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California to Adopt Anti-Sprawl Law

20 August 2008

LA Times. California will likely adopt the US’ first anti-sprawl bill this week. The bill, SB 375, is due to go before the State Assembly and Senate this week, and then to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature.

An earlier version of the bill had been blocked last year.

But California’s landmark global warming law, passed in 2006, requires the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to be slashed to 1990 levels by 2020, amounting to a 30% cut over expected levels. To accomplish that, state officials say, fuel-efficient cars and factories won’t be enough. Subdivisions, commercial centers and highways must be planned so that Californians can live and work closer together, reducing the amount they drive. “Our communities must change the way they grow,” [bill sponsor incoming state Senate leader Darrell] Steinberg said.

A compromise version of the 17,000-word bill was hammered out this month and endorsed by builders, environmentalists and local officials. It will require the state's 17 metropolitan planning organizations and its regional transportation plans to meet concrete targets to reduce their global-warming emissions. The targets will be enforced by the state Air Resources Board.

The bill requires metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to include sustainable communities strategies (SCS), as defined, in their regional transportation plans (RTPs) for the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and light trucks in a region, aligns planning for transportation and housing, and creates specified incentives for the implementation of the strategies.

If an SCS is unable to reach the CARB target, the bill requires the MPO to show how those greenhouse gas emission targets would be achieved through alternative development patterns, infrastructure, or additional transportation measures or policies, as specified.

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I don't know if this will have any effect. US cities are so wide-spread already and this cannot be undone by not allowing further sprawl.

Yes, I agree. The damage is done. Band Aids will help but what are they going to do? Tear down and rebuild trillions of dollars of housing, commercial and roads? The sprawl expansion since WWII has been the greatest mis-allocation of resources the world has seen.

sola:

I disagree. Sprawl can be undone with infill. By building things in between the sprawl, you increase density. By making sure that mixed use zoning is required, that sidewalks and bicycle facilities are prevalent and parking spaces not so prevalent, and by developing pocket parks and other smaller facilities to keep housing in dense areas attractive, sprawl can begin to be undone.

Kick out the illegals!!! That will save a ton of money!!

People just have to live closer to where they work. If that means brining jobs to the suburbs, then that is what needs to be done. Wasting fuel commuting is a major cause air pollution, traffic congestion and stress.

sjc -- Promote Work From Home -- End of Problem!!

People change jobs/job locations. They can't afford to pack up and move their families, paying HUGE real estate commissions, moving expenses, etc., every time that happens. Good luck forcing people to sell their homes due to job changes/relocations. But, yes, whether it's realistic or not doesn't matter. We have entered the emotional/political realm where the government tries to force people to behave the way that policy-wonks want them to (policy-wonks who normally can't run their own lives, by the way) with the usual disastrous results.

Social engineering at its worst. It has been shown that dense urban cities such as New York require just as much energy, and even more, than post-auto cities such as Los Angeles. No matter where you live, a tremendous amount of energy is consumed bringing food, shelter and clothing to you and removing waste products. Increasing density merely adds to the congestion, and reduces the efficiency of such movements, while contributing to the social pathologies that manifest themselves on dense human packing.

Despite the wishes of leftist urban dreamers, people are not ants, and don't pack well.


Albert - if the housing/work area is more dense a change in job will not always necessitate a change in housing/commute path. I could easily change jobs from where I am at and find many other tech companies still within walking distance of my house.

albert, but can you find a company that will hire you? how about for non-tech fields? in many local communities there are only a few employers in a given field and the employers talk about employees and whether to hire them or not.

how about if your partner has a job in another city, two or three hours travel time away. Do you go live with her, giving up your job, seniority, and income? What do you do if nobody will hire you in your field when you are living with her? Do you give up on the relationship, live in a different city and see each other on weekends?

back to the topic of despralling, I live close enough to walk to locally owned markets. I don't go to local markets because it would triple my food bill. So I drive to nearby megamart and do my shopping there. The win for the megamart is that I spend less money and less time on food shopping. If you are going to force close spaced housing and local markets, each center should contain at least one megamart so that people can afford to buy food and not waste their time dealing with more than one store.

sorry Albert. Wrong attribution. I was referring to the person that commented before me.

