Use Sustainability Standards to Meet Millennials' Needs

Mary Vogel's picture

Guest blog by Carolyn Foster, PlanGreen Intern

Covering 460 acres, the LaCamas Northshore master plan in Camas, Washington would potentially stimulate the largest industrial and residential developments in the Portland, Oregon 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 this 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. It has yet to be approved by the City Council, and is expected to be discussed in their August 19, 2013 workshop meeting. The land, previously zoned for Business Park/Light Industrial use as well as agricultural use, will now be zoned for Industrial, High and Medium Density Multi Family Housing, Single Family Housing, Commercial, and Community use. In addition, 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.

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--a generation 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 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 an example. 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 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”

While Washington’s Growth Management Act does require cities and towns to have an adequate supply of land for housing and industry based on projected forecasts, cities can 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 farmland 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. 

What if instead of segregating lands for industry and housing we plan for a compact and walkable community where area around industry is dedicated to public use rather than solely to parking? The Adidas Village in North Portland is an excellent example of this. The village features bike pathways and frequent transit service to encourage employees to use alternative modes of transportation. There is also a public park and public sports facility which provide assets to the existing community.

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–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.

 We will add images once we figure out what the problem is.  The site allows us to "choose file" and "upload" but then it only give the choice to "remove" rather than insert.



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