City Hall

EPA Names Top Green Cities; Seattle Didn't Make the Cut

By Erica C. Barnett December 8, 2010

The US Environmental Protection Agency just released its annual list of the nature's top cities for smart growth. Notably absent among West Coast cities: Seattle, which didn't make the list. San Francisco and Portland received awards for the best civic place and for the best regional planning, respectively. (New York City got the EPA's nod for overall excellence, and Miller's Court in Baltimore got the reward for smart growth and green building, and a group of towns in rural Maine got the reward for rural smart growth.

The EPA commended Portland Metro's Making the Greatest Place smart-growth effort, which aims to prepare the region for an estimated 600,000 new residents by 2030. Citing Portland's commitment to compact, transit-oriented development, its plans to expand transit, and to protect areas outside the urban growth boundary from development, the EPA writes, "Together, the programs and policies created by Making the Greatest Place are helping Portland’s compact neighborhoods thrive and reducing the need to expand the region’s urban growth boundary."

In San Francisco, the EPA praised a public-private partnership that transformed a neglected alleyway into a pedestrian-only space called Mint Plaza that hosts a farmers' market, music and dance performances, and new private investments including several restaurants and cafes, at a cost of only $150,000 to the city. "The plaza is a model for using sustainable design principles in dense urban areas that require substantial amounts of paved surfaces," the EPA writes. The plaza’s shifting planes direct rainwater into treatment gardens and an underground infiltration basin, reducing runoff and helping to protect San Francisco Bay."

While other major West Coast cities are being commended for their innovative smart-growth policies, Seattle is still screaming over the loss of a few parking spaces, opposing every square foot of new bike infrastructure, squashing efforts to charge slightly higher rates for parking, whining about the supposed "war on cars," and opposing even a modest pedestrian-safety campaign ... oh, and apparently building a multi-billion-dollar car-only tunnel.

The last time Seattle was recognized by the EPA was in 2007, when the Seattle Housing Authority got an award for its redevelopment of High Point in West Seattle.
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