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Volkswagen Settlement Will Advance Electric Chargers and Clean Fuels Across the Country

Volkswagen was caught rigging emissions tests for their diesel vehicles and a court has determined a settlement. Part of the settlement is a requirement for VW to provide clean fuel alternatives across the US.
This is a wonderful opportunity to build on existing and ongoing alternative fuel and efficiency projects in Fargo and across North Dakota and the region. To learn more, tune in to KFGO Monday Feb 6 8:00 to 11:00 am. I’m filling in for Joel. At 9:30 we’ll visit with C.L.E.A.N. founder Ed Gruchalla and fellow member Paul Jensen and learn about their proposal to VW to create an EV charging corridor across ND.
While we’re a large oil producer, North Dakota doesn’t have any gasoline refining plants and we have to export oil to import gasoline. We can do better. Advancing the transition to cleaner electric vehicles would be an incredible advantage here.This type of quick charge station can completely recharge a Nissan Leaf in about 20 minutes for 100 mile range at a cost of $3.
We’re a state that produces over twice the electricity than we use locally with a growing percentage of electricity being produced with wind, solar, and cleaner burning natural gas. The cost of electric charging at today’s 8-10 cents a KWH is $1 for a gallon equivalent, estimated at 30 mpg, less than half the current cost of gasoline.
In the Fargo Moorhead area, our  C.L.E.A.N. team (Citizens Local Action Energy Network) is a coalition to build on good work by many in a collaborative manner. Among our common goals is to advance clean energy solutions and to aid in the transition to clean fuel vehicles and infrastructure that could include strategically located Electric Vehicle charging stations and infrastructure.
Thanks to Forum reporter Patrick Springer for the article that’s been printed around the region.
http://www.inforum.com/news/4211608-plan-charging-stations-across-nd-could-give-jolt-electric-cars

FARGO — A group of clean energy advocates is proposing a network of fast-charging stations on major highways crisscrossing North Dakota to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles.
Citizens Local Action Energy Network, or CLEAN, based in Fargo, has applied for a grant under Volkswagen’s $11 billion settlement that allocates $7.5 million for North Dakota projects that reduce automobile emissions.
Members of CLEAN believe a network of charging stations, located along Interstates 29 and 94 and U.S. Highway 2, would encourage motorists to switch to electric vehicles.
 “The idea is it will facilitate sale of electric vehicles and therefore reduce the emissions,” said Paul Jensen, a member of CLEAN.
Of North Dakota’s $7.5 million allocation under the Volkswagen settlement, 15 percent must go toward infrastructure to support clean energy projects, he said.
In Fargo, the group is recommending charging stations at West Acres Mall and the Roberts Ramp under construction downtown. The group also proposes charging stations along I-94 in Bismarck, Dickinson, Jamestown and Beach; along I-29 t in Pembina, Grand Forks and Hankinson; and along Highway 2 in Devils Lake, Rugby, Minot, and New Town, with alternatives in Stanley or Williston.
The equipment cost for a fast-charging station is $30,000 to $35,000, plus $10,000 to $15,000 for installation, said Jensen, who is a green energy consultant.
“The price is continuously going down,” he said.
CLEAN member John Bagu, who leases a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle, said they are more economical to drive than gasoline-powered cars. He and his wife also own a gas-powered car, which they use for long trips and as a secondary vehicle.
By his calculations, assuming gas at $2 per gallon, drivers in Fargo and Cass County spend $300 million a year on gas; that figure increases to $500 million per year if gas hits $3.50 per gallon.
 Bagu said his electric car costs a “fraction” of what it costs to fill the tank with gas: about $3 for a charge. “Imagine going to a gas station and paying $3 to fuel up,” he said.
He said it’s also more fun to drive — a source of rivalry with his wife, who also prefers driving their electric car.
 “Now we literally fight over it,” he said. “The loser gets to drive our gas vehicle.”
Bagu, who also has equipped his Fargo home with solar panels and generates his own electricity, estimates there are half a dozen electric vehicles in Fargo, while Jensen estimates there are 50 around North Dakota.
But both said the technology is rapidly advancing and costs are going down. They predict electric vehicles will be widely adopted in time.
South Dakota has placed electric charging stations along Interstate 90, a major tourist highway, said Ed Gruchalla, another CLEAN member.
“They put the chargers in there so people can drive through the state,” he said, noting I-90 is a common route to the Black Hills.
North Dakota’s tourism industry also could benefit from having a network of charging stations to accommodate electric cars, said Mike Williams, a former Fargo city commissioner and a supporter of the proposal.
“It would help the tourism a lot,” he said.

