Sustainable Cities Partnership

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The Sustainable Cities Partnership (SCP) is a yearlong partnership between Western Washington University’s Office of Sustainability, the Association of Washington Cities (AWC), and one partner city chosen through a competitive application process. 2016-2017 is the inaugural year of the Partnership, and the City of Edmonds was chosen as the first Washington city to participate in the program.

The partnership engages Western Washington University (WWU) students and faculty on sustainability and livability projects chosen in collaboration with the partner city (Edmonds). The SCP faculty and students work through a variety of studio and service learning courses, thus providing students with experience tackling the city’s real-world projects. Many courses/projects will involve fieldwork, so the partner city will typically be within a two-hour drive of Western (Edmonds is within this distance).

Students bring energy, enthusiasm, and innovative approaches to difficult, persistent problems. SCP’s primary value derives from collaborations resulting in on-the-ground impact and forward movement for a community ready to transition to a more sustainable and livable future. AWC will be an active partner in the launch of SCP, helping to solicit partner cities and to communicate the value of this effort to other elected and appointed municipal officials throughout the state. AWC will also help with the ongoing communication needs of the partner city and can help draw upon resources and skills of other entities in the region.

The projects being undertaken during the 2016-2017 WWU academic year are listed below (some last a quarter while others span the entire academic year).

4th Ave Cultural Corridor

Edmonds wants to promote planning and development for a three to four block arts/culture corridor along 4th Ave N, just off of Main Street, which links to the performing arts center (Edmonds Center for the Arts) to the north. The corridor was designated as an Arts Corridor with unique zoning in 2006, and initial concept planning for the corridor was completed in 2009. Since then the project has stalled, and a promotion campaign is needed in order to reengage the community and foster support for the project. The target audience includes citizen stakeholders, as well as elected officials and staff within city government.

The project will be the focus of the Public Relations Research and Campaigns course (JOUR 440, 13 students) taught in Fall 2016 by Jeruiifer Keller. The class will be organized as four competing independent teams. City staff will visit the class to discuss the project goals, describe the geographic scope and the prior concept planning, etc. Each of the teams will thereafter proceed independently, scheduling at least one (and possibly as many as three) trips to Edmonds, in order to conduct interviews with citizens and staff. The four competing P.R. campaigns will be presented, and Edmonds will then select a "winner."

The project results are posted here.

Edmonds Marsh Restoration

The estuarine marsh ("Edmonds Marsh") is greatly loved, but impacted by past and present urban uses, including adjacent development and stonnwater runoff. The marsh could benefit from creation of "buffer" areas that feature new low impact storm water management (raingardens or other techniques) while still allowing adjacent development. What conceptual designs should be considered? How would Edmonds know the approach would work? This project needs to be coordinated with the City, the Port of Edmonds, and environmental and business interests.

This project will be the focus of the Ecological Restoration course (ESCI 470, 30 students) taught in Fall 2016 by Dr. James Helfield and Dr. John Tuxill. Through the lens of an actual restoration project, the course nvestigates the theory and practice of ecological restoration, including methods for evaluating success. Physical, ecological, economic, and cultural considerations are all incorporated in analyses. The emphasis will be upon generating recommendations regarding one or more of the following: (a) effective stormwater management techniques to be employed in the buffer area between the developed areas adjacent to Edmonds Marsh and the boundary of the marsh itself, (b) strategies for enhancing biodiversity and minimizing invasive plant species within the marsh, (c) plans for monitoring and assessment, and (d) strategies for public education and engagement.

The project results are posted here.

Zero Waste | Food Waste

Zero-Waste: Research an approach to increase diversion (from landfill) of recyclable construction and demolitions materials generated by commercial development in the City. This should include an examination of resources and companies that are doing this type of recycling and what is, or could be, available to the Edmonds commwrity. Are incentives or requirements the way to go? How can we be assured that materials are actually being recycled?

Food-Waste: The City is interested in introducing a food waste reduction program, focusing initially on public events that take place at City facilities. We need a policy or ordinance with procedures that specifies the added collection of organic discards at organized public events taking place on City property.

Both projects will be the focus of the Campus Sustainability Planning Studio course (ENVS 471, 10 students) taught in Fall 2016 by Seth Vidana. While typically focused upon projects on the WWU campus, the course can readily focus upon projects in Edmonds. In the past, the course has worked on topics such as reduction of food waste and solid waste.

