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Anchoring Wealth to Sustain Cities and Population Growth

August 03 , 2012  

With the U.S. population set to grow by at least 100 million - and likely 150 million - people by 2050 and American cities so spatially and economically unstable, anything beyond superficial sustainability planning seems impossible.

However, the author of this article believes we can radically change existing community and regional planning strategies to more sustainably house and serve the growing population. One approach involves building local economies that anchor capital in place through community, worker, or public forms of ownership - so-called green community wealth strategies. By linking such stabilizing forms of economic organization to democratic forms of local, regional, and national planning, cities can regain the capacity to target jobs and investment to specific locations.

As jobs move in and out of cities in uncontrolled ways we literally throw away housing, roads, schools, hospitals, and public facilities-only to have to build the same facilities elsewhere at great financial, energy, and carbon costs. All the while, the instability makes it impossible to carry out coherent transportation and high-density housing planning.

In places like Detroit and Cleveland, the devastated landscape in many areas looks like bombed-out World War II cities. Of the 112 largest U.S. cities in 1950 with populations over 100,000, fully half of them had experienced population decline by 2008. The people moved elsewhere, where all the usual facilities had to be built anew to serve them - and, built under conditions that were inherently likely to be subject to future instability and disruption.

Cities in general, of course, have gained population since 1990, but the long-term trend of instability is dominant.

39% of U.S. carbon emissions come from buildings, 33% from transportation, and the remainder from industry. So the built environment and transportation are critical to climate change mitigation efforts.

Transportation Management and Engineering Magazine reports that carbon emissions in communities with very high densities have half the per capita carbon emissions of rural residents (0-50 households per square mile). And a report by the International Institute for Environment and Development found that New York City had a per capita average of 7.10 metric tons of carbon emitted per resident, compared to 23.92 metric tons nationwide.

Rural families in the U.S. "own twice as many vehicles as households in high density areas and these are likely to be less efficient." Moreover, average vehicle miles traveled for rural households exceed those of metropolitan households: 28,238 compared to 21,187.

To improve the fate of cities it is imperative to improve quality of life within cities and to reduce gaping social disparities within cities, and third to stabilize the economic underpinnings of cities - that is, the job base.

One solution involves fostering "green community wealth building" - linking green development to institutions that inherently increase stability. The goal of green community wealth building is to increase the proportion of capital held by actors with a long-term commitment to a given locality or region. Green community wealth is tied to place. Public enterprises, employee-owned firms, neighborhood-owned enterprises, and nonprofits all are rooted in particular communities. Communities with a higher proportion of such capital are better positioned to achieve economic stability and plan effectively for a low-carbon future.

Cleveland Ohio is a an example of this approach. By the 2010 U.S. census, Cleveland's population had fallen below 400,000. But the legacy institutions remain - namely, the city's leading hospitals and universities. Daily, more than 50,000 people commute to the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, and the other so-called anchor institutions within the University Circle, a small business district located roughly four miles northeast of downtown Cleveland. The purchasing power of these institutions exceeds $3 billion a year.

However, University Circle is surrounded by low-income neighborhoods with 43,000 residents, whose median household income is only $18,500 and Cleveland also exhibits a classic pattern of sprawl. A new strategy spearheaded by the Cleveland Foundation, and involving neighborhood groups, major hospitals and universities, as well as city government, aims to reverse both the economic and environmental devastation.

The goal is to leverage the city's existing anchors - in this case, hospitals and universities - to provide a long-term market for new worker-owned cooperatives while providing living-wage jobs and access to business ownership to employee-owners situated in surrounding low-income, largely African American communities. The first point is to recycle purchasing power to achieve greater stability. The second-and critical-point is to target firms owned by people who live in the community and create an ongoing stabilizing effect.

In 2009 a co-op industrial-scale laundry opened its doors: a state-of-the-art, ecologically green commercial facility capable of handling ten million pounds of health-care linen a year. Its sophisticated business plan provides all employee-owners a living wage and health benefits. After seven years on the job, if current projections are realized, each employee will have a $65,000 equity stake in the enterprise. In the same year a second employee-owned, community-based company began large-scale installations of solar panels for the city's largest nonprofit health, education, and municipal buildings. Another business scheduled to start operations within six months is a year-round hydroponic greenhouse capable of producing three million heads of lettuce and approximately 300,000 pounds of basil and other herbs a year.

A cooperative development fund, currently capitalized by a $3 million grant from the Cleveland Foundation, expects to raise an additional $30-40 million to support a growing network of cooperatives.

In general, green community wealth building strategies are also an important tool in neighborhood revitalization that benefits existing residents and reduces poverty (rather than moving poor people around). Reducing poverty improves the quality of life in both central city and older suburban neighborhoods, making them more attractive options for residents and thereby helping in a second way to achieve stability.

Traditional employers have an incentive to keep labor costs low and hence will use workers only for as long as they are needed on a particular job. Community enterprises, in contrast, aim to maximize employment over the long term. Instead of treating employees as disposable, such employers commonly seek ways to find new work for their workforce.

Stabilizing population centers - whether old or new - is also a first step to building the high-density, well connected hubs that will house the next 100 million Americans in a low-carbon future. The current pattern of American suburbanization has created a social pattern - one in which poverty and social problems are dramatically concentrated in central cities - that is itself a major impediment to the needed inside-out revitalization of metropolitan America. Current trends are not encouraging: A 2010 study of residential construction in the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas in two periods (1990-1995 and 2003-2008) found that while the central-city share of residential construction showed some increases in the latter period, suburban areas still accounted for the majority of new construction in every metropolitan area except New York - indeed, over 85% of new construction in nearly half the areas.

Instead of simply allowing the next 100 million Americans to add to sprawl, the dual strategy of creating anchored community wealth building institutions on the one hand, and using an overarching community-stabilizing approach in regional planning on the other, could help concentrate and support the population in old cities, in new areas, and around small existing towns viewed as "nodes" of new city development. The result could be the capacity to achieve sufficient stability to allow sustainability planning in both old and new areas.

Other options: Britain's New Towns movement led to the construction of over two dozen new towns in the first half of the twentieth century and is widely credited with reduced sprawl. Vauban, Germany, (outside Freiburg) provides a more contemporary example, creating a "carless suburb" based on the assumption that residents will not own cars; bike-friendly, transit-oriented Dutch cities - such as Amsterdam where cars are present but decidedly secondary. A range of other European policies raise the effective cost of driving, combined with ample public support for transit, have largely succeeded in making it possible for middle-class and working-class urban residents to have full access to the city and its opportunities without depending on a car. Distant as it may seem, that is the goal American cities must aim to achieve over the coming generation if they hope to meet the larger sustainability challenge.

Creating sustainable metropolitan areas in the United States is a massive challenge, one similar to that facing other nations and yet unique in several respects. For America, there are two "elephants" in the room-highly unstable local economic patterns and population growth - that must be acknowledged. A major national effort to stabilize the economic basis of our communities is not only a moral or economic imperative; in the era of global warming, it is an ecological necessity - and one that needs to be taken on using every available policy tool. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Over 30% of the world's energy is spent on the food supply, so these numbers do not add up: "39% of U.S. carbon emissions come from buildings, 33% from transportation, and the remainder from industry."

U.S.: The Myth of Smart Growth

July 19 , 2012   Fodor and Associates

By Eban Fodor, author of Better, Not Bigger

"Smart growth" is an urban growth management strategy that applies planning and design principles which are intended to mitigate the impacts of continued growth. Even if smart growth is done correctly, it is part of the "culture of growth" that perpetuates the "endless growth model."

Often smart growth advocates claim that population levels and growth rates are not the problem; it's merely a matter of how we grow. If we are less wasteful and more efficient in our urban growth, everything will work out fine, they claim.

The "smart growth" movement tends to undermine earnest public concern about the environmental, social, and economic impacts of continued growth. Concern about the amount and pace of growth has been transformed into a discussion about how we should best continue growing. "Smart growth" is actually just a means of postponing the inevitable consequences of too much growth.

Smart Growth (SG) is largely a response to widespread public dislike of urban sprawl, a low-density, market-driven development pattern which uses land in an inefficient manner. Sprawl results in the accelerated loss of undeveloped rural land and open space. Sprawling development is associated with environmental impacts, costly and inefficient demand for new public infrastructure and services, overreliance on automobile transportation, and loss of community character.

SG strives for denser development patterns that require less land. Mixed-use and neighborhood design strategies are included to help make the denser development more appealing. SG has the potential to reduce developer costs for land, roadways, parking, and utilities. These savings may be offset by the extra amenities required to make such compact development attractive to homebuyers and businesses.

Gabor Zovanyi has boiled down the tenants of SG as: 1. Growth containment in compact settlements; 2. Protection of the environment, resource lands, and open space; 3. Multi-modal transportation systems; 4. Mixed-use development; 5. Collaborative planning and decision making

The clear impression one gets from smart growth literature is that, as long as new growth is compact and efficiently-planned, it is acceptable for development to continue consuming rural land and for the urban footprint to keep expanding. SG proponents believe that growth, if done properly, can be transformed from a costly blight on the landscape into an attractive development with predominantly positive impacts on the community.

U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer from Portland, Oregon, has been a champion of SG from its beginnings. He was interviewed on the topic by NPR a number of years ago. When asked if people in Oregon were concerned about too much growth, he replied that Oregon has about the same land area as the United Kingdom, but the UK has 20 times the population, implying the state could accommodate 20 times the population without a significant problem or any need for concern. Perhaps when the population of Oregon reaches the UK's population of 60 million, the Congressman will cite an example such as Singapore. With a population density of 19,000 people per square mile, Singapore is accommodating 475 times more people per square mile than Oregon.

SG fails to recognize that even the smartest growth places a heavy burden on our environment and our communities, and creates significant impacts, most of which cannot be fully mitigated. An expanding local population requires more land, more expensive infrastructure, more services, more energy, more natural resources, more waste production, more greenhouse gas emissions, more water, more food production, and more transportation.

SG proponents claim that the benefits from continued growth are greater than the costs, as long as their SG formula is applied. SG is a form of the 'technological fix' ideology that tries to solve growth problems through better planning and design.

Amory Lovins, in his book Factor Four, estimated that, by fully utilizing technology to achieve greater efficiency and productivity, the world could potentially sustain the same lifestyle and wealth we enjoy today with 1/4th the energy and resource use. We could use the achievable savings to double our wealth while halving our resource use. The book notes that if consumption were to grow at a 4% annual rate, it would quadruple in just 35 years and all the savings achieved by this tremendous efficiency improvement would be neutralized. So, while eliminating waste and using our limited resources wisely seems like a good idea, it does not ultimately solve the problem of growth.

SG may postpone the "day of reckoning," but would not prevent its arrival. Smart growth may be better than dumb growth, but if it doesn't ultimately help us solve the problem of too much growth, then it just ends up becoming a diversion, and thereby part of the problem.

Recognizing Limits to Growth: Globally, more people were added to the population in the past 50 years than in all prior history. We've passed the 7 billion mark and added the latest billion people in just the last 12 years. With more than half of these people living in poverty and one billion of them in hunger, it seems heartless and even cruel to actively pursue a policy of continued growth.

One-third of all the land ever developed in the U.S. was developed in just the last 25 years. The combination of population growth and farmland loss resulted in an alarming decline in the amount of farmland per-capita from 4 acres to 3 acres in the 20 years from 1989 to 2009.The US became a net food importer in 2005 for the first time in at least 50 years. Current agricultural productivity is highly dependent on fossil fuels, making it vulnerable to energy price and supply fluctuations.

There will always be those who remain in denial about the impacts of human expansion on the planet. Other believe there can be perpetual growth. Growth that is not only desirable, it's unavoidable.

Evidence of the past 20 years include species extinction rate and declining biodiversity, fisheries collapse, groundwater decline, deforestation, soil erosion, farmland loss, and anthropogenic climate change.

The SG program contains many sensible planning and design strategies that have been tested and proven over the past 40-plus years. If properly applied, they should improve the quality of new development. However, SG advocates have taken this formula too far by claiming their medicine is a cure for the growth ailment.

Instead of building more urban development under the SG banner, we need less development. We need to leave our remaining greenfields green. We need to keep our urban footprints from expanding onto more farms, forests, and open spaces. We must move beyond SG and begin to plan stable and sustainable communities that allow humans to prosper without overrunning the landscape and overwhelming the natural life support system. We must respect the local and regional carrying capacity, while leaving ample breathing room for other life on the planet to also prosper. Doing so will assure an enduring legacy of humans in balance with the earth. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I have had my share of
'conversations' with smart growth advocates, and
most of them don't want to admit that population is a
problem. However, since we can't stop population
from growing quickly, we will need some way to
mitigate its effects - as long as we don't use it to
encourage more growth.

Smart Growth: the Worst Kind of Sprawl?

June 07 , 2012  

(article written in November 18 2008, by Rick Shea)

Energy use and carbon emissions of suburban building and "smart growth" urban high rise building were compared in a well researched article. Turns out that people have about the same global footprint, i.e. the land it takes to grow their food and fabric resources, wherever they live (about 25 acres for a U.S. lifestyle). Transportation is a small part of that (around 11%) which is offset by the greater demands on our resources in building high rises. The best thing for the environment is to stop our population growth and stop residental construction.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says, "density is (an) integral component to the creation of neighborhoods that offer convenience, value and a high quality of life.
http://www.epa.gov/dced/density.htm

However, in a 2007 a study of Portland Oregon - supposedly a model for smart growth - showed that the number of goods passing through Oregon needs to double by 2030 to keep pace with population growth, globalization and expanding markets. But the harbor and city infrastructure are lagging. Traffic congestion and delays on Portland roads are cited as hindrances to business efficiency, and as a significant factor in increasing business transportation costs. The proposed solution is more harbor facilities, significant improvements in rail and road infrastructure through Portland - the very things that smart growth is supposed to help prevent.