~End article~

 
 
 
 

Density and desirable, affordable, and walkable neighborhoods

Some folks seem to think density automatically means skyscrapers. It’s just not so. Density is just one way to measure land use.
For perspective, in 1960 Fargo’s population was 47,000 in less than 8 sections of land. Now with 115,000 people we have 50 sections of land. 2.4 times the number of people, over 6 times the amount of land. Poor land use makes flood protection, transportation, and efficient deliveries of city services more expensive and difficult.

Letter: Growing smartly in Fargo:

Fargo’s in a fantastic situation, and we’ve been growing for years thanks to a lot of good work by many. In the past 15 years, we’ve seen a bit over 1 percent population growth a year, but recently Fargo’s population is accelerating three times that. How and where we grow matters.
It’s difficult to change the decades-old ingrained philosophy that leapfrog development works and that quality land use doesn’t matter, but the math shows we have to do better with planning and land use if we’re going to reach Fargo’s great potential.
A Forum editorial (Oct. 27) said dividing the 50 sections of land (32,000 acres) by our population is not an honest way to determine density and that there is no cost to the city or taxpayers for skipped-over undeveloped or underdeveloped land where there is little or no infrastructure. The editorial incorrectly stated the number of people per acre in 1950 was 50. The correct number is 10.7.
Where is market?
The editorial didn’t raise any objection to encouraging development farther into new greenfields that would not likely be protected with certified flood protection until the diversion is finished. They cite this is the development the market wants. This “market” is skewed by our current growth policies that subsidize premature expansion into the flood plain.
Where is the market in Fargo? Realtors nationwide cite Fargo’s 58103 as a top ten housing market in the entire country. That’s the older traditional neighborhood design area from Main Avenue to 32nd Avenue South.9th St Fargo pic
The current footprint of land in Fargo’s annexed area is just over 50 square miles with a population of about 115,000. Fifty square miles = 32,000 acres divided into 115,000 population = 3.6 people per acre.
A recent Forum article correctly says that in 1950 Fargo had 10.7 people per acre. This is common in walkable traditional neighborhood design. For perspective, San Francisco has a smaller footprint than Fargo with more than 1 million people = 33 people per acre.
In Fargo’s comprehensive plan, there is a goal of nine people per acre – this is similar to the density we currently have in our popular mature existing neighborhoods like Hawthorne, Clara Barton, Horace Mann and others.
Projected growth in Fargo by 2040 is 154,170 and metro’s projected population growth by 2040 is 259,950 people.
Enough land
When we do the math, we find we currently have enough land to accommodate our population estimate and more if we achieve our nine people per acre density goal – 32,000 acres X 9 people per acre = 288,000 population just in Fargo’s current footprint. Even if we only add two people per acre in the next 25 years, it would be 64,000 more people added to our current 115,000 = 179,000 people, far more than the 154,170 that is projected for Fargo.
Conversely, if we continue to grow at 3.6 people per acre, we would need to more than double our current footprint of 50 sections – 259,950 population estimate by 2040 divided by 3.6 people per acre = 72,208 acres needed.
Thirty-two thousand acres to 72,208 acres or 112 sections compared to our current 50 sections.
Floods and FEMA
The vast majority if not all new development areas south of 52nd Avenue are lower than the new FEMA 100-year flood levels. While we’re working diligently to build the diversion, even if we started today, it wouldn’t be complete for 8-10 years. Even with the diversion, we need in-town protection to accommodate flows through town during a 500-year event.
We’re working to protect Fargo with dikes and floodwalls to a level of 42 feet 5 inches to avoid higher cost of flood insurance. We can complete this sooner if we don’t expand our boundaries into low-lying land south of 70th Avenue.
How do we accomplish this? First we have to acknowledge that we have to improve our land use and work to meet our goals for density. It would be helpful to follow the key priorities set out with more than 8,000 people engaged. Prioritize and develop a work plan with measures to implement the goals of Fargo GO2030.
The top 5 are:
1) Flood protection; 2) infill/strong neighborhoods; 3) arts and culture; 4) bike and pedestrian facilities; 5) quality design standards.
Strategies
What are some ideas on ways to achieve these? Here are a few of mine:

  • Leave agricultural zoning in place on perimeter until it fits to reach our density goals.
  • Be more selective on where to apply incentives and planning focus. Target new home tax incentives and city financing of infrastructure for new development to closer-in areas and infill areas that have existing infrastructure and are already covered by city services.
  • Target incentives on mixed-use and affordable housing infill and redevelopment projects in underused areas with existing infrastructure and services.
  • Continue to improve areas to encourage walking, biking, and transit and reduce need to drive. Our residents on average spend 27 percent of income on transportation, higher than 24 percent for housing. If a family has two cars instead of three by living in a area where the need for driving is reduced, they save about $9,000 annually.

Fargo’s a wonderful community. We do our best when we work and grow well together. Let’s make sure Fargo is growing well.

