shortlist for each category, which was announced on 5 March 2012.
The next stage of the process will call for shortlisted solution providers to complete a ‘pilot questionnaire’ with in depth details of their proposal, and to prepare a multimedia presentation on the pilot project. This will allow the partner cities to choose the solution they would like to see implemented in their city. The winning solutions will be announced at an award ceremony during the Rio Summit on Service Innnovation in Cities on 2-3 May 2012.
For more information on the award, please visit the Living Labs Global award 2012 website.
Public 'Food Forest' Planned for Seattle
Seven acres at the edge of a Seattle park are slated to be turned into the nation's largest public "food forest." Beacon Food Forest is designed on permaculture principles, combining the concepts of urban farms, orchards, and natural forest to produce food from trees, shrubs and perennial plants. Food forests have been called the next evolution in urban farming, with Beacon Food Forest notable for its aim to create an edible landscape on public land through community effort.
City Council of Nairobi and UN Habitat Launch city initiative on Public Spaces
The City Council of Nairobi and UN-Habitat last week held a four day workshop on revitalizing public spaces within the Kenyan city.
The workshop that ran from the 28th February to 2nd March 2012, identified two public spaces, Silanga Community Center in Kibera slums and Jevanjee Gardens in the central business district, as pilots for demonstrating how accessible and inclusive public spaces can improve service delivery and overall livability in the city.
UN-Habitat brought on board internationally-recognized public space experts from three world renowned firms- Gehl Architects of Copenhagen, Project for Public Space of New York and White Architects of Stockholm -in order to contribute to the design of the project and to provide the training. At least 25 members of technical staff from the city council were trained. In addition, representatives from the Ministry for Local Government, universities, the business sector, and NGO partners participated in sections of workshop.
Celebrating Highway Removal Success Stories
In advance of Next American City’s upcoming "Reimagining Urban Highways" conference in Philadelphia, Matt Bevilacqua reports on a new study examining the successful replacement of urban highways with boulevards and parks.
The new report, released by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, documents five case studies of urban highway removal in Portland, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Seoul, and Bogota. These case studies can serve as a resource to those advocating similar projects in their communities.
According to Bevilacqua, what the report demonstrates is that, "The numbers exist to back up claims that the practice can restore a city’s social fabric and facilitate local development, all without severely impacting traffic or commerce. We just need to make sure our neighbors know that."
European urban regeneration: put people before professionals
People should always remain at the heart of policy when dealing with deprived urban neighbourhoods. This is the main point of the study ‘Dynamics of deprived neighbourhoods in the URBACT cities’ that the French General Secretariat for urban and social development (SGCIV) published on January 25th, 2012. In it, the SGCIV examines the outputs of 5 URBACT projects in several European cities.
A European Model for Suburban Retrofitting
Kaid Benfield revisits the results of a plan to revitalize the town center of Plessis-Robinson, a suburb of Paris, with the suggestion that its success could inform similar efforts in the United States.
Begun in 1990, the revitalization of Plessis-Robinson consists of public buildings, retail, market-rate and subsidized affordable housing, parks, schools, gardens, sports facilities, and a hospital under the vision of creating "a highly walkable environment, while using locally sourced materials as much as possible, and preserving wetland habitat."
Completed after a decade of construction, the project was named “the best urban neighborhood built in the last 25 years” by the European Architecture Foundation. Benfield links to a video showing the town's progress and suggests that, "American suburban communities currently contemplating transformative updates, such as Dublin, Ohio, parts of Prince George’s County, Maryland, and parts of Silicon Valley in California might do well to take note."
Co-responsibility - a new relationship between local government and citizens
Co-responsibility could be a solution to the new challenges traditional welfare states are facing today. The approach could answer the growing need for new types of services and innovative forms of service delivery. Jon Bloomfield, Lead Expert for the TOGETHER URBACT project tackles this issue in his recent article "The emerging relationship between councils and citizens".