Vancouver, B.C., dubbed "the Northwest's smart growth leader" had an ecological footprint 207 times its actual size. This includes 7,000 square kilometers for food production, 3,000 square kilometers for forestry products, and 13,000 square kilometers to accommodate energy use."
http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/philosophy/EFoot.htm

The study found that relatively dense cities (by North American standards) have an ecological footprint about 200 times their actual geographical size. That footprint includes, among other things, appropriated farmland in other countries which supply our food, land used for industrial development in other countries which supply our goods, and land used to supply energy in those countries and deal with wastes.

Los Angeles, California has one of the highest urban densities in the United States. Yet farmland and natural space around the city continue to disappear. And L.A. continues to have some of the highest rates of traffic congestion, and of poor air quality, in the United States.

It was found that many highrises use more energy per resident than a well-built townhouse, and not much less than a small well-built single family home.
http://www.cmhc.ca/en/inpr/bude/himu/hehi/loader.cfm?url=/commonspot/security/getfile.cfm&PageID=63857

With dense development, the food must come from farther and farther away. The denser the development, the farther the food must be transported. In the words of William Rees, “cities necessarily appropriate the ecological output and life support functions of distant regions all over the world through commercial trade." ... http://dieoff.org/page110.htm

A residential lot in suburbia is only a tiny portion of the degraded land footprint. Even highrise dwellers still require virtually all of that infrastructure, including highways and roads to escape the city for recreation (as there aren't many golf courses and ski hills in the downtown cores of most large cities) and to bring in goods and services.

And then, investments in stock portfolios, RRSPs, mutual funds, and pension plans relies heavily on these sorts of activities, even growth in many of the so-called “ethical" funds and investments.

There are those who say that peak oil will force people to drive less, we will have to use alternative energy sources, and we will have to relocalize production of food and other commodities. But cities like Vancouver, hard up against other cities already, will find it impossible to do so, as there simply isn't enough agricultural land left within easy transportation distance to supply all the needs of the residents.

Some say we will see the demise of large cities in a post-carbon world, with claims that villages and small cities with populations up to 80,000 people will be the only urban forms able to sustain themselves with what they find locally.
http://oilbeseeingyou.blogspot.com/2006/12/debate-over-viable-community-size-in.html

People are beginning to realize that current alternative energy sources still rely quite heavily on fossil fuels for materials, manufacture, transport, and maintenance and cannot supply all of our energy needs.

Hopes of saving farmland and natural spaces through dense urban development are doomed by population growth. Each additional person consumes more goods, land, food, energy, and degraded land. Each additional person places more pressure on natural areas and adds more risk to threatened species, not just locally, but across the planet. And, finally, each additional person creates more waste and emissions.

The mantra “Grow up, not out" has somehow convinced us that we can feel good about population growth as long as it is “planned" properly, and directed to denser development. But these slogans a are hiding the fact that we are creating something much, much more destructive for this planet than urban sprawl - something that is rapidly destroying other species, depleting resources, gobbling up farmland and natural space, and polluting the land and the water and the air. doclink

Before the Word 'Sprawl' was Invented: Black-and-white Photographs Taken by Ansel Adams Capture Laid-back Los Angeles in the 1940s

April 20, 2012   Daily Mail

A picture is worth a thousand words. In the 1940s, more and more people had an automobile which enabled them to sprawl out. After WWII there was a population boom in California, due to returning soldiers who came through California on the way to and from the war, and who found California an attractive place to bring their brides and raise a family.

Click here to see how laid-back and less crowded California's Southern California cities and suburbs were back then. doclink

picture of traffic on a freeway doclink

U.S.: Flint, Michigan: Growing Stronger by Growing Smaller?

July 13, 2009   NPR

The county treasurer, and native of Flint Michigan, Dan Kildee, says "There's an obsession with growth and expansion," Kildee says. "I'm not against growth, but what we really have to recognize is that we have already shrunk. And because we are not growing does not mean we can't be a good city." More than one-third of the homes in Flint have been abandoned.

Home to General Motors at its peak, the population is about half what it once was, and only a few thousand auto jobs remain.

A treasurer, Kildee has been buying up thousands of abandoned and foreclosed properties. He is looking to develop a new design of the city with planned open space and community food gardens, "so that 100,000 people can live in a city that does not look half-empty."

Some residents are afraid of forced relocations and losing homes where families were raised.

Kildee says nobody would be forced to move. "If they choose to live where the population is essentially gone, we need to give them something green and beautiful." .. "But give them the choice to relocate into a denser, more high-functioning neighborhood. That's really the point of all this: The people who live in these neighborhoods deserve better. We have to think about what's in their interest." doclink

Karen Gaia says: Think of the fuel it would save. When we stop subsidizing fuel with war, perhaps the high fuel prices will motivate people to move, as well as the more attractive inner city.

US Michigan: Detroit, Green City

March 30, 2008   Michigan Citizen

Urban planners say the best way to turn an industrial city into a green city may be to just leave the city be.

At a presentation three areas were said to become the focal points for future development. The most important was population density and building up is a great way to minimize land waste.

Studies show walkable cities are the goal, so developing the city around pedestrian traffic is another way to gain more density. Mass transit is vital; Detroit is without a system.

Mass transit means that residents without cars could have a reliable ride to work, there would be fewer cars, and a reduced need for parking and a turnaround in air quality. Light-rail stations may help attract investors and mixed-use buildings that house both businesses and people. With people come density, more transit options and a boom for economic development.

Mixed-use buildings are efficient and have proved to be places people want to be. Parking lots are are seldom full, they absorb money and resources. Traditional development leads to lower density and greater infrastructure costs. These practices are not economically feasible. Population density is the key to a sustainable city.

The third aspect to sustaining a green city is reuse and preservation of buildings. The carbon footprint of demolition, waste transportation, and rebuilding is enormous. Building preservation and adaptive reuse are the best ways to employ sustainability.

The recent emphasis on being environmentally responsible and the financial benefits may spark investors to build green.

There is increasing evidence that green buildings cost less in the long run, mainly through better energy and water efficiency, but also by reducing waste, improving indoor air quality and through lower operation and maintenance costs. A change in lifestyle is necessary for green urbanism. rw doclink

Canada: Our Idea of Cities Needs a Rethink

January 06, 2008   Toronto Star

For the first time, most of the world's people will be living in cities. Yet cities are zoned and planned for an industrial economy although we now live and work in the same place. The attempt to protect employment lands in urban Ontario is fraught with contradictions. Protecting abandoned sites in the hope that manufacturing jobs will return is a pipe dream. We don't understand, nor have we mapped, the new urban economy. Provincial trade barriers hobble the shift from national industrial economies to a global network of regional urban economies where the source of wealth generation has evolved from production to innovation. The bent in Ottawa toward relegating urban issues to provincial governments has left Canada without national urban strategies that most federations like the US have developed to rebuild their cities.

Our policies and infrastructure are designed for the industrial economy and, are failing to deliver the economy Canadians deserve or to minimize the downshift from manufacturing-centred cities.

The second shift for cities will be in the deterioration of our natural environment.

All the elements we need to maintain our quality of life will be impacted by climate change and the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Canadian cities have no concept of how to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

Investments in new, clean energy, a reorganization of where we live and work, a shift to transit- and pedestrian-centred development will involve a rethink of the fundamentals of city building.

An aging population, increasing diversity and growing pressures from immigration will lead to migration from the impoverished parts of the planet and greater demands on countries like Canada to accept more immigrants.

Over the next century, many of our cities will be as Asian as European, and with that will come opportunities in the way we build and sustain cities.

Open, fluid cities that can absorb people quickly into the life and facilitate the mobility will be crucial. Diversity is a cause for celebration not accommodation.

The aging population will create increasing demands for new design and the popularization of universal design principles and other barrier-free spaces.

In less than 25 years, seniors will account for more than one in four urban dwellers.

The retention and re-engagement of older people in the workforce will likely emerge as a challenge. In the new economy, the focus will be on thinking and imagining rather than manufacturing.

The lack of autonomy, tax choices and the extreme overdependence on high property taxes of Canadian municipalities will result in a significant decline in the environment of our cities before there is any action.

The infrastructure will become for the next generation of Canadians a more challenging problem than the fiscal deficit. Infrastructure is being seen more and more as an investment. The test of sustainability is to build infrastructure that supports higher levels of density, improves the tax base and generates more economic activity over time than the cost to create it.

Rapid transit may be the strongest economic development tool and if used smartly will shift public transit to a builder of the region's tax base.

Transportation infrastructure result in different levels of energy use, air quality, land values and tax revenues and allow different levels of density and economic activity. They facilitate the participation in society and the affordability of mobility and access to employment. rw doclink

NYC's Newest Rush Hour: 24/7

December 13, 2006   Long Island Press

Long Islanders may be spending more time in their cars and trains by 2030.

By 2030, every major infrastructure system in our city will be more than a century old, and pushed to its limits, The city could expect to gain about a million more residents by that time, He also predicted 750,000 new jobs and Long Islanders may be commuting in record numbers.

The infrastructure's components must work seamlessly for all of us to survive.

The Long Island Railroad began along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn in 1832.

As our population grows and our infrastructure ages, our environment will be pushed to new and possibly precarious limits. Unfortunately for Long Islanders who commute to the city daily, there will be nothing to combat the frustration of a daily commute to a city bursting at the seams. rw doclink

Karen Gaia says: Will someone please tell be how 'smart growth' solutions will solve this problem?

USA Today: Where Will Everybody Live?

December 05, 2006   USA Today

The USA is growing faster than any other industrialized country in the world. The USA added 100 million people in the past 39 years and around 2040, the population will be past 400 million.

The USA trails only China and India in population. Space itself isn't the issue. But people want water in the desert, plentiful fuel to power long commutes, energy to cool and heat bigger houses and clean air and water. How and where they live could determine how well the nation and the environment will handle the added population.

People who work on smart growth development issues say there's no way we can continue over the next 40-odd years without severe consequences to the environment. We have to find different ways to reside on the land. Each American occupies almost 20% more developed land (housing, schools, stores, roads) than 20 years ago. The rate of land consumption is twice the rate of population growth.

The major growth patterns of the past 50 years are being challenged by changing demographics.

Americans are reconsidering traditional retirement paths. More are eyeing downtown condos, households are smaller and townhouses more appealing.

More immigrants are arriving, increasing mass transit ridership and carpooling in a country where driving alone still dominates.

The next 100 million people will create 73 million new jobs, about 70 million new homes and 100 billion square feet of non-residential space. Urban town centers that combine condos, shops and offices in pedestrian-friendly settings are sprouting in suburbia. Residential construction in downtown districts is on the rise. Areas are are investing billions in light-rail lines. It takes more money to heat and cool a big house, when you factor in the true cost including transportation and energy, Americans will change how they live.

Growth issues are manifesting themselves in traffic congestion, loss of open space and more water and air pollution.

The paper then goes on to describe in great detail some of the transit and building changes already under way. rw doclink

Ralph says: The article does not consider in any way the suply of water, power and food to the millions of new residents.

Around D.C., a Cheaper House May Cost You; Longer Commutes Outweigh Savings of Living in Outer Suburbs

October 11, 2006   Washington Post

A study of metropolitan areas found that the costs of one-way commutes of 12 to 15 miles cancel any savings on lower-priced homes.

People tend to focus on the price of a closer-in house compared to one in the outer suburbs, but they don't realize how much they're spending on commuting costs

The average cost of owning a Toyota Camry and driving it 15,000 miles a year works out to $7,967 according to AAA.

The study found that a lack of affordable housing in the Washington area and elsewhere forces low- to moderate-income families to live in outer suburbs where transportation costs are high.

Of the 20 fastest-growing counties in the US, 15 are located 30 miles or more from urban centers. Many communities have identified a lack of affordable housing as critical. We need to have regional solutions about both housing and transportation. Most people in the outer suburbs pay so much for transportation because they have to use their cars for nearly every errand.

The study noted that 62.1% of the U.S. metropolitan population lived in the suburbs in 1996, up from 55.1% in 1970.

The median national household income has been outpaced by housing and transportation costs. The data highlight a disconnect between where people live and work. A three-car family puts a lot of money into depreciating assets, instead of into mortgages and college educations. rw doclink

Connect the Plots Land Corridors Encourage Biodiversity, Says Research in Science

September 05, 2006   New York Times*

Ecologists have theorized that landscape corridors to connect isolated plant and animal habitats would encourage biological diversity. Researchers surveyed test plots in forested areas, starting in 2000 and found that, over time, there was more plant diversity in patches connected by corridors than in other patches. Patches connected "had 20% more species of plants than unconnected patches."

The finding is important, because the fragmentation of wild land by human activities is one of the most important threats to biodiversity.

Wildlife corridors have been established, but researchers are still studying whether the ones linking protected areas from the Yukon to Yellowstone actually improve wildlife diversity.

