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Kalamazoo Comprehensive Plan

Ken Dahlberg is Professor of Political Science and Environmental Studies at Western Michigan University. He has been active in researching issues of sustainable development with a special focus on agriculture. He has also consulted and provided technical assistance on issues of local food systems and urban food policy councils.

*~*~* Preliminary Working Draft *~*~*

Design Criteria for

Sustainable Development

in Kalamazoo

Pulled together by Ken Dahlberg
2427 Kensington Dr. Kalamazoo, MI 49008
343-4748 (H) 387-5686 (W)

This draft has been prepared in the hope that it will be of use in bringing into the "Fresh Start" discussions many of the important dimensions of sustainable development

This preliminary working draft and its criteria emerge from a course I taught this last semester: Environmental Studies 410: Appropriate Technologies for Sustainability.

The assignment was to take the summary version of a nicely done statement by the Citizen Planners of Ventura County, California, and to adapt it to Kalamazoo. In addition suggesting changes to the original principles, which were aimed at the metropolitan level, I asked the students to identify design principles and questions that applied to neighborhoods and households. I had two teams and each came up with somewhat different reports. What I have done here is to combine what I felt were some of the best suggestions from each.

The summary version of the pamphlet done by the Citizen Planners of Ventura County , "Ecological Planning Principles for Sustainable Development in Ventura County" was taken from the book: Sustainable Cities: Concepts and Strategies for Eco-City Development, edited by Bob Walter, Lois Arkin, and Richard Crenshaw. It was published in 1992 by EHM Eco-Home Media, Los Angeles, CA.

The original Eight Principles and text were created by the Citizens Planners Project of Ventura County coordinated by Joseph Smyth, to help guide development in that Southern California county. Initial input came from a team of concerned Ventura citizens and a consultancy group, which included the principal planners of the First Los Angeles Ecological Cities Conference and a number of speakers and participants from the conference. These principles were offered as sustainable building blocks whose specifics could be customized to fit any community or county.

PRINCIPLE I: Protect, Preserve and Restore the Natural Environment

On Earth Day 1991, Ian McHarg, author of Design with Nature, said: "The fine art of the 21st century will be that of restoration of the natural environment. We need not only a better view of man and nature, but a working method by which the least of us can ensure that the product of our works is not more despoliation." Redirecting our energy and intelligence towards this task will become increasingly important to our quality of life and our survival.

We must act on our growing awareness that a healthy ecosystem and natural environment be the foundation for all that we do. The natural environment, our life support system, is the basis for a healthy world, healthy economy, healthy society, and a healthy quality of life.

Pivotal to this principle is letting go of the idea that good business and a sound ecology are at odds. Ecological design that restores and preserves natural environment can result in a more attractive product with greater sales appeal. The stumbling block we face is not an economic issue, but the resistance we have toward taking the time to learn a new way of doing business.



1. Create an inventory of natural and human-made aspects of your bioregion.

2. Define study areas in the context of local and regional watersheds, maintaining integrity of streambelts.

3. Maintain a continuous system of greenbelts and wildlife corridors to be determined by natural conditions, and maintain large contiguous pieces of natural habitat as wildlife sanctuaries.

4. Protect and restore cyclical processes, biological diversity, and natural beauty.

5. Develop equitable land preservation and restoration agreements through fair market acquisition and development rights transfer. If a privately-owned property is marked for preservation as open space, the property owner would be paid for the land at fair market rate by selling his development rights, which can be transferred to another more suitable site.

6. Initiate formal agreements with surrounding cities or counties to share inventory information and call for regional action to protect area ecosystems.

7. Create neighborhood nature and local history programs for K-12 and adult

and community education through the public schools.


1. Establish community based activities that allow people to work together and share concerns and interests.

2. Create neighborhood recreation parks and green spaces for community use and care.

3. Propose neighborhood restrictions on pesticides, fertilizers, and other toxic chemical use that may disrupt the natural ecosystems that surround the area..

4. Help make community members involved and informed by initiating neighborhood clean ups of

surrounding parks, beaches, and other natural areas.

5. Have neighborhood association sponsor educational workshops on topics such as urban permaculture, organic gardening, composting, biodiversity, recycling, alternatives to toxic chemical use, etc.

