“It’s unanimous: El Paso commits to a smarter, greener future
Earlier this week, the city council of El Paso, the nation’s 19th-largest city, unanimously adopted a detailed comprehensive plan built around the principles of smart growth and green development. With significant economic importance and a rich cultural history, but plagued with sprawling recent development patterns coupled with alarming rates of land consumption and carbon pollution, the city constructed Plan El Paso over the past two years. It is among the best, most articulate comprehensive plans I have ever seen.
In January of last year, I reviewed Connecting El Paso, a precursor to the new comprehensive plan that focused on four key transit station areas. I called the document“a comprehensive guide to smart growth design and implementation” and predicted that it would be a winner when the year’s planning awards were handed out. Sure enough, in December the US Environmental Protection Agency honored the draft of Plan El Pasowith a national award for achievement in smart growth, judging the effort as the year’s best example of outstanding “programs, policies and regulations.”
The plan has actually gotten better, and certainly more detailed (it runs some 900 pages in all) since I reviewed its predecessor. Early on, the new document makes clear that it is time for a bold new vision and commitment:
“In recent years health problems such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and the maladies associated with social alienation have become a normal response to a built-environment that does not allow walking or facilitate human interaction. The young and the elderly of El Paso, especially, have been left behind by urban forms that necessitate driving long distances. The plan proposes strategies to bring more of the activities of daily living within walking distance and a framework of transportation alternatives including transit and bicycle systems. Encouraging walkability helps create healthy life styles. Building complete places that enable neighbors to know each other will help create and retain close-knit communities …
“The plan recognizes the indispensability of beauty, not as something separate and apart from life like pictures in a gallery, but beauty in homes, neighborhoods, civic buildings, streets, and public spaces. In this way Plan El Paso aims not to return to a vanished time, but rather to grow a choiceworthy contemporary City based on cherished and enduring values. The plan revives the idea that additions to the built-environment must be functional and long-lasting but also delightful and attractive. Plan El Paso recognizes that design matters.”
Via: National Resources Defense Council
Image: Dover Kohl & Partners via Plan El Paso