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Eco-City Alexandria

Excerpt from Justin's August Newsletter

Led by an incredibly motivated and knowledgeable group of residents, the City vaulted to the lead among local governments by adopting the Eco-City Charter nearly a decade ago. The charter defined a comprehensive vision for our City to improve environmental sustainability.

The Eco-City Charter then led the City to adopt the Environmental Action Plan. The plan laid out specific actions the City should undertake. It detailed how we should measure success and it began to define the next phase of our Eco-City evolution.

With any plan the City adopts, the test is not simply whether we will accomplish what we laid out in the plan (although that is an important test). The City plans that have transformative impact are the plans that end up cutting across multiple City policy priorities. The Eco-City Environmental Action Plan has had that impact. It has fundamentally transformed City operations in numerous policy areas.

With the Federal government now choosing to decline its traditional global leadership role in climate policy, the responsibility falls to local and state governments to lead the way.

In April, the City staff released the latest report detailing our progress in achieving the items defined in the plan.

We have seen great progress in the City in furtherance of our goals:
The City government has reduced energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
The percentage of new construction utilizing green building components has increased.
The City's tree canopy has increased.
We have protected over 100 acres of new open space.
We have doubled our solid waste recycling rate.
We have increased transit ridership.
We have adopted smart-growth oriented residential parking standards.
We have improved the walkability of our neighborhoods.
We have implemented stormwater infrastructure around our City.
Despite a constrained revenue environment, we have used non-General Fund revenues to continue to make progress.

In recent years we created and sustained a very successful farmers market compost program.

In adopting the current budget the Council funded a new program to provide proactive maintenance of the City's urban forest.

We are actively bringing a new Metro station to Potomac Yard and a new dedicated Transitway to the West End.

We recently created a new stormwater utility to address our obligations to the Chesapeake Bay.

We identified hundreds of millions of dollars to address combined sewer modernization to address our obligations to the Potomac River.

Last year's approved budget included a new Sustainability Coordinator position. An applicant has now been selected and starts later this month.

Our approved Housing Master Plan recognizes the importance of energy conservation as a component of housing affordability. In fact, we are seeking volunteers for our Energy Masters training program right now.

Our Complete Streets investments have continued to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and accessibility throughout the City.

Our recently approved Eisenhower West and Old Town North Small Area Plans included substantial sustainability chapters. As these plans are implemented, the City will have opportunities to achieve more significant sustainability initiatives, including district energy and other large-scale efforts.

Yet, we can do more.

This fall, we will begin a process of updating our Green Building standards. These standards set the obligations of developers for incorporating sustainability into their new construction.

Our planned municipal facilities work gives us an opportunity to raise the bar for sustainability practices in our own facilities construction.

A year from now, we will work to update our landscape guidelines to reflect the Environmental Action Plan and the City's Urban Forestry Master Plan.

Our parking standards task force continues to work to "right-size" our commercial parking standards.

Next year's General Assembly session gives the City new opportunity to request increased authority for tree preservation, local energy generation and more.

Constrained budgets make it more challenging for our City to continue its leadership in sustainability practices, but we can and should work to lead the region in this policy area. These efforts are critical given recent Federal policy changes, but are also good for our economy and our quality of life.

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