Thousands enjoy the biggest vehicle ever in another great Holiday of Lights Parade

Thousands of smiling faces at the Parade of Lights enjoying a guest appearance from a super cool, 60′ long vehicle on it’s way to San Francisco. Thanks to a great working relationship with locally produced New Flyer, Gregg Schildberger and our Matbus team arranged a guest visit of the 60′ Hybrid Electric articulating bus we got a chance to ride and test for a fun filled day.
Thanks to all the presenters and folks that came to our Transportation Symposium!
Fargo’s moving forward in all sorts of ways. Thanks to good work by many, we’ve added Link FMGreat Rides Bike Share, North Dakota’s first protected bike lanes, and Uber Fargo just in the past 9 months

Here’s a nice TV clip on the event. Thanks Adam, Patrick and KVRR!

Buses, Bikes Keep Rolling as Public Transit Takes Off in F-M Area

Adam Ladwig, Weekend Anchor / News Reporter, aladwig@kvrr.com
POSTED: 10:16 PM CST Nov 24, 2015 The future of public transportation rolls into Fargo.

Public transit, both two–wheeled and four–wheeled, has grown a lot in the last few years. The hope is that even more people hop on for a ride in years to come.
The bus is 60 feet of people moving power and it’s in town to show what public transportation can do.
“The Fargo–Moorhead community has really expanded its options for the way that we move, which is really exciting,” says Sara Watson Curry with Great Rides Bike Share.
Just in the last year, the LinkFM made getting around downtown easier, and cheaper, and the Great Rides Bike Share program set records for the number of riders per bike per day in its first year.
“We’re sort of the darlings in the bike share world,” adds Watson Curry.
Ridership in Fargo has increased dramatically in the last 10 years, going from 800,000 riders to 2.1 million per year.  City leaders want to use new big bad boys like this to increase ridership even more in the future.hybrid articulated 11-25-15               ^Click on the photo to see how the articulated bus pivots for a sharp turn^
“Instead of having two buses, you could almost carry as many with one bus, one driver,” says Fargo City Commissioner Mike Williams.
City officials aren’t resting on the past success of public transit.
Williams says, “We want to double it again.”
They say the benefits of public transit are two–fold. One, it’s cheaper, which is popular with the college crowd.
“Residents on average spend more on transportation than on housing. 27 percent on transportation. 24 percent on housing,” Williams explains. “Students have figure out, and so have others, that you can save a lot of money not having to drive every day.”
Two, it clears up traffic, letting everyone move around sooner.
Williams adds, “So when you see people taking transit, walking, or biking, give them a good wave because there’s more room on the road for you.” See the TV Clip
So don’t be surprised if you see more buses or bikes on the roads soon.
Fargo city leaders say it’s possible the city might purchase articulated buses in the future. As for the bike share program, there is talk of expanding across the river to MSUM and Concordia in the next couple years.
IMG_6983

Sandy's Donuts, more Sandy's Donuts, hot cocoa, to celebrate Fargo's evolving transportation options

Now that got your attention! Swing by the Fargo Public Library’s community room Tuesday November 24th at 1:30 p.m.. We’ll learn about and celebrate the many new ways to get around town, user friendly parking info and tools, housing tips and programs, and the positive impact Great Rides Bikeshare has made and how they’re all related.
You’ll also get a chance to look and step inside a super cool new sixty foot articulated bus being demonstrated at this event. This bus is being delivered to San Francisco. New Flyer’s are made in St. Cloud and use several components made right here in Fargo!newflyer_xcelsior_xn60
In one short hour, we’ll hear quick hitting updates from experts like:
 

  • Jeremy Gorden Fargo Traffic Engineer will talk about complete streets and the first protected bike lanes in Fargo and North Dakota. The progress with more on street bike facilities has helped increase number of people biking and fewer bike related accidents. NP Ave protected bike lane
  • Sara Watson Curry of Great Rides Bikeshare will talk about their national record setting, matbus inspired, student led business model and how it works. Great Rides kicked off with a grand entrance at this years St. Patricks Day parade on a 70 degree day on March 15th with over 17,000 happy folks

Great Rides at St. Patty's 2015
Just in the past year, all these cool new options to get around town.
Thanks to good work by many, Fargo’s added several new options for the way we move around our community with expanding transit, the fun, fast, and free Link FM, Great Rides BikeshareUber Fargo, and Fargo’s and North Dakota’s first protected bike lanes all just in the last 9 months.
These improvements and continuing to focus on infill, complete streets, and mixed use will make them even more efficient and easy to use.
Hope to see you on Tuesday!
cropped-space-required-to-transport-60-people.jpg
 
 
 

Growing well matters. Let's do the math update

Fargo’s in a fantastic situation and we’ve been growing for years thanks to a lot of good work by many. In the past 15 years we’ve seen a bit over 1% population growth a year, but recently Fargo’s population is accelerating three times that. How and where we grow matters.
I’m updating this earlier post I wrote in April 2014 with our current numbers.
Here’s an apt cartoon from Trygve Olson of the Forum:

Maybe we’re gaining some traction on improving land use? It’s hard to change the status quo but the math shows we have to do better with planning and land use if we’re going to reach Fargo’s great potential.

