East District Recommendations
see also: East District - East District Findings
Summary of Findings
Though the East district easily meets the national standard for open space, thanks to conservation parks and a wealth of agricultural land on its periphery, the district falls short of the standards for several other attributes. The East district has performed poorly under national standards for community gardens, street trees, impervious coverage, and transit and sidewalk provision. Sadly, not only does it fall short of national standards, the East district also compares poorly to other Madison districts.
The district's excess impervious coverage, as well as its lack of street trees, transit, and sidewalks relate directly to its development style; rather than emphasizing mixed-use development, the East district is comprised of low-density residential neighborhoods interrupted by large commercial developments such as the East Towne and South Towne Malls. Though this type of design is characteristic of much development outside the urban core, the East district must now establish strategies to reverse the trend and improve its environmental quality. Strategies include conservation easements to protect its abundance of open space, development of community gardens, and ordinances mandating street trees and sidewalk coverage. Because of its negative environmental impacts, reduction of impervious coverage through techniques such as pervious paving and rooftop gardens is perhaps the most critical goal for Madison's East district.
With a total of 5,656 acres of open space, the East district was found to have the second highest amount of open space, surpassed only by the West district. Private open space, however, comprises the majority of open space in the district, accounting for 79% of the total. Even so, there is sufficient public open space-42.57 acres per 1,000 residents-for the district to exceed national standards. Though the East district does not need to increase its open space, it should develop strategies to maintain current levels of open space as the district continues to develop along the periphery.
In stark contrast to the amount of open space, the East is the only district with no community gardens. The standard for community gardens is one site per 2,000 residents. Based on this standard, the East district needs to develop 15 community gardens sites. Because of its wealth of open space, the East district has several parcels that can be used for community gardens.
With 462 acres, natural areas-including Edna Taylor Conservation Park and Hiestand Conservation Park-account for only 4% of the East district's total area. Compared to other low density districts such as the West and South districts, this percentage is extremely low. The percentage of land comprised by natural areas in the East district is only marginally higher than in the Isthmus district, which has the densest development in the City.
The standard for natural areas is 25 acres per 25,000 residents at the municipal level. Madison currently has six patches of natural areas that are 25 acres or greater. Based on Madison's current population, the City requires two more natural areas of similar size. Because of the low density of the East district and its small proportion of natural areas, we recommend that at least one natural area is developed in the East district.
Proper tree planting reduces annual energy consumption and stormwater runoff, thereby reducing air and water pollution. Unfortunately, the East district lacks sufficient tree canopy, with street trees covering only 79% of the district. Not only does it fall short of the standard, tree canopy coverage in the East district is significantly lower than in many of Madison's districts. The majority of streets without trees were found in the southern section of the East district, such as streets in the East Buckeye neighborhood. To meet the standard of 100% coverage, the East district must plant additional trees along roads deficient in tree canopy.
Improving the quality of transit service and increasing pedestrian pathways also reduces air and water pollution. When residents walk, bike, or use public transportation, greenhouse gas emissions are lowered and fewer toxic substances make their way into our lakes and groundwater. The East district was found to have deficiencies in both transit service and sidewalk coverage.
National standards for transit are based on the number of census blocks within ¼ mile of a transit stop; ideally, all census blocks will be within ¼ of a transit stop. Compared to other districts, the East district has the lowest transit coverage, with only 86% of residents living within ¼ mile of a transit stop. The East district likewise fell short of the standard for sidewalk coverage. While the national standard requires that 95% of residential streets have sidewalk coverage, sidewalks were found to cover only 67% of the required area in the East district.
Impervious coverage in the East district comprises 2,878 acres, with 103.85 acres per 1,000 residents. Based on these figures, the East district ranks second in terms of total impervious acreage, and first in terms of impervious coverage per capita. The biggest contribution to impervious coverage comes from commercial development, which accounts for nearly 60% of the district's total impervious coverage. In terms of the national standard for impervious coverage in low density areas, the East district's impervious coverage is excessively high. To meet the standard, the East district will need to reduce impervious coverage by 313 acres. This task is impossible if the district relies on reducing coverage only on public parcels.
Therefore, the East district must combine strategies to reduce impervious coverage on public sites with incentives to reduce impervious coverage on commercial and residential parcels. Strategies include rooftop gardens for all flat-roofed public buildings; the use of pervious paving for sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways; subsidies and tax credits for private owners incorporating rooftop gardens or pervious paving; increased stormwater utility fees; and ordinances restricting impervious coverage for new developments.
Recommendations by Goal
Though the East district must implement several changes to meet national standards, we believe it is possible for the district, and the rest of Madison, to become a model of ecological sustainability. The changes we recommend cannot all be effected overnight, nor can they be implemented without the active support of community residents. Particularly in community garden development and reduction in impervious cover, residents will play a vital role in ensuring the East district attains its goals.