Friday, August 1, 2014

When STAR Communities awarded the City of Tucson a 4-STAR Community Rating for leadership in sustainability, the University of Arizona College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture (CAPLA) took notice. Not only is Tucson only the fifth city in the country to earn an impressive four out five stars, six CAPLA students were a vital part of making the rating a reality.

As interns with the City, four Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Built Environments students and two Master of Planning students helped conduct the research required for the application – a lengthy process that required them to interview officials, look up codes, and implement their Geographic Information Systems (GIS) skills. Gabriela Beita-Kiser, Patricia Marie Paul, Holly Wenzel, Brianna Addotta, Samuel Paz and Aysan Abdollahzadeh found the experience valuable, and feel rewarded by the outstanding rating. As a STAR Community, the City of Tucson has shown it is committed to quality of life, prosperity, and equity.

"We applaud Tucson's ongoing work to make smart decisions that ensure the health, safety, and well-being of current residents and future generations," said Hilari Varnadore, STAR Communities' executive director. "The data Tucson submitted made a compelling case that the City is making smart investment decisions to protect scarce resources, grow and retain businesses, and attract a rich diversity of new residents."

The STAR Community Rating System is a framework and certification program for local sustainability. The rating system encompasses economic, environmental, and social performance measures for local governments and the broader community. Tucson received a perfect score for six of the rating's objectives: Community Water Systems, Water in the Environment, Natural Resource Protection, Outdoor Air Quality, Industrial Sector Resource Efficiency, and Business Retention & Development. These scores reflect the efforts of Tucson Water to ensure a secure water supply, the community's strong ethic toward conservation, the region's emphasis on preserving the natural desert environment, and the City's continued efforts to support businesses, including the creation of the Office of Economic Initiatives.

Plan Tucson, the City's voter-approved General and Sustainability Plan, also scored high in STAR's Comprehensive Planning and Public Participation categories. The STAR Rating process is reflective of Plan Tucson's vision to set goals for Tucson's future direction and collect the necessary data to measure progress along the way.

To view Tucson's full report, go to

To view the full list of communities involved, go to