Sustainability can be a difficult thing to measure and even more difficult to implement, especially at a city wide scale. Many cities are bringing it down a notch and addressing sustainability at a local scale. San Francisco is one of a few cities that is adopting the eco-districts approach to individually addressing a cities various sustainability issues, one district at a time.
So what is an eco-district? Eco-districts are made up of public and private partnerships to strengthen an existing community by planning smartly for the future to reduce their environmental impact and improve its economy simultaneously. Sustainability has always been a win-win situation, by decreasing your impact on the earth it reduces costs and uses more natural means of energy and production that return the energy to local sources. This is the goal of the eco-districts but San Francisco is taking it a step further to consider not only the environment and economy but also infrastructure and disaster mitigation.
Bringing these issues down to the local level allows the individual to participate more easily and stay focused on the immediate concerns of that area. San Francisco has identified four types of eco-districts so far:
- The Blank Slate – Primarily undeveloped land, usually owned by one owner, good to implement goal oriented basic services and infrastructure before development.
- The Patchwork Quilt – Pretty much how it sounds, mixed use, multiple owners, various development projects and existing character. All of these work together for a more holistic plan to maximize sustainable goals.
- The Strengthened Neighborhood – Mostly residential with some commerce in the neighborhood that need to reorganize systems to plan for future growth sustainably.
- The Industrial Network – In industrial areas the idea is to make operating and distributing systems more efficient and healthy using greener technology.
So far the city's planning department has only worked with one neighborhood specifically, but has many other projects that all eco-districts will use as guidelines - from master plan ideas to small policy based changes that are practical and easy to implement. The eco-district project is classified as the patchwork quilt as much of the city falls underneath this category and takes place in the central corridor of the city. The idea is to rezone much of the industrial areas to make way for private development, public works, and water and energy uses all to support growth around the new subway and infrastructure plan.
So even though it might be hard to make a city sustainable, these measures show that you can always work towards it from multiple angels. The overall goal of this plan would be a self sustaining city, which hasn't happened yet. But with rigorous and holistic planning alongside innovative approaches, it might actually be possible.
Has your city implemented any eco-districts? What eco-districts are you aware of?
Credits: Images by Tara Whelan. Data linked to sources.