The Growing Attraction of Historic Streetcars
As cities across the country build and revive their streetcar networks, a sense of nostalgia for the time when they could be found in cities across the country is leading to a thriving business in refurbishing old streetcars.
Surprisingly, aficionados and cities have been saving elegant old streetcars for decades in the hopes of their future revival. With that revival in full steam in cities like Philadelphia and Portland, restoring old streetcars has become a booming business, writes Tod Newcombe.
Newcombe writes that, "Retrofitting period streetcars may seem like a frivolous idea, especially with local government budgets so tight. But many city planners disagree. In Philadelphia, where a discontinued streetcar line on Girard Avenue is being brought back to life, officials decided to use restored streetcars 'at the request of certain advocacy groups,' according to Byron Comati, director of strategic planning and analysis for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority."
Cities such as San Fransisco, who have been running refurbished streetcars from other cities along its Market Street line since 2000, have seen these unique cars become a hit with tourists and locals alike.
What cities should do about traffic congestion
"Transportation demand management" can greatly reduce the damage that cars and parking inflict on urban areas, experts say.
Many of the “remedies” for traffic congestion have ultimately made cities less livable. Expressways usually deaden the corridors they pass through. One-way street networks often become raceways — endangering pedestrians and harming retailers.
What should a city do instead? A chief answer, asserts an important new book by Jeffrey Tumlin, is “transportation demand management,” or TDM. In a chapter of Sustainable Transportation Planning: Tools for Creating Vibrant, Healthy, and Resilient Communities, Tumlin and two fellow transportation planners at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates urge urban areas to learn from the successes achieved through TDM. TDM not only helps to alleviate congestion; it can also help create a more intact, walkable community.
TDM consists of strategies for making a transportation system more efficient, partly by reducing the number of single-occupant car trips and shifting some auto trips to times when the roads are less crowded. In their chapter on TDM, Tumlin, Jessica ter Schure, and Patrick Siegman — principals in Nelson\Nygaard’s San Francisco office — argue that TDM is crucial to effective transportation planning.
“TDM strategies are often far more cost-effective” than expanding road capacity, the three say. Frequently, TDM relieves congestion at little or no cost.
Is Housing a Human Right?
Advocates around the country, and around the world, think so, and they're making their case from Southern California to Scotland and South Africa.
With a 20-percent increase in family homelessness between 2007 and 2010 in the United States, advocates are beginning to frame their work not as an affordable housing crisis or as a homelessness crisis, but as a human rights crisis.
Chicago, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City are just a handful of cities where local housing and homelessness advocates are securing concrete wins as they take on homelessness as part of a human rights agenda, writes Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.
"Focusing on the human right to housing can help advance solutions to this country's homelessness and housing crises. Ultimately, it can help us to shift from a paradigm that treats housing as a discretionary privilege to one that treats it as a priority and a right," Foscarinis writes, citing the United Nations commitment to an "adequate standard of living" as well as international homelessness policy.
URBACT launches urban development training scheme for elected representatives
URBACT is launching a pilot scheme to train urban elected representatives in integrated and sustainable urban development. Mayors, deputy mayors and councillors from cities involved in URBACT projects will be invited to take part.
What's Important for Biking in Your City?
Even in cold weather, Amsterdam has a successful biking culture, proving that climate does not always deter cyclists. Photo by Bauke Karel.
Biking and walking infrastructure is often evaluated from the point of view of the planners. To get more public input on these topics, the Mineta Transportation Institute recently published “Integration of Biking and Walking Infrastructure into Urban Communities,” led by Cornelius Nuworsoo, Eugene Jud and Katherine Cushing.
Prior to joining EMBARQ (the producer of this blog), I worked with this team to research user preferences on implementing sustainable transportation. We used three case study cities in California that have high biking or walking mode shares: Davis, San Luis Obispo and Palo Alto. The literature review and the study revealed some interesting findings:
Workplace Cycle Challenges in the UK, Australia and New Zealand
Using behaviour change theory and social marketing techniques Challenge for Change has delivered 38 Workplace Cycle Challenges and encouraged more than 21,000 non-cyclists to cycle. On average, 38% of former non-cyclists report cycling at least once a week three months after taking part in a Challenge; 34% also cycle at least once a week to work.
