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Final Day of New Partners for Smart Growth

The reason I publish these reports of conferences on the E-FORUM is because  California Government Code §53232.3(d), which was added by AB 1234, requires City Council members to “provide brief reports on meetings attended at the expense of the local agency at the next regular meeting of the legislative body.” I figure that if I have to make a report anyway, I might as well share it with the public. These are probably longer than they need to be, but maybe some people are interested in the level of continuing education that I and other City Council members participate in.


Saturday, the final day, began with a plenary session, “Where are the Biggest Opportunities in Smart Growth and What Can You do to Capitalize?” This was a

back to basics review of opportunities and constraints at the federal, state and local level that can have a big impact for a small investment.  Speakers included:

  • Doug Foy, President, DIF Enterprises
  • Gene Krebs, State Director, Greater Ohio
  • Chris Zimmerman, Boardmember, Arlington County Board, VA
  • William A. Johnson, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, Rochester Institute of Technology; Mayor, Rochester NY, 1994-2005
  • Geoffrey Anderson, President and CEO, Smart Growth America

In the morning session, I chose “The Decline and Fall of Minimum Parking Requirement.” Two consultants from Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates made a persuasive case that minimum parking requirements that are the heart and soul of most zoning codes are terribly wasteful and economically unsupportable. Minimum parking requirements were intended to do great things:  end parking shortages, alleviate traffic congestion and even reduce air pollution.  But after a half-century of observing the unintended consequences, cities increasingly see these regulations as a great planning disaster, one which has damaged urban design, the economy and the environment. Cities are starting to do away with minimum parking requirements, or in some cases, change minimum requirements to maximum requirements. We were told that in Great Britain, national law forbids minimum parking requirements. In "The High Cost of Free Parking," Donald Shoup argued that cities should enact three essential reforms:  charge fair-market prices for curb parking; spend the resulting revenue to pay for neighborhood public improvements; and remove all requirements for off-street parking.  This workshop examined communities - from Seattle to Chicago, and Austin to Ventura — which are beginning to institute these reforms, and provided a step-by-step approach for reforming parking requirements in the real world. The presenters were:

I attended a lunch exclusively for local elected officials hosted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Attendees were invited to briefly discuss their successes and impediments for promoting Healthy Eating and Active Living. I summarized Richmond’s Health Element in the General Plan and a recent $600,000 grant given to the WCCUSC to set up exercise programs. 

After lunch, I attended a session “Innovative Building Code Applications: Encouraging Smart Growth and Community Reinvestment.” In 1998, the State of New Jersey adopted its innovative Rehabilitation Subcode, the nation's first building code designed specifically to manage suburban sprawl by encouraging the rehabilitation and adaptive use of existing buildings in older, more fully developed neighborhoods and communities. By allowing more predictability and flexibility in planning building rehabilitation work and in estimating costs, evidence has clearly shown that since the implementation of the New Jersey Rehabilitation Subcode, the average cost of reinvesting in existing buildings has been reduce from 25 to 40 percent in most cases. However, while several states such as New York, Minnesota and Rhode Island have followed New Jersey in revising their building codes, other states and communities in the last several years have implemented other "smart code" alternatives to the traditional building code, including phased compliance procedures, educational programs and performance-based building code systems. Presenters included:


  • Nicholas P. Kalogeresis, AICP, Program Officer, National Trust Main Street Center, National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • Richard Kuchnicki, National Organizations Liaison, Government Relations Dept., International Code Council
  • Mike Jackson, FAIA, Chief Architect, Reservation Services Division, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.


The last afternoon breakout session was “Do TDRs Really Help Smart Growth? What Works and What Doesn't.” I though this might help me understand how TDRs might be used on the North Richmond Shoreline. Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs) programs have recently become popular among communities working towards Smart Growth.  TDR programs appeal to landowners as, in theory, it will allow all the landowners to participate in the real estate market while allowing the community to build up density in appropriate areas. The information was very detailed and informative, and the bottom line is that TDRs have to be based on economics – there has to be a clear value conveyed. Speakers included:

  • Virginia McConnell, University of Maryland
  • Benjamin dela Pena, Associate Director, Smart Growth Leadership Institute
  • Bill Fulton, President, Solimar Research Group; Councilmember, City of Ventura, CA

The closing plenary session, “Getting to “Green TEA”: Strategies for a Smarter Approach to Reauthorization,” focused on transportation policy at the national level. Moor vehicles contribute 30% to 40% of total greenhouse gases in the United States, and those emission are a function of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). Federal transportation policy since WW II has focused on adding roads, but this has not solved congestion. In fact, new roads result in 58% of what is called “induced traffic.” Road projects are typically perceived as relieving existing congestion, but instead, they cause congestion. Projects are promoted as responding to growth, but instead, they cause growth. A new transportation facility that generates travel time savings is perceived by travelers to reduce the price of travel. In response, they may demand more travel in one of two ways:

·         New trips. Completely new trips that did not occur previously.

·         Longer trips. Additional mileage for trips that already occur.

The magnitude of these changes in travel behavior may be greater in the long-term as consumers respond to shorter travel times by changing from more central to less central

residential or job locations that increase trip lengths, and may be associated with more auto-intensive development patterns.

The future of transportation is the need to enhance the opportunities for multi-modal options for movement. With New Starts, Road Diets, Safe Routes to School, and Hiker-Biker Trails each taking a priority place in the development of smart growth oriented transportation options, communities have more tools available to address their transportation needs. Yet even with the progress made since the last reauthorization, a critical need exists to enhance policies and legislation to enable the most effective array of options available for movement. A good source of information is http://t4america.org/index.php.

Two national experts broke down the strategies for ensuring that the tools, funding and incentives are included in the next funding bill. Jim Charlier discussed the importance of the reauthorization and what policy changes need to be made, while Maria Zimmerman reviewed the mechanics and the infrastructure of getting it done.

  • Mariia Zimmerman, Vice President for Policy, Reconnecting America and the Center for Transit-Oriented
  • Jim Charlier, AICP, President, Charlier Associates, Inc.

Again, the entire conference agenda is at http://www.newpartners.org/agenda.html. If you click on individual sessions, you can see a detailed description and list of speakers.