Encourage Environmentally Sustainable Urban Planning

Target: Tulsa, Oklahoma City Council

Goal: Support recent efforts to redevelop downtown Tulsa sustainably

Sustainable urban planning presents one of this century’s greatest opportunities for achieving sustainable development, protection of the environment, and socioeconomic justice. The ways we build our towns and cities indubitably impacts the environment – dense, transit-oriented and community focused developments are key means of reducing our collective environmental footprint.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was recently rated as America’s “most parking-scarred downtown” by Streetsblog. The city has since taken important, if seemingly innocuous steps toward developing a more sustainable, socioeconomically connected and livable downtown. The City Council extended a ban on new surface parking lots and is planning zoning regulations that encourage density and infill  underperforming lots. These policy changes, as noted by Streetsblog’s Angie Schmitt and Planetizen’s Jonathan Nettler, follow the superlative example of Denver, Colorado, which took similar steps over the last two decades.

Urban planning and environmental sustainability are virtually inseparable. David Owen’s critically-acclaimed book, Green Metropolis, for example, demonstrates that urban dwellers live more efficiently than any other Americans, consuming less fuel, power, water, and other scarce resources. High density developments like multi-unit vertical apartment buildings and mixed-use retail, commercial, and residential blocks naturally conserves energy.  They minimize building exposure to the outside environment (reducing heating and cooling costs), and providing closer access to commercial, industrial, and public spaces that might otherwise require traveling by car.

Our nation’s population is set to grow by nearly 100 million people by 2050. Increased pressures on resources and increased urbanization of existing cities present numerous policy challenges, especially concerning the environmental, social, economic, and political viability of our homes. Thank Tulsa’s City Council for taking an important step forward for sustainable development, and ask it to continue leading other lower-density cities by example.


Dear Tulsa City Council,

Sustainable urban planning concerns every American town, city, and great metropolis. In addition to improving quality of life, encouraging denser development with multiple modes of transport, dedicated green areas, and lively public spaces, dramatically lowers per capita environmental impacts. Tulsa, recently heralded as America’s “most parking-scarred downtown,” a distinction antithetical to longterm sustainable development, shares similar challenges faced by many American cities. Tulsa City Council’s extension of the surface parking lot ban, along with proposals calling for zoning regulations to promote infill development, offer exceptional (and low-cost)  opportunities to lead by example toward a more sustainable future.

Urban dwellers live more efficiently than any other Americans, consuming less per capita fuel, power, water, and other scarce resources. While no one advocates applying the Manhattan model of development everywhere, increasing pressures on our resources demand a fundamental shift in how we plan and develop our communities. Consolidating parking, increasing density in walkable areas, and revitalizing existing downtown cores achieve not only these environmental benefits, but they also demonstrably improve citizens’ quality of life and access to socioeconomic opportunities.

Thank you Tulsa City Council for your swift, proactive leadership. We hope you continue encouraging smarter, cleaner development and lead other American cities toward better planning practices.


[Your Name Here]

Image Credit: jordanmac101 via Flickr

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