Archives for February 2013
Mayor McGinn delivered his fourth State of the City Speech yesterday, and addressing urban sustainability issues, including climate, transit, neighborhoods and housing, was a major focus. Included in his remarks were the following updates and announcements:
- Connecting neighborhoods with rail is a high priority, including accelerating planning efforts for a downtown to U District connection and a new crossing of the ship canal near Fremont.
- Announced plans to encourage greater housing supply and review how private development can contribute to affordable housing citywide
- Update on climate action, including working with tribes and other communities to stop the coal train proposals
- Announced a 4-part plan for creating great neighborhoods
You can watch the entire State of the City speech here.
The Co-Chair of Seattle’s Green Ribbon Commission and well known environmental leader Denis Hayes has an excellent piece in Crosscut claiming that if President Obama wants to be remembered as a great president, then he should tackle the greatest issue of our time: climate change.
Council, Mayor propose healthy vending machine options
SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council is considering legislation to increase the amount of healthy options in vending machines operated on City property. The majority of these machines only serve city employees.
“We are committed to providing healthier choices for our employees,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “This partnership with Seattle & King County Public Health is only the latest of our efforts to support a healthy work place. I thank Councilmember Conlin for his leadership on this issue.”
“This is one way that we can support healthy and productive City employees,” states Councilmember Richard Conlin, sponsor of the legislation. “Healthy vending provides opportunities for City employees to consume more nutritious food and beverages while at work.”
Council Bill 117710 requires all vending machines operated on City Property to stock “Healthier” and “Healthiest” food and beverage selections as defined by Public Health Seattle & King County “King County Healthy Vending Guidelines.” These standards are based upon calories, fat, sugar and sodium content.
Seattle’s Department of Parks and Recreation has led the way by successfully implementing the King County Healthy Vending Guidelines of “Healthier” and “Healthiest” choices in all vending machines in City park facilities in 2010.
“Vending machines with healthier snacks create more readily available healthy options,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “I applaud the City of Seattle for leading institutional changes that promote health.”
Obesity and poor nutrition are serious problems in King County. Approximately half the adult population in Seattle is overweight or obese. Overweight adults are at greater risk for numerous serious health outcomes that place a large burden on the health care system and increase health care costs, including type two diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain cancers, asthma, arthritis and other debilitating diseases.
Help the City prioritize near-term actions to reduce the carbon footprint of our city. Join a discussion co-hosted by a community group in the areas of food systems, waste reduction, bicycling, land use, and energy efficiency.
Climate Action Open House
Tuesday, February 12, 6 – 8 pm.
Bertha Knight Landes Room
Seattle City Hall (600 4th Ave)
American Forests Names Seattle One of the 10 Best U.S. Cities for Urban Forests
WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 5, 2013 — When it comes to a commitment to care for greenspaces in the nation’s leading cities, conservation organization American Forests has found that Seattle is doing much better than others. Through a combination of an in-depth survey, independent data and a vote by a blue-ribbon panel of leading urban forest experts, the nonprofit has named the 10 best U.S. cities for urban forests: Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, Sacramento, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
American Forests defines urban forests as “ecosystems of trees and other vegetation in and around communities that may consist of street and yard trees, vegetation within parks and along public rights of way and water systems. Urban forests provide communities with environmental, economic and social benefits and habitat for fish and wildlife.”
The project, funded by the U.S. Forest Service, found that while many cities are working to improve their green infrastructure, top-ranked cities, like Seattle, have made prolonged investments in the health of their urban forest. Additionally, the city has benefited from active nonprofit and community participation in improving and maintaining the city’s environmental resources. Seattle recognizes that trees don’t just provide aesthetic value, they also help in a number of other ways, including increasing property values, reducing energy costs and lowering medical costs by improving human health. Seattle’s 4.35 million trees are estimated to be worth about $4.9 billion, contributing to $5.9 million in energy savings and storing two million tons of carbon.
“Many cities across the U.S. are doing great work to care for their urban forests,” says Scott Steen, American Forests CEO and member of the judging panel. “Over the years, Seattle has developed strong partnerships to build and maintain its urban forest, while also embracing new techniques and technologies to better monitor its work. For instance, the city now has a detailed inventory of its trees that not only identifies where trees can be planted, but what types of trees should be planted, which will allow the city to maintain optimal species diversity and associated benefits in the years to come.”
