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Sandy taught us region must change land use approach to survive p3

11/12/2013 | Real Estate Blog

We are continuing our discussion of the recommendations made by the Urban Land Institute in its recent report, “After Sandy: Advancing Strategies for Long-term Resilience and Adaptability.” The recommendations are broken out into four major categories. We have been going through the land use recommendations.

As we said in our last post, the region — Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey — is extremely diverse. The ULI notes this “complex mix of land use patterns” in part to point out the internal differences of the area and in part to remind us all that a one-size-fits-all approach to planning for long-term resilience is doomed from the start. The idea is not to pave it all over and, as Joni Mitchell would say, put up a parking lot.

The first priority is to identify and then to work to protect the parts of the region that are critical to its economy and culture and the health, safety and welfare of the residents. These are the first in line for planning and investment.

Another given when planning for the region is the infrastructure. The ULI says that this is “one of the most extensive, dense, and heavily invested systems in the United States.” We have a well-developed highway system and an extensive rail network that move people and goods up and down the coast. We have a heavy concentration of airports, and, of course, we have ports for passenger liners, military installations and commercial ships.

Each of these is a different land use “typology,” or category. Each typology has its own “capacity for resiliency,” the ULI says, that is determined based on a variety of factors. By looking at environmental and political factors, cultural and economic conditions, population density and access to transit, it is possible to understand how quickly or how slowly each typology will bounce back and bounce forward.

This is just the warm-up activity, though. We’ll get into the much harder part in our next post.

Sources:, “Report: Build differently for climate change,” Kellie Patrick Gates, Oct. 10, 2013

Urban Land Institute, “After Sandy: Advancing Strategies for Long-term Resilience and Adaptability,” October 2013 at