Some say development in new greenfields that can not be protected with certified flood protection until the diversion is finished is the development the market wants. This “market” is skewed by our current growth policies that subsidize pre-mature expansion.
Where is the market in Fargo? Realtors nationwide site cites Fargo’s 58103 as a top ten housing market in the entire country. That’s the older traditional neighborhood design area from Main Ave to 32nd Ave S.

Here’s some of this weeks articles and interviews on our need to improve land use to grow well:

Forum article on how far south should we grow? 10-26-15

KFGO News and Views Adding value with infill: 9-29-15

KFGO Joel Heitkamp interview on growing well: 4-28-14

 Some basic math shows why we need to improve our density and land use in Fargo

Fargo’s been growing for years and we’re in a fantastic situation thanks to a lot of good work by many. In the past 15 years we’ve seen a bit over 1% population growth a year, but recently Fargo’s population is accelerating three times that.
The current footprint of land in Fargo’s annexed area is just under 50 square miles with a population of about 115,000.
50 square miles = 32,000 acres divided into 115,000 pop = 3.6 people per acre.
The recent Forum article correctly cites that in 1950 Fargo had 10.7 people per acre. This is common in walkable traditional neighborhood design. For perspective, San Francisco has a smaller footprint than Fargo with over 1,000,000 people = 33 people per acre.
In Fargo’s comprehensive plan there is a goal of 9 people per acre, this is similar to the density we currently have in our popular mature existing neighborhoods like Hawthorne, Clara Barton, Horace Mann and others.
Planning Director Jim Gilmour recently informed us the that Fargo’s projected growth by 2040 is 154,170 and metro’s projected population growth by 2040 is 259,950 people.
When we do the math, we find we currently have enough land to accommodate our  population estimate and more if we achieve our 9 people per acre density goal.
32,000 acres X 9 people per acre = 288,000 population just in Fargo’s current footprint. Even if we only add two people per acre in the next 25 years would be 61,440 more people added to our current 115,000 = 175,440 people, far more than the 154,170 that is projected.
Conversely, if we continue to grow at 3.6 people per acre, we would need to more than double our current footprint of 50 sections.
259,950 pop est by 2040 divided by 3.6 people per acre = 72,208 acres needed.
32,000 acres to 72,208 acres or 112 sections compared to our current 50 sections.
The vast majority if not all new development areas south of 52nd Ave are lower than the new FEMA 100 year flood levels. While we’re working diligently to build the diversion, even if we started today, it wouldn’t be complete for 8 – 10 years. Even with the diversion, we need in town protection to accommodate flows through town during a 500 year event.
We’re working to protect Fargo with dikes and floodwalls to a level of 42′.5″ to avoid higher cost of flood insurance. We can complete this sooner if we don’t expand our boundaries into low lying land south of 70th Ave.
How do we accomplish this? First we have to acknowledge that we have to improve our land use and work to meet our goals for density. It would be helpful to follow the key priorities set out with over 8,000 people engaged. Prioritize and develop a work plan with measures to implement the goals of Fargo GO2030. The top 5 are:
#1. Flood protection
#2. Infill/strong neighborhoods
#3. Arts and Culture
#4. Bike and pedestrian facilities
#5. Quality design standards
What are some ideas on ways to achieve these? Here are a few of mine:
Leave agricultural zoning in place on perimeter until it fits to reach our density goals.
Be more selective on where to apply incentives and planning focus. Target new home tax incentives and city financing of infrastructure for new development to closer in areas and infill areas that have existing infrastructure and are already covered by city services of Fire, Police, Garbage, Street cleaning/snow removal, Forestry.
Increase incentives on mixed use and affordable housing infill and redevelopment projects in under utilized areas with existing infrastructure and services.
Continue to improve areas to encourage walking, biking, and transit and reduce need to drive. Our residents on average spend 27% of income on transportation, higher than 24% for housing. If a family has two cars instead of three by living in a area where the need for driving is reduced, they save about $9,000 annually.
Fargo’s a wonderful community. We do our best when we work and grow well together. Let’s make sure Fargo is growing well!

