California's Growth Debate Continues Amidst Housing Slowdown

<p>Sacramento Bee's political columnist Dan Walters discusses the California growth debate amidst the temporary development lull and questions whether the state is ready to embrace smart growth, despite recognizing that it reduces global warming.</p>
April 11, 2008, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"The state's ever-growing population will soak up the now-vacant housing units in a year or two, and home building will resume, driven by the inexorable demand...During the development lull there's a great debate....over what kind of housing should be (in California's future)".

"Will it be a resumption of the horizontal development that California has traditionally embraced, with new single-family subdivisions creeping outward from core cities and reached by automobile? Or will it be higher-density vertical development like that of Eastern cities (and San Francisco), served by mass transit?"

"The debate is not new but has gained volume because the advocates of vertical development – what Attorney General Jerry Brown describes as "elegant density" – have a new political lever in global warming."

"Brown is not alone in declaring war on global warming and low-density suburban sprawl...The (growth) conflict lies at the heart of debates over how transportation funds should be allocate."

"The major venue for the debate is a bill carried by Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, the incoming Senate president pro tem. His measure, Senate Bill 375, is being backed by a coalition of environmental advocates and, in simplest terms, would strongly push local governments into adopting anti-sprawl, high-density, greenhouse gas-reducing policies. State funds, most importantly transportation funds, would be the stick to enforce the dictum."

"Developers and many local governments don't like the measure, obviously. And the two sides are engaged in a battle for public opinion.

Are Californians ready to truly embrace high-density vertical development... or do they support it in the abstract but not necessarily in person?"

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Published on Sunday, April 6, 2008 in The Sacramento Bee
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