Sunday, February 21, 2010

Message from John Barber, Parks Board

Dear Parks and Open Space Advocates --

Tomorrow, Seattle City Council has invited testimony to help it set its priorities for the year.

At this time, I do not know if I will be able to testify due to conflicting commitments, but I'd just like to toss out an idea:

There is one priority this city needs to attend to: A question -- "What are the measures of livable, sustainable communities?"

The complex of current realities that we face now and in our future -- climate change towards storms and warmer times, childhood and adult obesity, limited infrastructure, changing economy towards austerity, declining urban forest -- suggest that improving our neighborhoods to make for a more satisfying and sustainable life and how to accomplish such should be among our top priorities.

The most specific measure I don't think we have a good handle on is tree density. The benefits of trees for livability -- stormwater retention, shade,
habitat, local source of oxygen, proximity to nature -- should result in measurable goals.

Right now, a good portion of the "urban forest" is in residential areas, which are no doubt experiencing the greatest declines in canopy due to development.

How many trees should be in street right of way? Bearing in mind that large trees there are inhibited by overhead wiring and pavement, how much canopy should be targeted for private property? We need measures to guide our development rules, regulations, fees, and incentives.

Another element of sustainability and livability is walkability -- desired distances for residents to parks, natural areas, groceries with fresh produce, schools and transit.


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