Future of Cities 2015 Conference

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Future of Cities

On Thursday, February 26, 2015, the Riverside Convention Center in Riverside, CA hosted a Sustainability Conference for civic leaders and officials to come together and discuss challenges, formulate strategies for the future, and promote collaboration.

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This was the inaugural sustainability event of the joint-commission of University of California, Riverside Center for Sustainable Suburban Development (UCR-CSSD), and the Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG). “The effort of this conference is to frame ‘sustainability’ as not an abstract, distant idea, but rather frame it as who we are, and what we’ll be in the future, said former Riverside Mayor & current UCR-CSSD Director, Ronald Loveridge.

In addition to Mr. Loveridge, keynote speakers at the sustainability conference included: Bill Higgins, Executive Director of the California Association of Council of Governments (CALCOG); Rick Bishop, Executive Director of WRCOG; Hilary Varnadore of STAR (Sustainability Tools for Assessing & Rating) Communities; and sustainability consultant Julia Parzen.

Topics of discussion centered on sustainability and collaborative efforts from a national, statewide, and regional perspective. Loveridge noted, “The key takeaway from this conference should be, when it comes to sustainability, we’re all in this together, and we need to figure out how to do it. Sustainability is no longer simply a discussion topic…it needs to be a strategic action direction.”

Another common theme reiterated throughout the conference was a having a regional sense of urgency. Several of the speakers commented on the fact that it would behoove key regional stakeholders to not sit back and wait for everything and everyone to fall in line with regards to regional sustainability initiatives. They noted that we already have a variety of regional leaders who will be critical in shaping this region’s future, and the time for action (even incremental action) is now.

Currently, the perception of the Inland Southern California Region from outsiders can be (unfortunately) somewhat negative. The bankruptcy of San Bernardino and regional warehouses being empty are typically what comes to mind for many of those on the outside looking in. What most folks who aren’t familiar with the Inland Southern California Region don’t realize is that this region touts such assets as: Major port access (Los Angeles & Long Beach); robust manufacturing & logistics supply chains; affordable & available land (especially when compared to our coastal neighbors); leading educational institutions in the fields of science, medicine, engineering, and technology); and a surplus of human capital.

Loveridge also commented on regional collaboration, saying, “After this conference, I’m particularly interested in not just city sustainability, but regional sustainability. Rather than looking at sustainability performance metrics from cities like Calimesa or Chino Hills separately, we can look at how the region is performing as a whole. This type of measurement will integrate dialogue between regional cities with regional sustainability objectives, resulting in something we can all take much greater pride in.”
Patrick McCoy



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