The research, shows that "plants can change relatively quickly through their interactions with the landscape and the animals that interact with them," like birds and rodents that disperse seeds or insects that act as pollinators.

In part because the corridor-connected patches have more varieties of birds, insects and animals like mice, the number of seeds that reach a patch that's connected is higher.

Some ecologists had feared that corridors might spread invasive species, but that did not seem to happen on the test plots. Areas connected by corridors "retain more native species than do isolated patches, and corridors do not promote invasion by exotic species." rw doclink

Move to Charge Toll for Driving in Core of Downtown Area County Transit Panel to Receive $1 Million From U.S. for Study

March 28, 2006   Reuters

The San Francisco Transportation Authority will receive $1.04 million from the Federal Highway Administration to study how to implement a program similar to London's 3-year-old system of charging a flat fee to drive downtown during business hours.

The London program has reduced downtown traffic congestion by about 30% and vehicle emissions by about 12%. It's also put £200 to 350 million into government coffers.

The benefit is more efficiency of our public transportation system.

The authority will look at the city's most congested areas for consideration as charging zones and will discuss where charging should occur, pricing, payment and enforcement methods. Fees could be fixed or vary by location or hour, include discounts for residents or hybrid vehicles or direction of travel. Researchers also study how money made could be spent. London operates its congestion charge from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Traffic signs alert drivers when they are about to enter a zone, where cameras track vehicles. Motorists must pay the $14 charge before or on the day of travel and can pay by telephone, on the Web, at designated stores, by mail and even by text message.

A system in San Francisco could use a camera network like London's or a tag-and-beacon system, like FasTrak. Commuters expressed annoyance at the possibility of paying yet another fee to reduce congestion that isn't that bad.

Some public transit advocates have pushed without political success the idea of a special tax on downtown employers to support bus and subway service.

Officials at the Chamber of Commerce fear that limited car traffic could have a negative impact.

In London, a city 10 times the size of San Francisco, officials face opposition as they move to extend the charging zone to cover the Chelsea and Kensington districts of the city.

The Transport for London views the program as a big success, but some businesses have closed and blamed the congestion charge. Small merchants, particularly restaurants, often rely on passers-by to supply a good portion of a day's business.

San Francisco's transportation authority was urged to carefully consider a charging zone's impact on businesses that could be affected by economic downturns of even 5% or 10%. rw doclink

U.S.: Why Isn't There More New Urbanism?

March 16, 2006   USA Today

As the U.S. population rises, the fastest-growing areas of the country are suburbs and semi-rural areas on the edges of expanding metropolitan regions. It is conventional wisdom in enviro circles that a part of the future is green cities, and a big part of green cities is dense, mixed-use development. In other words: new urbanism. Supporters face a daunting challenge, namely, the overwhelming preference for sprawling, single-use suburbs. There are two schools of thought. One is that people prefer big-box stores with huge selection and low prices and wealthy schools. They're willing to accept long commutes and a lack of diversity in exchange. Once they have kids they prefer the yards, space, safety, privacy, and good schools of suburban life. Another school of thought is handily summarized by Alex Steffen in a recent comment that much of the best work on regional planning has shown there is not a single element of the creation of suburbs that isn't influenced by political choices made to benefit the people who build and live in them, cheap gas; mortgage deductions; state subsidies for new schools, emergency services and infrastructure. As someone said, suburbs are legislated. Housing prices in new urban communities tend to be sky-high. Is the market failing to meet a demand? If so, why? rw doclink

US Virginia: In a Fast-growing County, Sprawl Teaches Hard Lessons

January 2006   Christian Science Monitor

A decade ago Virginia's Loudoun County was best known for its pastoral horse country and gracious farms. Today it's development run amok. The growing pains of Loudoun, the nation's fastest-growing county in the past five years, not only has residents up in arms, but have also drawn the attention of land-use experts across the United States. While high-speed growth has transformed suburbia for decades, what is new is that it's now occurring in areas without the infrastructure or experience to deal with it. Last fall, Tim Kaine, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate won on a platform of controlled growth and traffic management. Loudoun County's growth has been nothing short of phenomenal and its population has tripled in 15 years. In 2004, its growth accounted for one-quarter of the population increase throughout the Washington metro area. At rush hour, rural Loudoun's two-lane byways crawl with traffic. Air quality has worsened. As thousands of new houses go up each year, residents face water shortages and newly polluted streams. If current growth continues, the county estimates it will need 125 grammar schools in the next 15 years. Loudoun is the example of what can happen when a community is developing too fast. Land-use experts say there's only one solution: heavy regulation. They also stress the need for regional planning, which they say is lacking in many metropolitan areas. After years of political battles, Loudoun officials drew up a zoning plan with input from experts like Downs, which would have limited development in rural parts of the county and encouraged denser, mixed-use, mixed-income growth in the developed parts. The Supreme Court of Virginia threw out the plan, on a technicality, and county planners hope the plan will be approved this year after a rewrite. Meanwhile, development is "nearly a free-for-all," says county planner Julie Pastor. The lesson to be learned is to put in a master plan and rigidly adhere to it. rw doclink

State of the Environment - North Carolina's Most Urgent Environmental Challenge

December 16, 2005   Charlotte Observer

If projections from scientific experts are remotely accurate, North Carolina is in for significant change within our lifetimes related to global climate change. One estimate says 770 square miles of the coast could submerge. Air quality may worsen as temperatures rise, and the health of citizens could decline. Some will die of heat stroke. Environmental Defense, among others, has suggested a series of strategies to limit the harmful impact and prepare its residents to make some money off the changes. This year, air quality drops out of the top 10 problems because there were fewer bad air days, because controls on smokestack pollution have begun to take effect. Each of these assessments is subjective, not scientific. Summers have been getting drier, while falls have been getting wetter. As a consequence, North Carolinians have less water available than they did 100 years ago and a future with insufficient water in some areas as the state continues its dramatic urbanization. Raleigh has problems with one of its key reservoirs. Falls Lake which has been below normal level, forcing Raleigh to think about asking for a transfer from Kerr Lake. Concord and Kannapolis have sought to drain 38 million gallons a day from the Catawba River. Storm runoff, nutrients and sediment remain a top concern. Development is overwhelming the ability to keep pollution out of water supplies but the state is losing the war to protect water quality and the environment in North Carolina and America. Rapid growth and inappropriate development has been near the top of the list for 10 years. Residential growth consumes farmland, green space and forests, putting new strains on air quality and water quality. But sprawling low-density development and quality-of-life concerns could interfere with future prosperity. Growth and development has threatened places where no one ever imagined. A growth surge in coastal counties has caused problems and the land use planning program for the coast is totally broken. The very people who depend on waterfront availability for their economic survival can no longer afford that access. How North Carolina will meet its energy needs at an affordable cost will dominate debate affecting the environment. Utilities are interested in building more nuclear plants and pressure grows for the state to rescind its opposition to offshore natural gas exploration. While some fish stocks have made recoveries in N.C. waters, others have declined in alarming ways. River herring have become so depleted that catches failed to reach a quota limit. Oysters, bay scallops and blue crabs are species of "concern" because of low catches. Population growth has increased the amount of garbage going into landfills while the state might begin importing garbage in landfills proposed for sparsely populated areas an environmental threat. The state continues to search for solutions to large-scale hog farm waste. Thousands bought up the shoreline and built out-of-scale mansions to replace the fish camps and clapboard cottages. The loss of natural areas to upscale residential developments has changed what North Carolinians see from our windows. Litter accumulates along our highways, costing the state millions in collection costs and providing volunteers with more work than they can keep up with. Utility poles and wires mar the viewscape. Environmental concerns fail to consider long-term implications and doesn't recognize the interdependence of conservation and development. North Carolina has more than 17 million acres of forests and large stands of trees in national and state forests, parks and wildlife reserves. But the huge stands of hardwoods and regal longleaf pines are now a small fraction of what they once were. In a state where development has gobbled up 100,000 acres of forested lands and natural areas per year, recent legislation may make it harder for local governments to preserve land at a time the state's population continues to grow and consume more natural areas. rw doclink

Sounds just like most of the states along the east coast. Most of these problems are population and consumption. Where it is a consumption problem, any population growth magnifies it. The problem with people being rich is that they are able to distract and insulate themselves from the problems, which puts them in a state of denial.

US Pennsylvania: New Hempfield Development Emphasizes Density, Walkability

August 8, 2005   Post Gazette

If developers have their way, this piece of open space in Hempfield will be the seed of a new 700-acre "traditional neighborhood development" called Northpointe. Northpointe is designed to be a traditional neighborhood development, or TND, meeting the principles of New Urbanism, a "smart growth" planning philosophy that emphasizes density, walkability and sustainability. The streets would be part of one million square feet of stores, office space and restaurants topped with loft apartments. Just beyond this central business district, developers plan a densely organized and pedestrian-friendly "town" featuring 2,000 single-family homes, townhouses, apartments, carriage homes and larger estates from $200,000 to more than $1 million. The community would have its own fire station, post office, school and medical facility. Hempfield planners gave preliminary approval allowing engineering work to go forward. The architecture is human-scale - no big stores or parking lots. Sidewalks promote walking. Tree-lined boulevards and on-street parking slow traffic. Approximately 300 of these traditional neighborhood developments have been built but in Western Pennsylvania nothing like this exists. Northpointe would be a town made from scratch in a township without a real center. Because of the impact 2,000 new households would have on the surrounding area, planners will work to fine-tune the design. Route 819 and Forbes Trail Road would be widened to take some of the load off Route 30, and traffic would be slowed by a proposed traffic circle. Thes best attribute will be its walkability. The idea is to have a wide range of housing prices. It gives everybody the opportunity to live there and walk around and have that neighborhood feeling. In conventional suburbs, homes are fronted by garages and set back on large lots that inevitably results in social isolation. Even in the winter, people are out walking. There's no way this area can get bigger, or change. But is it "smart growth" to build this out in the middle of the countryside, within miles of small towns which are struggling to revitalize themselves? Modern zoning has found a way to separate residential and commercial land use in a way that is contrary to 2,000 years of community development. A traditional neighborhood development represents a positive change, as well as a response to market demands. People are looking for neighborhood diversity and community, a small-town feel. rw doclink

This is supposed to be the answer to handling the problems of population growth. Will it work in California or Arizona where growth in many areas happens at the rate of 25% in a decade?

Americans on Move to Arizona, Florida

June 30, 2005   Associated Press

Rocketing housing prices are driving people from big cities. Warm weather and affordable living are behind the rapid growth in Florida, Arizona, Nevada and California. The South and West are home to all 10 of the fastest-growing cities and the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert, Ariz. topped the list. The city grew by more than 46,000 people, or 42%, to just over 156,000 residents in a little over four years. San Francisco and Boston lost the most people between April 2000 and July 2004. Boston, lost more than 19,000 people, or 3.4%, San Francisco lost 32,000, or 4.2%. The median price for a single-family home in Gilbert is around $220,000, compared with more than $387,000 in Boston and $641,000 in San Francisco. San Francisco Mayor said the city has begun a number of affordable housing initiatives. Gilbert adds an estimated 1,000 residents a month. Miramar, the second-fastest growing city, has undergone a revitalization project, the 54-acre Town Center, which houses government offices. Plans call for a cultural arts center, as well as retail stores and restaurants. Port St. Lucie, added nearly 13,000 people, 12%. Older cities in the Northeast and Midwest continued to lose residents. rw doclink

Brownfield Redevelopment Increasingly Popular in U.S. Cities

June 01, 2005   The Wall Street Journal

Developers in the U.S. have become fond of formerly contaminated sites that can transform into luxury real estate, thanks to the federal government. Once the abandoned toxic sites were shunned but federal funding and liability protection for site buyers has increased. Also, six states passed legislation to ramp up incentives for brownfield redevelopment. A New Jersey developer says, "Today, if it doesn't have an environmental problem, we don't want to talk about it." 121 U.S. cities have redeveloped over 1,187 brownfield sites on 10,882 acres, with more reportedly under construction. rw doclink

US Florida: Building Push Has All Signs of a War

May 22, 2005  

Developers and one municipality want to shift Miami-Dade County's development boundary closer to the Everglades as developers have assembled land parcels outside the development zone. The debate over the urban boundary has competing factions: those who think of it as an immovable line that preserves the Everglades and the those who see a flexible line that should bend with a burgeoning population that needs affordable housing. Developers, whose bid to move the line was rejected two years ago, are again seeking approval. The city of Hialeah filed to move the line which would pave the way to build an industrial site on the Dade Landfill. 10 applications have been filed to move the urban development boundary line and the re-examination begins in April of every odd year. The line runs along the western and southern portions of the county and development outside is limited to one dwelling per five acres. Central to the debate is whether the county has enough land for future homes and businesses. Department of Planning and Zoning predicts enough land until at least 2020. But opponents said the county's stock of housing will be gone by 2011. Commissioners are awaiting the results of the $3 million South Miami-Dade Watershed Study, which includes land outside the UDB. rw doclink

