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Sandy taught us region must change land use approach to survive p4

12/26/2013 | Real Estate Blog

We are returning to our discussion of the Urban Land Institute’s recommendations, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, for making the region more resilient to natural disaster. Rather than coming up with a long list of projects — redrawn flood maps and changes to zoning — the report lays out a framework that every part of the country, not just Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey, can adopt.

For the ULI, the objective is resiliency, the ability to bounce back and to bounce forward. To remain vital after a disaster like Sandy, a region must be able to rebuild and to rethink how things are done.

When we left off in our Nov. 12 post, we were talking about land use and the different categories, or “typologies,” used by the ULI. These include things like the highway system and the rail network in our region. Other parts of the country cannot boast the extensive rail network this part of the East Coast can. Each region must identify the typologies that exist there.

Understanding what the typologies are and their capacities for resiliency allows a region to run a cost/benefit analysis on each. This will sound harsh, but the objective is to get the most bang for the region’s land use buck: Put resources into long-term planning for less vulnerable areas and make some hard decisions about whether to invest in protecting and preserving higher-risk areas.

Resources at each level of planning are finite. The state only has so much money. The county has its own funds, and each community has its own. While some of the tougher decisions need to be made at the regional level, each community will have to make some, too. Resiliency, like aging, is not for sissies.

In the four posts we have devoted to the ULI report, we have touched on just one focus area. The task ahead is enormous, but it is necessary. The aim is to be prepared — not prepared in the sense of receiving detailed forecasts of wind speed and storm surge if another Sandy blows in (though that information will always be helpful), but prepared to deal with the consequences quickly and efficiently, and to emerge as a stronger city or region in the end.

Source:, “Report: Build differently for climate change,” Kellie Patrick Gates, Oct. 10, 2013Urban Land Institute, “After Sandy: Advancing Strategies for Long-term Resilience and Adaptability,” October 2013 at