Vision California Calls for Compact Development in Established Cities

Vision California, the state's first planning document in over thirty years, was released Wednesday and concludes that planners "should focus on creating compact development in already established cities," over continued suburban sprawl.

New developments in California need to be planned from conception to conserve increasingly scarce resources such as water and gasoline. These measures will translate to a healthier lifestyle for dwellers through reduced commutes and improved air quality. The authors argue that "bringing commuters closer to their jobs can help Californians drive 3.7 trillion fewer miles and save 140 billion gallons of gasoline by 2050."

Although the report does not impact law directly, it takes aim at local governments who have enjoyed the "autonomy to create their own growth initiatives." The report is likely to become a hotly debated topic as the state approaches November gubernatorial elections.

Full Story: Cut Suburban Sprawl, Save Energy, Study Urges



sustainable growth

Sustainable growth is an oxymoron, Mr. Calthorpe. Instead of California focusing on conservation with the attendant decline in residents' quality of life, it should be stabilizing its population. That is the only way to become sustainable.

California: sustainable and growth.

I moved away from CA because of all the attendant problems associated with too many people. It is true that there are too many people there for the resources and CA should stabilize the population. But people will move there if the QOL is there and the jobs are there. So everyone will have to stabilize their population, not just CA.

People will continue to move there until the ecosystems collapse.



Irvin Dawid's picture

Sustainability and stabilizing population

1. How does stabilizing population result in more walking and biking and less driving?
2. How does stabilizing pop' result in reduced GHG on a per capita basis?
3. On the other hand, is the purpose of pop' stabilization to make more parking available, and less traffic congestion? Is that how 'quality of life' is measured - by quality of the driving experience?

That's fine - but I don't think that's what sustainability is about....
Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA


1. More people will result in more vehicles on the road regardless of urban densities as only a minority will use public transit unless those densities are astronomical like in the case of New York City or Hong Kong.

2. Our objective should be to reduce GHGs on an aggregate not per capita basis. What has been gained by decreasing GHGs on a per capita basis if overall GHGs increase?

3. There is a direct relationship between quality of life and the freedom of residents to live the lifestyle they choose rather than what urban planners or governments choose for them.

Sustainability is about a population not exceeding its environmental carrying capacity. It certainly isn't about trying to cram as many people in a given locale as possible.

Aggregate and Per Capita GHG Emissions

We certainly should be trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on an aggregate basis, but:

-- The world must reduce emissions 50% by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

-- World population is not going to decline 50% by 2050, no matter what we do to control population growth.

-- Therefore, we must reduce per capita emissions in order to reduce aggregate emissions enough to control global warming. Building walkable neighborhoods is part of that.

To answer point 3, freedom involves making political choices about how to build our cities and neighborhoods as well as making individual choices. That is the subject of my opinion piece "Livable Cities and Political Choices," at

(If you take the laissez-faire position that quality of live depends on individual choice and government should not interfere, then to be consistent, you should oppose government interference with immigration as well as government interference with city planning.)

Charles Siegel

population and GHGs

There is a proven correlation between population growth and increase in GHGs.

We will certainly not achieve the objectives that you state by allowing global population to reach 9 billion by 2050. I'm not a libertarian, Charles, but it certainly is obvious to me that as human populations increase everyone's freedom to do just about everything except have an unlimited number of children or to emigrate to those countries that want to stabilize their numbers decreases.

You Miss My Point

I was answering statement:
"Our objective should be to reduce GHGs on an aggregate not per capita basis."

My response was that we need to reduce per capita emissions in order to reduce aggregate emissions enough to control global warming. No matter how much we do to control population growth, it won't be enough to reduce emissions 50%.

Your response misses my point entirely. I didn't say anything against controlling world population growth - just that it would not be enough unless we also reduce per capita emissions.

You seem to think that the two are mutually exclusive. Do you think that building walkable cities will make world population grow to 9 billion? There is very obviously no cause-and-effect relationship.

I don't need a link to a study showing that there is a correlation between population growth and greenhouse gas emissions; it is so obvious that it doesn't need any proof. But it is just as obvious that there is a correlation between per capita emissions and total emissions.
Total emissions = per capita emissions x population.
We need to deal with both.

Charles Siegel

"smart growth"

Charles, I know you to be an advocate of "smart growth", growth through the creation of high-density urban areas as you think that such policies will combat global warming. Well, it seems that will do exactly the opposite and here is evidence.

"Smart papers".

If one is using that paper as evidence for their dislike of density, they won't get very far and hopefully people will be nice when they tell you that the paper doesn't support your position.




Vision - We don't need no stinking vision

Typical of California to spend over $2 million to come up with nothing new or usable. Disappointed in Calthorpe. As long as state and local government's financial situation is broken, no vision will repair it. Start there. There will be so little "new" development compared to what has already happened that it will not have much of an impact on the issues of sustainability. While California as a state has a smaller carbon footprint per capita than most of the US, it has gone down the wrong road. Growth can't be sustained in a finite world. But we are so far out of balance, that a true vision will need to figure out how to bring our cities, suburbs, rural areas, education systems (not learning in trailers), transportation systems (flashy new high speed over fixing the old), criminal justice systems (better built jails than schools), and natural resources (especially water and air) into balance given who is already here if we are truly going to try to become a sustainable community. But I doubt we have the political will - at least as long as the water flows most of the time, the air is breathable most of the time, and most of us are still working.

smart-growth kills

Smart-growth principles ruined my former hometown of Santa Barbara. The downtown became a high-density nightmare, which increased traffic, pollution, and gang violence.
The town has increased its population so now the surrounding areas and foothills are under more pressure to be developed as well. These idealistic principles don't work in reality. They are ruining small and mid-size cities and towns. Developers and academics are making a good living killing the nice towns in California. Like over-fishing a reef, these places are being transformed into dead zones.

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