All aboard! Introducing Link FM Downtown Connector

Link FM is a fun, fast, and free circulator bus that connects Downtown Fargo and Moorhead starting Monday June 1st running from 7 am to 7 pm M-F and 10am – 5pm Sat.  The route will have a continuous loop starting at the Moorhead Center Mall to the Plains Art Museum and back with an average 15 minute frequency for a loop as a goal. The concept is to keep the route and operations simple and flexible enough to make it fun, fast, and free.
Unlike Matbus scheduled routes with established timetables, Link FM will stop at the designated sites only as needed to pick up or drop off passengers. If no one is at a particular stop, it’ll keep moving to the next one.
Look for the Link FM signs at these sites. Mon-Fri there are 8 designated pick-up/drop off areas from 7am – 10am starting at 7am on the east side of Moorhead Center Mall parking lot.

  • East side of parking lot of Moorhead Center Mall
  • 1st Ave at Hjemkomst intersection
  • Fargo Library
  • Gate City
  • Plains Art Museum
  • Renaissance Hall
  • Matbus Ground Transportation Center
  • Fargo Community Health

At 10am,  two additional pick-up/drop off areas on the north and south side of the Moorhead Mall until 7 pm M-F and from 10am – 5pm on Saturdays.
Link FM is another step forward to help grow the use of our Matbus system and continue the regeneration of the core of Fargo and Moorhead making better use of existing infrastructure and parking.IMG_5059
Using a bus already in our fleet, Link FM will start out with a “quiet” start, white with no wrap to begin with. We’ll be adding features over the coming weeks like local music inside and out (be ready for pop up live performers), vibrant and distinctive wrap on the outside, and revolving local art on the inside. By the first week in July, you’ll see it coming from blocks away and will want to jump aboard!
Since 2004, Matbus ridership has almost tripled to now over 2.1 million annual rides with over half in the 18 – 25 age group. Our downtowns and city cores are regenerating and community’s transportation culture is changing with more people walking, biking, and using transit that all help reduce congestion.
This circulator concept has been featured for several years in both our transit plans and  parking plans as a strategy to make better use of thousands of existing public and private parking spaces in both our revitalizing downtowns, reduce congestion, and continue to increase ridership on MATBUS.60 on a bus
This Link FM route is within walking distance of three blocks of several popular destinations and our theme is fun, fast, and free! Link FM will also help navigate around areas on NP Ave and 1St Ave corridor reconstruction and flood protection construction projects that start now and will be going on for the next few years.
Link FM will be using an existing bus and will be an addition to existing routes so will not negatively effect current riders.
It’s great working with the sub committee chaired by Moorheads Steve Ghertz, and members Nancy Otto, Dave Piepkorn, Melissa Radamacher, Matt Maslowski, Joe Nigg, Lori Van Beek, Mike Hahn, Gregg Schildberger, Matt Peterson, and Michael Redlinger.
The Fargo Commission and Moorhead Council unanimously approved this venture and are eager to see how Link FM works. Transit experts have told us it often takes 6-8 months to build ridership and we plan on giving it time and measure how much it’s used.
Both cities can decide to stop with a 30 day notice in the MOU, but we are planning for success and will make funds available in the coming budgets. The idea is both cities will budget for future funding to be made available when it’s proven to be successful with at least 15 – 20 riders per hour by the end of the 9 month trial.
 

How to best build our city? Love it

 
This Strong Towns article could have been written about yesterdays efargo, Alley Fair, and The Hotel Donaldson Earth Day love yesterday. efargo launch, 2 hours of 50 people cleaning alleys and streets, partying at the Ho Do Fargo with the efargo “Earth Piano” and Diane Miller singing sweet tunes.

Sara Watson Curry jamming on efargo's solar powered "Earth Piano" that Raul Gomez and I built.

Sara Watson Curry jamming on efargo’s solar powered “Earth Piano” that Raul Gomez and I built.


To learn more about how we can grow well together and make the best community investments, we invited Charles Marohn of Strong Towns to tour Fargo and will be making presentations May 13th and 14th. Hope you can join us.
Here’s Gracen Johnson’s article about an unmatched economic development strategy in today’s Strong Towns post:

THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY THAT’S TOO CUTE TO PRIORITIZE.

Love, folks. It’s love. Love conquers all. At least that has been my almost unbearably hackneyed conclusion so far.
Last week, I was asked to join a panel discussion posed with the question, What role does placemaking have in building sustainable communities? This gave me a great excuse to break down and map out my personal theory of change. Here it is: love and working together. Have no doubt, the triteness is not lost on me – I grimace even writing this, but I really believe there’s something to it.