Focus for each project is as follows:

Zero-Waste: This project will focus on 1) Creating a process for establishing baseline metrics for various waste streams produced by Edmonds, including landfill, organic waste, recyclable materials, construction waste and other identified streams, 2) Providing suggestions on how to assess progress toward zero waste goals, and if time allows 3) Creating baseline data for these waste streams. Information will be derived from interviews with City of Edmonds staff and research on best practices from other cities with advanced waste reduction processes.

Food-Waste: This project will focus on providing research on opportunities for increasing diversion of organic waste material from Edmond's landfill stream. Research will focus on I) Identifying sources of organic waste material, 2) Identifying barriers to proper organic waste disposal particular to Edmonds, and 3) Providing solutions to these barriers derived from best practices at other cities with advanced waste reduction practices.

The project results are posted here.

Mobile App

Edmonds and the Edmonds Downtown Alliance have created websites, brochures, ads, and other materials both to attract visitors to Edmonds as well as to inform and orient them to businesses, attractions and events in Edmonds. Greater information about the type and locations of various businesses, as well as the various attractions and events, helps bring visitors to town and keeps them there longer, thereby enhancing economic activity through their expenditures. Edmonds has not yet developed a mobile-device app or apps that could help guide the more tech-savvy visitor who does not necessarily rely on brochures or printed maps. In addition, apps can convey greater and more updated information than printed materials. Key to this project is to understand the true potential for app usage among Edmonds visitors, make the app extremely accessible, as well as a sustainable tool that staff of both the city and the Downtown Alliance can access and update easily.

The project will be the focus of a three- or four-person team of computer science students, completing a full-year senior capstone project (CSCI 491, 492, & 493). The effort in fall quarter will be development of a specification for the app, with construction and testing occurring in winter and spring quarters. There will be extensive interaction with Edmonds staff to identify content, select a software platform, discuss application aesthetics/branding, etc. It is understood that Edmonds has no in-house software maintenance capability, so the app will function with little (if any) staff effort. The app will thus make use of existing platforms that are maintained-i.e., Edmonds staff maintain an online events calendar, so the app will fetch information regarding events from that platform, rather than requiring staff to update an app-specific database. The app will pertain to a specific portion of the downtown core and may include functionality such as: display of locations of businesses of a certain type, in response to a user query; display of route of historic walking tour, with information regarding sites encountered; display of locations of public amenities; information regarding points of historical, artistic, or ecological interest. The app will be operable on both the iOS and the Android platforms.

The project results will be posted here.

Wastewater Treatment Plant Education

Edmonds has made significant energy and process-performance improvements at its wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), and those improvements are not reflected in the current educational material pertaining to the WWTP. A new digital-format brochure is needed, suitable for posting on the city website, and suitable also for hardcopy handout to persons touring the WWTP. Other educational displays and information geared toward the general public are also desirable.

A 4th-year intern in the Environmental Education track will be recruited by faculty member Wendy Walker, who is a specialist in environmental interpretation and education. The intern will work closely with city staff to develop a brochure, as well as signs and content for WWTP tours (both adult and youth).

A sample of the project results is posted here.

Stella's Landing

This project relates to Stella’s Landing, a parcel of private property adjacent to the Edmonds Marsh, east of SR 104, which affects the larger marsh owned by the City. Edmonds needs to complete a Phase 1 environmental assessment and develop recommendations for the next steps in restoration. Public participation and ongoing community stewardship are key aspects.

The course will be the focus of a two-course sequence, Science and Management of Contaminated Sites (ESCI 453 Winter 2017 & ESCI 454 Spring 2017, 25 students), taught by Darrell Sofield and Dr. Ruth Sofield, respectively. The winter course discusses concepts and methods, but with reference to the specific site. Students develop a proposal for work to be completed in the subsequent course. The spring course involves completion of the proposed student project(s), including technical components and with emphasis upon communication of technical information to a general audience.

The project results are posted here.

Playful City

Playful City USA” is a national recognition program that honors cities and towns across the country for taking bold steps that make it easy for all kids to get the balanced and active play they need to thrive. These communities are recognized for their efforts to create more playable, family-friendly cities. Through policy changes, programs, and infrastructure investments, Playful City USA communities are driving a deeper understanding of the importance of play and engaging their citizens to reimagine cities with kids in mind. Edmonds seeks to explore the possibility of achieving designation as a Playful City USA.

