The California Planning & Development Report is where folks looking to figure out the happenings in the swinging (though somewhat obscure) world of urban planning get to catch up. Widely respected in its field, the CP&DR (for those of you who speak Acronym) has become quite the clearing house for planner information. And among its most noted articles is editor Paul Shigley's predictions for the new year.
Now for this year Shigley has made 3 predictions. The first one deals with redevelopment deadlines and how the crushing California budget deficits could cause delays for as much as 30 years. And the third one talks about how "housing production" will increase this year, but only because 2009 was at the lowest level ever recorded for this stuff, and can't possibly stay that bad.
However, what we're talking about today is 2010 Prediction #2.
The SB 375 backlash will start to hit. Truly reducing the amount that people drive is going to take enormous changes in land use development and growth matters. There's some acceptance of the needed planning changes. But reducing driving also is going to require aggressive measures that discourage people from driving - and that's going to necessitate very unpopular decisions.
We've all heard the pitch from true believers that cities should be designed for people, not for cars. Sounds great until you realize this notion means placing the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and public transit ahead of motorists. This, in turn, means dividing up the public right-of-way to provide more room for sidewalks, bike lanes, and light rail and bus lines - and a lot less room for cars. It means fewer and smaller parking lots. It probably means some form of "congestion pricing." Such ideas will start to come into tighter focus when the Air Resources Board sets regional greenhouse gas reductions targets in September. Good luck selling those ideas to millions of people who are used to driving everywhere.
One of the things that rings so false about SB 375 is it's so fiercely targeted on automobile usage and housing. While it is no secret that car emissions are a problem, what is rarely spoken about in SB 375 adoring circles is that high density housing is as well. There is no higher density city in the U.S. than New York, and it is a world class greenhouse gas hotspot.
And even if you move everybody out of their single family homes and into Transit Oriented Developments there is no guarantee it will result in any greenhouse gas reductions. After all, just because a condo complex is situated next to a bus station doesn't automatically mean people are going to surrender their cars.
Once people begin to wake up to the fact that SB 375 is going to mean less room for traffic, fewer parking spots, and that their pretty little towns are about to be force-fed the kind of generic looking high-density dreck you can find in many other California cities, watch out. You're talking about the breadwinner and voting class here, and they're not going to be very happy about government making their lives even more challenging than they are now. Much less lowering their living standards in the process.
One other thing. Some greenhouse gas emissions are the product of burning petroleum-based fuels. So why would anyone want to use this rationale for taking the wrecking ball to California cities when the internal combustion engine could very well be ten years from a well-deserved extinction? And what is the future of private transportation?
Please read here about the Honda FCX Clarity. A fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) that provides zero-emission hydrogen powered private transportation. Expensive now, and with a very limited availability, but within the decade that price will come down, this technology will go into mass production, and gasoline-free transportation will quickly become available to us all. Believe me, once cars like these become affordable you won't be able to pay people enough to take your gasoline burning clunker.
In an article entitled The hydrogen car fights back, available on the CNNMoney/Fortune site, this early adopter account is given:
Actress Jamie Lee Curtis lobbied to get one of the first available models for environmental reasons, but she has become a fan of driving the Clarity. "I am not the most light-footed driver, and this thing is like a rocket ship," says Curtis, who leases the car for $600 a month. When asked what she will do when her three-year lease expires, Curtis pauses a moment. "Cry," she says. "Sob uncontrollably, and beg them to extend the lease."
Goodbye air pollution, goodbye greenhouse gas producing cars, and goodbye the #1 rationale for SB 375. You can now leave our cities alone now, Sacramento. And your development and realty clientele are just going to have to find a more useful way to make a living.