VACUUM-DRIVEN DEVELOPMENT

I arrived in the world of regeneration and “sustainable development” with an honest-to-goodness optimism about policy-driven change. Call it institutionalism or what have you, but I believed like so many of us do that the right policies and incentives could build the world we want. My MPhil (in something called Planning, Growth, and Regeneration) was an entire degree focused on the policies and economic tactics employed in regenerating places. I still believe policy is important and essential, such as putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions and installing feedback systems like road pricing. There are housing policies and anti-policies that I believe in as well, and let’s not forget about parking maximums. Where my confidence falters is in the zone of economic development policy, the stuff of business parks, tax perks, and a long aisle of pig-lipstick.
The revelation occurred while attending a conference about struggling rural villages, desperate to create jobs and retain young people. I had just been contemplating these same challenges for large cities like Liverpool, UK and it hit me that everyone feels like a struggling rural village in the globalized economy, except the top dogs like New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, London and Shanghai, etc.
Common practice favours what I call vacuum-driven economic development, where your goal is to suck up more talent, resources, and”job-creators” than your neighbours. We’ve seen all the tricks to do this, mostly resembling some form of bribery, freebies, or pleading with the government. It’s naively self-interested and doesn’t scale well. These policies don’t work for most of us because no matter how much money we throw at it, we can’t compete with the awesome vacuum power of the cities at the top of the food chain.

“LOVE WILL SAVE THIS PLACE.”

So I began pondering how we could create new value that is independent of the vacuums. Is there a form of value and meaning that creates an unbeatable stickiness, bound up in place? Of course there is: love. Love makes us do irrational things, like stay in a place where we need to fight tooth and nail to create opportunity for ourselves. The number of times family and memories came up when I asked my friends Why do you live where you live?is testament to that.
I came across a beautiful quote the other day and I don’t know who to credit it to.

“Men do not love Rome because she is beautiful. Rome is beautiful because men have loved her.”

— Leopold Kohr (Thanks commenter Mike Polen for solving that mystery)
We protect, improve, and beautify the places we love. Nowhere is this more obvious today than multi-generation farmers or the First Nations that are putting their lives on the line to protect the places they love and depend on from toxic spills and emissions. In the book, This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein shares the words of Montana rancher Alexis Bonogofsky:

“It sounds ridiculous but there’s this one spot where I can sit on the sandstone rock and you know that the mule deer are coming up and migrating through, you just watch these huge herds come through, and you know that they’ve been doing that for thousands and thousands of years. And you sit there and you feel connected to that. And sometimes it’s almost like you can feel the earth breathe. That connection to this place and the love that people have for it, that’s what Arch Coal doesn’t get. They underestimate that. They don’t understand it so they disregard it. And that’s what in the end will save that place. Is not the hatred of the coal companies, or anger, but love will save this place.”

— Alexis Bonogofsky as quoted in This Changes Everything
The words of a rancher can easily be transferred to our awe for the cities we love. Who doesn’t gaze from the street and appreciate the hours of sweat and care that went into building places we love? Who doesn’t ruminate on the thousands of days before, where someone has sat just like you and watched the daily activities unfold? Who doesn’t feel a tingle of connection when walking along a well-worn footpath? I believe love will save our places too, if they are indeed loveable.

HOW DO YOU MAKE A PLACE LOVEABLE?

Answering this question has become my raison d’étre – I only take on work that I deem “projects for places we love.” So far, what I’ve found is that it comes down to working together, intervention, and celebration.

The working together part has been my key learning from adventures in the human side of city building. The process of working alongside others on something worthwhile or just plain fun has actually created my strongest ties to this city. Working together creates bonds with people and place, and powerful memories of joint accomplishment. It’s an investment in relationships and the place you live, and motivation for others. For example, I just saw some lovely women doing a cleanup in their Halifax neighbourhood last weekend and now I’m feeling more inspired and obliged to participate in my own block cleanup this weekend. Many hands make light work!
Photo by Jim Kumon.
Photo by Jim Kumon.
The trouble is, we often lack venues and opportunities to work together or even be together nowadays. We live in an isolated world and most of our city spaces are in need of an intervention. We can use small interventions like Tactical Urbanism to give people excuses to linger, to volunteer, to ask questions and take part. This is the physical side of city-building that we are rapidly prototyping across the world. Our interventions can reinforce the humanness of our cities and give us reasons and avenues to work together.

Finally, it’s important to celebrate. Like the harvest feasts of yesteryear, we can validate hard work with the act of celebration. Food, drink, music, dancing – this is all so much more wonderful when it’s well-deserved.

Our situation is obviously precarious. We’ve done some serious, perhaps irreversible damage to our climate, ecosystems, finances, and communities. Current levels of inequality are staggering and our political systems are broken. It can be hard to have any hope at all. But I believe in the places that are loved. I believe that the survival skills we need are gratitude and generosity – caring about each other and our homes enough to learn, adapt, and be resourceful. Humanizing our cities is both a means and an end in doing that. I believe that as long as we’re walking that path together, we’ll have reason to celebrate.

And there you have it: your daily dose of sickly sweet, anti-wonk, actionable EcDev.