US Illinois: Chicago is 2nd City of Clog

May 10, 2005   Chicago Tribune

Chicago is the No. 2 spot for roadway congestion. The analysis says it took drivers 57% more time to get to their destinations during peak travel times because of traffic congestion. The cost of to the regional economy is almost $4 billion or $1,000 per rush-hour commuter. Road construction and mass-transit services are failing to keep pace with population growth in suburban areas. The term "rush hour" has become meaningless in urban areas where workers must leave earlier in the morning and spend more time on the road later at night. The roadways handle traffic volumes beyond the system's capacity. Each driver in the Chicago region wasted 58 hours stuck in traffic in 2003, up from 55 hours in 2002, equivalent to spending about 1 1/2 workweeks a year sitting in traffic. Delays for the Chicagoland region exceeded 252 million hours in 2003. The cost was $4.3 billion in lost time and $151 million in excess fuel. The service provided by the CTA, Metra, Pace and the South Shore Line reduced annual delays by more than 94 million hours. CTA service reductions would have an effect similar to a major snowstorm. The growth in congestion is occurring at a rate that is unnoticeable to many people, resulting in commuters' routinely making accommodations and sacrifices in their lifestyles. Most experts agree that congestion will never be solved. It will only be kept within limits as the region's population increases. In the long term, major reforms will be needed in roadway construction, regional planning and land-use issues that determine where people live in relation to their jobs. rw doclink

US Ohio: Drivers Spending More Time in Cars

April 08, 2005   US Census Bureau

Butler residents spent 98 hours per year commuting in 2003, up about eight hours compared to 1990. Drive time is up because of road construction and the population boom. The average county resident has a 23-minute round-trip commute. Those in Morgan Township have the longest commute at 34 minutes. Oxford residents have the shortest at 16 minutes. The construction of Ohio 129 and Union Centre Boulevard have added capacity, but the population growth/road improvement cycle is self-fueling. One of the biggest problems is congestion on Interstate 75. Within Butler County, longer drive times are a function of having more people on the roads. Clinton McKnight of Carlisle spends about an hour every day on the road to and from Sharonville. "You've got to do what it takes to support your family." Freeman said. "Any time we have longer commute we're consuming fuel and polluting air. The AAA lists several options including telecommuting, traveling during off-peak, using public transit or carpooling. Commute times are likely to increase unless development patterns change. Butler daily commute times are lower than the national average of 24 minutes and lower than on the east coast, which posted some of the highest. New York City has an average daily commute time of 38 minutes. rw doclink

Anti-Sprawl Laws, Property Rights Collide in Oregon

February 28, 2005   Washington Post

In a collision between two visions of how cities should grow, Oregon's law is pitting neighbor against neighbor, and spooking politicians. The property-rights law was approved by voters last fall and is known as Measure 37. It is on the brink of wrecking Oregon's record of reining in sprawl. Although voters favor protection of open space, they vote down these protections if they restrict personal rights. The law compels the government to pay property owners when land-use restrictions reduce the value of their property or keep owners from developing their land as they see fit. Because there is no money to pay landowners, Measure 37 is starting to unravel smart-growth laws that set land prices and protected open space. It is what local backers of the new law say they want as recompense for years of bossiness in the enforcement of land-use restrictions. Smart-growth laws direct development to areas served by existing roads and utilities and curtail new housing and business construction that sprawl out to rural areas. Anti-sprawl has lost political momentum and excited the property-rights movement and suggests they can challenge smart-growth laws. Land-use restrictions began to trigger a voter backlash when Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi passed laws to protect landowners from monetary losses caused by zoning. But none has had a significant impact on local land-use regulation. Oregon's new law has unleashed a whirlwind. Every piece of evidence shows that this measure is destroying the state's land-use system. A nearly identical bill has been introduced in the Montana legislature. In bordering Washington state, farm and building lobbies are working to put a similar initiative on the state ballot. State financial records show that small farmers contributed nothing to the Family Farm Preservation political action committee that bankrolled Measure 37. Most of the money came from timber companies and real estate interests that stand to profit if large tracts of forests and farmland are unlocked for development. Property-rights are often sold to voters as compensation for small landholders, while the money comes from large companies seeking ways around regulations. Measure 37 is stirring up bad blood here in Hood River during a hearing on land use. The star witness has been growing fruit near Hood River for nearly a century. This town has experienced a rise in real estate values caused by land-use laws that prevent orchards from being turned into subdivisions. One farmer wants to convert 210 acres into housing. The resale value zoned as farmland, would be $8,000 an acre. But if sold for housing, it would fetch $284,000 an acre and have filed a claim demanding $57 million for their land or be allowed to build 800 houses. Officials have no money to pay and other farmers said that injecting suburbia into orchard country could push the fruit-growing economy into decline. Development unleashed by Measure 37 would desecrate one of the major tourist destinations in the Pacific Northwest. A major complaint about Measure 37 is that it has created a privileged group of landowners with special rights they can exercise them whenever they feel like it. Oregonians who owned property before land-use laws were imposed can take advantage of the relief under Measure 37, but those who bought land afterward cannot. Among the uncertainties is whether a qualified property owner can sell his development rights. Banks would be reluctant to lend money if resale voids the benefits of Measure 37 and subjects new owners to land-use restrictions. Another problem is that it requires no public hearings or notification of neighbors when a longtime landowner decides to turn a farm into a strip mall. rw doclink

US California: Effects of Sprawl Told

February 11, 2005   The Fresno Bee

Sprawling urban growth will swallow more than a quarter of the farmland in the San Joaquin Valley if current trends persist. With population expected to double in the next 40 years, the region stands at its greatest transformation since large-scale farming in the 19th century. A study paints different pictures based on policy strategies: protection of farmland, highway construction, development of light-rail or, doing nothing. Three of the four result in a tripling of urbanized land to accommodate a doubling population. Agriculture, the force that gave rise to Fresno, Stockton and other Valley cities, will bend to accommodate urban growth. Growers will become adaptable with pressure on agriculture that will be a challenge. Farmers may grow more on less space or sell land for urban uses with growers moving to remaining open spaces. The Central Valley has been losing about 2.5 acres per hour, according to a state estimate but the study projects a faster decline. From 1998 to 2000, 10,000 acres of farmland were lost every year. If no steps are taken to control growth the loss rate would quadruple to 38,000 acres lost every year. The prime farmland conservation scenario assumes that 3.2 million acres in the Valley would be protected from growth. But urbanization is overwhelming and even if prime farmland is protected, urban land would increase by 134% by 2040. This scenario would scatter development, preserving farmland that straddles cities and towns along Highway 99. If policies aren't put in place urbanized land would increase to 2.5 million acres and lose 1.5 million, or 26%, of existing farmland. Growth would be sprawling; in Fresno County, for instance, 2.8 people would occupy each acre, instead of the current 6.8 people. This could lead to traffic congestion and worsen air, already deemed some of the dirtiest in the nation. Two scenarios focus on transportation. One assumes a high-speed rail line through the Valley that would result in the greatest urbanization in the north Valley and would spur development along the Highway 99 corridor, resulting in the loss of 1.09 million acres of farmland. The final scenario including upgrades to most east-west routes and extension of Highway 65. This is the most likely and would create "linear cities," connecting Stockton with Lodi. Tulare County would see the greatest urbanization, increasing by 327%. The chances are slim that any of the scenarios will become a reality. There is an urgency to push for regional planning. In the Valley, where land is cheap, and privately owned, there hasn't been an incentive to plan on a regional scale. In the last years, people are beginning to understand they have a common interest and the urbanization study ought to move the people to doing the right thing. Another study shows that the population boom has done little to lift the economy of the Valley. The labor force grew by 11.1% from 1998 to 2003, but job growth only increased by 10.5%. The imbalance has kept this as one of the most depressed areas in the nation, with jobless rates stuck in double digits. Because job growth in farming is not keeping up with population increases, the report recommends economic diversification but cautioned against abandoning agriculture. It provides 20% of the jobs. The question is, "How do to manage growth and not destroy agriculture?" rw doclink

Urban Sprawl Threatens Species; Loss of Open Space in Fast-growing Areas Puts 1,200 at Risk

January 11, 2005   MSNBC.com

Urban sprawl is gobbling up open spaces so quickly that it could spell extinction for nearly 1,200 species of plants and animals. Over the next 25 years, more than 22,000 acres of natural resources will be lost to development in 35 of the most rapidly growing areas. Species are at risk of extinction due to habitat destruction. The leading cause of habitat destruction is development of homes and office buildings and roads in forests and farm fields. The government lists 518 animals and 746 plants as endangered or threatened by extinction and in need of federal protection. The environmental groups cited a larger group of species they said were in trouble. The NatureServe database identified about 6,400 imperiled species including more than 4,000 in the lower 48 states but excluding Hawaii and Alaska because each has special circumstances. 60% of the lower 48 states' species live within metropolitan areas, and about 1,196 are in the metropolitan areas with the fastest growth rates and more than 1 million people. California has 16 of the 20 counties that have the most imperiled species. To turn back urban sprawl, developers should be given incentives to build in existing city areas and create higher-density projects. More land also should be set aside as natural open space. The National Association of Home Builders said the group has focused on building affordable homes and hasn't researched endangered species protection in any scientific way. rw doclink

Battling Urban Sprawl

December 17, 2004   University of Toronto

Urban sprawl affects time, money, health, even sanity. And the better we understand the issues, the better our chances of finding an urban utopia. The Ontario government announced sweeping initiatives to curb sprawl in Toronto, setting targets for building up already-serviced land instead of expanding into undeveloped areas. Increased property and land transfer taxes and development charges will discourage sprawl. But should we be attacking sprawl. Only about 5% of North American land has been developed and we're feeding more people today with less than 3% of the population working the soil. The problem with stemming development though taxation is the "leapfrog" effect. By making the city limits too expensive you create “hyper-sprawl" in faraway communities that worsens traffic and pollution. Sanctions and taxation fail to address our rapid population growth, 90% of which comes from immigration but in the age of political correctness, people rarely bring this up. The American drivers are estimated to cost $69.5 billion (US) a year. Will densification fix this? Portland instituted “smart growth" policies in the mid-1990s and its congestion has increased more in the last 10 years than that of any other major American city. The sad truth is North Americans will not give up their cars. To get people to drive less, you need a public transit system that goes wherever people are going, cheaply and efficiently. No North American system has come close yet. Air pollution in Toronto costs billions in absenteeism and hospital costs but opponents of smart growth say denser cities will just make things worse. The stop-and-go traffic in dense urban centres creates more pollution. The average adult living in the suburbs is 6.3 pounds heavier than the inner-city hipster. Long commutes beget exhaustion, spiked insulin levels and a lifestyle of drive-thru cuisine and couch camp-outs. The average Houston-area household spends $8,840 (US) a year on transportation. Houston was considered "merica's fattest city" for several years but this year, it is Detroit. The cost of servicing sprawl is greater than the tax assessment we get from it. Niagara-on-the-Lake measured that for every dollar they got from low-density development, it cost them $1.40 to service. We're collectively subsidizing sprawl, increased garbage collection, road maintenance, police coverage, new schools, sewage lines regardless of where you live. For many people, a picket-fenced suburban dwelling is still the American Dream. If we had an adequate supply of subsidized, high-density housing, we could hypothetically reach 100% home ownership. Perhaps the most effective argument against sprawl is the endless tracts of dull, charmless, cookie-cutter homes and dreary strip malls that creates isolation, identity loss and general malaise. Sprawl eradicates creativity, culture and the sociability that comes in more dense neighbourhoods. Our parents and grandparents were friendly with the neighbours because they were the people they had close to them. The greatest obstacle to addressing sprawl relates less to technical issues than to basic human values and attitudes. Until we understand the roots of these values and ideological underpinnings, our attempts to move toward sustainability risk remaining at the level of mere busywork. rw doclink

Sprawl is not always affected by population growth, but where there IS population growth, even a small growth can creates a high-pressure demand for housing and development that can overwhelm our best planning efforts. (1% population growth doubles the population in 70 years).