The Keys to Happiness in City Living
Ariel Schwartz reports on the findings of a new study from Urban Affairs Review that surveyed residents from 10 major international cities on what qualities make them most happy.
According to Schwartz, the findings show a significant association between happiness and the built urban environment. “In general, respondents were happiest when their cities had easy access to public transportation, cultural activities, libraries, shops, and sports facilities.” Moreover, respondents attributed amenities like clean drinking water and a safe environment as important to their levels of happiness.
Interestingly, the study showed that the concept of a “beautiful city” had little to do with a city’s cleanliness. “Living in a ‘beautiful city' was the most important predictor of happiness among survey respondents, but having clean streets, sidewalks, and public spaces weren’t rated as being important,” writes Schwartz.
Researchers speculate that connectedness is also a key to happiness, pointing to a major difference between the designs of city environments and gated suburban communities. A city is designed and built around shared space, which promotes the building of social connections through shared experiences. Whereas the typical gated suburb, in its layout and appearance, discourages such connections, and by inference, makes people less happy.
Global Energy Basel 2012: ICLEI hosts roundtable on Financing the Resilient City
Within the framework of the cooperation between Resilient Cities and Global Energy Basel, ICLEI is hosting a policy roundtable on Financing the Resilient City.
The roundtable features panelists from local governments, private sector and international organizations working in the field of financing resilient urban infrastructure.
It will bring forth the debate on the innovative concepts captured in the Global Report, 'Financing the Resilient Cities', which was launched in June 2011 at the previous Resilient Cities congress.
Through ICLEI, four local governments are participating at the Global Energy Basel Infrastructure Fora where cities can showcase their infrastructure projects needing additional funding to the investor world.
City Titles That Are Up For Grabs
As cities across the country compete to see who will win the title of 'Most Bicycle-Friendly', Emily Badger looks at what other titles may be worth pursuing.
The competition to become America's "Most Bicycle-Friendly City" appears to be fierce, with Chicago, Long Beach, Portland, Minneapolis, Boston, New Orleans, and many others having entered the competition. Badger identifies ten other titles for which cities might find less competition.
These include: Most Aging Baby-Boomer Friendly City, Most Transparent City, Most Edible City, and America’s Best Prepared City for Climate Change, for which "Obviously, the people in this city would first need to admit that climate change exists. Then they would invest actual resources and planning to make sure vulnerable infrastructure and local communities can withstand oddball weather, rising sea levels and strange migrating insects."
A Review for Sizing up the City
“Sizing up the City: Urban form and transport in New Zealand Edited by Philippa Howden-Chapman, Keriata Stuart and Ralph Chapman, Steele Roberts Publishers, RRP $29.99, ISBN 978-1-877577-27-7, Available now.
Sizing up the City is a collection of essays explaining how the city works: where we live, how we get around and the wider effect those decisions have on our lives. The love affair with the car is broken down, graphed, and a blueprint for a more liveable city is put in its place.”
The review and link to PDF is viewable here.
Mexico City Trash Pickers Fight for Their Livelihood
As city officials introduce plans to overhaul waste disposal in the capital of Mexico, a deeply rooted constituency fights back.
One of the world's largest landfills closed its doors last month, writes Elisabeth Malkin, amidst ambitious and controversial plans to modernize waste disposal in Mexico City.
The landfill, Bordo Poniente, is at the center of a raging controversy over how Mexico deals with its garbage. Officials, including Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, intend to streamline collection and sorting, and outsource to landfills located beyond the city's walls. But there is a long-running tradition of independent trash pickers, or pepenadores, sifting through the garbage by hand to reclaim what little of it can be sold for recycling. According to Malkin, "In the old days, politicians counted on the trash pickers as a base of support. They would help swell campaign crowds, wave flags for visiting dignitaries or even provide pro-government shock troops to attack opposition protests."