GRACEN JOHNSON is a communications designer living in The Maritimes. While she finished her MPhil in Planning, Growth, and Regeneration in 2013, she has never stopped studying the city. Gracen thinks of her day-to-day as participatory action research, diving into the question of how Strong Citizenship can transform a city. She wears many hats trying to crack that nut herself, including as the designer and coordinator of an accelerator for small businesses that build community. She also freelances around the vision of “Projects for Places we Love” and has a video blog called Another Place for Me.
This year, Gracen is sharing field notes on her experiences with Strong Citizenship. In this regular column, you’ll get snapshots of life as a friendly neighbour in a quintessential Little City that feels like a Big Town.

Growing well matters, let's do the math‏

Fargo’s in a fantastic situation and we’ve been growing for years thanks to a lot of good work by many. In the past 15 years we’ve seen a bit over 1% population growth a year, but recently Fargo’s population is accelerating three times that. How and where we grow matters.
Here’s an apt cartoon from Trygve Olson in today’s Forum:

Maybe we’re gaining some traction on improving land use? It’s hard to change the status quo but the math shows we have to do better with planning and land use if we’re going to reach Fargo’s great potential.

Here’s some of this weeks articles and interviews on our need to improve land use to grow well:

KVLY Planning/Commission piece 4-25-14

Forum “We want to make sure we grow well” 4-25-14

KFGO Joel Heitkamp interview on growing well: 4-28-14

 Some basic math shows why we need to improve our density and land use in Fargo

Fargo’s been growing for years and we’re in a fantastic situation thanks to a lot of good work by many. In the past 15 years we’ve seen a bit over 1% population growth a year, but recently Fargo’s population is accelerating three times that.
The current footprint of land in Fargo’s annexed area is just over 48 square miles with a population of about 112,000.
48 square miles = 30,720 acres divided into 112,000 pop = 3.6 people per acre.
In Fargo’s comprehensive plan there is a goal of 9 people per acre, this is the density we currently have in our popular mature existing neighborhoods like Hawthorne, Clara Barton, Horace Mann and others.
Planning Director Jim Gilmour recently informed us the that Fargo’s growth by 2040 is 154,170 and metro’s growth is projected population growth by 2040 is 259,950 people.
When we do the math, we find we currently have enough land to accommodate our  population estimate and more if we achieve our 9 people per acre density goal.
30,720 acres X 9 people per acre = 276,480 population in our current footprint. Even if we only add two people per acre in the next 25 years would be 61,440 more people added to our current 115,000 = 175,440 people, far more than the 154,170 that is projected.
Conversely, if we continue to grow at 3.6 people per acre, we would need to more than double our current footprint of 48 sections.
259,950 pop est by 2040 divided by 3.6 people per acre = 72,208 acres needed.
30,720 acres to 72,208 acres or 112 sections compared to our current 48 sections.
The vast majority if not all new development areas south of 52nd Ave are lower than the new FEMA 100 year flood levels. While we’re working diligently to build the diversion, even if we started today, it wouldn’t be complete for 10 years. Even with the diversion, we need in town protection to accommodate flows through town during a 500 year event.
We’re working to protect Fargo with dikes and floodwalls to a level of 42′.5″ to avoid higher cost of flood insurance. We can complete this sooner if we don’t expand our boundaries into low lying land south of 70th Ave.
How do we accomplish this? First we have to acknowledge that we have to improve our land use and work to meet our goals for density. It would be helpful to follow the key priorities set out with over 8,000 people engaged. Prioritize and develop a work plan with measures to implement the goals of Fargo GO2030. The top 5 are:
#1. Flood protection
#2. Infill/strong neighborhoods
#3. Arts and Culture
#4. Bike and pedestrian facilities
#5. Quality design standards
What are some ideas on ways to achieve these? Here are a few of mine:
Leave agricultural zoning in place on perimeter until it fits to reach our density goals.
Be more selective on where to apply incentives and planning focus. Target new home tax incentives and city financing of infrastructure for new development to closer in areas and infill areas that have existing infrastructure and are already covered by city services of Fire, Police, Garbage, Street cleaning/snow removal, Forestry.
Increase incentives on mixed use and affordable housing infill and redevelopment projects in under utilized areas with existing infrastructure and services.
Continue to improve areas to encourage walking, biking, and transit and reduce need to drive. Our residents on average spend 27% of income on transportation, higher than 24% for housing. If a family has two cars instead of three by living in a area where the need for driving is reduced, they save about $9,000 annually.
Fargo’s a wonderful community. We do our best when we work and grow well together. Let’s make sure Fargo is growing well!

Spring is coming! Sign up your garden and fruit trees at FM Gardens Alive! 1 million square foot challenge

You can help meet this challenge by going to FM Gardens Alive! and simply input the size of your food garden area no matter the size.  You can also submit the number of fruit trees or bushes you have or will be planting this season.
Don’t think of yourself as a gardener? Think again, even our small rhubarb patch and tomatoes planted in containers add to the tally!
Thanks to all the great folks that have been working together to promote growing more tasty, healthy local food.

