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El Paso Charts Ambitious Course to a Smarter Greener Future

After a two-year effort, the City of El Paso adopted a new comprehensive plan this week. Based on smart growth and sustainability principles, author Kaid Benfield calls it "among the best, most articulate comprehensive plans" he's ever seen.
March 8, 2012, 2pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Benfield writes about the process by which Plan El Paso was developed by the city and a consultant team led by Dover, Kohl & Partners, and discusses its key innovations in seeking to control "alarming rates of land consumption and carbon pollution" that are plaguing the country's 19th largest city. A draft of the plan had already received the EPA's award for achievement in smart growth in December, and Benfield thinks the final product had gone even further in its accomplishments.

Quoting from the plan, Benfield points out its key thrust: "The plan proposes strategies to bring more of the activi­ties of daily living within walking distance and a framework of transportation alternatives including transit and bicycle systems. Encouraging walkability helps create healthy life styles. Building complete places that enable neighbors to know each other will help create and retain close-knit communities...The plan revives the idea that additions to the built-environment must be functional and long-lasting but also delightful and attractive. Plan El Paso recognizes that design matters."

To achieve this goal, the plan employs a diversity of tools, many of which take advantage of LEED-ND guidelines. According to Banfield, "the plan gives priority to reinvestment in downtown; transit-supportive infill development; revitalization of older neighborhoods; balanced transportation options; strategic suburban retrofits; sustainable economic development; respect for nature; and much more."

Perhaps most encouraging about the planning process was the substantial public engagement effort involved in the plan's development, which Banfield details. He reports that, "Plan El Paso repeatedly acknowledges that its best ideas were locally generated," which bodes well for its prospects for implementation and perpetuation by citizens and politicians alike.

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Published on Thursday, March 8, 2012 in Switchboard
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