Livability

Overview

Livability is a part of Clearwater Greenprint, the city's sustainability plan

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The city wishes to create a livable neighborhood, or one that is pleasant, safe, affordable, and supportive of its members.

Such a neighborhood may include attractive pedestrian-oriented streets with low traffic speed and congestion as well as affordable, sustainable housing that is within reasonable distance to employment opportunities that offer living wages.

Livability & Why It's Important

The city of Clearwater was shaped during a time when fuel was cheap and abundant and driving was the primary mode of transportation. These conditions resulted in important destinations such as workplaces, homes, schools, and commercial centers being built far apart from one another. Clearwater’s sprawling development pattern contributes to residents’ heavy dependence on personal automobiles for travel. Because most of Clearwater is already developed, the city must look towards improving vacant or underutilized properties to make it easier to access resources and promote growth. Creating conditions that enable sustainable growth requires thoughtful consideration of the relationships between how a property is used and the transportation options available to the surrounding community.

Many areas in the city are either stable in redevelopment or are attracting new building development at a very slow rate. Where redevelopment is not occurring, buildings will need to be maintained, repurposed or retrofitted. This will ensure that quality housing, jobs, goods and services are available throughout the community. Improving existing buildings was identified as one of the biggest long-term challenges facing the city in the original Clearwater Greenprint plan. That challenge continues to exist. There has been an increasing rate of building obsolescence due to rapid residential and commercial growth using infrastructure that regularly needs to be replaced. These buildings require a large amount of ongoing maintenance and energy to operate. The present and future owners of Clearwater’s existing buildings will be challenged to invest enough money to successfully maintain the building frame while upgrading the infrastructure inside to be more energy efficient.

In addition to challenges in the existing building stock, there are demographic trends that need to be considered when designing a sustainable approach to land use. According to United States Census Bureau estimates, Pinellas County was one of only two counties in Florida that did not increase in permanent population from 2000 to 2010. Permanent population consists of those residents who live in the county year-round. However, other local projects from the Pinellas County planning agency and Forward Pinellas anticipate some population growth in the decades to come. This growth is not expected to be as large as what is expected in other neighboring counties with more vacant land.

There is also the potential for change in the retired population that moves to the area. Clearwater will continue to attract new retirees over time, but it will most likely be a population of retirees with less spending money than past generations. If the retiree migration rate declines over time, that population will need to be replaced to keep the local economy growing and strong. As a result, there is a need to attract different demographics to the city including young and working-aged people to the city.

In light of this information, the city will need to find a balance between encouraging high quality, energy-efficient development and maintaining an economic environment that is attractive to developers to create new homes and jobs. At the same time, the city will need to incentivize reuse and revitalization of the existing structures so they can remain usable over the long term. Finally, the city has the opportunity to improve quality of life and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by improving or transforming land area that is currently underutilized. The city will continue to increase the tree canopy through its own plantings and by encouraging plantings on private property. It will also continue to seek opportunities to create and maintain areas for recreational purposes and protect environmental resources.

Ultimately, the city wishes to create a livable neighborhood, or one that is pleasant, safe, affordable, and supportive of its members. Such a neighborhood may include attractive pedestrian-oriented streets with low traffic speed and congestion as well as affordable, sustainable housing that is within reasonable distance to employment opportunities that offer living wages.

Livability Strategies Overview

Development Incentives

  • Continue to provide for mixed-use development in livable, transit-oriented neighborhoods.
  • Improve regulation, investment, and incentives that will fulfill residents’ household and transportation needs.

Property Revitalization

  • Encourage restoration and reuse of buildings as an alternative to demolition.
  • Maintain the historic designation process to ensure that historically significant properties and neighborhoods remain stable, well-maintained, and available for long-term use.
  • Continue to implement a brownfield program and identify incentives such as tax credits for brownfield and greyfield development.
  • Consider partnership with an educational institution or non-profit organization to demonstrate the benefits of compost in a pilot program or through a publication.

Diverse Housing Options

  • Continue to cultivate a self-sustaining community and local economy to reduce VMT and increase accessibility.

Greenspace Expansion

  • Support and expand the community’s capacity to manage, develop, and enhance greenspace for natural habitat, recreation, gardening, and outdoor education activities. 

Urban Tree Program and Canopy Target

  • Continue to host an annual tree giveaway.
  • Develop a program to educate community members on the benefits of planting trees and recognize residents and businesses that participate.
  • Assess current tree canopy and set an increased canopy goal based on assessment results.
  • Create an implementation plan to increase tree canopy coverage.
  • Require mitigation for consumption of natural habitat or resources.
  • Enact and enforce a tree preservation or land-clearing ordinance.
  • Pilot a forest carbon sequestration project on municipal land which will sequester carbon to offset a portion of the community’s annual GHG emissions.
  • Develop the planting program under an existing urban forestry project protocol to allow for recording and reporting the results of the program.

