California Redefines Density

Census data reveals that California is the most urbanized state, with the most dense urban areas. But in California, sprawl, density, crowding, and urbanism are not always what they seem. Fortunately, a new law may help planners make sense of it all.

Josh Stephens delves deeper into the causes and implications of recent census data that ranks the California communities of Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, San Francisco-Oakland, San Jose, and Delano, as the top four densest urban areas in the entire country.

"Setting aside Delano's unexpected star turn, none of this should come as a surprise to planners in California (which also happens to be the "most urban" state, with 95% urban residency). Density is what happens when you build freeways all over the place and everyone gets to live all over the place. For all the objective connotations of these figures, there's no doubt that there's plenty of room for interpretation, which can have deep implications for public policy."

"If cities implement the tenets of SB 375's Sustainable Communities Strategies--regional plans being drawn up by the metropolitan planning organizations of San Diego, Sacramento, the Bay Area, and Southern California (Los Angeles)--then density may no longer be hidden. It will be plain to see in the streetscapes. And if California residents can accept the fact that we are, indeed, an urban state, maybe, by the time we hit 8,000 per square mile, we'll look like one too."

Thanks to Josh Stephens

Full Story: Parsing California's Density Bombshell in 2010 Census Data

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