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Sustainable U City: How Far We've Come

Mayor Shelley Welsch's latest blog post.

Recently, sustainability has been on my mind, perhaps because:

  1. The Bike/Walk task force presented its report and recommendations to the City Council, along with a master plan for making streets safe for cyclists and pedestrians in U City;
  2. The City Manager asked me about a document I signed last year – a document that says we will share info on our efforts at sustainability with the world;
  3. My husband and I decided to put a green roof on a small addition we are adding to our home; and
  4. It’s been really, really hot which has made me think about climate change.

With all this on my mind, I thought perhaps I should recap what our community has been doing recently to become more sustainable. We’ve done a lot but, of course, there is always more to do.

So, a short history of sustainability in :

  • In 2005, Mayor Joseph Adams, with City Council approval, signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, which set up new policies for the City. Under the agreement, University City agreed to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by this year. U City was one of the first nineteen cities to sign the agreement.
  • In 2005, City Hall was renovated and became the only LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design)-certified municipal building in the St. Louis region.
  • In 2008 the City set up a Green Practices Committee to provide Council with a plan to make all City services greener.
  • In 2008, the City introduced single-stream recycling which allows residents to combine all recycling into one cart – making recycling easier and, it’s hoped, more common.
  • In 2009, the City Council approved a policy-making Sustainability Resolution which required the City to perform a greenhouse gas emission inventory and set attainable goals out to 2025; perform energy audits for City facilities; develop an Energy Master Plan for the City; analyze street lighting with energy use and cost in mind; revise building and zoning codes to make them more sustainable; define sustainable design guidelines; and to do community and staff outreach on the issue of sustainability.
  • In 2009 the City received a federal grant to build our new LEED-certified fire house. (Work on that building will begin shortly.)
  • In 2009, the City developed a plan to build new, LEED-certified housing in the northeast quadrant of the City in partnership with , Arcturis and a local construction company. Unfortunately, this project was hit hard by the economic downturn and did not advance to the construction phase. However, Habitat for Humanity is now building LEED-certified houses on some of those lots.
  • In 2009 University City became a member of ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability), an effort to encourage sustainable practices on the municipal level.
  • In 2010 the Green Practices Committee presented its Sustainability Strategic Plan for the City to the City Council.
  • In 2010 the City received a federal grant from the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development to develop a sustainability plan for the Parkview Gardens neighborhood, one of the few cities in the country to receive such a grant.  Nine partners are involved in this project.  The draft plan is currently being reviewed by the City’s Plan Commission.
  • In 2011 the Green Practices Committee became the Green Practices Commission.
  • In 2011, I signed the Mexico City Pact, a global agreement among mayors around the world committing to share data collected related to municipal sustainability efforts. This involves no new policy, but commits to sharing public data already available.
  • In 2011 and 2012 University City won $5,000 awards from the U.S. Conference of Mayors in its . U City recycled more cans per capita than other nominees from cities in our size category.
  • The City led the way in building a consortium of local communities to purchase recycled paper products for municipal use.
  • In 2012 the task force on University City’s Bike and Walkability presented its report and a Master Bike and Pedestrian Plan to the City Council to encourage the use of more safe and sustainable transportation alternatives in the City.
  • In 2012 the City received a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do a sustainable land use audit – one of only 59 cities around the country to receive the grant.
  • In addition, since 2005, we have updated the lighting fixtures on the third floor of City Hall; installed LED bulbs in all City-owned traffic signals; started to use biodiesel fuel in City trucks; provided over 20 miles of bike paths, walking and pedestrian trails in the City; updated pedestrian-related amenities throughout parts of the City; promoted the purchase of gas-electric hybrid vehicles by the City; established a program to encourage City employees to live in U City to cut down on home/work drive time; set up an Urban Forestry Commission and continued work on a tree replacement program for the City tree population.

One of my personal goals as Mayor of University City is to make our community one of the most sustainable, if not the most sustainable, in the St. Louis region. I want to work with Council to ensure that we continue on the path of sustainability set by our involved residents, committed staff members and previous administrations. I will do all I can to continue the work that has already been done, and develop and support new ideas to keep us moving down the path of sustainability.

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