Categories
Middle East

Morocco accused of blackmailing critics with revenge porn – Middle East Monitor

Moroccan authorities have been accused of silencing critics of King Mohammed VI’s court, with reports that in some cases the government has resorted to using revenge porn.

According to an article in The Economist, it has been revealed that one such critic Fouad Abdelmoumni claimed that authorities gained recordings of him sleeping with his partner before sending clips to his relatives’ phones.

Mr Abdelmoumni said that dozens of dissidents ranging from liberals to Islamists have faced similar smear campaigns. The kingdom has tried and imprisoned three prominent journalists since 2019 for sexual offences including rape. State-affiliated media has, in turn, sought to frame these convictions with the country’s own #MeToo movement.

However, independent journalists believe they are being targeted and tried in kangaroo courts. The report states that several women who testified against the journalists later said their statements were falsified and that at least one of them was jailed too.

READ: Justice and Development: Normalisation is a danger to Morocco

Some observers have drawn comparisons with the repression under the monarch’s late father, King Hassan II, while others have seen similar tactics used under the late long-time Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Since the Arab Spring of 2011, King Mohammed implemented some reforms; however, the press, which was once among the region’s freest has now increasingly come under pressure from the royal court – Editors have been imprisoned or forced into exile abroad. Morocco’s recent controversial decision to establish relations with Israel has also largely gone unquestioned by the media.

Despite a 2016 ruling that abolished prison sentences for journalistic violations, the report suggests that now the government has once again turned to silence independent journalists with criminal offences or allegations unrelated to their work.

READ: Netanyahu seeks to use Morocco king in electoral campaign

Categories
Middle East

BDS ‘verges’ on anti-Semitism, says Biden’s pick for UN ambassador – Middle East Monitor

US President Joe Biden’s nominee for America’s ambassador to the UN has denounced the global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Linda Thomas-Greenfield pledged to fight what she called “bias” against the Zionist state at the international forum if confirmed in the position.

Echoing the kind of hostility towards pro-Palestinian activism displayed openly by the administration of Biden’s predecessor, Thomas-Greenfield said at her Senate confirmation hearing: “I look forward to standing with Israel, standing against the unfair targeting of Israel, the relentless resolutions proposed against Israel unfairly.” She added that she is also planning to work with her Israeli counterparts to bolster the colonial state’s security and “to widen the circle of peace.”

Powerless Israel facing BDS – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Asked about the BDS movement, Thomas-Greenfield replied that she finds the “actions and approach” taken by its supporters to be “unacceptable” and warned that the campaign “verges” on [anti-Semitism]. “It’s important that they not be allowed to have a voice at the UN, and I intend to work against that.”

Commenting on the so-called “Abraham Accords” the would-be ambassador said that she is hopeful that those countries that have recognised Israel under the agreements will also see some opportunities to be “more cooperative” at the UN and “more supportive” of Israel’s presence there.

READ: BDS slams Bahrain’s recognition of Israel settlement goods

Attacks against the UN and the BDS movement were a common feature of the Trump administration. The claim that the UN is biased against Israel was a tactic used frequently by the disgraced former US President to undermine the world body.

In 2018, Ambassador Nikki Haley pulled the US out of the UN Human Rights Council, accusing it of a “chronic bias against Israel.” Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also branded the BDS movement as anti-Semitic in what many regarded as an assault on the First Amendment of the American constitution which guarantees the right to free-speech.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield served as the US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa under President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017. She led US policy on sub-Saharan Africa during a period of tumultuous upheaval, including the deadly 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

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Cruises

Cruise Line Announces Cruises to Bora Bora and Tahiti in 2022

A cruise line has announced new deals on cruises in 2022 to Bora Bora, Tahiti, and the French Polynesia that will visit some of the most beautiful islands in the world.

Paul Gauguin Cruises will offer a series of seven, 10, 11, and 14 night cruises in the South Pacific on The Gauguin. The Gauguin has been rated one of the best small cruise ships in the world and the cruise line is now offering 30% off cruises.

