City Councilmember Kristin Palmer on smart growth and resilience in New Orleans, LA

Kristin Palmer had long been interested in smart growth strategies, but smart growth really became a focal point of her first term on City Council in 2010, as New Orleans still struggled to rebuild five years after Hurricane Katrina.

“When you’re trying to rebuild from nothing, from ground zero, what are the things that make sense when you come back and rebuild? Access to public transportation and economic corridors was really part of that success,” says Palmer. “If you had access to grocery stores and you had a walkable community, and you could get to the resources you needed, those are the communities that rebuilt faster and better.”

Local Leaders Council

Mayor Murphy McMillin on preserving small town USA

Jena, LA
From left: Oak Street in downtown Jena; participants in one of the city’s visioning sessions; an excerpt from Jena’s Vision, the town plan.

When a proposed highway project threatened Jena, LA’s historic downtown, Mayor Murphy McMillin worked with residents and fellow city officials to come up with alternatives to the construction. What ensued was a long-term vision incorporating smart growth strategies that not only found a solution to the highway project, but will also help guide development and protect Jena’s natural assets for years to come.

Jena has a simple tag line—“A nice place to call home.” Mayor McMillin, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, describes the town as a close-knit community of 3,000 residents located between the larger metropolitan areas of Alexandria and Monroe, and residents are fond and protective of their town’s rural character and identity.

Local Leaders Council

Senator Mary Landrieu and LOCUS developer Pres Kabacoff to be honored with 2013 LOCUS Leadership Awards

Mary Landrieu and Pres Kabacoff
From left: Senator Mary Landrieu with LOCUS Fellow Walker Toma, Smart Growth America Chief of Staff Ilana Preuss and Pres Kabacoff at a meeting on Capitol Hill in 2011. Landrieu and Kabacoff will be honored with this year’s LOCUS Leadership Awards.

Louisiana will take center stage next week in Washington as LOCUS honors two smart growth champions from the Bayou State at its upcoming Congressional Reception.

As part of the second annual LOCUS Leadership Summit, the 2013 Leadership Award will be presented to Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu and Pres Kabacoff, CEO of New Orleans-based developer HRI Properties, for their work to promote smart, sustainable development in Louisiana and across the country.


Chris Leinberger at the 2011 Smart Growth Summit

Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, speaking at the 2011 Smart Growth Summit in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Hosted by Smart Growth America’s coalition partner the Center for Planning Excellece, the Summit is an annual convening in downtown Baton Rouge of elected officials, engaged citizens and local, national, and international experts in community planning and growth. The 2012 Summit will take place August 27-29. Click here to learn more about this year’s Summit.


Public support spurs progress at complete streets workshop in New Orleans

Holiday Drive in New Orleans is an recent example of complete streets work in action.

In December 2011, the City Council of New Orleans, LA, unanimously passed the city’s first complete streets ordinance. The ordinance, which encourages designers and engineers to build streets that accommodate everyone, has already gained widespread support. Now, it’s up to New Orleans leaders to actually make these changes happen.

Last month, Smart Growth America and complete streets experts Michael Moule and Michael Ronkin held a workshop for City officials in New Orleans to help make their complete streets plans a reality. Joining the officials were representatives from 12 local, regional, and state agencies as well as non-profit partners who also participated in the event.

Complete Streets Technical assistance

Geoff Anderson on smart growth strategies in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Last week, Smart Growth America’s President and CEO Geoff Anderson spoke with Jim Engster of Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s WRKF FM about smart growth strategies in Lousiana and across the country. Tonight Anderson will speak in Baton Rouge as a guest of Smart Growth America’s coalition partner the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX). Anderson will speak about how economic development, fiscal conservatism, and smart growth as a great benefit to business owners, community leaders and residents. Find out more about tonight’s event here, and read an excerpted transcript or listen to the full audio of Anderson’s interview with WRKF using the player below.

WRKF: In Baton Rouge we have a vote coming in a few weeks, April 25, a measure to preserve the bus system in this area. What’s your take on whether or not a public bus system is a necessity or not for a city the size of Baton Rouge?
GEOFF ANDERSON: I think that there’s a common myth out there that public transportation is all about big cities. And of course we have a good system here in Washington. But in fact in a lot of those smaller towns and cities around the country public transportation is even more important because often we find that people are using those systems to get to their jobs, to participate in the economy. It’s the thing that’s getting a lot of people in rural places to their medical appointments, it’s the only option they have. And with the volatility that we’re seeing in energy prices, in gas prices, we’ve seen a lot of pain in different communities as people are trying to control their household costs and figure out a way to avoid paying high gas prices this is what they’re turning to. We’re seeing public transportation ridership at all time highs, and certainly a lot of fiscal pressure on those systems. But if you want to keep people employed in the economy and you want to keep them as active participants in the workforce and not end up paying costs that are associated with having people be unemployed, this is a great way to do it.


15 communities selected to receive free smart growth technical assistance

A view of downtown Oklahoma City, OK by Flickr user Becky McCray. Oklahoma City is one of 15 communities selected to receive free technical assistance this year.

Smart Growth America is pleased to announce the 15 communities that have been selected to receive this year’s free smart growth technical assistance. Stretching from Maine to Washington State, these communities represent major cities, suburban communities, and rural towns, showing that all types of communities are interested in using smart growth strategies to build stronger local economies, create jobs and improve overall quality of life.

Technical assistance

In the wake of Irene, examining how smart growth can help protect communities from floods and other hazards

Can smart growth help communities avoid the catastrophic impacts of flooding? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brought together designers, land use planners, engineers and policy wonks at NOAA’s Silver Spring headquarters last week to examine this question, and to find commonalities and tensions between hazard mitigation techniques and smart growth principles.

“Hazard mitigation” is the technical term for a wide range of urban design, landscape, architectural, land use and engineering practices aimed at reducing exposure to threats like flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfire. This field of practice is closely related to climate change adaptation, or the process of planning ahead for eventualities such as extreme temperatures and sea-level rise.

The experts at last week’s meeting raised several questions about urban planning’s role in hazard mitigation. Should cities require the street level of new buildings to contain nothing more permanent than parking spaces? Can communities be persuaded to envision a post-disaster future by engaging in pre-disaster planning? Is it worth the effort to integrate local comprehensive plans, which are optional, and hazard mitigation plans, which are required?