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Last summer, the San Francisco Planning Department announced plans to create four different types of “eco-districts” within the city that would lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce waste, water consumption and energy use. San Francisco isn’t the first US city to deploy the eco-district concept – similar development strategies have been used in Seattle, Austin, and Boston – but San Francisco’s plan promises to better integrate critical infrastructure with human networks to improve efficiency.
The South of Market (SoMa) district, a vibrant area that is expected to see rapid growth in the near future, is set to be the city’s first eco-district. San Francisco’s Department of Planning has dubbed SoMa the “Central Corridor Eco-District.” There, the city will encourage transit-oriented development and increased density, while looking to capture stormwater runoff. The type 2 “Patchwork Quilt”-style district will be “characterized by its mix of land uses and is comprised of undeveloped, under-developed and developed land owned by different property owners implementing development projects under different timeframes.”
Last summer, a group of landscape architecture students teamed up with landscape architecture firm SWA Group to develop design ideas for the Central Corridor Eco District. One plan called for capturing stormwater runoff beneath the I-80 freeway, which runs through the neighborhood. Another proposal called for creating an innovative ceramic roof water filtration system.
The Patchwork Quilt isn’t the only type of neighborhood that San Francisco will work with; the Department of Planning has also identified three other types of Eco-Districts: The Blank Slate, the Strengthened Neighborhood, and the Industrial Network. As the name suggests, a Blank Slate neighborhood is one that is undeveloped and must be built from scratch. In contrast, the Strengthened Neighborhood focuses on existing residential neighborhoods and their commercial corridors. And the Industrial Network will look to improve the efficiency of the operating and distribution systems used within the city’s industrial districts.
The overall goal of San Francisco’s Eco Districts will be to achieve the goals of the city’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to significantly reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, Eco Districts have the potential to strengthen local economies while creating a stronger sense of place, according to the Department of Planning. The Central Corridor Eco District is expected to be implemented sometime next year.