The Gauguin will also be returning to Fiji in 2022, offering 12-night and 13-night Fiji, Tonga, Cook & Society Islands itineraries. These comprehensive voyages follow in the wake of explorers, encompassing the exquisite Society Islands, home waters of The Gauguin, and the Cook Islands with its unique culture and exquisite lagoons.

View Prices on Paul Gauguin Cruises

Other highlights include sailing across the International Date Line, a rare visit to the Kingdom of Tonga, and the paradisiacal Fijian islands.

Sponsored Links

Ports of call on the voyages are Papeete, Tahiti; Moorea, Society Islands; Taha’a (Motu Mahana), Society Islands; Bora Bora, Society Islands; Aitutaki, Cook Islands; Vava’u, Tonga; Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji; Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji; Beqa Island, Fiji (13-night sailing only); and Lautoka, Viti Levu, Fiji.

Designed specifically to sail the pristine lagoons of these islands, The Gauguin provides an up-close, authentic experience of the South Seas and offers an elegant yet casual ambiance with luxurious accommodations, exceptional service, gourmet dining, trademark Polynesian hospitality, private beach retreats, and extraordinary all-inclusive value.

To launch its 2022 voyages, Paul Gauguin Cruises is offering savings of 30% off standard cruise fares on all voyages, plus included airfare from Los Angeles.

Paul Gauguin Cruises operates the 5+-star cruise ship, the 332-guest m/s Paul Gauguin, providing a deluxe cruise experience tailored to the unparalleled wonders of Tahiti, French Polynesia, and the South Pacific. Paul Gauguin Cruises has been recognized by notable publications in travel and lifestyle.

Categories
Middle East

COVID-19 cases, fatalities on rise in Arab countries – Middle East Monitor

Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and Algeria announced Saturday more fatalities linked to the novel coronavirus as efforts continued to contain the disease, Anadolu Agency reported.

Tunisia

The Tunisian Health Ministry reported that 81 more people died from the virus, with 1,438 new cases identified.

Total deaths have reached 6,680, while the case count stands at 207,468.

The number of people recovering from the disease was 156,160 with 1,705 additions, the ministry added.

Lebanon

Sixty-one people died from the virus, pushing the death toll to 3,031, health officials announced.

In the country where 631 more people tested positive, infections rose to 298,913, while the number of recoveries reached 178,472 with 2,402 additions.

Jordan

The health ministry announced 641 more cases, bringing the number of infections to 325,674.

As much as 957 patients have recovered, pushing that tally to 313,551.

The death toll also increased 23, reaching 4,304.

Morocco

Authorities noted that 13 people died, 701 new cases have been identified and 762 patients have recovered from the virus.

The death toll reached 8,259, infections stand at 470,69 and the number of recoveries is 448,628.

Algeria

Algeria reported four additional deaths, 325 people tested positive and 196 patients have recovered.

The death toll stands at 2,888, the number of cases rose to 107,122 and the tally of those who recovered is 73,212.

READ: US politicians slam Israel for preventing Palestine access to covid vaccine

Categories
Destination Guides

When and Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan This 2021







When and Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan This 2021 – Out of Town Blog





















Categories
Middle East

Israel destroys nature reserve, uproots 10,000 trees – Middle East Monitor

The Israeli army yesterday destroyed a natural reserve and uprooted at least 10,000 trees in a military campaign in the northern West Bank in a move that Palestinians termed a “crime”.

Moataz Bisharat, who is responsible for monitoring Israeli settlement activity in the Jordan Valley, told Anadolu Agency that the occupation army pushed military vehicles and dozens of soldiers into the Ainun area in Tubas city in the morning and destroyed a nature reserve built on an area of about 400 dunums (98 acres).

Israeli forces intervene in Palestinians after trees were destroyed by Israeli forces in Tubas, West Bank, January 27, 2021. [Nedal Eshtayah – Anadolu Agency]

The occupation army “chopped down and destroyed about 10,000 forest trees and about 300 olive trees,” he said.

Trees were planted in the nature reserve eight years ago as part of the Greening Palestine project supervised by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and funded by the Venezuelan consulate in Palestine.