Environmental Conservation

  • Become a certified community under National Wildlife Federation Wildlife Habitat Program.
  • Enact a sea turtle ordinance.
  • Create an endangered lands conservation/purchasing program.
  • Promote eco-literacy.

Integrated Pest Management

  • Create an IPM plan address invasive species and problematic insects at city-owned properties.
  • Provide the public with educational materials concerning invasive species identification and IPM best practices.
  • Consider partnership with an educational institution (e.g., Saint Petersburg College of the University of South Florida) to develop an IPM plan and subsequent educational outreach.

Energy Efficient Streets and Parking

  • Develop street design standards that maximize energy efficiency and minimize heat.

Environmental Justice

  • Explore options for preventing excessive levels of pollution and mitigate environmental and other impacts such as noise, odor, and traffic in low-income communities and communities of color.
  • Include potential environmental and public health impacts of land use decisions into planning and zoning activities.
  • Prioritize affordable housing for historically displaced groups to prevent green gentrification.
  • Consider measures to ensure that rent in improved neighborhoods remains affordable and savings from energy efficiency improvements are passed on to tenants.
  • Assess current city zoning and land use policies to determine where environmental justice criteria can be incorporated.

Strategy 1: Development Incentives

  • Continue to provide for mixed-use development in livable, transit-oriented neighborhoods
  • Improve regulation, investment, and incentives that will fulfill residents’ household and transportation needs

The city has continued to provide for mixed-use development in livable, transit-oriented neighborhoods. Mixed-use development is development that consolidates commercial, residential, or industrial spaces on a single property. In 2012, the city’s Planning and Development department worked with a consultant to create US 19 Corridor Redevelopment plan. This plan focused on increasing the density of available commercial and residential buildings in order to allow for greater transportation options. In essence, the plan intends to bring a “live, work, and play” element to an area that previously experienced only heavy commuting traffic. Following this plan, amendments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan occurred in 2016 to support the new zoning district and development standards.

The areas identified in the original Clearwater Greenprint document have not been formally established as Energy Conservation Areas; however, each of the identified areas have been included in the Citywide Design Structure as Activity Centers and Redevelopment Corridors. The city will work to improve regulation, investment, and incentives that will fulfill residents’ household and transportation needs.

Strategy 2: Property Revitalization

  • Encourage restoration and reuse of buildings as an alternative to demolition
  • Maintain the historic designation process to ensure that historically significant properties and neighborhoods remain stable, well-maintained, and available for long-term use
  • Continue to implement a brownfield program and identify incentives such as tax credits for brownfield and greyfield development
  • Consider partnership with an educational institution or non-profit organization to demonstrate the benefits of compost in a pilot program or through a publication

A sustainable urban environment has a variety of building types, sizes, and ages. This variability allows buildings to be reused for different purposes over the course of their life. New buildings should be designed with flexible space to maximize the potential for reuse in the future. Designing buildings that can be used for many potential purposes reduces vacancy. It also reduces the need for costly demolition. In addition to economic benefits, reducing construction and demolition waste greatly reduces the amount of garbage generated by the city, as both practices make up a large percentage of the waste stream. Restoration and reuse of building materials prevent this waste.

The city will encourage restoration and reuse of buildings rather than demolition. If demolition is needed, the city will look to deconstruct buildings, reusing or recycling the building’s materials wherever possible. The city will also maintain the historic designation process, which helps ensure certain properties and neighborhoods are stable, maintained and available for long term use. The city will continue to implement its brownfields program and identify incentives, such as tax credits, for brownfield and greyfield development. These are properties that have a degree of hazardous waste or abandoned buildings on them and are difficult to sell as a result. Financial incentives will offset some of the cost of remediation and promote reuse of these usable but sometimes abandoned lands.

When remediation is needed, the city will look towards adding compost as an amendment to disturbed land. In addition to preventing food waste from being discarded as trash, compost has a remediating quality for soil. It increases the needed beneficial micro-biotic life within soil, retains water, and allows the ground to sequester carbon. This reduces GHG emissions in the atmosphere. The city will consider working with an educational institution or non-profit organization to demonstrate the benefits of compost in a pilot program site or publication.

Strategy 3: Diverse Housing Options

  • Continue to cultivate a self-sustaining community and local economy to reduce VMT and increase accessibility

Available housing choices must have a range of prices to attract residents in all life stages and income levels. Affordable, energy-efficient and location-ideal housing will increase the chances that Clearwater will continue to maintain and attract a diverse population. Monitoring and working toward creating the right mix of housing type and cost will create a balance of housing supply to jobs. This balance will reduce the need for Clearwater residents to commute outside the city to work. Reducing the distance residents drive to work not only reduces the city’s GHG emissions from fuel, it also creates a more affordable and enjoyable living experience for Clearwater residents.