Buildings to Go Up Like Never Before

December 15, 2004   USA Today

About half the homes, office buildings, stores and factories that will be needed by 2030 don't exist today. The U.S. population is expected to increase 33% to 376 million by 2030, 94 million more than in 2000. To serve that population, almost 60 million housing units will have to be built with about 20 million to replace aging homes. Half the metropolitan areas will have to add as much or more commercial and industrial space as existed in 2000. Growth in the South and West has turned deserts and soybean fields into cities and these regions, which face water limitations. These areas will experience the greatest surge in construction. If development patterns don't change, subdivisions will sprout on farmland farther from metropolitan areas, requiring more roads and sewer lines. For generations, Americans favored single-family homes on larger lots and development spread to cheaper land within commuting distance. Frustration with long commutes is mounting. Downtown housing is enjoying a revival. Suburbs are creating town centers that combine stores, offices, condos and townhouses in a walkable environment. We're going to wind up with anywhere between 60% and 70% of development occurring on the outer edge. rw doclink

U.S.: Home Prices Outpace Area Wages

December 10, 2004   Washington Post

Washington's home prices are rising faster than its wages. Compounding the problem is that the Washington areas population is growing more quickly than the new housing units. That gap has widened since 2000. The region's wages rose 9% from 2000 to 2002, the report said, but median home prices went up 37% during that time. The share of homes selling for $400,000 or more is rising, and those for less than $140,000 is falling. The region has the lowest unemployment rate among the nation's large metropolitan areas, but it is not housing workers close to their jobs. The numbers reveal a widening gap between the haves and those who have less. The region's traffic jams and residential sprawl are becoming a political issue but there is not enough regional cooperation. The lack of affordable housing is squeezing people at the low end of the wage scale and there is a mismatch between the locations of jobs and affordable housing, with plenty of moderately priced housing in Prince George's County and much less in Fairfax County. Home sale prices have risen more sharply this decade - a boon to people who already own homes but a hardship for those who do not. Rents have risen too, though they did not go up on average nationwide. The homeownership rate is rising faster here than in other parts of the country, though people are expending burdensome chunks of their income for housing. Local traffic congestion is not as bad as in San Francisco or Los Angeles, and air pollution is less severe than in Houston. Localities should promote dense development, and require that affordable units be built in the popular housing markets. It also urged leaders to steer more high-wage jobs to Prince George's County and the eastern part of the District, where housing is affordable. Most high-paying jobs are in places with hot housing markets and interest in living close to those jobs forces housing prices even higher. Recommendations will require people to cross lines of race, class and political jurisdiction. Residential segregation is echoed in the pattern of job location. Another barrier to attracting middle-class workers to DC are the lack of a good public school system needs to be addressed. It will take work to persuade business leaders who prefer to locate where others are, to put employment centers in Prince George's County or other emerging markets. rw doclink

US Maine: Sprawl's Grip Felt in Midcoast

December 10, 2004   Herald, The (UK)

Sprawl is spreading much further in Maine and was a key part of a recent discussion because it has a negative impact on neighborhoods. Sprawl is taking place in the area from Bucksport to Brunswick. Population is decreasing in cities such as Bath and Rockland but growing rapidly in surrounding communities. The emphasis was on building connection among Mainers concerned about preserving a neighborhood way of life. The conference dealt with issues that affect seniors. For example, sprawl means more people living in outlying communities depend on their cars and become stranded when they can't drive. Unless sprawl is controlled, in 30 years all of southern and coastal Maine will be suburban. The problems include obesity because people use their cars and walk less; pollution because of the increased use of automobiles; a tax problem because suburbs demand new roads and schools; and "a diminished sense of community" because people are more isolated in the suburbs. Sprawl hurts existing neighborhoods because streets become major arterials for commuters. Sprawl is occurring in the midcoast, for example, while Bath's population dropped 5.4%, Bowdoinham's grew by 19.2% and Bowdoin's climbed 23.6%. Rockland's population decreased by 4.6%, but Hope's climbed by 28.8% and Cushing's grew 33.8%. One group fights sprawl through helping towns write plans that address the problem and by endorsing developers who follow smart growth criteria. rw doclink

Arizona as the New Canvas for Exurban Mega Growth

November 09, 2004   Monitor, The(Uganda)

Surrounded by vast stretches of scrub desert and escarpments, this small town and five others like it in Pinal County are among the reasons why Arizona is home to a population surge second only to Nevada's. Inexpensive homes, desert views, and dry weather are enticing new families, retirees, and nonresident investors. Pinal County has become the Orange County of Arizona. Since much of Pinal County is part of an Indian reservation, some say its growth may never equal the boom of California. But most agree it is a patchwork of communities lacking an urban core. After five decades of steady growt - 40% in the past decade, Arizona will be home to 8.2 million by 2020. Other areas in Arizona also show signs of explosive growth. The influx is producing housing and population but not employment. Developments have been taking land and farms at about an acre an hour over the past years. Unconnected to the local community, the new buyers are from every corner the union, attracted to quieter, hassle-free living on the cheap, outdoor recreation and the safety. As the baby boomers age, they are looking for a healthier lifestyle and feel this is the place to come for autonomy in 360 days of sunshine each year. State researchers aren't sure exactly who is buying up all the land. Those who are moving in are not employed in the area. Some are concerned that accelerating house values will encourage purchases for rental use which can drag down community quality. Others think overbuilding might leave sagging investments. The Arizona outposts are challenging policymakers in how to design highways to sewers and water delivery in a state scorched with six years of record drought, pressing the limits of natural resources specifically water. Observers worry that planners in smaller towns will be unable to stand up to powerful corporate developers and defend a sense of place. Some Western desert cities, Salt Lake City for instance, have been lauded for choosing mixed-use urban models in which population is packed more densely creating pedestrian communities with residents living above retail outlets and preserving open space. Other cities, such as Las Vegas, have let large-house suburban models devour previously picturesque regions. Most critical is how planners and citizens grapple with transportation, water, and schools. Voters Nov. approved a half-cent sales tax to provide billions in highway construction funds. While some planners point to the depleted main water sources Lake Meade and Lake Powell to the north others say underground aquifers have not even begun to be tapped. rw doclink

Don't Take Traffic to Heart, New Cardiac Study Warns

October 21, 2004   Star-Ledger

A study finds that the amount of time people spend in traffic could increase the risk of a heart attack. Even those who travel by bus or riding a bicycle are at higher risk within an hour of exposure. The study, is significant because it adds traffic to the known triggers for heart attack. It is likely stress, noise and traffic-related air pollution that have led to the two- to three-fold increase in heart attack risk. The researchers interviewed 691 heart attack survivors in southern Germany between February 1999 and July 2001. Each person provided information on what may have triggered the attack, including the hours spent in traffic. The more time people spent in cars, public transport or motorcycles and bicycles, the greater their risk of a heart attack. 8% of the cases studied had some link to traffic in the preceding hours, 72% being in cars when exposed to traffic. Women and persons over 60 were found to be at higher risk within an hour of traffic exposure. Heart attacks following traffic exposure were more common during the morning when roads are jammed with people trying to get to work causing a lot of air pollution the health effects of which are cardiovascular. If people lower their risk factors, such as not smoking and keeping their blood pressure in check, they will be at lower risk. When patients are stressed out because of traffic, it leads to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. People should try changing how they view being stuck in traffic, think about it as time gained and view it as a breather. Listening to music or using the time to do something productive can also help. rw doclink

Sprawl May Harm Health

September 29, 2004  

A study of more than 8,600 Americans in 38 metropolitan areas found that arthritis, asthma, headaches and other complaints increased with the degree of sprawl. Living in areas with the least amount of sprawl was like adding four years to people's lives in terms of their health. As suburbia has spread, health experts have become concerned that the fast-food, car-dependent lifestyle may be contributing to health problems. Previous studies have linked sprawl to an increased risk of being overweight and obese and certain related health problems, such as high blood pressure. The least compact community was the Riverside-San Bernardino area in California, while the most was Manhattan. The Washington area ranked 15th most sprawling; Baltimore ranked the ninth least sprawling. People living in areas that scored highest on the sprawl scale reported the most problems, appearing to disproportionately affect the poor and the elderly. Particularly significant were arthritis, respiratory problems, stomach problems, headaches and urinary tract infections. There was also evidence of heart disease and high blood pressure. Very spread out places had 100 more health problems per 1,000 people than areas that were less so. Washington had 50 more per 1,000 than Baltimore. Some speculated that the social isolation in sprawling communities also lead to mental health problems, such as depression, but the study failed to find that link. The study suggests that where a person lives can have an impact on their health. Critics dismissed the findings as flawed and the link between sprawl and health was tenuous at best. People have been suburbanizing for a very long time, yet life expectancy keeps getting longer. rw doclink

Sprawl May Harm Health

September 29, 2004   Washington Post

A study which analyzed data on 8,600 Americans in 38 metropolitan areas found that rates of arthritis, asthma, headaches and other complaints increased with the degree of sprawl. As suburbia has spread health experts have become concerned that the fast-food, car-dependent lifestyle may contribueg to health problems. The new study is the first to examine the relationship between sprawl and chronic illnesses that are presumably due to the fact that sprawl discourages physical activity, increasing the chances of being overweight or obese and sprawling communities have more air pollution. The unhealthful effects appeared to affect the poor and the elderly, particularly with arthritis, respiratory problems such as asthma, stomach problems, headaches and urinary tract infections. Researchers also found evidence of an association with heart disease and high blood pressure. Some researchers speculated that the social isolation in sprawling communities may also lead to mental health problems, but the study failed to find that link. Critics said the link between sprawl and health was tenuous at best. A professor at the University of Southern California called the study "junk science." rw doclink

LTE: Pursuing Growth at What Cost?

September 28, 2004   SonomaNews.com

Some of the qualities of life are the uncongested freedom of movement, green trees, blue skies, relatively abundant natural resources and the sometimes noise-free quietude. However, by following a city planning directive of growth, this wonderful quality of life will be lost. Adding more housing and commercial development will bring additional population, more cars, more infrastructure constipation, more noise and air pollution and more demand on the Valley watershed. Once the environment is over-stressed the quality of life will be irretrievably gone. Is to be the community's future? If not, the future vision must focus on sustaining the quality of life - not development. This can only be accomplished by balancing additional growth with the environment's ability to handle it. Growth without consideration of the surrounding organic environment is, in the end, toxic to that very environment. rw doclink

The pressure of more people fuels the growing development. If there was not an influx of people it would not be profitable to contine to develop our communities.

Washington's Road to Outward Growth Far-Off Houses Are Cheap, but Drive Carries Costs: Time, Traffic and Pollution

September 03, 2004   Washington Post

The 3,200-home Huntfield W.Va community has four-bedroom homes selling for about $270,000, $150,000 less than a similar house closer to Washington but with a daily commute of over an hour. It is more than 25 miles from Leesburg, farther from Reston, Tysons Corner and Washington. According to the developer, only 1 resident will work in West Virginia, 72 in suburban Virginia, 13 in Maryland and 5 in Washington. The rest are self-employed or retired. No one believes it makes sense to build homes so far from work but Huntfield's developer says they're here because strict restrictions in convenient locations have caused a shortage of affordable homes. Pricier homes on large lots are permitted in nearer areas but much land is off-limits to conventional subdivisions. The commuting time for Huntfield residents is double that the average, which leads to more gasoline consumption, dirtier air and environmental problems as the traffic chokes rural roads. The land use regulations in Loudoun and Fairfax have accelerated sprawl. Many argue that sprawl is what most Americans want. Most Huntfield residents view their neighborhood as a compromise between price and commuting. The economic forces are to build the tax base by attracting more workplaces than homes starting in the '90s when a jobs boom got underway along the highway that runs to Dulles Airport. Thousands of new employees were priced out of Fairfax County, in part because of strict building limits with 55% of residential land limited to no more than two homes per acre. During the '90s, the number of Fairfax workers living in Loudoun doubled and voters installed slow-growth leaders in the 1999 elections. Within two years, Loudoun dropped the number of houses permitted from about 187,000 to 100,000. Some question the commitment of the current board to land-use reform - the western two-thirds remain off-limits to conventional subdivisions and developers are limited to no more than 1 home per 10 acres. A fiscal analysis showed that the county could save $103 million annually by slowing residential growth and cutting the demand for schools and other services. They want businesses because they generate more in taxes than they consume in services. Some environmentalists say that the restrictions have helped redirect growth toward Washington and its inner suburbs. Many residents have moved from Loudoun, possibly due to building restrictions. Some planners wonder whether the Washington region might be stretched farther if economic growth in the region continues and home-building restrictions limit the supply of homes. Jefferson County created a $7,000-per-home fee and ways to protect rural land. As a result, developers have begun looking to neighboring Berkeley County. There is a shortage of buildable land and Berkeley County is more attractive to and developers with no impact fees or zoning. The boom left Jefferson County struggling to pay for a new high school and a sewer moratorium and poisoned relationships between Huntfield's newcomers and Charles Town. Because the Washington commuters back up traffic for miles, West Virginia is planning to widen the road to four lanes and have started a new bridge over the Shenandoah River. Much of Hillsboro, a historic town, would have to be demolished if the road were widened. Huntfield residents counter that Loudoun's building restrictions have pushed people to live in West Virginia and commute. rw doclink

More people, more houses, more pollution, less open land. Seems sort of obvious?