Bisharat stressed that the occupation alleged that the destruction of the reserve came as it was classed as a military zone even though it was not more than 300 metres away from residential areas and it served as an “outlet” for residents.

In a statement, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Colonisation and Wall Resistance Commission said Israel “has formed a special unit whose mission is to wage war on the Jordan Valley.”

Caught between covid and settlers: How a West Bank school is struggling to survive

“A security apparatus has been formed to oversee construction and agriculture in Area C and it has undertaken to wipe out the Palestinian presence,” the statement read.

The commission described the incident as “a crime and a campaign of eliminating trees, buildings, livestock and sources of income.”

What is happening, it added, is “part of a war waged by a terrorist state [Israel] that is burning green areas.”

The Palestinian commission called for “international protection for the Palestinian presence in Area C,” calling on the international community to stop discrimination in dealing with the crimes of the Israeli occupation.

Categories
Top Cities

Planning Trends to Watch in 2021 – Features

The nation and world are still mired in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the news to start 2021 has been marked by mass death, insurrection, and fear that there’s more to come. With multiple vaccines on the market, this should have been a hopeful time. Instead, the United States is crawling, ragged and bruised, toward normalcy, herd immunity, and the demise of the coronavirus.

The moment proves beyond any doubt that an effective recovery must commence long before the coronavirus has been vanquished, and urban planning and all its related disciplines will play a significant role in ensuring that recovery is sustainable (in every sense of the word), equitable, and regenerative. To borrow the phrase from the campaign platform of newly inaugurated President Joe Biden, it will be the work of planners to “build back better.” In the words of inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, “Even as we grieved, we grew.”

The word “better” is dangerous in a planning context, of course. What is better for oil companies, for example, is not better for the world—and that’s about the simplest possible elucidation of this point about the slippery nature of the word “better.” It gets much, much more complicated when conflicting notions of liberty and equality are introduced. It’s complicated assuming good faith—there is still plenty of reasonable disagreement about how to build a better world. It should also be very clear that many people in this country abandoned reason and good faith long ago.

The question presenting itself in every development and plan for an indefinite period will be: Does this correct the injustice and pollution of the world, or does it compound it? Some of the impacts of the pandemic won’t be visible for years, so these decisions will require constant re-evaluation.

Equity and Disparate Impact

Image: Allison C Bailey via Shutterstock

One of the most painful and tragic conclusions of the pandemic and the Trump administration is the massive failure of equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. After the Trump administration spent four years attacking the concepts of equal protection and disparate impact in the country’s housing laws, in its application of police force, and in its approach to natural disasters and the pandemic, there’s never been more evidence of the fundamental failure of the U.S. government and legal systems to provide all Americans equal protection.

Some eight months after a wave of civil unrest in response to police murders of multiple Black Americans that continues to this day, the pandemic is ravaging communities of color around the country. The statistics from Los Angeles, a hot zone of infection since December, are almost tot shocking to be believed. Rong Lin II and Luke Money reported the brutal facts on January 14:

People living in the most impoverished neighborhoods of the county are now averaging about 36 deaths a day per 100,000 residents. By contrast, those living in the wealthiest areas are experiencing about 10 deaths a day per 100,000 residents.

And

Latino residents in L.A. County are dying at an astonishing eight times the rate they once did — from 3½ daily deaths per 100,000 in early November to 28 deaths a day now for every 100,000.     

And

The COVID-19 mortality rate among Black residents soared from 1 death a day per 100,000 to more than 15 deaths a day per 100,000.

That’s disparate impact, if ever there was any, and the story is repeated for cities and communities all over the country. By the standards of the United States Constitution, the outcomes of the pandemic fail the test of democracy.

The Biden administration took the first steps toward restoring the disparate impact doctrine (just days after the Trump administration’s Department of Justice took a parting shot at the concept of disparate impact), but for the next year and for all the years that follow, the country’s progress toward a more equal society will be measured by how the concept of disparate impact is bolstered or neglected by the law, whether the country is actively and affirmatively sowing the seeds for equal protection, or whether the various levels of government in the United States continue to permit and even incentivize the conditions that allow crises to disproportionally harm low-income individuals and communities of color.

