California Land Use Declares War on Suburbia – No Backyards and No Cars

In 2006 California passed Assembly Bill 32 otherwise known as the Global Warming Solutions Act.  The purpose of the bill was to establish long range statewide programs to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.  The bill established mandatory caps on numerous sources of greenhouse gas emissions by this year, 2012.

In 2008 California passed Senate Bill 375 known as the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act.  The target of this bill was automobiles and their emissions which according to the statistics used to help pass the bill, constitute up to 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state.  The measure sought ways to reduce the amount of auto emissions using technology along with the reduction of the number of cars and distances people are commuting to and from work.

Using these two measures as their guidelines, state, county and city land planners are looking at ways to bring people closer to jobs and well, just plain closer together.  For example, any new developments in the San Francisco Bay area will have to develop the property with no fewer than twenty housing units per acre.  The current density requirement is no fewer than 4 units per acre.

Instead of single family homes, most of the future development will be duplexes, triplexes, condos and apartments.  Some of the planners are looking at European models such as the way the Swedes live like sardines packed close together in a can.

One of the problems facing land planners is that more and more people have been moving away from the cities out to the suburban areas.  This has led to an increase in the number of automobiles and the distances they are traveling, thus an increase in the amount of auto emissions.

To solve this problem, they are looking at ways to bring people back to the city.  One of the ways they plan to do this is to limit the amount of development in the suburban and rural areas and direct their efforts to redeveloping urban corridors.  By packing people back into downtown housing they hope to eliminate cars and commuting.

Other areas in California will be limited to what they call transit villages which will have a minimum of 30 units per acre.  By 2035, more than two-thirds of regional new housing developments will be condos and apartments.

As I read this report in the Wall Street Journal, I couldn’t help but recall my impressions of New York City when I visited family there when I was a kid.  Tall apartment buildings everywhere and no one had a backyard, a tree to climb, or a car to drive.  They took the subway, busses or taxis everywhere they went.  Their life was reminded me of the ant farm I had back home.  When I looked out of my aunt’s apartment window, everyone down below looked like ants scurrying to and fro.

California wants to become like Sweden and New York City.  As for me, that’s just another reason why I wouldn’t want to live there.