US New Hampshire: Town Mulls Water Protection Plantown

July 22, 2004   The Rockingham News

Plaistow has no municipal water supply and the town will increase its population by 39% by 2020. The water supply is dependent upon groundwater and an effort to ensure that the water supply is protected is nearing completion. Recommendations focused on limiting potential contamination, minimizing consumption and protecting groundwater quantity and the most important thing is to tackle the issue of future development. More sprawl - defined as low density, single-use, automobile dependent development patterns - means more roads and infrastructure, which means less natural environment. One key is to limit the area covered by impervious surfaces, such as parking lots and roads that make it difficult for the water supply to recharge and the best way to do this is to decrease sprawl. rw doclink

A Survey of California - Stuff of Dreams, the Charm of Never-ending Suburb

May 2004   Economist

90% of Californians want to live in a single family detached home; two thirds in a low density neighborhood where driving is a necessity. Victorville represents the north-eastern edge "the Inland Empire" that now number 3.6 million: 660,000 arrived during the 1990s, 550,000 are Latinos. California sprawl advances in three steps. First blue-collar families and developers discover a cheap place to live, followed by real estate agents, shops, local government. These commuters are joined by industrial or distribution centers and finally better paid white-collar workers and professionals and companies where they want to work. As prices go up the blue-collar workers start looking for somewhere else to to live. Prices in convenient central areas rise, less affluent workers are driven farther in search of affordable housing. And the process repeats. This process is driven by population growth. And the largest cause of population growth is recent immigrants and their progeny. rw doclink

US California: Fire Review Panel Faults Bureaucracy; Governor's Commission Says Rival Groups Fail to Put People's Lives Ahead of Their Own Agendas

April 14, 2004   Los Angeles Times

The California governor's Fire Commission urged officials to eliminate political and jurisdictional barriers that have conflicting requirements and responsibilities. It noted the Department of Forestry was operating a system year-round on an eight-month budget. The panel made recommendations including improving coordination among fire agencies, more training, beefing up personnel and equipment. Critics said the report did not address how to pay for the proposals, where to draw the line on development, and how to deal with aging chaparral and beetle-infested trees. What was missing was the problem of all that fuel near the edges of communities. A spokeswoman said the governor was withholding comment because he had not reviewed the report. In the San Bernardino Mountains are 1 million beetle-killed trees, loads of vegetation that hasn't been cleared, and people are saying, 'Let's leave things the way they are, this is the way nature intended'. In Southern California, a dry climate combines with hot, gusty winds which blow across rugged terrain choked with parched chaparral and dead timber. Many cities and counties have adopted new building codes that ban combustible building materials. Others have stiffened the requirements for clearing brush. One major component of fuel is the increasing number of homes built amid brush and timber. We need to restore fire to wild lands in a safe way through prescribed burns. October's devastation was staggering: 739,597 acres burned; 3,361 homes and 36 commercial properties destroyed; 500 farmlands torched; 246 people injured; 24 people dead. At the height of the blazes, 15,631 emergency personnel were assigned to a fire line that stretched more than 100 miles. The panel was established to determine which firefighting efforts worked and which did not, and to provide recommendations. It became clear that conflicting public policy, lengthy bureaucratic processes and procedures, and antagonistic tactics were the significant barriers to reducing the threat of wild-land fires. rw doclink

Study Touts Rapid Rail Links $37 Billion Project Cheaper, Cleaner Than Roads, Airports

January 27, 2004   San Francisco Chronicle

A 700-mile, $37 billion high-speed rail system is California's best method of intrastate travel as the state's population swells. A high-speed rail system linking the Bay Area and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego would be cheaper and less environmentally damaging than expanding highways and airports. It would zip passengers between the Bay Area and Los Angeles in about the same time as a commercial flight. The rail project has made little progress over the last three years and now Gov. Schwarzenegger proposes that legislators remove a $10 billion bond measure for high-speed rail from the November ballot. The High Speed Rail Authority envisions an electric train that would travel more than 200 mph on dedicated fenced-off tracks and would carry 68 million passengers by 2020. A high-speed train trip from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles would take 3 hours and 20 minutes. The biggest controversies facing the project include the alignment along with station locations and the impacts on coastal communities and parks and wilderness areas. rw doclink

Growth Education - New Website

December 16, 2003  

The first commandment of economics is: Grow. Grow forever. Companies get bigger. National economies need to swell by a certain percent each year. People should want more, make more, earn more, spend more -ever more.

The first commandment of the Earth is: enough. Just so much and no more. doclink

Gridlocked Shanghai to Ban Bicycles

December 15, 2003   Los Angeles Times

The automobile now rules in Shanghai - bicycles will be banned from important streets next year. Police are increasing fines tenfold for infractions, yet cars, buses and taxis put pressure on the environment, argue bike proponents. Vehicle emissions have become a major source of pollution even while polluting industries have been shut. Banning bicycles could worsen overcrowding on buses and subways and prompt people to turn to automobiles, worsening the pollution. Others claim that Shanghai should control the increasing numbers of private cars. Shanghai, a city of 20 million, has 9 million bikes. The number of new cycles in the city grew by 1 million this year. With the Communist Party promoting bikes as cheap, egalitarian transport, China ran almost exclusively by pedal power before economic reforms fired a desire for private cars. Hordes of cyclists can be seen in the old city center. Yet cars and freeway development have encroached as Shanghai became the Detroit of China's auto industry. In other Chinese cities, bikes are also being shunted aside as car ownership grows. In Shanghai, the number of private vehicles nearly doubled to 142,801 and they are outnumbered 6-to-1 by buses, taxis, government cars and commercial vehicles. rw doclink

Commenting On: Protecting Land From California's Sprawling Population

November 15, 2003   Karen Pitts

The ever growing population forces up real estate prices in southern California and in many other major cities. People move to the suburbs where prices are lower. A house in or near the city center can sell for a million dollars, allowing persons moving out a chance to buy a bigger home on a bigger lot elsewhere. I wouldn't call it white flight because people of all colors will move to where it is either less expensive or where they can afford a nicer, bigger house in less crowded conditions - if they can find a job elsewhere, or if they don't mind commuting. It is the worst possible form of sprawl, consuming our open spaces and clogging our roads. rw doclink

Ralph says: This is so tue of almost every large city, not just S. California.

US Massachusetts: `Mansionization' Tied to Loss of Open Spaces

November 10, 2003   Boston Globe

Massachusetts residents are living in larger homes on bigger lots. 40 acres of Massachusetts forest, farmland, and open space are being developed every day, 90% to build new homes. Development threatens rare habitats from Cape Cod to the Berkshires. There is increasing sprawl where residents live in large houses and commute long distances to work, while affordable housing remains in short supply. Home builders are being forced to build on larger lots by communities trying to slow development through zoning regulations. Individual towns require costly improvements that encourage large, expensive homes resulting in ever larger homes and lots. Between 1970 and 2001, the average space for a single-family home grew by 44% to 2,260 square feet while the average lot grew by 47 percent despite the trend to fewer people who live in those houses. In 1970, an average was three people per home, by 2000, it had fallen to 2.5 people. Between 1985 and 1999, development of forested land took place in southeastern Massachusetts and on Cape Cod. The loss of agricultural land was along I495 and the Connecticut River Valley. Statewide, more than 202,000 acres were developed between 1985 and the state's population grew from 6 million in 1990 to 6.4 million in 2002. About 24% percent of the state's land was developed by 1999, compared with 17% in 1971. Builders, developers, and other professionals are pushing for a statewide law to allow developers to build in smaller "clusters," in return for the preservation of open space. A subdivision in Foxborough demonstrates the problem. The 38-lot development on 100 acres of farmland is in a watershed with lots at least an acre and a half. The builder said he had to build expensive homes to recover his costs. Water filtration plants will have to be built to replace watershed lands that act as filters, and dams and breakwaters will to replace the marshes and wetlands that serve as flood controls. Undeveloped land and open space in Massachusetts provide services that would cost the state more than $6 billion per year. rw doclink

Think about the traffic congestion and collapse of infrastructure if 10 years down the line rezoning allowed property owners to put 8 houses on each lot.

US Oregon: Grow Better, Not Bigger

November 03, 2003   Oregonian, The

The Gov. of Oregon is pleading for an influx of new residents because "You're not going to have growth in the economy without a growth in the population," In the last 30 years the population has grown by 58%, or 1.3 million people. Increasing population brings increasing taxes, congested highways, crowded schools, pressure to build new infrastructure, loss of open space and natural amenities. Additionally, even if the unemployment rate holds steady there will be a larger total of unemployed. There are more effective ways to improve our economy. Up to 75% of the new jobs go to new residents. New residents bring in a family necessitating additional public facilities hence higher taxes in larger cities. For every new resident there will be others that moved here in an attempt to get that job and remain, adding to our unemployment. The majority of new jobs come from locally owned businesses. Our leaders would be advised to focus on making it easier to own and operate locally owned businesses, rather give away tax abatements and subsidies to attract an out of town corporation. Local businesses retain dollars in the local economy and pay higher wages and act as more caring community members. rw doclink

Arizona Sprawl, Development, and Dearth of Water

October 24, 2003   Guardian (London)

Phoenix, the US's seventh largest city, is one of the fastest-growing in the world, and you ain't seen nothing yet. The town of Buckeye is 70 miles from the city has a population of 6,000, and its voters approved a new development, Douglas Ranch, that is expected to add another 300,000 people, in addition to the 300,000 Buckeye was expecting. The area gets only seven inches of rainfall a year. Every field has a developer's placard on it. Buckeye is expected to become a major metropolis within 30 years. Its mayor said if someone owns the land, you can't stop them building on it. The highway into Phoenix is four lanes, although planners say 10 will be insufficient. So far, new estates in Buckeye have been built too far out to be part of a real suburb. "All you do when you build out here is pull stuff away from the inner city," says Chad Campbell, chair of the local Sierra Club's sprawl committee. "You're not increasing business opportunities, you're transferring them. We're into a never-ending cycle of people moving further and further away." The voters were sweetened by $1 million from the developers to a community trust fund, and many of them stand to gain from the leap in land prices. The farmers can walk away with huge payouts for low-grade fields. It is perhaps an environmental boon as crops take more water than thousands of families. Developers are meant to build around the cacti in the desert or transplant them but this is not protecting the ecosystem itself, it's just a gesture. rw doclink

Toledo's Urban Flight

October 07, 2003   Toledo Blade (Ohio)

Neighborhoods Maumee, Sylvania and swaths of Fulton and Wood counties in Tulsa are suffering from sluggish tax bases, concentrated pockets of poverty, stressed infrastructure, and struggling schools. The culprit is a tax system that encourages new development rather than redevelopment. Highways are built and development follows. Around Toledo are at-risk developed areas, at-risk low-density, affluent areas, and developing bedroom communities with Toledo the core city. Toledo has a dwindling population and increased demand on services. Monclova, Waterville and Sylvania are affluent. But at risk are smaller cities and villages to which some have fled to escape problems in Toledo city including Grand Rapids, Wood County, Chesterfield, and Dover. Within the decay from sprawl, each inner area will be the first to see school systems and local governments with budget shortfalls. Community leaders have lamented urban sprawl, now the suburbs are struggling. In developed communities, families move outward leaving older infrastructure, schools and a shrinking tax base. Developing communities expect roads, water and sewer services, and a good school system and that puts them against each in luring new development even though they speak about maintaining green space and peace and quiet. The suburbs appear healthy, but a declining inner core affects them too. Economies are tied together, and a decaying central city doesnt attract new business. Disparities in wealth between communities grow as is seen in the schools, where -subsidized lunches mean poverty. During the 1990s, poverty in Toledo Schools swelled twice as fast as the rest of the region. Schools in surrounding communities find their budgets are not keeping pace with costs. To contain sprawl, governments must consider the long-term and regional effects of development. They should share tax revenues to minimize competing against each other for new development. rw doclink

US Texas: Houston: Population and Mass Transit

August 22, 2003   Christian Science Monitor

This November, Houstonians will vote on a mass-transit proposal that includes 40 miles of light-rail, an eight-mile commuter train to Missouri City, 142 miles of Park & Ride bus service, 44 new bus routes, and bike racks on all buses. This is a city built on the automobile, with endless miles of road. But two million people will pour into the area over the next two decades, and freeways will not accommodate them. Weary commuters drive more miles per capita than residents in any other US metropolitan area. Houston lost its bid for the 2012 Olympics in part because of poor transportation. A new Toyota plant took Houston from its list, because of air pollution. Opposition is spearheaded by developers and oil companies who believe cities with sprawl have lower housing costs. Critics say that Houston was built for the automobile and Houstonians will not give up their cars. Polls show frustration with congestion and support for mass transit. Dallas's new light-rail system has doubled the riders in its first year. Other Western cities have had varying success. Denver and Salt Lake City are good examples, while Los Angeles is struggling to get commuters aboard. The list of cities in the South and West that want more transit is impressive: Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Phoenix, Las Vegas. In Houston, the question is funding as voters wonder how much they'll have to pay. An approved light-rail system will stretch 7.5 miles, linking downtown Houston with the medical center and sports arenas. City leaders say this is the first piece in a larger transit plan, but it's unclear whether Houstonians will agree to more. rw doclink

Population: Growth of the City Must Be Managed

June 2003   Advocate, The

The Plan Baton Rouge workshops and lectures seeks to create neighborhoods where residents can get where they want by walking. This involves mixing residential and commercial uses within the same area. A community's long-term economy is tied to the way it manages growth. Those who regard "smart growth" as an unrealistic drive to force single-family residents to move into downtown apartment towers should study this carefully. Many of the conservative residents have embraced smart growth because fiscally conservative residents are not willing to pay the costs associated with sprawl that is much more expensive than building on empty lots within the urban core. Development farther from the city's core means expensive transport. But cities often make it more difficult for developers in the central core, and residents react by trying to block projects. Smart growth is an effort to create choices for residents. Some would welcome a place where they could walk to shop or meet friends for coffee. Bad development occurs when projects fulfill the needs of developers, rather than residents. Cities successfully manage growth by policies that make development in the city more lucrative than the suburbs. rw doclink

Sprawl: Farmers Unite to Preserve Their Fields

May 18, 2003   Washington Post

The stand farmers are making in the San Joaquin Valley against development is catching the attention of farmers nationwide. When developers promised fat checks, they all refused together at the same time, then relinquished any right to convert the farmland to other use. The 440 acres they preserved will block development on 40,000 other acres coveted by home builders. Across the country fields - where crops have been sown for generations - are being paved for suburbs and shopping malls. 6 million acres have been developed over the past decade, stoked by population growth and the desire for more space. The San Joaquin Valley has added nearly a half-million residents over the past decade and is bracing for twice as many more. Demographers are projecting that in 15 years 80,000 new residents will settle in or near Madera. Conservation groups had been fighting to protect agricultural land by purchasing farmers' rights to develop their property. California has been spending $40 million annually to give farmers tax breaks to continue cultivating their crops. But 50,000 acres of farmland are vanishing every year. The farmers sold their rights to have their land used for housing or businesses. They made less money than selling to developers, but keep their farms.The agreement won approval from the city. rw doclink