The city has created plans, known as the Consolidated Plan and Local Housing Assistance Plan, with policies that support a variety of housing types and prices. Furthermore, two new districts have been created to encourage further diversity of housing type and redevelopment within Clearwater’s downtown and U.S. Highway 19 areas. The city will continue to create a more self-sustaining community and local economy that will reduce the need for driving while increasing convenience and accessibility to employment.

Strategy 4: Greenspace Expansion

  • Support and expand the community’s capacity to manage, develop, and enhance greenspace for natural habitat, recreation, gardening, and outdoor education activities

Maintaining passive parks with minimal recreation opportunities (i.e.. walking, biking only) and maximize natural greenspace and ecosystem function is a win-win. Our community benefits by having access to much needed natural landscape while providing ecosystem relief in a highly urbanized region.

The city is continuing with its goals of preserving and expanding greenspace. In February 2019, Moccasin Lake Nature Park reopened after renovations and is now home to a butterfly garden and multiple native plant installations. By offering hiking trails and nature classes, the center is a beautiful resource for those interested in learning more about Florida’s natural ecosystems and wildlife. Clearwater’s Coachman Ridge Park also underwent renovations that were needed to allow greater stormwater flow from the city’s new Solid Waste Transfer Station. The Parks & Recreation department and Engineering department updated the park by increasing the number of trees from 300 to 1,911.

Clearwater Greenies, a component of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, hosts a number of beach, park, and neighborhood cleanup projects throughout the year. The department also offers Adopt-A-Trail, Adopt-A-Park, Adopt-A-Street, and Adopt-A-Waterway programs for citizens and businesses. In 2018, over a thousand hours were spent beautifying spaces and removing litter from areas within Clearwater.

The city will continue to support and expand the community’s capacity to manage, develop, and enhance greenspaces for natural habitat, recreation, gardening, and outdoor education opportunities. This includes improving and maintaining public property, creating public-private partnerships to transition underutilized land to these uses and enabling and encouraging these uses on private property through public policies and programs. Enhancing and expanding greenspace will result in better stormwater management, higher carbon sequestration, and a better quality of life for residents.

Strategy 5: Urban Tree Program & Canopy Target

  • Continue to host an annual tree giveaway
  • Develop a program to educate community members on the benefits of planting trees and recognize residents and businesses that participate
  • Assess current tree canopy and set an increased canopy goal based on assessment results
  • Create an implementation plan to increase tree canopy coverage
  • Require mitigation for consumption of natural habitat or resources
  • Enact and enforce a tree preservation or land-clearing ordinance
  • Pilot a forest carbon sequestration project on municipal land which will sequester carbon to offset a portion of the community’s annual GHG emissions
  • Develop the planting program under an existing urban forestry project protocol to allow for recording and reporting the results of the program

For Arbor Day 2019, the city celebrated its 37th year as a Tree City USA by giving away thousands of young trees to residents. This tree giveaway is an annual tradition. The city will continue its legacy as a Tree City by developing a program to educate community members on the benefits of planting trees and recognize residents and businesses that participate. The city will consider piloting a forest carbon sequestration project on municipal land, which along with other existing landscape installations will sequester carbon to offset a portion of the community’s annual GHG emissions. Carbon sequestration is the process by which atmospheric carbon dioxide is taken up by trees, grasses, and other plants through photosynthesis and stored as carbon in biomass (trunks, branches, foliage, and roots) and soils. The sequestration of carbon in forests and wood products helps to offset sources of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, such as fossil fuel emissions. The planting program should be developed under an existing urban forestry project protocol to allow for recording and reporting the results of the program.

The city will also assess its current tree canopy and set an increased canopy goal based on that assessment. The project will look at the three Ps of natural resource management (Possible, Potential, and Preferable), GIS methodology, and the Forest Opportunity Spectrum (FOS) for goal setting. From this goal, an implementation plan to increase the city’s tree canopy will be established. Local ordinances, regulations, and the city’s Comprehensive Plan will be updated as needed to accommodate the tree canopy goal. The city will maintain its current tree canopy through a tree preservation and protection ordinance requiring property owners to apply for permit and compensate the city when removing trees from the public right of way and apply for a permit for certain clearing activities on private property to the extent permitted by law.

It’s important to note, however, that canopy size is just one of many criteria to consider when evaluating urban trees. For instance, a robust tree canopy comprised of largely invasive species is not desirable. Age and species diversity, condition of trees and equitable distribution across income levels, to name a few, should also be considered in any future targets.

