California 2050: Sprawl Or Skyscrapers?

Study predicts that by 2050 California's population will grow by 75%. Experts weigh in on what this means to planning for the state's growth.

"California will near the 60-million mark in 2050, the study found, raising questions about how the state will look and function and where all the people and their cars will go. Dueling visions pit the iconic California building block of ranch house, big yard and two-car garage against more dense, high-rise development...Some critics forecast disaster if gridlock and environmental impacts are not averted. Others see a possible economic boon...Other demographers argue that the huge population increase the state predicts will occur only if officials complete major improvements to roads and other public infrastructure. Without that investment, they say, some Californians would flee the state."

"No matter how much local governments build in the way of public works and how many new jobs are attracted to the region - minimizing the need for long commutes - [John Husing, an economist who studies the Inland Empire] figures that growth will still overwhelm the area's roads..."

"USC Professor Genevieve Giuliano, an expert on land use and transportation, [says] massive growth, if it occurs..will require huge investment in the state's highways, schools, and energy and sewer systems...If those things aren't built, Giuliano questioned whether the projected population increases will occur...f major problems like traffic congestion and housing costs aren't addressed, Giuliano warned, the middle class is going to exit California, leaving behind very high-income and very low-income residents."

Full Story: 60 million Californians by mid-century



Sprawl Or Skyscrapers Or Traditional Neighborhoods

Of course, sprawl and skyscrapers are not the only two alternatives. Saying that they are just provokes opposition to smart growth from people who don't like skyscapers.

In addition to these two modern housing types, neither of which existed before the twentieth century, we can also build traditional neighborhoods.

California is approaching European densities. There would be plenty of room if we built traditional European neighborhoods, as they have done at Santana Row. And these neighborhoods would attract many people who would not want to live in skyscrapers.

Charles Siegel

Towering skyscraper shortcomings...

Regarding this 'skyscrapers vs sprawl' debate, building more city center skyscrapers should not be an accepted means for counteracting sprawl.

Take BART for example. Is building a 2nd Transbay Tube to deliver growing numbers of commuters from said sprawl to downtown SF logical? Although BART is over-loaded during rush hours, suggesting a need for a 2nd Transbay Tube, BART is woefully underutilized in the reverse-commute direction and in both directions off rush hours. So too are the freeways overloaded in the commute direction commute hours. Hmmm.

The tenets of New Urbanism do not recommend 'density' as much as 'diversity' (economic diversity). Instead of directing so much concrete, steel and glass into the form of towering city center skyscrapers, the same materials are more logically directed into development of 'many' mid-rise structures in dysfunctionally developed suburbs. In order to reduce the travel demand that continues to exceed roadway and mass transit capacity, the very need for long-distance commuting must be reduced.

Freeway backups and around-the-clock traffic congestion do not make for quite the same example as BART. But, it is the same dysfunctional development that sends suburban residents driving at all hours to far-flung destinations to fulfill needs. If BART is to fill its seats at all hours and in both directions, and reduce its over-loaded conditions at rush hours, (eliminating the need for the 2d Transbay Tube), travel demand by all means can only be reduced if suburbs dedicate development at select districts as regional attractors accessable via BART and other transit connections. Fewer people commute at rush hours, more people take transit off rush hours. Towering skyscrapers should become passe. Parks, plazas and public spaces should become an economic essential.

Sorry if I haven't made perfect sense and that Bay Area may not make perfect example for comparison to the Los Angeles basin.

The concept is an advancement of New Urbanism and commonly called 'Regionalism'. While New Urbanism is the design aspects of mixed-use development of 'single districts', Regionalism considers the balances that must occur between the 'many districts,' neighborhoods, historic townships, city centers of metropolitan areas. For the most part, skyscrapers increase travel demand and leave suburbs in their dysfunctional state, their residents still in need of long-distance travel to meet needs.

Binary skyscrapers.

[this is a reply to Charles' comment, but apparently the route I took to reply doesn't sort properly...ahem...webmaster...'login to reply' doesn't sort hierarchically]

Of course, sprawl and skyscrapers are not the only two alternatives. Saying that they are just

Corporate media must pre-chew ideas for easy consumption by their consumers. Anything other than binary argument makes it difficult to sell ad space.



Reality Notwithstanding...

These estimates are based on the highly unlikely event that no natural catastrophies will affect California's growth patterns over the next 50 years. To believe that either San Francisco or Los Angeles will not be devastated by an earthquake in the coming half-century is, to put it politely, absurd. Their lucky earthquake-free run will eventually come to an unfortunate end. Furthermore, where will the water come from to quench the thirst of these 60 million residents and their golf courses? With Nevada and Arizona also growing at breakneck paces, it is downright insane to assume that humans (intelligent or otherwise) will continue to flock there in current numbers. There is not enough money in the world, nor land in California, to build the desalination plants necessary to support the unsustainable growth that is occurring in the American Southwest. Maybe these researchers should spend their time trying to make water out of sand.

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