Thanks to Erik Burgess of the Forum and all the other great media that came for the challenge announcement Thursday.
Here’s Eriks article:

Community leaders issue challenge for 1 million square feet of gardens by 2015

FARGO – Community leaders planted seeds Thursday for a metro-wide challenge to have 1 million square feet of gardens by the end of the year.
By: Erik Burgess, INFORUM

 
Rory Beil, CassClayAlive director, speaks Thursday at Baker Nursery in Fargo to announce the Gardensalive! Challenge to plant one million square feet of gardens in the metro area. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO – Community leaders planted seeds Thursday for a metro-wide challenge to have 1 million square feet of gardens by the end of the year.
City Commissioner Mike Williams, who helped kick off the challenge at a news conference at Baker Nursery in south Fargo, said that’s enough fresh fruit and vegetables to cover the Fargodome floor about 13 times.
“We’re going to blow this out of the water,” Williams said of the challenge.
The goal behind the challenge is to encourage healthy eating for children and adults and make Fargo, Moorhead, Dilworth and West Fargo the healthiest metro in the country, said Rory Beil, director of CassClay Alive, the Dakota Medical Foundation’s healthy eating and active living initiative.
Adults that grow gardens eat more fresh produce throughout the year, and the same applies for kids who grow up gardening, Beil said. Another goal of the challenge is to make healthy eating routine for young kids, he said.
“Our eating habits are largely based on convenience and habit, and if we’ve got apples growing in our backyard and we’ve got vegetables in our garden, it’s much more likely that it’s going to become a reality,” Beil said.
The metro had around 318,000 square feet of gardens in 2013, so those are already being counted toward the 1 million square foot goal, Beil said.
An additional 34,000 square feet have been logged this week, bringing the total up to 352,000 on Thursday afternoon.
People can register their gardens online or by picking up a “Gardens Alive!” card at participating local nurseries and garden stores, said Anita Marocco, the challenge coordinator.
Any size operation is counted – from a fully-fledged garden to a single apple tree, berry bush or pot of produce, she said.
“Even containers count. We’ll count your potted strawberries,” she said.
The website will also track food donations. Beil said he hopes the challenge will “overrun our food shelters with healthy food.”
The initiative was inspired by healthy eating challenges in other parts of the country, but Beil said they wanted the challenge for the Fargo-Moorhead area to be “a little more contagious.”
“You can drive down the street and you can see a garden. And that will live on year after year,” he said. “So we think it has the potential to create a little bit of a social movement.”
If the challenge is successful in the immediate metro area, Beil said it could expand into greater Cass and Clay counties.
To register a garden or track the community’s process, visit www.fmgardensalive.org, or call (701) 241-1367.

Broadcast times for Food glorious Food! Focus on local foods and gardens

In case you missed the Valley Chefs Association, Northern Plains Botanic Society, and Prairie Roots Food Coops fun local foods and gardens presentations on Monday, you’ve got a chance to catch it on Fargo cable access channel 12 at these times.
Thanks again to all the presenters and it’s wonderful to see so many groups working together toward more fresh and tasty local foods. Save the date for the Cass Clay local food initiative events March 14th and 15th and watch for the 1,000,000 square foot food garden challenge.

February              5              9 p.m.

February              6              8 p.m.

February              10           6 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.

February              12           9 p.m.

February              13           10 a.m.

February              14           10:30 a.m.

Check out Monday’s presentations featuring Prairie Roots local food market, incredible local chefs and their association, and a possible Japanese Garden and Conservatory. Here’s a quick review of the event thanks to KFGO’s Jack and Sandy 
At 8:35 we’ll hear from Kaye Kirsch and the Prairie Roots Food Coop.
Their goal is to open a retail food co-op in the Red River Valley that will be a one-stop shop for all your natural, organic and local food and product needs.
They’re structured as a co-op, which means that members are the owners of the grocery store and they are accountable to them.

9:00 a.m. Jackie Williams of the Northern Plains Botanic Garden Society.  Jackie will share about projects they’re working on including; a beautiful Japanese Garden (Photo is of the Huntington Garden in Pasadena), a fruit tree forest, and a living conservatory
At 9:25 Chef Watson of Mezzaluna and leaders of The Red River Valley Chef’s Association will share about their local chapter of The American Culinary Federation founded in Fargo, North Dakota and how they work with local growers for more fresh, local foods in their recipes.
9:45 a.m. – 10:05 a.m. Questions from the audience for the presenters.
– See more at: http://renewnd.areavoices.com/2014/02/02/food-glorious-food-focus-on-local-foods-and-gardens/#sthash.f3bTHaCU.dpuf