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Urban Land Institute’s report advises St. Pete how to tackle climate change

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A nonprofit research organization is working with St. Petersburg officials on ways for the city to prepare for the effects of climate change.

Among the recommendations put forth in “Realizing Resiliency,” a new report published Monday by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Urban Land Institute: The city should create a cabinet-level Chief of Resilience Officer, implement a resiliency and sustainability action plan, and target vulnerable infrastructure and buildings that could benefit from emergency preparedness.

Climate resilience is defined as the capacity of a community to withstand the impacts of climate change and catastrophic weather events, and it’s become an issue Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City Council have focused on with intensity over the past couple of years.

Last December, ULI Tampa Bay teamed up with officials from the city and around the nation on a workshop on how the city could deal with environmental threats.

“Planning for resiliency is not about whether the sea level is going to rise, but how well-prepared and equipped a city will be to handle it and bounce back when the effects take hold,” said Realizing Resiliency panel Chair Jim Cloar of ULI Tampa Bay. “St. Petersburg has the opportunity to become a regional leader in a global resiliency initiative.”

“The overall goal of resiliency is being prepared to respond to recover from the effects of climate change and severe weather, and not just for those who can afford to rebuild their homes and businesses, but for all St. Petersburg residents,” said Sharon Wright, the city’s sustainability manager. “As we develop an actionable plan to become a more resilient city, social equity and economic opportunity will be at the forefront of our mission. The ULI Realizing Resilience report and framework makes tangible and innovative recommendations that will be extremely valuable to the businesses and residents as the City moves forward.”

St. Pete is also working on developing an Integrated Sustainability Action Plan, which includes agreeing to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy in the coming decades.

“Our Integrated Sustainability Action Plan is a first important step in helping get the Sunshine City to meet our 100 percent clean energy goals,” Mayor Kriseman said. “I am proud of this work, and the other important steps we have taken towards resiliency. I thank ULI for its diligence, and for its partnership in helping St. Pete realize resilience with social equity and economic opportunity in mind.”

Here are the report’s six recommendations:

— “Lead by Example: Resilient City Decision-making” — Create a cabinet-level Chief of Resilience Officer, implement a resiliency and sustainability action plan, and target vulnerable infrastructure and buildings that could benefit from emergency preparedness.

— “Adapt to Thrive: Shifting from Business as Usual” — Provide education and technical assistance to small businesses to create disaster preparedness and business continuity plans, incorporate a strong resilience component into the development of the Innovation District in downtown, and co-brand resilience work with local marine science business and education sectors.

— “Harness Opportunity: Adapting to the Changing Environment” — Use the City’s expansive park system to create multifunctional green spaces for water retention, and mandate resilient features in significant development projects such as the St. Pete Pier and the Tropicana Field site.

— “Resilient Living: Creating Connected and Strong Neighborhoods” — Strengthen the multimodal connection between and within low-income neighborhoods and downtown, and invest in finding ways to promote household stability, which can help individuals and communities bounce back from the effects of climate change and storms.

— “Identify Messengers: Establishing Bold and Strategic Communications” — Boldly brand the City’s resilience initiative and invest in a highly visible public outreach campaign, while allowing the community to transparently track the City’s progress.

— “Collaboration: Forging New Partnership” — Articulate the linkages of resilience work with the missions of organizations not typically drawn to the topic; partner with businesses that have significant experience with distribution and logistics as well as tech incubators and schools to develop emergency preparedness tools (such as a resilience app), and leverage local artists’ talent to visualize risk and build awareness.

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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