And when all of these sorts of folks get together to talk about their vision of how your life will be in the future, there are two things that they seem to care about the most. Getting you out of your single family home and into high-density mass housing, and making sure that you are no longer able to drive a car. Or if you do, making the experience of driving that car as miserable as humanly possible.
Now a week or two back something known as the SB 375 Regional Targets Advisory Committee (RTAC in acronymic) gathered unto itself a whole wide range of little green dudes for a chat on just exactly how they plan on saving the world from the ecological cataclysm known as global warming. Most of which is apparently centered around radically changing the posh suburban lifestyles enjoyed by people such as our esteemed selves. In a recent post on the California Planning & Development Report site, one of the writers they don't usually charge you money to read described all of this feverish activity thusly:
The session provided a way for the state's 18 MPOs and the committee to give final input to Air Resources Board staff before it issues greenhouse gas (GHG in acronymic) emissions reductions targets to the MPOs in late June. Under SB 375, the MPOs must use the GHG targets to formulate regional sustainable communities strategies that guide transportation and land use decisions.
What this basically means for us is that when SCAG hands down its next round of Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) numbers for quaint little towns like ours, they will be world saving large. Which is why Joe Mosca and John Buchanan want to get cracking on those big water infrastructure upgrades now. Using a 40% water rate hike along with a backdoor Utility User Tax increase in order to pay for it. Getting decidedly slow growth residents to shell out for the nuts and bolts of large scale development being one of those delicious ironies that only truly jaded cynics can enjoy, I suppose.
So what are some of the goals these RTACs have identified as things they believe are worth achieving? Let us list them here with along with some brief - yet illuminating - commentary:
1) Transit Oriented Development (TOD in acronymic): This is where all of you suburban sprawlers get cozened out of your tree lined single family neighborhoods and into something stacked, racked, and compact. And next to a train station or bus depot, just for the ambiance I suppose. Sacramento's notion being that if there is a bus station located right outside your front door, you'll no longer want to drive a car. So who says magical thinking is dead?
2) Compact Mixed Use Communities (CMUC, I guess): Now this one informs us that if you are relocated to a wee apartment perched above a row of stores, you will walk to do your grocery shopping rather than driving down Michillinda Avenue to Ralph's. "Walkability" being the attribute most often used to praise such neighborhood design. Which I guess would take us back to the time before the horse was domesticated.
3) Highway Tolls: This is apparently something these folks are way excited about. The idea being that if you put tolls on our freeways and charge people to use them, then far fewer people will want to drive their cars any longer. Preferring instead to put that money to better use paying for bus fares. Having grown up in New Jersey, a place where toll roads are in abundance, I can cheerfully inform you that this won't work too well. Because most people will endure just about any indignity these guys put before them to avoid riding the bus. Or at least that's the way it is where I come from.
4) Mixed Income Housing Next To Employment Sites: Another step forward into the past. I think these used to be called "Company Towns." Where the happy people sang, "I sold my soul to the company store?" Or, if you care to go further back in time, the Dark Ages. You know, places with castles surrounded by fields filled with industrious peasants? A whole lot of walkability there, fer sure. And very sustainable in a manure-centric sort of way. But on a more serious note, isn't this the kind of thing your parents (or perhaps grandparents) moved to the suburbs to get away from? Along with crime, crowds, grit, and claustrophobia?
5) Reducing the Amount of Free Parking: You just know this will be extremely popular with everybody. I think that when I finally get around to starting that bumper sticker business I've always dreamed of, the first one I'll whip up will say something like,"No Parking? No Shopping!" I'll bet I can sell a lot of them in Pasadena. Any city that doesn't allow me easy access to free parking in their downtown shopping areas will just have to get along without ever seeing my credit cards.
But alas, there is at least some trouble in paradise. After getting their favorite sustainability, livability, and walkability enthusiasms out into the open for all to marvel at, the attendees at RTAC did have a few moments left to soberly contemplate the possible roadblocks to a coming of the Planner Utopia. Here is how one attendee put it:
"There are clearly local political issues," warned RTAC member Carol Whiteside, a former Mayor of Modesto. "I think we underestimate the political difficulties local jurisdictions are going to have with implementing some of the land use recommendations."
What? You mean to say that there might be people who don't want to pay freeway tolls, don't want to ride buses to work, like having places to park their cars, prefer owning a free standing home in a secluded neighborhood, and don't want to see their little towns turned into crime-ridden and densely over-developed cities? And that they might actually elect politicians that advocate such extremist fringe thinking?
"Many of the housing type of assumptions and the density type of assumptions ... may not pan out in the real world," California Building Industry Association lobbyist Richard Lyon said.
Naw, you think?