Dispatches from Seattle; The 2015 American Planning Association National Conference in Review #apa15

Saturday, April 18

Seattle Sustainable Neighborhoods Assessment Project

This was the first session of the conference that really impressed me.  Peter Steinbrueck and Michaela Winter from Steinbrueck Urban Strategies, reviewed a project the City of Seattle had commissioned as part of the update of their comprehensive plan.  They identified 22 indicators (from four categories) and gathered data associated with the “levels” of each indicator.  The end game was to measure the achievements between the years 1994 (when the plan was written) and 2014 (when the plan was updated).  I found this interesting because we have worked on similar projects ourselves but we tend to approach it a little differently.  We heavily utilize GIS when we work on projects like this.  GIS provides:  a framework for organizing the data, tools for sustainability analysis, and a platform for communicating the results to the client and the public.  I spoke briefly with Mr. Steinbueck and Ms. Winter after the session about their approach.  We discussed the importance of projects such as this and the need for internal changes within planning departments that result in indicator data monitoring and collection – and ultimately analysis and feedback into the system in an effort to direct resources towards those issues that are not meeting sustainability (performance) standards.  Really good stuff.  You can check it out for yourself by searching for it on seattle.gov and you can click the link for it here.

Fostering Historic Preservation in Smaller Communities

This is a session I found myself in by accident, but I’m glad it happened.  The session featured:

  1. Paul Ellis, AICP -Director of Community & Economic Development for the City of Columbia, Illinois (map)
  2. Richard Seplar, AICP – Director of the Planning and Community Development Department of the City of Bellingham, Washington (map)
  3. Catherine Powers, AICP -Planning and Sustainability Director for the City of Franklin, Tennessee (map)

What I liked about this session was the linkage the speakers established early on between the act of nurturing real, authentic places and sustained economic growth.  Towns that have historic structures in need of preservation are incredibly lucky.  Investments in the past tend to have longer, more sustained payouts than most new construction, whether it be housing or commercial.

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