6. Change zoning of neighborhood areas to include more greenspace and natural areas.


1. Grow an environmentally friendly garden in the yard or in the home.

2. Property should be kept in a safe, natural state.

PRINCIPLE 2: Establish, True-Cost Pricing as the Basis of Economic Viability

By utilizing true-cost pricing to evaluate a course of action, we move toward long-term economic viability and sustainability without compromising our quality of life. In true-cost pricing, long-term economic gains and preservation of the quality of life are valued above short-term profits. In order to evaluate true short-term financial profit and long-term economic gains, the "eco-nomic" (ecological + economic) sustainability of the natural environment and society as a whole must be, included in the balance sheet.

The specific types of expenses to factor into our new economic equations incorporate payment for the total negative impacts that current business practices cause. We need to include pollution mitigation costs, related medical expenses, loss of pay due to related illness, repairs required for buildings, and loss of forest revenues due to forest depletion from add rain. In addition to these more quantifiable factors, we should also consider accounting for related intangibles such as pain and suffering, bereavement, and loss of scenery.

True-cost accounting also factors in the use of non-renewable materials. We need to shift from the current situation that favors use of virgin resources over recycled materials. A more appropriate state of affairs would be economic inducements to utilize recycled raw materials and penalties for using nonrenewable resources where sustainable alternatives are possible.

The goals are: sustainable economic prosperity to meet human needs and wants, building efficient infrastructure, and at the same time protecting the life-giving abundance and beauty of nature, for ourselves and for all future generations.



1. Economic analysis must be based on cyclic patterns and a whole-systems approach to planning.

2. Long-term impacts on environmental and social issues must be considered as part of an economic analysis.

3. Give developers project preference points and tax breaks for planning clustered, mixed-use, public transit/pedestrian-oriented projects which reduce infrastructure and maintenance costs.

4. Provide incentives for industries to clean up their operations by charging them for the pollution they emit, and also to tax non-reusable and non-recyclable products to discourage their production and sale.

5. Redefine the rules of the market place so that the most beneficial environmental opportunities are also those which make the most economic sense at the individual level.


1. Use the mixed-use cluster model in every neighborhood in Kalamazoo as well as downtown.


1. Purchase locally made products created with sustainable materials and with durability in mind.

PRINCIPLE 3: Support Local Agriculture and Local Business, Products and


Local production of food, goods, and services creates jobs in local businesses, and is a key aspect of a healthy community. Local production of necessities also reduces dependency on imports, allows economic wealth to be recycled, provides security in case of an emergency, and turns our communities into self-sufficient garden-cities. For example, locally grown food supports local farmers, is fresher, and can be brought to market with less travel time and expense.

While some communities throw their front door open to recruit new businesses, The Rocky Mountain Institute reports that in Lane County, Oregon, the locals recognized that their most important and stable economic opportunities were with their existing local businesses. Lane County created Oregon Marketplace, which helps local firms thrive by linking buyers and sellers. In Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and dozens of other communities around the country, including Los Angeles, residents are encouraging new local enterprise by helping hometown entrepreneurs gain access to capital. Through a Community Loan Fund account at the local bank, they can collateralize loans that the bank might not otherwise grant to local businesses.

Mixed-use cluster-development helps to support local businesses by making it easier and more attractive to shop locally by foot and by bike, which helps guarantee a built-in clientele for local businesses. This increases the opportunity for more personalized business/customer relations that also makes shopping locally more appealing. This mutual support which has been by and large lost in our depersonalized, automobile-based urban world, is a key aspect of a sustainable city and improves the overall quality of life.



1. Develop business strategies for recycling wealth within the community, e.g., local exchange trading systems and local currencies.

2. Link producers and consumers in a variety of community and cooperative associations.

3. Encourage small, local organic farming operations wherever possible. Organic farming eliminates the need for toxic pesticides, and can minimize dust by reducing the extent of plowing required to grow crops.

4. Include food production in community open spaces, parks, community gardens, rooftop gardens, private homes and multi-family buildings, so that our cities increasingly have edible landscapes.

5. Promote rooftop gardens by changing building codes to stipulate sufficient structural integrity, railings, drainage, access to water and designated planting areas.