This project will be the focus of two courses in Winter 2017: Management of Recreation and Leisure Services (RECR 372, 60 students) taught by Dr. Randy Burtz, and Recreation Programming (RECR 373, identical 60 students) taught by Dr. Jasmine Goodnow.

Students in the Recreation Programming course will work in teams to develop 10 different recreation programs designed to get kids in Edmonds engaged in active play and away from their screens, consistent with the goal of the “Playful City USA” initiative. The program plans will specifically target traditionally marginalized and underrepresented populations within Edmonds with the hopes of increasing accessibility and inclusion to all children.

The project results are posted here.

Edmonds Cemetery Mapping

Edmonds Memorial Cemetery was deeded to the City in 1982. The City has been operating the cemetery with no markings, rows, aisles, or accurate electronic mapping. It is essential that the City procure an accurate digital map of the cemetery, linked to their existing MS Access database that identifies occupants, and also linked to digital photos (not yet in existence) of headstones. The digital map can then be used for management of the cemetery, as well as public-access research.

The GIS cartographic component of the course will be the focus of a student team in the Advanced Spatial Analytics course (ENVS 422, 25 students) taught in Spring 2017 by Dr. Aquila Flower. The course focuses upon computer tools for identifying spatial patterns and processes, effective communication of results (including web-based display via tools such as StoryMaps), and professional development for geospatial analysts. While making predominate use ofESRI software, it includes an introduction to open source analytical and cartographic software options.

The project report is posted here.

In addition to the report, the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery interactive GIS mapping will be available online in the near future. Stay tuned!

Sea Level Rise

At the current sea level elevation, Edmonds experiences occasional flooding in the waterfront area when high tides combine with storm events. As sea level rises in response to climate change, extreme weather events and flooding in the waterfront area are likely to become more frequent and potentially more damaging. The City has a Hazard Mitigation Plan, but it doesn’t address specific risks related to climate change. In addition, the City doesn’t have a current specific strategy on how to approach the issue in the coming years. This project would assist the City in evaluating risks associated with climate change and sea level rise and identifying scenarios and options to address prospective impacts.

The course will be the focus of the Disaster Reduction and Emergency Planning Studio course (ENVS 476, 25 students) taught in Spring 2017 by Dr. Rebekah Paci-Green. The course provides students with an opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in disaster reduction and emergency planning, with an emphasis on community-based approaches. Students work in groups with a client on a quarter-long project of practical significance. Students are exposed to best practices through case studies across disaster reduction and emergency planning. Project management, client interactions, report writing, and communicating technical information to diverse audiences are emphasized.

The project results are posted here.

Green Business Program

The City established a Green Business Pledge in the spring of 2014. The purpose of the pledge was to raise awareness amongst the City’s business community and encourage local businesses to employ green business practices in their daily operations. To date, approximately 35 businesses have taken the pledge. Due to limited staff time, the City has not been able to provide as much follow-up with the businesses who have taken the pledge, nor further get the word out to encourage additional businesses to take the pledge. Additionally, the intention when creating the pledge was for it to be converted into a full Green Business Program where additional resources and benefits would be available to participants. The City would like assistance in fleshing out and marketing the Green Business Program.

The project will be the focus of the Greening Business Applications course (MGMT 466, 30 students) taught in Spring 2017 by Dr. Craig Dunn. The course is an experiential capstone that draws upon both the business school and the environmental studies department.

The project results are posted here.

Walkability Assessment

Like many other cities, Edmonds’ pedestrian infrastructure is lacking, outside the downtown core. The City is interested in identifying gaps and obstacles in the pedestrian network that impede walkability. The study area lies just outside the downtown core and contains important route between key destinations (two schools, a medical campus, parks, and three shopping nodes). The goal of the project is to analyze the relationship between the perception of the urban street environment and how it affects walking behavior.

The project will be the focus of the Participatory Action Research course (ANTH 454, 25 students) taught in Spring 2017 by Dr. Sean Bruna. The course teaches a methodology of researching, analyzing, and carrying out actions that directly benefits members of a community. Aside from cataloguing the state of pedestrian assets in the target area, the course will interact with citizens to understand the human factors that influence people’s decisions regarding walking.

The project results are posted here.