A New Model Of Development In California?

Planners at the recent California APA chapter conference were asked whether they thought the state is ready for "complex urban development". As John King explains, most said "no".

"A debate occurred last week in San Jose during the annual conference of the California chapter of the American Planning Association. And it truly was a debate; the two teams jabbed within a tight time frame over the topic: 'Resolved, that California is ready for complex urban development.'"

"For those of you who don't read planning journals for fun, 'complex urban development' is a new synonym for 'smart growth.' The premise is that we need to steer new growth into older areas, mix in mass transit and not be afraid to stack a few floors of housing on top of shops and small offices."

"This isn't an arcane topic: California's population is now 36 million, and demographers expect us to hit 59 million by 2032. If we follow the mold of the past 50 years, most of those folks will be housed in single-family homes in suburban tracts, more and more of them tucked behind sound walls or gates."

"Logically, there's a limit to how many culs-de-sac can blanket the landscape. We're also now grappling with the knowledge that pollution and energy consumption are not local issues; your drive to work emits carbon that plays a role in the retreat of ice from the Arctic Circle."

"At the end, I asked the crowd to vote one way or the other. The cons had it - by a landslide. In a logical world shaped by what the mass of people want, we'd have communities with more housing options and a convenient range of transportation alternatives. Many young adults today aren't in a hurry to settle down in a cul-de-sac - and many of their parents would love to sell their home on the cul-de-sac but still live in the suburbs close to their friends."

Full Story: California suburbs will continue to sprawl

Comments

Comments

Typical short-sighted thinking

This is a typical example of the short-sighted thinking of the majority of American planners and citizens. Will they continue to support suburban growth at $5, $10, $15 a gallon gasoline? I highly doubt it. Unfortunately for them, the longer they wait to make the necessary changes, the harder it will be when the time comes. I guess they get what they deserve, though.

sustainablecity.blogspot.com

It was a push poll

...based on the use of the negatively-sounding word, "complex". If they had said "smart growth" instead (because "smart" is a much more positive word), it would probably have done better.

Typical not clicking through.

This is a typical example of the short-sighted thinking of the majority of American planners and citizens.

Having actually read the article, its hard for me to conclude that the planners on the panel are guilty of short-sighted thinking.

Especially when Sacramento had their publics do scenario analysis for what buildout looks like.

Nonetheless, our society has a long way to go before changing direction to more compact growth.

Best,

D

I wasn't referring to the

I wasn't referring to the planners on the panel as being short-sighted. I was referring to planners in general. Most planners take current trends and project them into the future. This type of analysis is useful for simple systems but fails when applied to complex systems.

sustainablecity.blogspot.com

Planners in general.

This type of analysis is useful for simple systems but fails when applied to complex systems.

Thus the reason for the scenario analysis link.

Best,

D

Realistic is not short-sighted

Planners and developers who don't acknowledge the realities of the market won't accomplish much.

I know John Anderson, and the quote in the article is typical of his engaging presentation style. For those who aren't aware, he's the lead designer for a development firm (New Urban Builders) which is actively trying to reframe the debate about growth and change the urban fabric for the better, albeit within the constraints of the market. NUB has several large New Urbanist projects in various stages of approval/construction, with a wide range of housing options provided and a realistic chance for a resident in one of these projects to walk to work and the store at project buildout.

If we as a society were serious about embracing smart growth/complex urban development/new urbanism we'd put our laws and money where our mouth is; we'd reduce the mortgage interest deduction, change CEQA and NEPA to make it much easier to build on infill sites, increase taxes on fuel, change our zoning and planning laws, and adjust fees to make greenfield development less lucrative. However, given the fractured nature of local land use authority, such changes will need to be imposed at the state or federal level; otherwise, growth will simply be displaced to an adjacent jurisdiction.

Greg Redeker

I agree

I agree with you Greg. It pains me every time I hear some of these folks advocate "investing in public transit" or regional governance or "building in established areas" when they don't even discuss the precursors necessary for this to occur. Until we make dense, innovative, or infill development easier by loosening or eliminating the regulations you mentioned, price infrastructure according to use, and price externalities like air pollution, impervious cover, and development of environmentally-sensitive areas, little will change.

Development By Right

Another issue is development by right. Where I live, in Berkeley, all development is subject to review by the zoning board, and NIMBYs can drag out the review process enough to discourage all developers.

If we replaced our conventional zoning laws with New Urbanist zoning codes, we could allow development by right for projects that meet the code, which I am sure would draw in lots of developers by making their life much easier.

Charles Siegel

Form-based Development.

If we replaced our conventional zoning laws with New Urbanist zoning codes, we could allow development by right for projects that meet the code, which I am sure would draw in lots of developers by making their life much easier.

And this is a much more democratic process too, Charles, as everyone can understand SmartCode, as it uses pictures and diagrams rather than lawyer language. Some NIMBYism can be curtailed, as the fear of not knowing what is going in is taken away, and they can see exactly what the outcome will be.

Best,

D

I'm a little confused by the

I'm a little confused by the author of this article in following exactly who is advocating what. In terms of "smart growth" a lot of planning atrocities have been committed in the name of smart growth such as high density, high-rise development which is just as undesirable as sprawl. In the end I hope that Californians opt for something in the middle -- compact neighbourhoods that don't fall at either extreme.

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