6. Give local businesses a visible designation to let people know that their local currency can be spent there.

7. Set up systems to allow residents to receive part of their pay check in local currency.

8. Have a point of exchange where people can get local dollars for us currency.

9 . Use local credit unions as primary banking source. Encourage credit unions to open their services to local businesses.


1. Encourage neighborhood potlucks using locally grown food. Make this an opportunity to provide educational materials about the sustainability of eating locally.

2. Designate one to several lots in each neighborhood for community gardens. Provide a community tool cooperative to reduce unnecessary consumption through sharing.


1. Grow your own food

2. Shop local markets and farmer’s markets.

PRINCIPLE 4: Develop Clustered, Mixed-Use, Pedestrian Oriented Ecological Communities

Clustering communities preserves open space in rural areas and can restore open space within existing communities. Clustering also encourages living within a safe, pleasant walk to work,

schools, shopping, services, parks, recreation, and public transit. We are also learning that appropriate density enhances security, and can be a positive force for creating community and a sense of place.

While the social and environmental benefits of clustering communities are becoming clearer, the major economic benefits still remain hidden, according to architect/planner Joseph Smyth. He adds: "The truth is, the economic benefits of clustered communities are so massive and so comprehensive they seem too good to be true. The tip-off clue in this treasure hunt is the following: 40% of the cost of development is automobile-related. In other words, when a town or city is built, 40% of the initial costs go to pay for freeways, streets, stop lights, parking lots, driveways, garages, parking structures and the land they cover. In my opinion, automobile dependency, with all of its side effects, is the root cause of local, state and national insolvency. It’s time the true-cost of living in automobile-dependent communities is known. Most importantly, it's time for the economic power of sustainable development to be discovered!"

Richard Register states in his book, Ecocity Berkeley, "The Garden is the paradise of nature, and the City is the paradise of culture. Or at least they could be... Today, both are out of balance. If we build the eco-city, we will regain the Garden and finally aspire to the full ideal of the City - the City built with, not against, nature. Then, when we hold in reverence that which we cannot build, which is given to us by the Earth herself, we will create not just a home for ourselves but a future for all who follow."



1. Establish integrated, ecological, whole-systems thinking as the planning and developing norm in communities, land redesign the zoning patterns accordingly.

2. Create town centers composed of public buildings and spaces for governance and the arts that will generate, civic pride and a: sense of place. Create architectural forms and spaces that promote cultural diversity and positive social interaction. Create neighborhoods that encourage walking and biking. Create a variety of housing types and sizes, suited to different income levels, life-styles, cultures, and age groups. Define clusters by creating permanent greenbelts. Create green spaces within the community to support visual and sound privacy.

3. Adjust building codes to require a much higher level of sound-proofing that will permit privacy amidst higher density.


1. Create neighborhood centers with directors who can encourage community building and

neighborhood activities.

2. Encourage preservation of greenspace and development of green corridors for wildlife and

humans, including bikeways, walkways, trails.

3. Change zoning of neighborhood areas to include more greenspace and natural areas.


1.Walk or bike whenever possible.

PRINCIPLE 5: Utilize Advanced Transportation, Communication and Production Systems

Communities that gear up to move information instead of people and materials, and which encourage the use of advanced production systems are on their way to long-term sustainability- Transportation, communication, food and production, water and material reclamation, and the delivery of human services, all play a part in that scenario. A Japanese panel convened in early 1990 to advise the U.S. on strengthening its economy. They counseled us to build high-speed rail systems and "get Americans out of their cars," reports Francesca Lyman in E Magazine (September/October, 1990).

Americans lose more than 2 billion hours a year to traffic delays. According to the Federal Highway Administration, by the year 2005 at current growth rates, that number will increase to 7 billion hours! This does not count commuting time, just the delays, reports Nation's Business (September, 1991). A recent study of the Grand Rapids, MI area suggests that the total costs of automobiles borne by all persons in Kent County are in the billions of dollars! (West Michigan Environmental Action Council, 1997).

Clean and quiet transit will be commonplace in the years to come, and the sooner communities make the change, the faster things will improve. Advantages will include major reductions in air and noise pollution, less lost time due to long commutes and traffic jams, less travel expense, and fewer accidents. Homes in clustered communities can be typically located within a short walk, bike or trolley ride of the train station.