Strategy 6: Environmental Conservation

  • Become a certified community under the National Wildlife Federation Wildlife Habitat Program
  • Adopt a sea turtle ordinance
  • Create an endangered lands conservation/purchasing program
  • Promote eco-literacy

The city will create programs to increase awareness of our region’s plants and animals and the importance of preserving our natural resources. These initiatives could build on existing partnerships with local organizations such as the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the Florida Native Plant Society, the Audubon Society, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, and others. These programs will further assist already existing efforts to raise public awareness of Clearwater’s green spaces and trees, including existing nature preserves such as Moccasin Lake Nature Park.

The city of Clearwater will become a certified community under the National Wildlife Habitat Program. As part of this undertaking, the city will take the National Wildlife Foundation Mayor’s Monarch Pledge which involves committing to create habitat for the monarch butterfly and pollinators and educating residents. The city will also create and participate in programs that increase awareness of our region’s plants and animals and the importance of preserving our natural resources. These initiatives include the creation of an endangered lands conservation and purchasing program and could build on existing partnerships with local organizations. These programs will further assist already existing efforts to raise public awareness of Clearwater’s green spaces and trees, including existing nature preserves such as Moccasin Lake Nature Park. To support program participation and creation, the city of Clearwater will draft and adopt regulations as necessary.  For instance, the city has adopted language in Section 3-1302(D) of the City of Clearwater Community Development Code which protects sea turtle nesting areas through lighting regulations.

Strategy 7: Integrated Pest Management

  • Create an IPM plan to address invasive species and problematic insects at city-owned properties
  • Provide the public with educational materials concerning invasive species identification and IPM best practices
  • Consider partnership with an educational institution (e.g., Saint Petersburg College of the University of South Florida) to develop an IPM plan and subsequent educational outreach

Integrated Pest Management (IPM), is a practice used to remove organisms that are causing harm to a desirable plant, ecosystem, or structure. IPM is designed to solve these problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment. IPM provides long-term pest prevention, using natural control methods and only uses pesticides if no other option is effective. IPM pest control materials are selected to affect a specific target organism without harming surrounding organisms. Furthermore, the pest control materials are applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health.

The city will create an IPM plan to alleviate city-owned properties of invasive species and problematic insects. The plan will provide guidance on non-native, invasive plants and species, as well as a detailed plan for the removal and/or management of such species. The plan will emphasize non-toxic options and consider the potential expansion of invasive species due to climate change. Educational materials about invasive species identification and the best IPM removal practices will be provided to the public. Working with an educational institution, like Saint Petersburg College of the University of South Florida, should be considered for both the development of an IPM plan and the work of providing public education.

Strategy 8: Energy-efficient Streets & Parking

  • Develop street design standards that maximize energy efficiency and minimize heat

Energy-efficient street design reduces the amount of heat absorbed by streets, which translates into cooler neighborhoods and less air conditioning use in buildings and cars. Energy-efficient streets are often oriented to protect and enable solar access, and are narrower, better shaded, and constructed with cool paving materials. Tactics include utilizing shade from tree canopies and using cool pavements that enhance water percolation or reflect the sun’s energy rather than absorb it. Shading streets and other paved surfaces will minimize the pavement’s exposure to the sun thereby reducing ambient neighborhood temperatures by as much as 10°F. This, in turn, reduces the cooling loads in buildings. The city will develop street design standards that maximize energy-efficiency and minimize heat.

Strategy 9: Environmental Justice

  • Explore options for preventing excessive levels of pollution and mitigate environmental and other impacts such as noise, odor, and traffic in low-income communities and communities of color
  • Include potential environmental and public health impacts of land-use decisions into planning and zoning activities
  • Prioritize affordable housing for historically displaced groups to prevent green gentrification
  • Consider measures to ensure that rent in improved neighborhoods remains affordable and savings from energy efficiency improvements are passed on to tenants
  • Assess current city zoning and land-use policies to determine where environmental justice criteria can be incorporated

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.”

In promoting environmental justice, the city will actively explore how it can prevent excessive levels of pollution and mitigate environmental and other impacts like noise, odor, and traffic in low-income and communities of color. This can be achieved by assessing current city zoning and land-use policies to determine where environmental justice criteria can be incorporated. The city will also include the potential environmental and public health impacts of land-use decisions into planning and zoning activities.

In an effort to prevent green gentrification, a phenomenon in which the addition of parks, better transit options, and health measures push people out of newly improved neighborhoods, the city will prioritize affordable housing for historically displaced groups. Measures will be considered as to how the city can ensure rent in improved neighborhoods remains affordable and savings from energy efficiencies can be passed along to tenants.

 

Other Resources

Building Resilience & Efficiency

Population

Adaptive Reuse

Environmental Cost of Demolition

Reuse of Building Materials

Housing Diversity

Demographics and Growth