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The population of California is expected to increase by more than 15 million people by the year 2020. This is not a new startling fact. It has been said many times before, in many different ways. This number is equivalent to the present population of Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado combined.
Carol Whiteside focuses on how the population boom will affect California’s cities. She also looks at how the cities will prepare for such growth, with local resources that are already stretched. Another large focus is on preserving the natural resources and farmland as we expand rapidly. Today?s increasing population is created from Migration, Immigration, and more births than deaths. The Author states that ?the only thing more difficult than managing growth is not having any growth to manage.
When the Population grows,it bring opportunities for people as well as for governments. New tax revenue is generated by growth and development. This Provides money to purchase necessary services such as: recreational facilities, transportation, public health, and safety. Most people can notice that the larger cities can afford many more amenities, such as libraries, museums, zoo?s, public parks and nice transit, that will make the overall quality of life for their residents.
The state Department of Conservation reports that more than 17,000 acres of farmland were urbanized between 1994 and 1996. The American Farmland Trust estimates that as many as a million acres will be lost to development by the year 2040, in spite of the fact that agriculture is one of the state’s most important industries.This accounts for more than $26 billion in the state’s economy each year. One in seven jobs is attributable to agriculture in the state of California. If there isn?t a major focus on land we will really have a problem with the unemployment rate. People tend to worry more about money then they do the land. When there isn?t any more buildable space, the state just pushes people right into the agricultural housing. This brings on another problem of how to fund affordable housing, witch the state needs to focus forming better policy for. With such fast growth and high demand for land it is estimated that the average infrastructure cost per home could increase $52,000. This would lead to less schools, parks, and city facilities.
As we grow larger and larger we are soon frustorated with long commute hours and increasing air pollution. The only policy that we really have to protect out agricultural resources is rezoning farmland and open space in unincorporated areas requires that the board of supervisors obtain voter approval before hand.
The federal government seems to be recognizing the implications of continuing patterns of urban expansionl on healthy communities and on the landscape. Vice President Al Gore recently called for an emphasis on the “right kind of growth,” and announced that the Clinton administration would propose $2 billion in initiatives to help preserve open space, ease traffic congestion, protect water quality and restore urban sites. While he made note of the role federal policymakers can play by encouraging smarter growth, the vice president emphasized that the power of decision-making lies in the hands of local policymakers who deal with growth and urban development issues every day.
Five Key Action Areas
The California Futures Network (CFN), directed by Steve Sanders, is a coalition of dozens of groups and individuals from business, labor and community-based organizations in every region of the state. CFN was organized to promote state policy that fosters sustainable land use and development to accommodate California’s inevitable growth. The organization has identified the following five areas in which state action is necessary.
Improve Public Education
The most effective way to curb sprawl is to make communities more attractive places in which to live by improving the performance and perception of public schools, particularly in urban areas. This could lay the foundation for an urban renaissance that would also conserve California’s agricultural and natural landscapes.
Promote Better Planning Through Fiscal Reforms
The state has shifted most of the property tax away from local government, leaving sales tax as the most important local source of new revenue. Competition for retailers, sometimes at the expense of housing development and industry, encourages sprawl and decreases incentives for balance in community development. The state should reduce local government’s reliance on the sales tax and provide incentives for infill and good land use.
Develop a Smart Growth Infrastructure Plan
Investments in public facilities need to keep pace with the state’s growing population, but simply building roads, bridges and canals without regard for the social or environmental consequences is poor policy. Building infrastructure with public dollars should not subsidize projects that accommodate sprawl. Instead, the focus should be on transit systems, roads, schools, parks, libraries, and sewer and water systems within developed areas.
Protect Farmland, Open Space and Natural Resources
Ongoing support is needed for the state’s agricultural land stewardship program, local land trusts and other programs that protect farmland open space and natural resources. The state should ensure that new development doesn’t jeopardize water supplies needed for agriculture, existing urban areas and the environment.
Balance Affordable Housing, Jobs and Transportation
Sprawl pushes affordable housing farther from job centers, placing an enormous strain on roads and transit systems. The state should provide a permanent source of funding for affordable housing and tie state investments in infrastructure to local plans that balance jobs, housing and transportation.
The smart growth movement is gaining credibility and followers throughout the country. Governors Christie Todd Whitman of New Jersey and Parris Glendening of Maryland have created smart growth policies in their states and have withstood political challenges to re-election, demonstrating voters’ readiness to be smarter about growth and public investment. Governors, local activists, federal policymakers and nonprofit foundations are all calling for new strategies for growth that can support cities and growth without unnecessary sprawl, enormous cost and unnecessary loss of important resources.
