Is Your New Home in a Resilient City?

One young man speeding with his bike and commuting to work in the street of Barcelona.

Resilient cities offer many ways for residents to get around, aside from driving. Cities and communities that are walkable and bikable mean better options for residents, particularly in emergencies.

LOS ANGELES — Shopping for a new home involves more than looking at houses. It’s also about choosing a community where you want to live. Among the key factors to consider is whether your community will be resilient.

So, what is a resilient city and a resilient community? Resiliency refers to a community’s ability to recovery and rebuild when a natural disaster, public tragedy or other emergency strikes. If your home is badly damaged or destroyed, will your community be able to help you pick up the pieces?

There’s no single rating system or comprehensive score that measures community resiliency, so you’ll have to do some research to figure out how resilient various communities seem to you and whether they prioritize resiliencies that may be important to you and your family in an emergency.

Technology can help, said James Murley, chief resilience officer for Miami-Dade County, Fla., a member of the international 100 Resilient Cities network, during the “Capitalizing on Resilience: A Public/Private Sector Dialogue” panel at the recent Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) fall meeting in Los Angeles.

“Technology from both the government sector and private companies allows you to go online, put in your ZIP code, find the Google map and your house and then the data starts popping up, depending on what you are asking for,” Murley said.

Data to search for might include community mental health services, emergency preparedness, disaster vulnerability, environmental awareness and transportation, among other concerns.

Staying Safe in Your Community

Resiliency refers to a community’s ability to recovery and rebuild when a natural disaster, public tragedy or other emergency strikes. If your home is badly damaged or destroyed, will your community be able to help you pick up the pieces?Communities are doing a lot of things right when it comes to resilience, said Patrick L. Phillips, global chief executive officer of ULI, an organization that promotes responsible land use and building sustainable communities.

“The revival of American central cities is one of the great public policy success stories in the last 50 years, but we have been reminded as of late of the vulnerability of our cities,” he said.

One recent reminder was 2017’s intense hurricane season. Disasters like Hurricane Harvey, which caused massive flooding in Texas, and Hurricane Irma, which struck multiple U.S. territories and the Florida Keys, can be opportunities for cities to learn about recovery and teach their residents about preparedness.

Hurricanes can be tracked as they move across the natural and built environments and the technology that enables that tracking can be used to help residents long term, as well as during an event and the recovery, Murley said.

Consider sea-level rise, which, Murley explained, is not an event, but an ongoing situation.

“Governments have to make these distinctions over time and the events become part of that education,” he said.

Education informs advocacy for infrastructure improvements to help to improve resiliency.

“You have to do it 365 days a year and you can’t miss that opportunity,” Murley said.

Getting Around in Different Ways

Transportation is another example.

Robin Chase, co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar, the world’s largest car-sharing company, said it’s illegal for individuals to resell electricity or for local governments to require vehicles that travel a lot of miles to be zero emissions. She believes changing those restrictions could help cities make their transportation systems more resilient.

“I have plugs in my basement, my garage,” Chase said. “I should be able to let people plug in so we can instantly populate across the United States with charging stations.”

Cities have become less car-dependent, offering residents more options for walking, cycling and using other modes of transportation, Chase added.

“That builds in resiliency and redundancy, which a car-only dominated city doesn’t,” she said.

Regional Connections

Another positive trend is cities’ reintegration into larger geographic regions, said Jonathan F.P. Rose, president of Johnathan Rose Companies, a real estate development, planning and investment firm. Rather that separate into silos, cities are re-integrating their housing, transportation and jobs.

“We’re seeing cities that, rather than centralize, distribute resources and connect,” Rose said.
Marcie Geffner is an award-winning freelance reporter, book editor and blogger whose work has been published by a long list of financial, mortgage and banking websites, trade magazines and newspapers. You can find her on Google+.

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