Focus on Leadership to Defend Against Climate Change in St. Pete, Report Says
The Urban Land Institute report recommends ways to improve St. Petersburg’s resiliency against climate change and weather events. Among the recommendations: Focus on leadership, use of natural resources, and improve climate awareness.
ST. PETERSBURG – The Tampa Bay district council of the Urban Land Institute has released a report with recommendations for how St. Petersburg can become a more resilient city by strengthening its defenses against climate change and significant weather events.
St. Petersburg, which has 60 miles of coastal frontage, is known as one of the most vulnerable cities in the nation to wind damage, coastal flooding from storm surge and rising sea levels.
With this in mind, climate resilience, defined as the capacity of a community, including vulnerable populations, to withstand the impacts of climate change and catastrophic weather events, has become a top priority among elected officials and community leaders in St. Petersburg.
In December 2016, ULI Tampa Bay partnered with the city to address the changing climate and how to become more resilient to environmental threats during a two-day Resilient City Workshop. In addition to a number of top local leaders, the team included such national-level sustainability experts as Jeffrey Hebert, deputy mayor and chief resilience officer with the city of New Orleans; James Murley, chief resilience officer with Miami-Dade County; Arlen Stawasz, an architectural designer from Boston; Lex Kelso, a developer with Green Coast Enterprises in New Orleans; and Zelalem Adefris, a community engagement professional with Catalyst Miami.
“Planning for resiliency is not about whether the sea level is going to rise, but how well-prepared and equipped a city will be to handle it and bounce back when the effects take hold,” said Realizing Resiliency panel chair Jim Cloar of ULI Tampa Bay. “St. Petersburg has the opportunity to become a regional leader in a global resiliency initiative.”
A report from the conference, Realizing Resilience, has now been released. The report’s six key recommendations, which focus on leveraging existing city resources, are:
1. “Lead by Example: Resilient City Decision-making” – Create a cabinet-level chief of resilience officer, implement a resiliency and sustainability action plan, and target vulnerable infrastructure and buildings that could benefit from emergency preparedness.
2. “Adapt to Thrive: Shifting from Business as Usual” – Provide education and technical assistance to small businesses to create disaster preparedness and business continuity plans, incorporate a strong resilience component into the development of the Innovation District in downtown, and co-brand resilience work with local marine science business and education sectors.
3. “Harness Opportunity: Adapting to the Changing Environment” – Use the city’s expansive park system to create multi-functional green spaces for water retention, and mandate resilient features in significant development projects such as the St. Pete Pier and the Tropicana Field site.
4. “Resilient Living: Creating Connected and Strong Neighborhoods” – Strengthen multi-modal connection between and within low-income neighborhoods and downtown, and invest in finding ways to promote household stability, which can help individuals and communities bounce back from the effects of climate change and storms.
5. “Identify Messengers: Establishing Bold and Strategic Communications” – Boldly brand the city’s resilience initiative and invest in a highly visible public outreach campaign, while allowing the community to transparently track the City’s progress.
6. “Collaboration: Forging New Partnership” – Articulate the linkages of resilience work with the missions of organizations not typically drawn to the topic; partner with businesses that have significant experience with distribution and logistics as well as tech incubators and schools to develop emergency preparedness tools (such as a resilience app), and leverage local artists’ talent to visualize risk and build awareness.
“The overall goal of resiliency is being prepared to respond to recover from the effects of climate change and severe weather, and not just for those who can afford to rebuild their homes and businesses, but for all St. Petersburg residents,” said Sharon Wright, sustainability manager for the city of St. Petersburg. “As we develop an actionable plan to become a more resilient city, social equity and economic opportunity will be at the forefront of our mission. The ULI Realizing Resilience report and framework makes tangible and innovative recommendations that will be extremely valuable to the businesses and residents as the City moves forward.”
The city is developing its first ever Integrated Sustainability Action Plan, which will advance the city’s sustainability initiatives, including 100 percent clean energy goals and regional resiliency planning efforts. ULI’s Realizing Resiliency report will guide how the city builds upon previous and ongoing efforts. The ISAP will serve as a blueprint for St. Petersburg’s sustainability and resiliency initiatives across all city departments.
“Our Integrated Sustainability Action Plan is a first important step in helping get the Sunshine City to meet our 100 percent clean energy goals,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said. “I am proud of this work, and the other important steps we have taken towards resiliency. I thank ULI for its diligence, and for its partnership in helping St. Pete realize resilience with social equity and economic opportunity in mind.”
The Urban Land Institute is a global nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in sustaining and creating thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the Institute has nearly 30,000 members representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines. The ULI Tampa Bay District Council sponsors educational forums and events such as trends conferences, transportation and housing programs, and project tours.
For information about St. Pete’s response to climate change and sea level rise, go to stpete.org.
St. Petersburg | Urban Land Institute | Rick Kriseman | Climate Change | Sea Level Rise | Tampa Bay News | TB Reporter
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