While pepenadores don't hold the kind of political sway they used to, they were able to secure a promise from Ebrard last year not to completely shut down Bordo Poniente. Though the landfill has been closed, garbage is still brought to the site's separation plant, where the trash pickers may sort through it before it is loaded up again and hauled off to another dump.
Mexican sociologist Héctor Castillo Berthier estimates that roughly a quarter of a million people depend on the existing system, and any radical change to that system is bound to disrupt their livelihood.
Public services employers sign joint declaration on the role of public services
Members of the Public Services Employers’ Forum (PSEF) signed a joint declaration on 17 February 2012 highlighting some of the most important challenges for public services at a time of tightening budgets, and setting out how public services employers can work together to tackle these common issues.
The joint declaration highlights the critical contribution of public services providers to the economy. Public services provide the core infrastructure for the functioning of the economy and society. They contribute more than 26% of the EU GDP and employ around 64 million people, corresponding to around 30% of the EU workforce.
Milan launches the campaign “Live, don’t drive”
A communication campaign to promote the use of public transport at provincial level rather than private cars has been launched by the Province of Milan (Italy), together with Autoguidovie.
The campaign “Live, don’t drive” aims at convincing residents to choose the bus as an easy, time-saving, environmentally friendly and relaxing means of travelling. The campaign comes along with a package of measures that will increase safety and comfort: on-board CCTV cameras, high quality monitors for travel information, and compulsory front-access for passengers in order to prevent unauthorised travels (drivers can check tickets more easily).
UN-Habitat expands its Risk Reduction and Rehabilitation work
UN-Habitat announced on Thursday that it is expanding its ties with the academic world in the area of urban risk reduction and rehabilitation so that a new generation of graduates undertaking field work in disaster zones around the world are better groomed in integrated urban crisis-based practice.
“We are now building on past initiatives linking UN-Habitat policy and practice to academia,” said Mr. Dan Lewis, Chief of Urban Risk Reduction at the agency. “The outputs are noticeable.”
In 2011, for example, he said a team began with lectures and theses review with students in the Faculties of Design and Architecture at Chalmers University in Gothenborg, Sweden. The result was that a team of students visited Kenya in mid-year to test options for more efficient design of housing and temporary settlements for displaced populations. In turn, they provided support to UN-Habitat as well as UNHCR and UNICEF planning in Kenya.
Examining the Impact of Municipal Budget Cuts
Reporting in The New York Times, Michael Cooper examines the ways in which severe municipal budget cuts are impacting cities across the country through the lens of San Jose, which has lost more than a fifth of its employees over four years.
According to Cooper, "the nation has lost 668,000 state and local government jobs since the recession hit — more than in any modern downturn, according to a new analysis of labor statistics by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government." And these job loses are not just effecting faded industrial cities.
Even in San Jose, the epicenter of the booming technology industry, the combination of falling tax revenues, rising pension costs and dwindling state aid are having enormous impacts on the services that the city can provide its residents and on the lives of its former employees. New government buildings remain unoccupied, branch libraries are open only four days a week, and the Police Department has shrunk by a fifth.
In a poignant allegory, Cooper reports that, "after the police unit in charge of gang violence was merged last year with a unit that focused on quality-of-life issues, street-level drug dealing and prostitution, a spate of gang-related murders occurred in the city, which remains one of the safest of its size in America. The smaller unit was ordered to focus on gangs. Then there was an increase in prostitution."
European urban regeneration: put people before professionals
People should always remain at the heart of policy when dealing with deprived urban neighbourhoods. This is the main point of the study ‘Dynamics of deprived neighbourhoods in the URBACT cities’ that the French General Secretariat for urban and social development (SGCIV) published on January 25th, 2012. In it, the SGCIV examines the outputs of 5 URBACT projects in several European cities.