Advanced communication systems (e.g., fiber optic cable, satellite, computer data bases, FAX, CD-ROM) are already commonplace. When built into the community as standard components and coupled with advanced, efficient, non-polluting production technologies, such systems will permit large businesses to decentralize into small, local branch offices that easily fit into mixed-use cluster patterns. Providing the home workplace with a direct-link access to global information and transactions will also be a major benefit.

As industry, through new levels of efficiency in the consumption of materials and energy, advances to the point where it is able to guarantee no measurable impact on air and water, it can begin to be integrated into the fabric of sustainable neighborhoods. This will mean a large additional supply of jobs which can be reached without the need for a long commute.



1. Discretion should be used when considering the mass utilization of advanced communication systems.

2. Work from the assumption that the human organism is better at assimilating information and producing quality ideas and work at comfortable speeds, not the instantaneous speeds that accompany electronically transmitted information.

3. Develop a quality-of-life index to support an ecologically balanced carrying capacity.

4. Locate walkways and bikeways through park and greenbelt settings separate from automobile streets.

5. Consider wiring new and existing communities with fiber-optic cable to serve the needs of large and small business, the home-based workplace, educational and entertainment facilities.

6. Require all public and private transportation to convert to clean power sources, such as natural gas, hydrogen or electricity from renewable sources, and locate transit stops within a short walk or bike ride of destinations.


1. Designate portions of existing streets for other transportation uses: biking, skating, wheelchairs, etc.

2. Encourage car-pooling, thus reducing the need for individual transportation and consumption of fuel.

3. Provide information on local transit systems and attempt to inform community transit decision makers of the travel needs of the neighborhood.

4. Establish neighborhood information centers which provide computers, faxes and other expensive devices that can be easily shared along with a repository of information focusing on literature and resources to enhance knowledge of sustainable production systems and recent advances in related fields.


1. Coordinate activities to minimize automobile use.

2. Focus shopping trips to nearby vendors to minimize dependency on autos, travel time, and money spent on transportation.

3. Communicate through letters.

PRINCIPLE 6: Maximize Conservation and Develop Renewable Resources

The use of conservation technology and practices to reduce consumption of energy, water and materials is an area which has a vast potential we are only starting to tap. Not only are the physical resources saved available for future use, but the funds saved equal more local wealth that stays within the community. Conservation also reduces pollution and minimizes the cost of waste management (e.g., water reclamation, materials recovery and recycling, toxic, waste disposal and landfills).

"The United States wastes some $300 billion a year due to lack of insulation, inefficient refrigerators, drafty doors, and other energy leaks in buildings, industry and transportation," say researchers at the Rocky Mountain Institute. That's why the Rocky Mountain Institute's Economic Renewal Program is helping towns like Osage, Iowa (population 3,800). Osage has created the equivalent of 60 new jobs by implementing a variety of energy efficiency programs. $1.2 million dollars that leaked out of the community to pay energy bills each year now stays in the town, generating more local wealth.

An energy-conserving, longer-lasting refrigerator has a higher purchase price than a conventional refrigerator. However, the savings in electricity over the fife of the refrigerator will more than justify the increased purchase price, including interest on the difference. Historically, utilities have been reluctant to promote "'Negawatts" conservation programs, because to do so lowered their

profits. Today, however, growing numbers of states are changing their regulations to allow utilities to keep part of the money that their efficiency programs save. According to John Rowe, New England Electric System's (NEES) chief executive, "Under the old rates, there was no way we could make money on conservation, but now it's the most profitable investment we make."

Converting from dependence on non-renewable resources from distant sources to local renewable resources moves the community closer to self-sufficiency. The conversion should include measures such as using local ground water and developing water catchments to reduce dependence on imported water, and utilizing solar technologies to reduce fossil fuel use.

In Michigan and Kalamazoo it is important to recognize that eight out of every ten energy dollars immediate leaves the area and state. The more these dollars can be conserved and recycled locally, the more local economic activity and development can occur. In the l970s, the Kalamazoo Nature Center did a study that demonstrated that weatherizing low income houses was the most cost effective way to provide low income residents with additional available cash. This could be done in ways to provide them with household skills as well.



