Who will educate the educators?

Last year the City of Syracuse invited the American Institute of Architects to send in an outside Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) of architects and planners to do a report with recommendations on how to make Syracuse a sustainable city. The SDAT spent three days in December 2006 in Syracuse meeting with local experts and issued their 50-page report a couple of weeks ago, which is available for download at the link above.

None of the recommendations in the SDAT report are new. You can find their recommendations in previous reports, including the County Settlements Plan developed by Andres Duany, the City's Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2005, and several studies done by local architects and planners, particularly those at SUNY-ESF.

The best part of the SDAT report is a cogent analysis of "sprawl without growth" and its roots in a "balkanized system of tax collection and service delivery." It notes that 36 different jurisdictions in Onondaga County with land use authority and property taxing authority make countywide regional planning effectively impossible because taxing jurisdictions compete for revenue-generating land uses. The result has been a central city hollowed out as developers spread new housing and businesses across sprawling suburbs even though there has been no population growth in the region for nearly half a century.

The growing fiscal disparities of "sprawl without growth" between the City of Syracuse and the rest of the county's towns and villages are documented as well: "Although Syracuse accounts for 30 percent of the county's population and 60 percent of its impoverished population, it has only 18 percent of the county's full valuation of taxable real property. Accordingly per capita real property value in the city is only $24,000, compared to nearly $50,000 in the county outside the city limits."So the city and its region are unsustainable ecologically and economically.

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