Blog: Matthew Naud & Jamie Kidwell

Ann Arbor has had an energy office longer than most cities - and also happens to know where each of its 14,000-plus water pipes are located (many cities don't). Matthew Naud and Jamie Kidwell, key players in Ann Arbor's sustainability planning effort, will write about using these advantages and others to forge a new sustainability framework for the city.

Jamie Kidwell: Ann Arbor has 200 sustainability goals... and counting

Last week I attended the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) Conference in Denver. Check out the Sustainable Cities Institute website for more information on USDN and for local government best practices. At this conference, over 75 local government staff members from across North America gathered to talk openly about successes and challenges in moving sustainability initiatives forward at the local government level. Conference attendees included many of the frontrunners in sustainable and green initiatives, like Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. From Michigan, Ann Arbor and Dearborn joined the conversation about how best to become more sustainable cities.

What are some of the steps Ann Arbor is taking to become more sustainable? We are taking a more integrated approach to planning.

With 24 plans in place and two more in progress, that gives Ann Arbor 26 plans. These plans contain over 200 goals. Additionally, city council resolutions and ordinances also set goals for the city of Ann Arbor. For instance, Ann Arbor's goal to use 30 percent renewable energy in municipal operations by 2015 isn't in Ann Arbor's energy plan, it sits in a council resolution. That leaves Ann Arbor with 200 goals…and counting.

How does this make Ann Arbor different from some of the other cities at the conference? Ann Arbor doesn't have a traditional sustainability plan, unlike some of the other cities, but sustainability goals are embedded into our current city plans. The next step is to integrate these plan goals into one overarching framework.

Ann Arbor's sustainability framework project is an 18-month project that looks to reorganize goals from city plans into four planning areas. This framework will not replace any of the city plans but will aggregate all city goals into one central location. The goal of this project is to institutionalize sustainability into future city planning and to increase accessibility to the city's sustainability goals. Reorganizing city goals into four planning areas (climate & energy, community, land use & access, and natural systems) creates a new lens to look at city plans. The framework will help identify converging goals seated within different plans and foster a more integrated approach to planning.

For instance, all city goals related to natural systems can be found in one place. Goals in the natural systems planning area aren't just from the natural features plan; Ann Arbor's transportation plan and the parks, recreation, and open space plan have goals aimed at improving our natural systems as well.  For information on the actions to achieve these goals, one can refer back to the original plans. This isn't a new plan, but instead is an exercise in taking stock of what goals we do have, and evaluating our current plans. I think of this process as an inventory of city goals. What do we have, what don't we have, and where do we go from here?     

Because Ann Arbor has a number of sustainability goals in place, a next step of the sustainability framework project is to prioritize goals and create a sustainability action plan that helps track progress towards our goals.

The end goal of the sustainability framework and action plan is to better track progress towards the city's sustainability priorities and increase awareness of our progress on these goals. If you're interested in checking out some plans from other cities, Philadelphia Greenworks and Santa Monica's Progress Report are useful resources.

For more background on Ann Arbor's process of building its sustainability framework, refer to our blog, which follows this project from its start!