Not all jobs are cushy, pencil pushing, keyboard pecking, Air conditioned, leather chair sitting, coffee drinking, water cooler talking, low production nonsense activities! Some people have to get out in the real world and make something! Generalities like "Promote work from home" from JJ show a complete lack of thorough thinking. He obviously counts on others to do most of his work.

Richard -- If JUST 10 to 20% of people work from home then everyone benefits with less (or no) gridlock at peak travel times which removes the billions of gallons of fuel used by the millions of what you call "worker bees" that sitting in traffic and not getting the "real work" done that I need them to do!!. And yes I push pencils for a living (nonsense activity) and get paid handsomely for that -- so up your "arse" and don't call me short sighted because if I'm short sighted then you are blind!! (sorry in advance if I offended anyone who is blind but Richard needs to be put in his place)

"The controversial legislation had been blocked last year by the building industry and by organizations representing cities and counties. Developers feared their suburban projects would be delayed or halted."

"A compromise version of the 17,000-word bill was hammered out this month and endorsed by builders, environmentalists and local officials."

So, what compromises were made that caused the developers to no longer fear that their suburban projects would be delayed or halted? Aren't suburban projects the very definition of sprawl?

david, there are many definitions of sprawl depending one how you like to live. I like full houses on one acre lots with 30 yrs of tree growth and 10-20 acre clumps of green space every few miles. neighbors are best kept at a distance. once you get to 2-3 acre zoning and even I think that is just silly.

if cities are so good, why do we have so many programs to get children out of them. why does environmental awareness decline with urban living? why is per capita crime much higher in cities? why is food (and everything else) more expensive and lower quality? I think the answer is population density. cross a yet to be determined threshold and quality of life drops like a stone. I think a better answer to sprawl is to raze cities and build small towns around megamarts. lots of higher density housing but below current urban density levels

@ Country Mouse

You left off not needing to lock your doors and having enough wood to heat your house.

The worse exampleof California industrial sprawl is all the wind turbines being built in other states to meet the California RPS.

Couple of suburban municipalities here in Vancouver allowed construction of high-rises with sub-ground secure parking, plus commercial and light industrial zones (high teck, car repair, warehouses, etc.). It provides low-cost housing in good school district, very secure living, no parking problems, great view, clean air, less noise, close proximity to local jobs and great parks, less congestion than near downtown. Families living in traditional to the area detached homes also benefit from creation of walkable town centre with plenty of shops and restaurants, more and cheaper local services, and local jobs as well. More dense housing and commercial zones provide higher taxes to municipality as well. For US, combination of high-rises and gated communities could do the same trick.

But it is hard to imagine that state legislating of new zoning schemes could do any good. It is business of local communities to decide how to live.

NYC has some of the lowest per capita energy consumption in the US due to it's density which makes it far more efficient. This also allows the subway to efficiently transport a ridership of over 7 million trips a day.

There are plenty of cities with high urban populations that work. Saying that cities are the source of problems is misleading. In many N-Am districts, the crime rate per 1000 is higher in low density areas than high density urban ones.

Sprawl is one the worst things imaginable. Human needs must be transported greater distances. Infrastructure must be spread out at great cost. Services have to be spread out. It has great hidden costs as well as great up front costs. It destroys the economic factors that orginally supported the growth of the original cities. It is unaffordable. It's a type of cancerous growth that creates monocultured neigbourhoods where only cars can be used to go anywhere. Sprawl is waste.

In Riverside County California, there is an institute at the University of California Riverside to study how NOT to do it. Riverside County has the worst uncontrolled sprawl in the nation. Whatever the builders wanted they got, with horrible results. There is smog, congestion and just a general poorer quality of life with no central planning. They do not want others to make the same mistakes.

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