Guest blog by Carolyn Foster, PlanGreen Intern
Covering 460 acres, The Lacamas Northshore development proposal in Camas, Washington would be one of the largest industrial and residential developments in the Portland area today. The claim is that it will bring 5,000 new jobs and 3,000 new homes to the area. Property owners have been working with the city of Camas for seven years to generate the master plan.
The amendment to the Camas Comprehensive Plan that would make such a development possible was passed by the Camas Planning Commission on June 18, 2013. If it passes the City Council on September 3, the land, previously zoned for Industrial use as well as agricultural use, will now be zoned for Business Park/Light Industrial, High and Medium Density Multi-Family Housing, Single Family Housing, Commercial, and Community use. In addition, the owner/developers
expect to dedicate 6 acres of shoreline to public use for a hiking and biking trail.
The current state of the land can be seen in Image A. The proposed zoning changes can be seen in Image B.
Below are my feelings about this zoning change and the development it allows. I plan to testify to the Camas City council at the public hearing September 3, 2013.
I have lived in Camas ten years and am a proud graduate of Camas schools. I am a member of what is called the Millenial generation. My generation is facing unprecedented issues due to human caused climate change including extreme temperatures, loss of species all over the world, water and food shortages, crop failure, and increased pollutants and resultant disease.
Many attribute a major cause of climate change to the way we have developed our communities in the United States to be totally dependent upon the automobile. As oil becomes increasingly scarce, it is clear that this lifestyle is not sustainable.
Thankfully, some of the best minds in the US are working on sustainability standards—not just for buildings, but for communities: LEED ND is perhaps the most often utilized example. I would be happy enough if you used LEED ND, but, as you may know, the Pacific Northwest is the birthplace to what many consider the highest standard—the Living Building Challenge—a standard that Clark County incentivized in a pilot program in 2010.
My generation has the right to demand that you use not just the laws on the books, but also utilize sustainability standards in approving new developments—especially ones the size of Lacamas Northshore.
Measured against LEED ND, the master plan for Lacamas Northshore does not meet the very first prerequisite—Smart Location. The site is not:
- An infill site.
- “Adjacent to sites with adequate connectivity”
- In a “transit corridor or route with adequate transit service”
- A “site with nearby neighborhood assets”
Nor does the Lacamas Northshore plan meet the Living Building Challenge. The very first prerequisite of that Challenge forbids any development on greenfields. Instead, projects must be built on greyfields or brownfields. The LBC has no credits, only prerequisites, and a project must meet all of them to be judged sustainable.
While Washington’s Growth Management Act does require cities and towns to have an adequate supply of land for housing and for industry based on projected forecasts, cities can make the case that they plan to do infill and redevelopment rather than leapfrog expansion.
What if instead of developing farmland and forest land, we took a page from Bothell, WA and developed a plan to bring most of the new housing units to downtown Camas? What if instead, we worked with the property owners to transition their lands into Community Supported Agriculture where residents invest in their local farms in exchange for a share in the produce ? This could build on the popularity of our Camas Farmers Market.
With all of this being said, I understand that these zoning changes encouraging development are most likely going to pass. Although the master plan does not satisfy the Smart Location prerequisite, I would like to encourage the City of Camas to plan for a compact and walkable community that embraces other standards of LEED ND such as reduced parking footprint, walkable street grids, and certified green buildings.
The Adidas Village in north Portland is an excellent example of how to integrate industry with housing. Not only is the Adidas facility housed in a former hospital with nearby transit stops, bike paths and sidewalks, but the village features a public park and public sports facility maintained by Adidas which provide assets to the existing community. I think it is important that whatever industry develops here in Camas brings community assets as well. Examples include sponsoring a community garden, providing career development to high school students, providing employee volunteer days, and providing space for community groups to use.
I, myself, and the company I’m interning with, PlanGreen, would be delighted to work with you to find infill and redevelopment sites in Camas that both meet the requirements of LEED ND and accommodate the projected population growth. We’d be happy to help you integrate new job/industrial development into the fabric of the community and get away from the current model of isolated industrial campuses surrounded by acres of parking. We’d be happy to work with you and Lacamas Northshore property owners on a new mixed-use master plan for it’s future development–development that should come AFTER land between it and the city center develops. This will move us in the direction of the walkable community that we say we want to be. The proposed re-zoning and master plan would not.
Carolyn Foster is an undergraduate student who is interested in the intersection between urban planning/design and the natural world. She is transferring from UC Berkeley to UW’s Community, Environment, and Planning program in Fall 2013.