Evictions and Foreclosures

Image: David Odisho, via Shutterstock

The disparate impacts of the pandemic aren’t just evident in the health outcomes. Economic effects are also starkly divided along lines of race and class. According to a recent report by the Bay Area Equity Atlas, one in three low-income renters in California are behind on rent, and renters of color are two to three times as likely to be behind on rent as white renters.

Before the pandemic, the housing affordability crisis in many growing American cities resulted in homeownership leaving reach of more of the middle class, record numbers of homeless, increasing levels of rent burden, and whole neighborhoods and cities with families packed into homes and apartments to pay the rent. Many of those pre-existing conditions are now exacerbating the public health outcomes of the pandemic—people living in crowded conditions have faced the highest rates of fatalities and deaths throughout the pandemic, a point starkly illustrated by an article by Tim Arango for the New York Times and Brittny Mejia in the Los Angeles Times a few days before this writing.

The housing crisis still threatens to collapse any hope of economic or social recovery in the wake of the pandemic. Many renters and homeowners are faced with an impossible task—businesses have been shut down by government order and crippled by large numbers of infections. Those most at risk of infection at the workplace also lack the kind of sick pay and leave policies to safely recover from the illness.

A patchwork of eviction moratoria at various levels of government, like the federal eviction moratorium the CDC recently extended until March 31, served as a bulwark against the looming risk of evictions and foreclosures since the beginning of the pandemic. But there is evidence that eviction protections have been wholly inadequate to the scale of the pandemic crisis, and that the federal government must spend tens of billions more to stabilize the housing market for distressed renters. Rent has not been forgiven, only deferred—a new economic crisis will arise when the moratoria give way to evictions and debt. The state of California expects 240,000 new eviction cases—double the typical year—when the state’s eviction protections expire at the end of January.

The risk of millions left homeless or buried under a mountain of debt is one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the pandemic. With every passing month, the scale of the challenge facing struggling renters and property owners grows. Repeated extensions of eviction moratoria only delay the inevitable—the due date will come, and until then, interest will compound.

Investing in Automobile-Dependence

Image: cleanfotos via Shutterstock

The federal government has already spent trillions to stabilize the country’s economy during the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic. There could be more stimulus spending on the way—the Biden administration planning a $1.9 trillion stimulus.

Lessons from the last great stimulus, implemented in the first months of the Obama administration at the height of the Great Recession, should be fresh enough to inform the choices made during this current crisis, but there are no guarantees. Opinions vary, widely, about what kind of infrastructure investment should be the foundation for economic recovery.

Even when political power promises a climate-friendly approach to economic stimulus, there’s usually an automobile-oriented catch. The recent Senate confirmation hearings for the Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg was the latest proof of this concept. While Buttigieg and some of the senators in the hearing repeatedly voiced concerns about the social and environmental consequences of auto-oriented federal transportation policy, deference was still paid to the status quo. Another example can be found in the last-minute changes that helped the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020 clear the final legislative hurdles for adoption in December: In the 11th hour, $10 billion for state departments of transportation suddenly appeared. That money is expected to help state DOTs continue some of the road building projects impacted by declining gas tax revenues during the pandemic.

An eagerness—let’s call it uncritical exuberance—to celebrate new funding for active transportation and public transit projects (like the money for public transit in the aforementioned COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020, cut from $15 million to $14 million in the 11th hour) can neglect the truth about the relative size of funding still devoted to the auto-oriented status quo. Even the Green New Deal has been criticized for its lack of priority on the land use reforms that will make an essential contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions, congestion, and the social and economic ills perpetuated by automobile dependency.

Will the next episode of federal stimulus be any different? President Jose Biden and many others in government, like the supporters of the Green New Deal, seem committed to a more sustainable path forward. President Biden has implemented a number climate change related executive orders in his brief time in office, but time and a great deal of effort will tell of these preliminary actions make any dent in the car-centric status quo. President Biden is also a famous supporter of Amtrak, for example, so advocates have expressed cautious optimism for high-speed rail funding and the long-neglected Gateway Project connecting Amtrak and other rail lines to New York.