US Pennsylvania: Sprawl & Env: Group Working to Save Spaces

May 11, 2003   Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Every day more than 300 acres of Pennsylvania fields and woods are converted to "sprawl". The region lost more than 50,000 acres of farmland during the 1990s, and it's not clear if anyone kept track of woodlands. A region known for its rural landscape is becoming a suburban smear. Alternatives are being offered to development and plans for an educational campaign to help officials shape development in ways that minimize impact on open land and water. In order to attract good jobs it is necessary to offer the people an appealing landscape and outdoor recreational opportunities. A group will purchase land or accept donations of land from owners who wish to protect the natural features and provide easements from owners who wish to retain ownership but who committed to preserving the natural beauty and value of their land in its undeveloped state. All property owned by the group will be open to public hunting, fishing and other low-impact outdoor uses. If the society is able to purchase a property for development, it would seek a project with a private concern that demonstrates smart growth that is planned to minimize impact on open space. The objective is to work with owners of smaller parcels, and protect farmland, woodland and stream corridors in creative ways. rw doclink

US Tennessee: Sprawl: On outskirts of Nashville, foes of sprawl attune region

May 11, 2003   Boston Globe

Leiper's Fork is among the nation's fastest growing communities and residents believe that neighboring Nashville will become so congested that it will overwhelm them. There is a legal fight against a state highway that would surround the city but could endanger communities. Similar fights are taking place across the country as rural and suburban residents battle encroaching development. Many argue that sprawl degrades an area's quality of life. In Nashville, much of the debate over growth has centered on Route 840, that is planned to make a 187-mile loop around the city, supporting development and improving the commute to outlying areas. Many people fear the highway could lead to unbridled sprawl. rw doclink

US California: Sprawl: Open-Space Group Targets 6,000 Acres

April 28, 2003   Los Angeles Times

Open-space advocates successfully fought the measure to allow construction of 1,390 homes in the hills above Ventura. They have established a nonprofit conservancy to acquire 6,000 acres and backers met to discuss raising the money to purchase the hills and canyons they hope to spare from development. The landowner wants to sell the land and is willing to meet with conservancy officials to discuss a deal. The conservancy is an offshoot of last fall's campaign that challenged some 300 landowners who tried to persuade voters to permit home building in exchange for setting aside 80% of 3,800 acres for parks, trails and open space. rw doclink

Immigrants Help Steady Big-City Populations

April 17, 2003

This article claims that immigrants helped to stabilize the big-city centers, while people continued to push out the metropolitan fringes. Rockwall County, Texas, east of Dallas, was the fastest growing, Atlanta and Washington also had big gains. Los Angeles County added 118,000 immigrants while losing 83,000 residents. The 2000 census showed that emigration from Mexico helped Chicago reverse a decline in population. The largest urban counties had little or no growth, suburban counties in the West and South dominated the list of fastest-growing areas. The United States had 288.4 million residents last July, up 1.1 percent from 2001. rw doclink

While immigrants are willing to cram themselves in - big families or several families to a unit, they drive up the demand for city housing and prices go up. Native borns are usually not willing to settle for the lower standard of living at higher prices and the previous residents move out to the suburbs because that is the only housing left that they can afford.

US California: Fertile Ground for Sprawl - Governor Proposes Cutting Funds for Farmland Tax Break

March 23, 2003   San Francisco Chronicle

The Williamson Act protects more than half of California's agricultural acreage, mostly in the Central Valley. Landowners enter into 10-year deals agreeing to keep their fields undeveloped and in exchange are given a break on taxes. This helps farmers stay in business when development sends property values and tax rates skyrocketing. Since the early 1970s, the state has reimbursed counties for the taxes they are missing this year $39 million for the 15 million acres protected under the act. In the new budget proposal the state would end its reimbursement. If counties ended the agreements, it would take 10 years to get out of the deals. Environmentalists, farmers and lawmakers fearfully anticipate an accelerated development in 10 to 20 years, when the state's population is expected to grow by more than 11 million. That would send farmers' tax bills soaring and making the lure of selling out hard to ignore. Without the Williamson Act, there will be more sprawling suburban development. The state currently looses 50,000 acres of farmland a year to development. The act has curbed development in rural areas by limiting the number of subdivisions among farms and ranches. rw doclink

U.S.: Suburban Crawl: Even with Jobs in Suburbs, Commutes Get Longer; More Counties Have a Large Share of Imported Workers and 'Bedroom' Residents.

March 07, 2003   Grist Magazine

70% of Arlington County, Virginia workforce work somewhere else. Meanwhile, nonresidents come in to the county to do their jobs. 17 counties from Florida to Massachusetts export and import half their workforce on a weekday. Even though jobs are following Americans into the suburbs, jobs and workers end up far apart. It explains why a growing share of Americans are crossing county lines to reach their jobs. Jobs move out to the suburbs, and employees move to exurbs. 23% of Americans worked outside their county of residence in 2000. Much of this rise comes from workers' desire to live in less congested places, but in some residential markets workers can't afford to live near their work. San Francisco County imports nearly half its workforce. Workers' skills also affect commuting. Arlington County, the home of the Pentagon, attracts highly skilled workers who may choose to live in more exclusive areas. At the same time, its housing may prove too costly for the people who staff the county's low-end service jobs. The automobile's dominance means little room for new gains from public transportation or carpooling. Compounding the problem, immigrants are moving quickly from public transportation to cars and to the suburbs. rw doclink

US California: Sierra Club Leader Keeps Wary Eye on Manteca

February 19, 2003   Manteca Bulletin

Manteca's urbanization isn't escaping the attention of the Sierra Club. Sprawl has been the biggest concern - low-density unplanned growth that spreads into agricultural and wildlife lands. Eric Parfrey of the Sierra Club's Motherlode chapte lamented the paving over of prime agricultural land and said that it watered down to developer's campaign contribution money corrupting or at least paralyzing elected officials. In neighboring Tracy, he said, the sprawl is an abomination and highway 205 is becoming a bottleneck. Air quality will soon put it out of the running for federal funding, which will push back widening ten years. It is bad management by the city but affects all in the Valley especially Manteca which has a responsibility to lead change, but is not taking up that mantle. It is suggested that fees are charged developers to upgrade the freeways, or use the money to set aside land for greenbelts to act as barriers between cities. The north of Stockton and the south of Lodi are indistinguishable and that isn't what Manteca wants. Manteca and Lathrop should work together and create one wastewater plant between them. It would save money, the environment, and protect the quality of life. Manteca's 3.9% growth cap is a start. When growth overcomes services there begins a deterioration in the quality of life. Manteca can be a positive force for the county's future. rw doclink

Grown Kids Should Live with Parents to Save Environment

January 13, 2003   Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Researchers from Michigan University said the increase in single households has contributed toward the destruction of biological diversity. Each new single household is less efficient than a larger house with six or more people. The research concentrated on 76 countries where biological diversity has been eroded or threatened. There was a connection between the drop in biologic diversity and a high number of independent households even in countries with dropping birthrates. In the 76 countries with threatened biological diversity, 155 million new households have been founded since 1985 and will grow to 233 million by 2015. The phenomenon occurs even in countries with dropping birthrates, such as Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain. rw doclink

U.S.: Environment Pays Price as More Live Alone

January 13, 2003   The Boston Globe;

The proliferation of smaller households is straining the world's natural resources. Housing units create a need for building materials, appliances, and energy, and produces more waste. In the U.S. one of every four households is inhabited by one person. In countries with environmental problems, such as the U.S. the rise in the number of households from 1985 to 2000 outpaced population growth, explaining the environmental stresses as the number of households grew by 3.1% each year, while the population rose 1.8%. In other countries, the population and household growth rates were the same at 1.7% a year. In countries where the population is shrinking, the number of households is climbing. In China, many young adults are staying single longer and moving away from their parents. Governments should provide incentives to encourage more efficient use of living space. In the United States, the government should consider tax incentives to share homes, or penalties for people who choose to live alone. Government should also discourage urban sprawl. Cohousing is better for the environment, and offers advantages of a village-like atmosphere. Lawmakers should consider a tax on household energy. rw doclink

U.S.: Cities Eat Away at Earth's Best Land

December 18, 2002   New Scientist

Although previously measured in other ways, Marc Imhoff and his colleagues at the NASA Goddard Space Center have quantified the loss of prime agricultural land to urbanization which ultimately threatens food supplies and "carbon sinks". Using weather satellites to "pick out city lights, oil flares forest fires", he divided the mainland US states into "urban, urban periphery and non-urban" and determined the amount of vegetation in each region by measuring reflectance in the red and near-infrared frequencies due to the chlorophyll of green plants. Factoring in additional weather data (temperature, humidity and rainfall), he calculated the "amount of plant growth or net primary productivity (NPP) in each region". "He found that ... urban areas [which occupy just 3% of the land] cost the US 40 million tons of carbon per year, or 1.6% of the countrys total pre-urban NPP". This cancels out the "1.8% contribution to NPP made by agriculture", which occupies 29% of the US landmass. That is, urbanization is consuming the best farmland. Imhoff calculated that urbanization reduces "the dry vegetation in the US by 91 million tons per year", enough to feed 450 million people, if it were all edible. The reduction of food productivity has particular importance to developing countries with rapidly growing populations, but enhanced carbon release affects both developing and developed countries. doclink

Rural Americas New Problem: Handling Sprawl

December 2002  

Struggling rural communities welcome growth but face unfamiliar challenges. Officials worry the boom will harm natural areas, the infrastructure and finances of their communities. Joplin, Mo grew faster during the 1990s than Kansas City. Unincorporated open country saw population rise 12.3%. In Joplins outlying areas 3,500 new housing permits were issued, greater than either Joplin (2,979) or its surrounding towns (3,079). Joplins population grew 16.% between 1982 and 1997, urbanized land expanded at 40.6%, with 23 square miles of rural land converted to urban use. Joplins unincorporated metro area has no planning or zoning. The area has not lost a lot of agricultural land and the region doesnt suffer from traffic jams. But problems are surfacing. The county health department rules a minimum 0.9-acre lot for new homes with septic systems. The health department has tripled costs and personnel to handle septic-system issues. In Missouri cities and towns they offer sewer systems that free developers from lot-size requirements, which means they can pack more houses on the land. But Oronogo, north of Joplin saw its population increase 64% to 976 residents and household income doubled. The community has declared a moratorium on development because of infrastructure limits. The wastewater treatment it shares with other communities has reached capacity, and it faces a $ 2.6 million bill to expand its water system that would double residents water bills. A local developer would require a sewer line that would cost $ 50 a foot. Developers argue that theyre meeting a demand for housing.

rw doclink

Open Spaces, Urban Sprawl and Overpopulation  

When we talk about the effects of overpopulation they are generally on an international level, in terms of the growing shortages of food, water, fuel, medical services or similar items, plus the increasing levels of pollution. For example the millions of people who are starving in Africa, the destruction of the forests in South America, or the lack of clean drinking water in Bangladesh. These are extremely critical problems, but sitting in our comfortable homes they appear remote to us. We feel sorry for these unfortunate people, but we cannot see any way that this can affect our day to day way of life. Overpopulation is looked on as problem that does not really affect us. However if we open our eyes, the effects of overpopulation on our day to day living can be clearly seen all around us, especially in the outlying suburbs of our great cities. These effects have developed over the years and therefore we have become used to them and accept them as the normal growth of our society. But that philosophy is changing dramatically. "Save our open spaces" is the subject of many "letters to the editor" in our suburban papers. Residents groups are springing up in many areas in an attempt to halt or at least slow down the continuing development that is spreading farther and farther out from our cities. What was once farmland and forest is now covered with houses, supermarkets, shopping malls and business premises. Country roads now have traffic lights at every corner and traffic jams every night and morning. In spite of the introduction of tougher environmental standards pollution is creeping into almost every source of water. Although this form of destruction of the rural life style has become very obvious, there is a continuous drive for more development. We are told that development is necessary for the following reasons. To hold down property taxes. To provide employment. To improve our life style (in spite of the problems it causes.) Most of this is of course absolute nonsense and totally untrue. Development has one primary purpose and that is to make a profit for the developer, never mind how it impacts the residents of the area. We only have to note the frequent and lengthy legal hassles that ensue when new developments are proposed. However even profit is not the basic driving force behind development. When we strip away the politics, the emotions and the philosophical ideas, the ultimate cause is our expanding population. Development is the obvious way of profiting from the demand this generates. For example, the demand for housing has driven up the cost of a home in many cities to the point where the average worker finds it financially impossible to live there except in subsidized housing. Even in the suburbs, the demand has driven up housing costs until the only option has been to accept the hours of commuting time and seek an affordable home in the countryside. However what was an acceptable price for a home there only a few years ago has now rocketed to the point where it too is unaffordable and the unfortunate home seeker has to look even further afield. The ultimate consequence is an ever expanding area of homes, shops, factories and other business premises that is slowly but surely destroying all the open space around our cities. We read of plans to minimize the effect of our growing suburban and commuting population. For example the call for higher density housing in our cities and public or subsidized homes, but ultimately the only solution is to halt the population growth. We cannot provide more homes out of thin air, inevitably they demand land, utilities and roads. Their residents need services, all of which consume more land and other scarce resources. Meanwhile the level of pollution grows with the increasing population, and the countryside is destroyed forever. A more efficient use of land can slow this destruction but as long as our population continues to grow, more land will be covered by houses, shops, schools, commercial buildings and the wide expanses of blacktop for parking lots, roads and driveways. Inevitably pollution levels will continue to increase fouling the water and air. Slowing population growth and eventually arriving at a stable level is the only way that this destruction of our countryside can be halted. There is a limit to the population our land can support and we may well have already exceeded that limit. It cannot be determined solely from the number of people per square mile but rather from the effects of the growing number of people on the natural resources. Several major cities are facing water shortages, some are even considering desalination to enable them to use polluted water or seawater for drinking, all have problems in getting rid of sewage and refuse. Unlike the less fortunate peoples we have been able to use science and technology to hold back the effects of overpopulation, but this is like building a dam to hold back an ever rising tide. We can postpone the inevitable, but if the tide continues to rise, eventually we too will be overcome. So what can be done? This is the part of the solution that is seldom discussed, it is unpalatable and all too often pushed aside completely because it is contrary to personal, political and religious beliefs. But if we are to survive we must stop the tide from rising and flooding over the dam. We must develop effective birth control and see that it is used effectively. We must also stop the flood of immigrants that make up a large part of our population growth, and encourage them to stay in their own countries and reduce their own population growth to acceptable levels.