1. Provide economic incentives for water, energy and materials conservation, for installing water-saving and catchment devices, for solar panels that produce electricity and hot water, for driving more efficient small cars and using alternative fuels, for working within the home and/or neighborhood where walking or biking replaces most auto uses.

2. Set strict water quality standards and take steps to eliminate pollution of ground water basins, and purify wastewater to safe levels for use in community landscaping, industry and recharging ground water supplies.

3. Encourage the public schools to offer courses which educate on renewable resources and energy conservation and give students cooking, gardening, and home economics skills.

4. Develop a community wide program for publicizing all of the methods of conservation, as well as the incentives and savings that result from the use of these methods.

5. Enhance and extend the master gardener and master composter programs of County Extension.

6. Develop incentives for business to stock reusable/refillable merchandise, as well as incentives for those consumers who choose to buy them.


1. Provide educational literature to residents on energy saving and conservation techniques, perhaps combining them with neighborhood cleanup and paint programs.

2. Organize specific neighborhood meetings to education on these techniques.

3. Offer rotating neighborhood farmer’s markets and co-operatives for various activities.

4. Have neighborhood associations offer information and programs on gray-water systems, solar power, and various other conservation methods that could be implemented in the household.


1. Landscape for energy efficiency.

2. Do as much gardening, cooking from scratch, and canning and freezing of foods as possible.

3. Combine a compost pile with your garden.

4. Find out more about how to save energy and resources in your home by weatherizing, using less water, and other conservation techniques.

PRINCIPLE 7: Establish Recycling Programs and Recycled Materials


Community programs for recycling and composting along with changed packaging and purchasing patterns, and community composting of yard waste, can lower landfill levels by 50-90%. However, recycling is only complete if the end product is reused by industries such as paper mills, steel mills, bottling plants, etc.

According to international business and government consultant Karl-Henrik Robert, humans have been disrupting the cyclical processes of nature at an accelerating pace for roughly the past 100 years. All human societies, in varying degrees, now process natural resources in a linear direction, rapidly transforming them into useless garbage. A small part of this garbage is seen in dumps and as other visible waste. But the larger portion, which escapes our awareness, is "molecular garbage" - vast quantities of tiny particles that are daily spewed out into the earth's air, water and soil.

With few exceptions, none of this garbage finds its way back into the cycles of society or nature; it is not taken up for repeated use by industry, nor put back into the soil. As a result of poor or non-existent planning, the volume of garbage is too large for nature to reassimilate, and some of it - toxic metals and stable unnatural compounds - cannot be processed by the cells at all.

The earth was once clean, healthy and nurturing, and can be again if we will make the choice to clean up our mess. First, we must stop dumping and start recycling, reusing everything. Second, we must support development of industries using recycled materials, change our farming, manufacturing, packaging, waste disposal, transportation and energy systems to non-polluting technologies reducing and eventually eliminating pollution of all kinds. Long-life toxic substances, such as nuclear waste and chemical pesticides, must stop being produced; they must be closely monitored above ground for what may be human eternity in some cases. Third, we must start the clean-up now.



1. Establish community recycling facilities and programs such as curbside pickup of recyclables, backyard composting bins, community drop-off and buyback centers, and toxic substance collection stations.

2. Create economic and policy incentives that encourage the use of non-toxic biodegradable materials.

3. Set landfill tipping fees at levels that encourage reduction in the amount of wastes generated.

4. Establish policy and economic incentives that help create strong markets for recycled materials and facilitate siting of local recycling industries. Support the establishment of regional facilities to recycle bulk materials such as construction debris, thus diverting them from landfills. These facilities could be supported by fees from the waste generators and the sale of the recyclable materials recovered, e-g., wood chips, metal, concrete and asphalt.

5. Have each city, township, and public school system adopt a policy to buy local and recycles materials.

6. Encourage the public schools to teach the four "Rs" - reduce, reuse, repair, and recyle.


1. Have neighborhood associations offer materials and meetings on the four "Rs".


1. Follow the four "Rs"–reduce consumption (especially of convenience items with lots of packaging), reuse products and materials, repair items, and recycle.