The fact remains that most Americans do not remove cars from their visions for the future—whether they have accepted the realities of climate change or not. Politicians reflect this thinking to an even more extreme degree (as evidenced by a quick willingness to answer Elon Musk’s phone calls and open the doors for “flying cars” without a second thought).

Will the next round of stimulus acknowledge the immense environmental and social damage done by automobile dependence? Or will it use kinder, gentler language and sprinkle in a few trifles to placate the bike and train lobbies while continuing to spend the big bucks on ever more freeways and parking lots? Or will it make tangible progress toward safe, regenerative infrastructure?

Data for vehicle miles traveled, employment, and housing prices will reveal the consequences of the answer to this question for years and decades to come. The work of holding the Biden administration accountable to its campaign promise to battle climate change has already begun.

Existing Building Stock as Affordable Housing Supply

The Olympic Tent Village in Vancouver, British Columbia, pictured in February 2020. (Image: Stephen Hui via Shutterstock)

In a trend that picked up steam in 2020 without gaining much attention outside of local news, more cities are leveraging existing building stock of all varieties as a resource for affordable and emergency housing. The trend is taking many shapes—the common threads of all these efforts are creativity and the desired outcome.

Vancouver, British Columbia made a significant early contribution to this effort in the past year, launching two new housing programs that leverage public money to leasing and purchasing existing hotel rooms and single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels. One of the city’s plans targets 105 SRO hotel buildings, totaling around 2,500 rooms, for purchase and renovation as affordable and supportive housing. Since the plan for the city to buy SROs was announced, values of the buildings have dropped, making the task potentially much less expensive.

In Toronto, the city is exploring the idea of legalizing rooming houses to provide more legal, safe affordable options in the city, making it easier for property owners and developers to upgrade existing rooming houses and build new. Both the Vancouver and Toronto examples came shortly after the Canadian government’s commitment to provide $1 billion for affordable housing programs during the pandemic.

The examples continue: A recently announced $100 million fund will preserve existing affordable housing near transit in Atlanta. A law included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s draft state budget includes a proposal that would loosen zoning restrictions for conversions of existing hotels and office buildings into residential units, potentially paving the way for a wave of adaptive reuse projects in Manhattan. California’s Project Roomkey faced challenges and came up well short of its intended goals, but the effort to buy, lease, and convert thousands of hotel rooms for homeless housing and emergency quarantining during the pandemic is, at least in theory, history making. An article written by Patrick Sisson and published by Bloomberg CityLab in January proposes the idea of converting empty retail spaces and shopping malls into housing—an idea that would mark, if undertaken at scale, a major departure from traditional adaptive reuse practices (i.e., converting historic office or industrial buildings into housing) with the potential to significantly alter the fabric of the built environment in the United States.

The economic crisis and widespread upheaval of lifestyles as a result of the pandemic are likely to create more opportunities like those above in most cities round the country and the continent. Usually, when one large city takes the first step toward a massive shift in its use of its resources in land and buildings, more quickly follow suit.

Post-Population Growth

Image: Takver via Flickr

Outside of the U.S. Rust Belt, many Americans have never lived in a world, country, or city with a declining population. Population trends before and during the pandemic are likely to change that reality within most of our lifetimes.

Many cities thought to be permanently growing have, in fact, been declining in population for years. Some of the most famous and culturally significant cities in the world, like New York City, Paris, London, and Tokyo, for unique reasons in each example. Media attention throughout much of the pandemic has focused on the potential of the pandemic to spur migration away from large cities as residents seek more space to navigate the isolation and public health risks of the pandemic and a large, wealthy share of the population is empowered to work from home. According to a recent Statistics Canada survey, more than 50,000 Toronto residents moved away from the city between July 2019 and July 2020. As recently as 2019, sources analysis touted Toronto as the fastest growing city, by net population, of any city in Canada and the United States.

