How California Planning has Changed—and How it Hasn't

In the newest edition of his classic book Guide to California Planning, Bill Fulton says there is still tension between the state's suburban planning system and its urban reality.

June 13, 2022, 8:00 AM PDT

By billfulton00


Central Los Angeles

bonandbon / Shutterstock

California in the 2020s is a mature urban beast: expensive, crowded, running out of land, and—at least for the moment—losing population. But the California planning system is, to some extent, still stuck in the growing suburban state of the 1980s. It’s focused on growth management, impact fees, subdivision approvals, and, thanks to the California Environmental Quality Act, making sure that bad things don’t happen.

In the past, I have always assumed that at some point this system would be comprehensively overhauled to reflect California’s new urban reality. But over the past year, as I revised Guide to California Planning for the sixth time in the last 30 years, I came to realize that this is never going to happen. Yes, the Legislature wants to make significant changes on certain issues: housing in particular, but also, for example, CEQA as a result of the Berkeley enrollment case. But no one in Sacramento sees any percentage in a comprehensive overhaul.

The Sixth Edition of Guide to California Planning is now available as an e-book. You can buy it here. The printed edition will be available later this year. And, like most previous editions, it reflects the tension that exists between the urban state we have today and the suburban-era planning system that emerged in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022 in California Planning & Development Report

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