American Forests worked with a panel of urban forest experts from a broad range of scientific and urban resources disciplines to identify the best urban forests from the 50 most populous U.S. cities. The panel, which included technical advisors from the U.S. Forest Service, looked at independent data and American Forests’ survey responses from local urban forest professionals and community forestry nonprofits. The panel identified the best cities using the following criteria:
• The degree to which there is strong civic engagement between the city, nonprofits, community groups and individuals in maintaining the urban forest.
• The degree to which the city has developed and implemented urban forest strategies to address issues and challenges such as energy conservation, stormwater and recreation.
• The accessibility of urban forest and greenspaces to the public, including percentage of park land per capita.
• The overall health and condition of the city’s urban forest.
• Each city’s documented knowledge of its tree canopy, tree species diversity and age class range.
• The status of urban forest management plans and other important management activities, such as tree canopy goals and ordinances.
One of the reasons American Forests undertook this project, according to Steen, is to showcase the tangible value that urban forests provide to cities and their residents, including economic, aesthetic, social and physical well-being. Various studies have shown a correlation between trees and lower rates of crime, reduced levels of stress and lower body mass.
To learn more about the 10 best cities for urban forests, visit American Forests’ website
SEATTLE – The vast majority of large building owners and managers in Seattle are now tracking and reporting building energy performance to the City under Seattle’s Energy Benchmarking and Reporting Ordinance. The City now has 2011 energy data on more than 87% of commercial and multifamily buildings 50,000 sq. ft. or larger. This represents about 1,160 individual properties and more than 200 million sq. ft. of building space.
“Seattle’s benchmarking program has helped many building owners who have never tracked energy use before better understand their building’s energy performance. Reporting the information to the City will help us improve and create programs to help owners upgrade their facilities to save energy and money,” said Jill Simmons, Director of the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment.
Benchmarking tracks the total amount of energy that a building uses and allows comparisons of energy performance to similar buildings. It is standard practice for owners and managers working to improve building energy efficiency and reduce energy costs.
“Energy bills only tell you so much. Benchmarking lets you see trends and how your building compares with others. As a facilities manager, I am always looking for ways to lower costs, and being energy efficient is a way to do that which benefits my company and its customers,” said Stephen Chandler, Facilities Manager at Verity Credit Union.
Since 2008, Verity Credit Union has reduced its annual energy consumption by 20% by tracking its use through benchmarking and making cost-effective energy efficiency improvements. (More case studies)
Seattle’s benchmarking ordinance requires owners of commercial and multifamily apartment and condo buildings 20,000 sq. ft. or larger to annually benchmark their building’s energy performance and report benchmarking data to the City.
- Owners of buildings 50,000 sq. ft. or larger were required to submit their 2011 energy data last year. 2012 data for these large buildings should be updated and reported by April 1, 2013.
- This year, owners of commercial and multifamily buildings 20,000 – 50,000 sq. ft. are required to submit their energy data for 2012 by April 1, 2013. Going forward, updates of the prior year’s energy use are due to the City annually on April 1st.
Once all building owners have reported, more than 290 million sq. ft. or about 4,000 buildings will be regularly tracking and reporting their energy use to the City. Fines are assessed for failure to submit a benchmarking report.
Seattle is one of a growing list of cities with energy benchmarking and reporting requirements. Other major cities that have passed legislation include New York City, San Francisco, Austin, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. Unlike many of these ordinances, Seattle’s does not require public disclosure of building energy information. However, Seattle’s law requires that owners make energy information available to tenants, buyers or financial institutions.
The City has developed free services to help building owners learn about the requirement and help them report, including a drop-in help center, benchmarking workshops, daily technical assistance and a how-to guide. Upcoming free workshops are scheduled in February and March.
To learn more, call the benchmarking helpline at (206) 727‑8484 or visit www.seattle.gov/EnergyBenchmarking.
Tuesday, Feb 6, 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Seattle City Hall, Boards & Commissions Room
Join us for a panel discussion featuring:
- Rob Johnson, Transportation Choices Coalition & Green Ribbon Commission member
- David Cutler, Seattle Planning Commission
- Maggie Wykowski, Puget Sound Sage
After the discussion, share your feedback and ideas – what should the city do to
- Encourage non-motorized of transportation, like walking and biking?
- Improve our public transit system?
- Transition from fossil-fuel to electricity-based transportation?
Learn more about your city government. Chat up city staff, elected officials. Tour city hall offices. Family friendly event with food, entertainment, and adoptable dogs and critters.