The 5 Estates Project: Bringing Diverse Communities Together
How can residents in housing estates filled with different communities overcome their mutual suspicions and learn to trust each other?
This was a key question facing the borough of Dudley, a former industrial centre in the West Midlands after legislation in 1999 made it one of many “designated dispersal areas” for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.
Improve our cities, improve the European economy
Johannes Hahn and Frank Jensen set out five ways to enable the engine of growth – cities – to make Europe more competitive
The European Council on 30 January made it very clear: to reboot Europe’s economies, we need not only discipline but also growth. We need to tackle youth unemployment and to give all the support we can to small businesses.
Cohesion policy has to be at the heart of efforts on both fronts. But success depends on harnessing the economic potential of cities, since they are engines of the European economy and home to nearly 70% of the EU's inhabitants.
That is why cities have been given a special place in the reforms of cohesion policy proposed by the European Commission and currently under discussion by the member states and European Parliament. And that is why representatives of many cities – many of them members of the EUROCITIES network – will meet in Brussels on 16 February to discuss priorities at the first Urban Forum organised by the Commission.
Last year, the Commission consulted urban experts on how our cities can play their part in keeping Europe competitive. The conclusions were clear. Because cities are places in which diverse people and activities are concentrated, intelligently co-ordinated development policies can have a tremendous impact. But concentration and diversity can, if left unmanaged, lead to problems of segregation, poverty, high carbon emissions and, ultimately, economic stagnation.
The following can help us get the greatest return on (currently limited) public investment.
Firstly, cities should be recognised as important partners and should be given a greater role in policymaking. Their knowledge of their own local economy, needs and opportunities is invaluable when deciding how to make funds bring results and stretch as far as possible.
Secondly, investments in cities should be designed to deliver a single set of strategic objectives. That may necessitate the creation of new governance or co-operation structures that cross administrative boundaries.
Thirdly, cities should be given an incentive to keep innovating. As centres of economic activity and markets, cities offer a critical mass and are ‘living laboratories’ for market, public and social innovations that address real challenges, whether they be economic, social or environmental (or, indeed, all three).
Finally, the Commission has proposed that in the 2014-20 funding period at least 5% of the European Regional Development Fund should be spent on initiatives that bring together different sectors and funds in a comprehensive investment strategy run at the municipal level.
If we cannot make better use of the talent we have in our cities, we will not maintain our prosperity, nor will we be able to compete with global partners. If we cannot achieve greater energy efficiency in cities, in transport and in housing, we cannot hope to tackle climate change. And if we do not recognise the special role of cities we deny a consistent truth of European development over centuries.
If we want liveable, competitive cities, we must invest ambitiously. The return on that investment will be smarter, more sustainable and more inclusive growth that benefits everyone, not just city-dwellers.
New Tool for Building Sustainable Communities Debuts
Kaid Benfield brings attention to HUD's new Sustainable Communities Resource Center website, which provides best practices case studies and other information resources.
According to HUD, the site is, "intended to provide the public with a comprehensive set of information that supports local and regional strategies, with a particular emphasis on sustainable housing and planning. The Resource Center provides ready access to best practices, cutting edge research, new reports and resources, and spotlights innovation in the field.”
Of particular value may be the best practices reports, which spotlight efforts to "increase affordable housing opportunities, apply sustainable features and practices, and increase access to public transportation. The projects featured in these reports have demonstrated innovation through a multitude of partnerships and initiatives. Each report outlines a project’s objectives and the development strategies used to achieve them."
Benfield gives credit for developing what he sees as a valuable resource to Shelley Poticha, whom HUD secretary Shaun Donovan selected to lead the agency’s sustainability efforts.
UN-Habitat announces further support to urban youth
The UN-Habitat Urban Youth Fund is now accepting applications for its Fourth Call. The application process will close on 15 April 2012.
