Spotlight on Sustainability: City of Des Moines' PlanDSM

Did you know that Des Moines is planning for 2040? In 2014, Mayor Cownie and the Des Moines City Council authorized funding for the newest Comprehensive Plan for the City of Des Moines since 2000, with an express goal of implementing the “Tomorrow Plan”, the regional plan for sustainable development, locally.  The City’s effort resulted in adoption of the “PlanDSM: Creating Our Tomorrow” Comprehensive Plan in April of 2016.


PlanDSM holistically addresses economic, environmental and social pillars of sustainability and provides guidance and policy basis for decision makers through the year 2040.  In 2016 PlanDSM: Creating Our Tomorrow was recognized by the American Planning Association (APA) for its values-based vision for the City of Des Moines and for integrating sustainability throughout the plan. The APA awarded PlanDSM a “Silver Level” rating, which was the highest level awarded that year.  The Iowa Chapter of the American Planning Association also awarded the Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan to the City of Des Moines for PlanDSM.

Key provisions of PlanDSM that will help the City of Des Moines address the issue of climate change are as follows. Italicized text refers to specific goals and actions within the planDSM document

Vision Statement:

  • Calls for a complete transportation system providing safe and efficient infrastructure for walking, bicycling, mass transit and automobiles
  • Calls for protected natural resources and sensitive ecosystems, and clean air and water
  • Calls for enhanced opportunities for urban agriculture

Land Use Goals and Policies:  

  • Goal 1: Develop new land development regulations that mandate protection of natural resources…. See Policies LU6 and LU8
  • Goal 8: Recognize the value of ecologically sensitive land and natural resources and ensure preservation of these areas for future residents and urban vitality. See Policies LU40, LU41, and LU43

Transportation Goals and Policies:

  • Goal 1: Develop a complete multi-modal transportation network for pedestrians, bikes, transit and automobiles. See Policies T2 and T6
  • Goal 3: Provide oportunities for healthy lifestyles through walking as a primary mode of transportation. See Policies T11, T12, T13, T14, and T15
  • Goal 4: Make transit a more attractive option for all City residents. See Policies T16, T17, T18, T19, T20, T21, T22, T23, T24, and T25
  • Goal 5: Enhance the bicycle network by expanding bicycle facilities that are safe, comfortable and easily accessible. See Policies T26, T27, T28, T29, T30, T31, and T32

Public Infrastructure and Utilities Goals and Policies:

  • Goal 1: Provide safe and reliable public infrastructure and utilities for current residents as well as future development needs. See Policy PIU10
  • Goal 2: Evaluate capacity for implementation of and adaptation to green infrastructure in the City. See Policies PIU11, PIU12, PIU13, PIU14, PIU18, PIU19, PIU20, and PIU21
  • Goal 3: Reduce the consumption of energy in City owned buildings. See Policies PIU23 and PIU24
  • Goal 6: Ensure clean, safe water resources are equitably available to all current and future residents. See Policies PIU35, PIU36, and PIU38

Parks and Recreation Goals and Policies:

  • Goal 4: Preserve, restore and enhance natural systems in identified natural areas. See Policies PR24, PR25, PR26, and PR28

Finally, Mayor Cownie and the Des Moines City Council approved a strategic plan called “GuideDSM” which has authorized funding to implement key Goals and Policies of “PlanDSM” including but not limited to the first comprehensive zoning code rewrite since 1965; the first City of Des Moines specific Transportation Master Plan; and the newest Parks and Recreation Master Plan since 1994.