  December 2002   Ralph Woodgate doclink alt="004956" border=0 valign=bottom height=2 width=2>

U.S.: Growth: Sprawl of Communities Reaches Into Rural Missouri

December 2002   Kansas City Star

Only 30 acres of the 1-square-mile battlefield of Lone Jack remain untouched by roads or development. Suburban-style growth is surging into Missouri's countryside, bringing big-city problems. But only states set the rules of growth and must plan better, be careful with tax breaks and stop building highways that encourage sprawl. The major trends identified in the Kansas City area revolve around an ever-dispersing population into rural areas. Population in unincorporated or "open country" areas grew faster than in cities and towns. Land has been wasted, the Brookings Institute said. The land consumed for development increased 35%, while Missouri's population increased only 10%, threatening the natural areas and rural character. Meanwhile, overloaded sewer and septic systems have led to problems from algae to fish kills. For bigger cities, Missouri lacks the downtowns that draw smart young workers. Development has increased the costs of maintaining highways leading to roads in worse condition than in neighboring states. The state must analyze state growth, reward collaboration in metropolitan areas, tighten the definition of "blight" so new suburbs can't use funds for it, and set priorities for transport spending so projects don't shift economic activity from one part of a region to another. There is a desire to link public investments to local decisions. rw doclink

Open Spaces, Urban Sprawl and Overpopulation

December 2002   Ralph Woodgate

When we talk about the effects of overpopulation they are generally on an international level, in terms of the growing shortages of food, water, fuel, medical services or similar items, plus the increasing levels of pollution. For example the millions of people who are starving in Africa, the destruction of the forests in South America, or the lack of clean drinking water in Bangladesh. These are extremely critical problems, but sitting in our comfortable homes they appear remote to us. We feel sorry for these unfortunate people, but we cannot see any way that this can affect our day to day way of life. Overpopulation is looked on as problem that does not really affect us.

However if we open our eyes, the effects of overpopulation on our day to day living can be clearly seen all around us, especially in the outlying suburbs of our great cities. These effects have developed over the years and therefore we have become used to them and accept them as the normal growth of our society. But that philosophy is changing dramatically. "Save our open spaces" is the subject of many "letters to the editor" in our suburban papers. Residents groups are springing up in many areas in an attempt to halt or at least slow down the continuing development that is spreading farther and farther out from our cities. What was once farmland and forest is now covered with houses, supermarkets, shopping malls and business premises. Country roads now have traffic lights at every corner and traffic jams every night and morning. In spite of the introduction of tougher environmental standards pollution is creeping into almost every source of water.

Although this form of destruction of the rural life style has become very obvious, there is a continuous drive for more development. We are told that development is necessary for the following reasons.

To hold down property taxes.

To provide employment.

To improve our life style (in spite of the problems it causes.)

Most of this is of course absolute nonsense and totally untrue. Development has one primary purpose and that is to make a profit for the developer, never mind how it impacts the residents of the area. We only have to note the frequent and lengthy legal hassles that ensue when new developments are proposed. However even profit is not the basic driving force behind development. When we strip away the politics, the emotions and the philosophical ideas, the ultimate cause is our expanding population. Development is the obvious way of profiting from the demand this generates.

For example, the demand for housing has driven up the cost of a home in many cities to the point where the average worker finds it financially impossible to live there except in subsidized housing. Even in the suburbs, the demand has driven up housing costs until the only option has been to accept the hours of commuting time and seek an affordable home in the countryside. However what was an acceptable price for a home there only a few years ago has now rocketed to the point where it too is unaffordable and the unfortunate home seeker has to look even further afield. The ultimate consequence is an ever expanding area of homes, shops, factories and other business premises that is slowly but surely destroying all the open space around our cities. We read of plans to minimize the effect of our growing suburban and commuting population. For example the call for higher density housing in our cities and public or subsidized homes, but ultimately the only solution is to halt the population growth. We cannot provide more homes out of thin air, inevitably they demand land, utilities and roads. Their residents need services, all of which consume more land and other scarce resources. Meanwhile the level of pollution grows with the increasing population, and the countryside is destroyed forever.

A more efficient use of land can slow this destruction but as long as our population continues to grow, more land will be covered by houses, shops, schools, commercial buildings and the wide expanses of blacktop for parking lots, roads and driveways. Inevitably pollution levels will continue to increase fouling the water and air. Slowing population growth and eventually arriving at a stable level is the only way that this destruction of our countryside can be halted. There is a limit to the population our land can support and we may well have already exceeded that limit. It cannot be determined solely from the number of people per square mile but rather from the effects of the growing number of people on the natural resources. Several major cities are facing water shortages, some are even considering desalination to enable them to use polluted water or seawater for drinking, all have problems in getting rid of sewage and refuse.

Unlike the less fortunate peoples we have been able to use science and technology to hold back the effects of overpopulation, but this is like building a dam to hold back an ever rising tide. We can postpone the inevitable, but if the tide continues to rise, eventually we too will be overcome. So what can be done? This is the part of the solution that is seldom discussed, it is unpalatable and all too often pushed aside completely because it is contrary to personal, political and religious beliefs. But if we are to survive we must stop the tide from rising and flooding over the dam. We must develop effective birth control and see that it is used effectively. We must also stop the flood of immigrants that make up a large part of our population growth, and encourage them to stay in their own countries and reduce their own population growth to acceptable levels. doclink

Smart Growth America

November 2002   Smart Growth America

This website reports on Smart Growth. It encompasses transportation, housing, environment, economic development, farmland and open space, education, growth and management planning, state and local policy resources, and capitol correspondence. It does not mention population growth. doclink

If anyone would like to comment on this report further, send me an email at gaia@calweb.com

U.S.: Officials Dissect Housing Needs

November 2002   Los Angeles Times

Many would-be homeowners and renters cannot find homes they can afford in Southern California while the state expects to add 6 million people by 2010. At a conference of city officials, builders, real estate brokers and mortgage lenders, housing needs were discussed. Diminishing availability of land, the drive for commercial development because of the sales tax revenues, the "not in my backyard" feeling of many residents, and city officials who view homes as a drain on revenues have contributed to the shortage. Higher-density housing should be in the urban cores but commercial development has shifted to the areas along freeways. Officials in Sacramento are aware of how the sales tax has distorted land-use, but say ideas for reform should come from cities and counties. Also they say there is a need for flexibility in the federal Endangered Species Act and other regulations. There is plenty of common ground between advocates of environmental protection and the housing industry, but society has to make better decisions about locating new housing. We all agree the answer is density, but it's unclear if companies will insure condominium projects, what with state laws making it easy for condominium owners to sue builders over construction defects. As long as people don't want high density housing, elected officials are not going to support it. rw doclink

U.S.: Air Pollution Fatalities Now Exceed Traffic Fatalities by 3 to 1

September 17, 2002   Earth Policy Institute

U.S. air pollution deaths equal those from breast and prostate cancer. Air pollutants include carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates primarily from fossil fuels. When people inhale particulates and ozone at concentrations found in urban areas, their arteries become constricted, reducing blood flow to the heart. No "safe" level of pollution exists. Exposure to current levels of ozone and particulates affect death rates, hospitalizations and medical visits and take a toll on the economy. The costs of air pollution argue for raising taxes on fuels to encourage efficient use, a shift to clean energy sources, and the adoption of pollution controls. The solutions to urban air pollution are not difficult. Individuals can reduce car usage and use more fuel-efficient cars. Planning can redirect funding to mass transit options. Countries can shift electricity generation to wind and solar power and redefine safety to include decreasing air pollution. rw doclink

U.S.: Population Growth and Suburban Sprawl: A Complex Relationship

March 03, 2001   Sierra Club

Suburban sprawl increases traffic and air pollution, crowds schools and drives up taxes. The impact of population growth on suburban sprawl has become a topic of debate. Research confirms that the importance of population growth as a driver of sprawl varies across the US. In the West and South it is often a major factor; in the East and Mid-west it is sometimes inconsequential. Smart-growth solutions, channeling growth into areas with existing infrastructure, were found to be effective at slowing sprawl regardless of its cause. Solutions that focused on curtailing population growth by reducing the density of land use, increased sprawl and failed to reduce population growth. Even areas that experienced no population growth increased in urbanized land area by an average of 18% that supports the conclusions of a study by former mayor of Albuquerque David Rusk. Rusk studied 213 urbanized areas and found that between 1960 and 1990 population increased from 95 million to 140 million, a growth of 47%, while urbanized land increased to 51,000 square miles (107%) and density per square mile decreased by 28%. Our urban areas are expanding about twice the rate that the population is growing. So poor land use makes the impact of population growth worse. In some areas of the US metropolitan sprawl is largely a consequence of flight from central cities, but in other parts of the country population growth is playing a larger role. Population growth is a bigger factor in the South and the West (particularly along the coasts) than in the Midwest and Northeast. A study of 277 metropolitan areas from 1960-1990 showed western cities nearly doubled in population, southern cities increased 70%, and cities in the Midwest and the Northeast grew by 25% and 12.5% respectively. Many communities subsidize new roads, water and sewer lines, schools, and emergency services; also communities subsidize growth by offering incentives to new businesses, often sacrificing tax revenues needed to serve existing residents and businesses. This issue has arisen in Texas, where officials and citizens are debating a proposal to spend $17 billion on dams and reservoirs. This development is designed to support a projected doubling of the state's population. There's evidence in the transportation arena that this cycle of subsidies encourages growth. New highway construction not only attracted new development, but this effect became more pronounced as distance from an urban area increased. Communities spend billions to attract corporations to their areas that often a contribute to sprawl. In Anoka, a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul, 26 of the 29 companies which had relocated due to $7.5 million of free land subsidies came from the urban core area and in the process, 1200 jobs moved away from the central city. Little heed was paid in terms of the kinds of job growth encouraged by economic incentives. One hundred and twenty-three deals were approved at a cost of more than $35,000 per job, and thirty-eight deals were approved at $100,000 or more per job. What Minnesota received in exchange were jobs paying lower wages than normal. By the late 1980s, across a wide range of metropolitan regions, every $1,000 gained or lost in per capita city income was associated with a $690 gain or loss in per capita suburban income. Regions looking for long-term economic interests need to hew to a "high road" strategy that also helps to address rapid population growth, which is spurred by an anything-goes job growth strategy. Smart-growth tools which require that infrastructure like roads and sewer lines be fully paid for before new development moves forward, are effective with a strategy that demands that growth should pay its own way. This research has also confirmed the importance of supporting farmers and shoring up the farm economy. The value of farm products sold per acre of farmland is the most important variable related to sprawl versus compactness. Every additional $1000 of productivity in 1982 was associated with 70 new residents per 100 new urban acres between 1982 and 1992. Another solution that has proven effective is the use of greenbelts, designated growth areas with distinct boundaries and protection for open spaces outside of those boundaries. Their general purpose is to channel population growth away from areas like floodplains, wetlands, and important habitats. The Sierra Club favors other tools including: mortgages which provide better loan terms based on a home's proximity to public transportation or the center of a city; impact fees charged to developers to pay for new infrastructure; split-rate property taxes which encourage development in existing communities by taxing buildings at a lower rate than land, and cutting subsidies for low-wage industries and setting specific requirements such as wages as well as low or no pollution levels. Tactics that attempt to discourage population growth by reducing density can lead to more sprawl and more growth. Sprawl is driven by myopic public policies, irresponsible private practices, outdated cultural norms and population growth. The solutions must be crafted on local circumstances and needs. Solutions that focus on low density can backfire. Not only can they increase the amount of suburban sprawl, but also they are often unfair and exclusionary. Smart growth solutions, like cutting the subsidies to development and job relocation, and using greenbelts to protect fragile areas, can restrain population growth while curbing suburban sprawl. rw doclink

Totally ignored is the fact that high population growth, like the kind that occurs in Southern and Central California, can outpace the best-laid plans and drive the high demand for housing which encourages developers to 1) outspend the oppostion, 2) pull all sorts of dirty tricks that outwit any sort of smart growth plan, 3) persist in their attempts to build on the cheapest land until the opposition runs out of energy.