San Francisco Happy Hour Brings Together Urban Innovators
Last night a group of like-minded urban sustainability geeks gathered at a bar in San Francisco for the first Meeting of the Minds happy hour.
The meet-up brought together approximately 30 people working in or interested in urban planning, sustainable development, renewable energy, transportation, smart and connected cities, as well as innovations in any of these areas.
In a digital age where social networking happens more online than at the local watering hole, we rarely get to just relax, have a drink, and meet people who pique our interests. Last night demonstrated that we all crave a bit of face-to-face interaction with other passionate people in a laid-back setting.
A few highlights of the Minds who attended demonstrate what a hot-bed San Francisco has become in the field of urban sustainability.
Clara Brenner and Julie Lein
Clara Brenner and Julie Lein are the co-founders of Tumml, a new urban ventures accelerator that empowers entrepreneurs to help solve urban challenges. Tumml will host its first cohort of companies during the summer of 2013. Clara and Julie graduated in 2012 from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Follow them on twitter @Tumml.
Ron Blatman is producing a new show called Saving the City: Remaking the American Metropolis. The national TV series will feature four one-hour programs highlighting successful and unsuccessful examples of urban redevelopment throughout the US and Canada. The TV component is only part of a much larger education effort to raise awareness about the importance of cities and the quality of the urban environment through film, lesson plans and a national outreach agenda. Visit savingthecity.org for more on the project — the TV Series section has outlines of all four episodes. The recently launched Facebook page is Facebook.com/SavingtheCityTV.
Mike Boss is the General Manager at Rock & Rose Landscapes in San Francisco. Mike is working on a new start-up concept that plans to “make traditional turf obsolete.” Turf and grass are the most water and energy intensive components of landscaping and use the most pesticides. Mike and his partner believe they can solve this challenge and are working on a bio-diverse plant alternative to turf that is reminiscent of the historic meadows in the United States. They are currently looking for funders and developing a business plan.
Paul Vosbeek (Founding Partner of Real Energy Inc., pictured above) and his team from OrangeGoesGreen are building a green and clean energy cluster. OrangeGoesGreen is a private-public partnership initiative harnessing economic diplomacy, promotional activities and the transfer of knowledge between Dutch and North-American government agencies, knowledge institutes and companies. The primary goal is to secure business deals for the members and partners involved. OrangeGoesGreen is focused on the US and Canada, who, together, are the world’s largest investor in renewable energy and sustainability. The west coasts of the US and Canada, in particular, are leading the way with ambitious renewable portfolio standards and emission trading systems. Over three years, a minimum of 15 projects will be developed. For each project, a complementary combination of partners will be aligned to provide a complete value-chain solution. The OrangeGoesGreen program is a model for a new and innovative approach to doing business in the international arena. If the program is successful, it will serve as a model for future public-private partnerships with the government of the Netherlands.
Sean Randolph, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute has launched a new website called Global Green Cities. This site presents the best thinking and analysis on sustainable urbanization and green growth in cities and regions around the world, and provides connections to ongoing discussions that define the state of the art in green city design and planning. They also just released a new report on Global Green Cities summarizing the findings from their last symposium (links to PDF report).
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
The Environmental Impact Bond. It can be used to finance green infrastructure and similar resiliency-oriented projects, which not only protect cities against flooding and pollution, but also create jobs and green underserved neighborhoods. The return to investors of these projects is based on the extent to which the projects produce results; such as the amount of stormwater diverted from flowing into nearby rivers.
To plan for the transition to automated vehicles, cities and county governments should develop building and zoning codes that not only accommodate adaptable parking but encourage it by design. This can include amending building codes to require infrastructure that makes transforming garages into inhabitable buildings possible. As automated vehicles begin to enter the marketplace, cities should consider incentives and other programs to begin the conversion of ground level parking to commercial uses.
For much of the twentieth century, transportation planning focused on moving cars as efficiently as possible. This resulted in streets that are designed for cars, with little room for transit vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. Agencies in charge of roads, signals, parking, taxis and transit need to collaborate more closely to focus on moving people, not just vehicles, as efficiently as possible.
Focusing on all the elements that matters to people not just travel time – It is clear that people travelling across the region have high expectations and want to have consistent, reliable, convenient, clean and low-cost travel options regardless of their preferred mode and what municipal boundaries they cross. People care little about what system they are on or who operates it—they simply want to get where they are going as quickly, comfortably and reliably as possible.