With support from the Government of Norway, the Fund provides one million dollars every year to projects led by young people aged 15-32 years who are piloting innovative approaches to employment, good urban governance, shelter and secure tenure. Small development initiatives are eligible for grants up to $25,000.
Of the one billion slum dwellers in the world today, it is estimated that more than 70% are under the age of 30. These young people have few resources available to improve their own living environments. There are many youth-led initiatives in slums and squatter settlements around the world that require support in their efforts to transform their communities.
UN-Habitat invites young people based in cities or towns from the developing world to apply for grants from the fund. More information and details of how to apply are available at www.unhabitat.org/youthfund.
Why the Future of Sustainable Cities Rests with China
Manish Bapna outlines the factors that put China on the frontlines of sustainable urban development.
As Bapna explains, China is no stranger to the woes that plague modern cities. Over half the country's residents are now urban dwellers, facing "poverty, over-crowding, pollution, and congestion" on a scale that dwarfs other cities around the globe. And China has achieved this status in a phenomenally short time: just forty years ago, peasant farmers accounted for a whopping eighty percent of the population.
But China's massive and growing urban population presents a unique opportunity – while most urban growth in the Western world will take place in existing cities (at least for the immediate future), developers in China must build new cities from the ground up just to keep up with demand. It's estimated that by 2030, China will boast 221 cities with over 1 million residents. By comparison, Europe has only 35 such cities today. Thus, “While the idea of smart cities is not new, creating sustainable cities for the booming global population requires scaling up on a whole new level. And there is no better place to start than in China.”
The government of China has not failed to recognize this opportunity, and has incorporated several environmental goals for its 12th Five-Year Plan. To accomplish those goals, it will work with the World Resources Institute to develop policies and projects for energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and clean water.
Antwerp: Minding Minority Interests at City Hall
When the City of Antwerp was looking to improve its relations with minority communities after a controversial headscarf ban, it decided to approach the Brussels-based Minderhedenforum ("Forum of Ethnic Cultural Communities") for help.
The city council wanted a new way to reach out to community organizations and the Forum’s model based on ten years of experience seemed to be the right one to adapt.
CEMR brings new perspectives on citizenship and twinning in its white paper
The Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) has published its White paper for an active European citizenship, bringing new perspectives to the debate on involving citizens in the European project in view of the 2014-2020 “Europe for citizens” EU programme.*
The white paper is the result of a reflection orchestrated by CEMR and which involved stakeholders active in the fields of citizenship and town twinning such as local and regional elected representatives, twinning experts, representatives of civil society, actors on the ground and European institution representatives. Together, they identified the needs and expectations of municipalities, regions and their citizens in order to come up with concrete solutions to current and upcoming challenges.
Encouraging Urban Retirement
As boomers retire at a rate of 10,000 per day, can they be discouraged from sprawling into suburbs and rural areas, where caring for them as they age can be more challenging?
With little success, states have long used tax breaks to try enticing retirees. Migration patterns have remained steady for decades, however, with approximately 65% of people fleeing cities at retirement, largely flocking towards "sunshine and fairways". Slate's Will Doig discusses the importance of keeping seniors in cities though a combination of policy and planning that caters to their unique needs.
Mobility is a widely recognized issue for seniors. Doig points out that policies, such as in San Francisco, that eliminate urban bench seating make it difficult for seniors to get out and about. Transit poses another set of issues. For seniors who struggle to haul shopping bags to the nearest bus stop or train station, semi-legal "dollar vans" could be legitimized through regulation to offer an affordable alternative to hailing a cab.
Planning policy that facilitates inter-generational relationships is essential to caring for seniors while creating vibrant communities. Given the failure of financial incentives to attract retirees, Doig argues:
"...cities must do the work themselves to become attractive to seniors. And they should, because older people have more to offer cities than just their pensions."
Promoting ethnic entrepreneurship in European cities.
The Eurofund report examines what city authorities are doing to attract ethnic entrepreneurs into their established business communities, and to facilitate the business environment – from the purely financial to providing training and advice