Migration trends as a result of the pandemic are certainly worth watching and will require rigorous analysis as the effects of the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn become apparent in the coming decades, but in the post-pandemic world, declining population will become more and more a concern of global scope.

Birth rates were declining worldwide before the pandemic, to the point that one group of researchers predicted that the world’s population will start to decline by 2065—a future once though nearly impossible. Such a global decline in population would have dramatic effects on the economy, creating new incentives for immigration to drive economic growth, and numerous challenges in delivering public goods and services.

The trend toward declining birth rates is also evident in the United States. In 2017, birth rates hit a 30-year low. In 2018, the U.S. birth rate declined again. There’s some evidence that the economy factors in declining U.S. birth rates: researchers have shown that birth rates declined the most where housing prices increased the most. Time will tell the extent of the effect, but the pandemic seems to have exacerbated those trends. According to recent analysis by NBCLX, birth rates plummeted in December 2020 compared to the same month a year earlier—down 8 percent in Florida, 7 percent in Ohio, and 5 percent in Arizona. The effects of declining population would touch every corner of the country—even the fastest growing locations in the country (we’re looking at you, Texas).

Within the span of a generation, the U.S. went from the Millennial baby boom to historically low birth rates. The coming years are likely to rewrite the record books again. Forget the 20th century notion of the “Population Bomb” as one of the most pressing emergencies on the planet. It’s possible that the world has already crossed that bridge (but not in the way the 1968 book with that title predicted), and there’s no turning back. Declining national and global population is increasingly likely to require an almost comprehensive rethinking of planning and development within the next couple of decades. Savvy planners should start preparing for that new reality now.

For more reading on related themes of planning during and after a pandemic, see also part one and two of Planetizen’s review of the lessons from 2020.

Categories
Destination Guides

The Top 7 Best Airbnbs in Panama City Beach, Florida







The Top 7 Best Airbnbs in Panama City Beach, Florida – Out of Town Blog





















Categories
Middle East

Israel destroys nature reserve, uproots 10,000 trees – Middle East Monitor

The Israeli army yesterday destroyed a natural reserve and uprooted at least 10,000 trees in a military campaign in the northern West Bank in a move that Palestinians termed a “crime”.

Moataz Bisharat, who is responsible for monitoring Israeli settlement activity in the Jordan Valley, told Anadolu Agency that the occupation army pushed military vehicles and dozens of soldiers into the Ainun area in Tubas city in the morning and destroyed a nature reserve built on an area of about 400 dunums (98 acres).

Israeli forces intervene in Palestinians after trees were destroyed by Israeli forces in Tubas, West Bank, January 27, 2021. [Nedal Eshtayah – Anadolu Agency]

The occupation army “chopped down and destroyed about 10,000 forest trees and about 300 olive trees,” he said.

Trees were planted in the nature reserve eight years ago as part of the Greening Palestine project supervised by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and funded by the Venezuelan consulate in Palestine.

Bisharat stressed that the occupation alleged that the destruction of the reserve came as it was classed as a military zone even though it was not more than 300 metres away from residential areas and it served as an “outlet” for residents.

In a statement, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Colonisation and Wall Resistance Commission said Israel “has formed a special unit whose mission is to wage war on the Jordan Valley.”

Caught between covid and settlers: How a West Bank school is struggling to survive

“A security apparatus has been formed to oversee construction and agriculture in Area C and it has undertaken to wipe out the Palestinian presence,” the statement read.

The commission described the incident as “a crime and a campaign of eliminating trees, buildings, livestock and sources of income.”

What is happening, it added, is “part of a war waged by a terrorist state [Israel] that is burning green areas.”

The Palestinian commission called for “international protection for the Palestinian presence in Area C,” calling on the international community to stop discrimination in dealing with the crimes of the Israeli occupation.

Categories
Top Cities

Hug a Tree. Protect a Forest. – Blogs

Last week was Tu Bishvat, the Jewish new year of the trees, when we celebrate trees and all of the great things they provide. Hug a tree, visit a forest, and enjoy fruits! Everybody is welcome: Judeo-Christians, pagans, Shintoists, rational humanistic environmentalists, and other beings, all have good reasons to celebrate, appreciate, and protect trees. 

