Ten things Cleveland Heights can do to be a greener suburb on the blue lake

My day job has me reporting on the many innovative ideas that are finally coalescing into a Cleveland sustainability agenda. It leaves me with little time to write about what’s happening in my own backyard. Cleveland Heights has plenty of good people working on these issues. They need support and active engagement from you and me to make us a truly green suburb. Here’s my wish list for a Cleveland Heights green agenda:

1. Adopt policies that will improve energy efficiency, save the city money and reduce its ecological footprint. For example, mandate that all city buildings and schools are LEED-certified (a standard set by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design created by the U.S. Green Building Council) and all systems are Energy Star rated (a standard created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency).
2. Continue strict housing inspections and maintain high standards for preserving our historic building stock. Donovan Rypkema, director of PlaceEconomics, told an audience at the FutureHeights annual meeting a few years ago that he was surprised Cleveland Heights hasn’t listed its commercial districts in the National Register of Historic Places. And, the city will continue to miss the boat on historic preservation funds unless it applies, as Shaker and Cleveland have done, to be a Certified Local Government, a federal-state-local partnership that enables eligible communities to conduct preservation activities in cooperation with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
3. Continue to improve walkability. Cleveland Heights’ competitive advantage over outer suburbs is its interesting mix of the suburban and the urban. To maintain that niche, we need planning that improves walkability as we’re seeing in the Cedar Fairmount district.
4. Improve bicycling facilities. Place bike racks strategically throughout all commercial districts, schools, community centers and libraries –and in city-owned parking garages. Add “sharrow” pavement markers on Cedar, Mayfield, Lee, and Coventry roads and Euclid Heights Boulevard; these would remind motorists to share the road with cyclists. Hold events like the Ride for Miles, which celebrated the life of Miles Coburn last September and drew together 600 people of all ages and skill levels to ride on the street. Offer bike education courses for adults and kids and create a plan to improve the bicycle connections to University Circle.
5. Don’t allow the city to be overrun by chain stores. Support locally owned businesses, which are more sustainable because they locate in existing storefronts and make better use of existing infrastructure.
6. Educate the next generation on how to live green. Introduce a sustainability curriculum starting at the elementary school level with hands-on learning. Be the first in the area to adopt chef Alice Waters’ idea of the edible schoolyard.
7. Become a standard-bearer for green infrastructure. That means encouraging gravel driveways, rain gardens, downspout disconnection for rain barrels, tree planting and preservation, replacing tree lawns with green streets, edible yards and more community gardens.
8. Continue to build new housing options. Plan for a post-recession economy with the completion of a mixed-use development at Lee and Meadowbrook roads.
9. I realize this may sound controversial, but think twice before endorsing the Opportunity Corridor, the new highway connecting Cleveland's west side and University Circle. Cleveland Heights’ strength is its proximity to University Circle. This highway will only facilitate more sprawl away from the Heights.
10. Form a community green team to help the city increase its recycling rate, improve energy efficiency, and implement a plan that fulfills its commitment to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which Mayor Kelley signed in 2007.

Mark Lefkowitz is the Web editor for the GreenCityBlueLake Institute (gcbl.org) at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. He supports his wife's endeavors in her Hampshire Road community garden plot, Coventry Road as a member of the SID advirsory group, and cannot imagine living anywhere else than Cleveland Heights, the best city in the world.

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Volume 2, Issue 1, Posted 3:32 PM, 12.12.2008