Large affluent cities such as San Francisco are major consumers of world’s resources due to the concentration of population, intense economic activity and the comforts of modern life. They produce the most waste and pollution, hence inflicting a huge strain on the environment, potentially damaging it in the long run.
To support and maintain a high-level of quality, appeal, wealth and equal prosperity, cities have to strive to attain wealth without compromising the quality of life.
The city’s eccentric climate, wind power, temperatures, precipitation and the ever-unpredictable weather – including its famous fog acting as a shield in summer heat – are stimulated by its geography.
The sustainable development principle is based on the same standards as ‘Smart Growth’, providing a greater certainty in the development process, protecting environmental quality, and making efficient use of public money.
Territorial expansion, population, transportation, residential, business and commercial land use all influence the city’s planning regulations. These issues also affect the environment and city’s resources, balancing their utilization and exploitation while considering their quality and full potential.
An important aspect, therefore, of environmental protection is to give natural environment amenities and values appropriate consideration in urban development along with economic and social considerations.
Planning organizations are becoming more motivated to apply sustainable development practices and protect the environment by combining the necessary factors for continuous communal improvement and providing balanced conditions for the natural environment in the city.
The Municipality of San Francisco has made conservation an issue in residence, transportation, urban design, recreation, and many additional worthwhile aspects of the urban environment of equal, or even higher importance.
To facilitate the development and accommodate the growing list of issues, the city is prioritizing a well-developed, reliable and environmentally-friendly transit-system, appropriate adjustment of development patterns to suit the conservational factors, as well as affordable housing and increasing sustainable community performance.
Related high-priority matters in San Francisco area include integrating on-site stormwater detention and treatment systems, dedicating more space and facilities for recycling functions, minimizing sewer overflows, establishing seismic reliability, and maximizing the beneficial reuse of resources (biofuels, biosolids, reclaimed water) extracted from wastewater.
At present the standards in environmental principles are guiding the formulation of city development and urban renewal. The city’s primary initiatives are to make efficient improvements in transportation and communities: to reduce the amount of cars on the road and therefore reduce the congestion and the smog.
The more reliable and dedicated the public transit is, with unimpeded right-of-way and quick service, and the more people will choose transit as an alternative to the single passenger automobile, particularly for the commute trip.
The planners are coping with challenging priorities in planning, relating environmental, economic, and political interests, while still unsure if environmentally sustainable development can be achieved while maximizing the city’s economic potential, and vice-versa, as in the past it has been an either-or tendency.
Research & informational resources:
City and County of San Francisco Planning Department
San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association SPUR – Ideas & Actions for a better city
SPUR Urbanist Magazine – brilliant collection of articles, all issues downloadable, a great layout too.