Communities have many good reasons to protect trees and forests, or to use the more general terms, green space and open space, which includes parks, farms and natural habitat. Urban green space makes people healthier and happier, reduces stormwater management costs, and reduces heat island effects. Preserving wildlife habitat is critical to a healthy global ecosystem. Impervious surface area (land covered by buildings, pavement and other hard surfaces) can be considered a key environmental indicator: as impervious surface increases environmental quality declines.

What does this mean for planning? Many public policies and planning decisions affect urban trees, open space, and pavement. The following practices can help minimize per capita impervious surface area and preserve environmentally healthy lands.

Local governments can plant trees, for example, along streets, which provide beauty, shade, habitat, and air quality, and as much as possible, favor native varieties that support local ecosystems. Governments can also encourage private property owners to plant trees and other natural habitat, and minimize monoculture lawns, which are the least productive type of green space. They can debunk anti-tree myths, such as claims that lower-income neighborhoods don’t value tree-cover or that trees harm infrastructure such as sidewalks and utility lines.

Governments can also plan for adequate public parks. For health and happiness, urban households should be located within a ten minute walk of local parks and recreational facilities, and 20% or more of urban land should be devoted to public parks.

However, urban tree preservation should not be an impediment to compact infill development. As discussed in one of my previous blogs, “Seeing the Urban Forest for the Trees,” infill projects often require displacing trees, which NIMBYs use to oppose those projects, resulting in far larger environmental damages from more lower-density, sprawled development. Considering house, road, and parking requirements, a typical household living car-free in an urban townhouse or apartment requires just a tenth as much impervious surface as the same family with two cars living in a single-family suburban house.

Impervious Surface Area Per Household

Roadway planning decisions often involve trade-offs between trees and traffic or parking capacity. Many communities are applying streescaping and road diet concepts to reduce the amount of road right-of-way that must be devoted to pavement to accommodate more green space. In the past, trees along roadways were often removed to safely accommodate higher speed traffic; a new ethos preserves trees and reduces traffic speeds for safety and livability sake.

Regional governments can encourage compact infill over urban expansion with Smart Growth and New Urbanist policies that increase allowable densities and building heights, establish urban growth boundaries, and by reducing subsidies that encourage sprawled development, such as urban fringe utility line and roadway expansions. This provides many economic, social and environmental benefits.

In urban areas, a major portion of impervious surface consists of roads and parking facilities. Surveys indicate that typical communities have two to six off-street parking spaces per vehicle, plus significant amounts of land devoted to highways. Reducing vehicle ownership and managing parking facilities more efficiently so fewer spaces are needed to serve motorists’ demands, helps free up urban land for more affordable housing and green space.

Most fundamentally, planners can help their communities implement more multimodal transportation planning and establish vehicle-travel reduction targets to favor space-efficient modes (e.g., walking, bicycling, and public transit) over space-intensive automobile travel.

Space Required By Mode

Life is better with trees! Smart planning can protect greenspace for a better quality of life, infrastructure savings, and environmental protection. 

For More information

American Forests provides tools for tree and forest protection.

Subha Ranjan Banerjee and Ben Welle (2016), Bigger Isn’t Always Better: Narrow Traffic Lanes Make Cities Safer, World Resources Institute.

CNT (2016), Stalled Out: How Empty Parking Spaces Diminish Neighborhood Affordability, Center for Neighborhood Technology.

GreenTRIP Connect is a free tool allowing users to easily calculate how accessible, multi-modal location and traffic reduction strategies can reduce driving from residential development throughout California, and calculates how much money and space can be saved from right-sized parking.

Todd Litman (2016), Parking Management: Comprehensive Implementation Guide, Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

Reinventing Parking is a website the provides ideas for parking policy reforms.

Ottawa (2015), A 90 Second Lesson in How Parking Can Kill Cities, City of Ottawa.

Richard Willson (2015), Parking Management for Smart Growth, Island Press.