Newly planted rain garden, Annapolis, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from chesbayprogram’s photostream

Pittsburgh has been fortunate to have so many great organizations working to expand our urban tree canopy, create community gardens and urban farms, and plant and maintain street trees. The Pittsburgh Urban Forest Master Plan seeks to continue this great work and sets ambitious goals for becoming an even greener city. And we’ve been able to make great progress through the city code to ask developers to include trees in surface parking lots and to replace trees that have to be removed as part of any new development. However, we can do even more and we can bring high-quality landscaping to developments in targeted business districts that lack substantial green space.

1. Landscaping Requirements for New Development

Certain zoning districts already have green space requirements and projects that accept a certain level of public money have to meet goals for both green space and stormwater control. However, other districts and projects that don’t receive public funding don’t have to include green space in their designs and it can often be a challenge to ensure that new developments that fall into these categories do their part to provide quality landscaping.

Based on Seattle, Washington’s highly successful Green Factor program, I will create a common-sense, achievable landscaping requirement for new development in neighborhood business districts that will increase property values, beautify our neighborhoods, and reduce pollution and stormwater problems. Seattle’s program requires that new development achieve a certain score using a simple score card providing developers a great deal of flexibility for how to meet the goals. Like a simplified version of LEED designation, without all of the costs, Seattle’s Green Factor program asks developers to use a combination of large plantings, permeable pavers, green roofs, vegetative walls, public open space, rain gardens, and streets trees to meet a baseline level of landscaping for their projects.

Our Growing Green program will work for developers because we will provide them with the flexibility they need to meet these landscaping goals and the incentives they need to incorporate them into projects without tacking on burdensome costs. The program will work for neighborhood residents because it will ensure that when new development occurs in our business districts it doesn’t exacerbate stormwater problems or reduce public green space, but enriches the quality of life of the surrounding area.