2. Develop the family’s "how to" skills and gradually built a good set of tools to repair things.

3. Create a home composting pile for grass clippings, yard wastes, and garden materials.

PRINCIPLE 8: Support Broad-Based Education for Participatory Governance

The implementation of ecological planning principles is strengthened by public education and the building of consensus through citizen participation in the planning and policy-making process. By participating in public forums, citizens can better understand the issues, discover common ground, develop a common vision and support positive action. Consensus is based on the belief that each person has a part of the truth.

It has been said that the greatest number of individual perspectives reveals the larger truth. If this idea is applied to discover common ground among the citizens of your area, the democratic ideal of a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people", takes on a new meaning. Through effective citizen participation, the present adversarial, win4ose model of conflict and deadlock can be replaced with agreement and action from a posture of cooperation and stewardship.

"Stewardship is an attitude which when held by a large number of people makes participatory governance happen efficiently. Stewardship is at the other end of the spectrum from narrow self-interest. The posture of stewardship comes from seeing that as individuals, we will always necessarily see only a piece of the puzzle and that to be the best stewards we can be, we must learn from others, particularly those who see differently from us. The people we have the most disagreement with are probably the people from whom we can learn the most and with whom we can be the most productive stewards, when we can find that common ground. The common ground is always there, it already exists, the challenge is to uncover it together." ( J. W. "John" Ballard.) A great tragedy of our low density, automobile-dependent, single-use life style is the resulting isolation, separation and alienation that overcomes so many people. As a society, many are losing the skills of cordial neighborly association and cooperation.



1. Establish a meeting place within each community and utilize advanced communication technologies to form a network within and between communities, including electronic participation from home.

2. Establish consensus building processes with a clear commitment to discover common ground and to reach an understanding that with veto power comes responsibility.

3. Encourage elected officials and government staff, along with the business community, to take part fully as citizens in the participatory planning process.

4. Establish effective education and training programs for lay people in planning and citizen participation.


1. Establish workshops to educate and inform individuals in various aspects of "stewardship" and how thoughtful approaches to one’s environment can enhance their lifestyles.

2. Give neighborhoods more control over neighborhood decisions.

3. Chose a few representatives who would represent the concerns of the neighborhood at community meetings.


1. Encourage conflict resolution and finding common grounds in the household. It is essential to deal with home problems before becoming a sensitive and compassionate community decision maker.

2. Chose one member from each family to function as the representative who would be responsible for discussing family opinions on community based issues.

PRINCIPLE 9: Create Safe Communities That Enhance Connections and a Sense of Place [Newly added]

Safety tends to be top on the list of concerns for urban residents, so much so that people have vacated the inner cities to avoid the perceived threat of crime and general higher risk living associated with cities. Understandably this is not a pleasant fear to live in. Taking on safety at all levels of planning can help to alleviate some of this fear and empower people to live fulfilling and safe lives.

Taking action on this principle involves cities, neighborhoods, and households. Wen all three are actively involved, our cities become a thriving metropolis. Fear dissipates and community is created.

Though we often look to police officers to be the guardians of safety, we all have the power to make a difference. By instituting programs conducive to safety in all of its meanings we will have reclaimed responsibility for this part of our lives and reduce the burdens on our overworked officers and criminal justice system.



1. Create programs that teach safe habits that are accessible to all members of the community.

2. Strengthen liaisons between police departments and neighborhoods.

3. Encourage citizen participation in local government to give residents a sense of ownership and empowered responsibility.

4. Start at the elementary school level to teach non-violent conflict resolution.

5. Institute voluntary weapons exchange programs.


1. Establish and/or strengthen neighborhood watch programs in every neighborhood.

2. Create regular neighborhood gatherings so residents know their neighbors. This helps to alleviate fear and the sense of alienation, and establishes cohesiveness in neighborhoods.

3. Have neighborhood associations offer programs by local officials on various safety issues (what to do while on vacation; fire protection; first aid; etc.)


1. Develop a household safety check list and discuss it with the family, especially children.

2. Install fire detectors and fire extinguishers and maintain first aid materials in the house.

3. Reduce television watching, especially of programs with violence.

A final note: There is also a need for a principle dealing with public health matters and how they are intimately connected with the process of developing sustainable communities–that is communities where the people, the natural environment, and the built environment are healthy in the broadest sense of the term.