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."