Because conflicts over land use typically occur at the local level, new developments are often the product of separate and often uncoordinated local decisions by more than one jurisdiction, a smaller number of regional and state legislative measures, and very few federal measures, such as taxation and reclamation, explains Tom K. Lieser, executive director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. Working independently of one another, municipalities and community-based organizations are often small fish in a large sea, while national and state entities are too large to get a handle on issues of greatest concern to local residents. Consequently, experts stress the importance of local regional decisions regarding land use and more efficient use of space, in addition to the need for fiscal reform to fund infrastructure.
New Growth Policies Sprouting In California
Several areas in California are developing new policies for growth and land use. Regional groups are taking on the challenge of building consensus on land use and growth issues. The Fresno Growth Alternatives Alliance, a joint effort of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, the Fresno Business Council, the Building Industry Association of the San Joaquin Valley and the American Farmland Trust, formed the first agriculture-business-homebuilder-conservation coalition of its kind in California. After meeting for more than a year, they agreed on principles to guide growth in Fresno County, including more dense development and the establishment of urban-growth boundaries. All cities in the county and the county board of supervisors have adopted the statements of principles. Although some matters still require resolution, the cities and counties, encouraged by private sector groups, are continuing this historic collaborative effort.
Similar efforts to establish a shared consciousness about land use and planning are underway in both the San Diego-Tijuana region and the San Francisco Bay Area. According to the Bay Area Council, the attributes of a sustainable region include a healthy and productive ecosystem, efficient use of land for development, protection of farmland, affordable housing for the entire population and accessible, efficient transportation.
The San Diego Dialogue was founded as a community-based public policy center with a goal “to develop a common civic knowledge that enables effective decision-making and builds consensus around a shared vision for the future.” The dialogue is composed of an invited membership of 100 regional leaders in industry, government, the media, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations. The hope is that a civic conversation will lead to a consensus in order to establish a regional coalition devoted to sustainable urbanization of San Diego and the San Diego-Tijuana binational metropolis. According to the San Diego Dialogue, “If these disparate groups can be joined and their interests aligned around a practical set of policy alternatives, then a smart growth coalition may hold real promise for ensuring a sustainable future for San Diego and the region.”
The Importance of Metropolitan Coalitions
Bruce Katz, a senior fellow in the economic studies program at the Brookings Institute, promotes the importance of metropolitan coalitions. “They can form for different reasons,” he says. “In some cases, coalitions form out of a concern for equity and the burden of concentrated poverty that cities and older suburbs must bear. In other cases, the coalitions focus on runaway growth and advocate reforms to curb sprawl and target infrastructure investment in older established areas.” Regardless of the type, coalitions are searching for and finding ways to address the goals of economic prosperity, resource protection, social equity and growth management. Whether through governance or by bridging a communication gap, solving cross-jurisdictional problems such as transportation, environmental quality, housing, and job and economic development requires big-picture thinking and new ways of looking at old problems. Even though land use decisions are local, they occur within a large and complicated mix of people, issues and jurisdictions. It no longer seems feasible to solve these big problems alone.
Growth Management Strategies
Local decision-making organizations are using the following strategies to help effectively manage growth in their communities.
1.Define a vision for the city within a regional context. What are the community’s values? What is important to preserve for generations to come? What should be created?
2.Think regionally, act locally. Develop locally implemented strategies to help communities move toward regional goals.
3.Measure progress. Create community indicators or local benchmarks with which to measure progress toward the goals.
4.Base decisions on reliable data. Get good information. Don’t rely on clich?s and conventional wisdom. Get reliable economic data and insist on good analysis to determine the costs of alternatives. This is equally important when articulating community values: Don’t make assumptions about what people in the community want – ask them.
5.Present visual images of the choices involved. Use visualization techniques, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping and computer simulation, to help decision-makers and the public understand the implications of a variety of choices.
6.Look for opportunities to win. Look for win-win situations to promote sustainable development, strengthen existing cities and neighborhoods, and ensure efficient use of scarce tax resources.
Meeting the needs of an increasing population will be one of the greatest challenges facing California cities in the next few decades. It also will be one of their greatest opportunities. Now is the time for cities to think strategically about growth, to find ways to improve growth patterns and to build vibrant, livable communities.
After all, the ultimate power rests with the voters. They have shown themselves perfectly capable of exercising their power when politicians miss the message.
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