But I am not saying that they copped their concept from the WSJ, or even The Tattler. I sincerely doubt that is the case. But they did grab some of their ideas from the same sources everyone has been mining lately, the writings of Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox. Both of whom write for one of my favorite websites, New Geography (click here). When it comes to leading the intellectual resistance to the absurd and fraudulent claims of SB 375, Kotkin and Cox are writing the battle plan. They are that good. Here is how the CSSRC's Briefing Report describes their contributions on this issue:
Briefly, the contention of the Urban Land Institute study is that the demand in California for traditional large suburban lots will significantly decrease over the next 25 years. This is due to Californians' belief that access to public transit is more important than other factors in choosing where to live. The study also asserts that Californians' desire for rental housing will increase by 5 percent immediately and by perhaps 10 percent over the next 25 years, which will cause a complete paradigm shift in housing preferences from single family to multi-unit housing. The study concludes that the smart growth philosophy embodied by SB 375 (Steinberg 2008), which encourages transit oriented development and discourages urban sprawl, neatly fits into what is needed to meet these new housing demands.
The Kotkin/Cox contention is the complete opposite of the conclusions drawn by the Urban Land Institute study. In books such as "War on the ream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life" (Cox) and "The City: A Global History" (Kotkin), they point out the flawed conclusions of those who believe that the future lies in vibrant new urban centers that rely on tourism, the arts and entertainment to sustain local economies. They point out the trend of the last 25 to 35 years of job creation moving into the suburbs and even into rural areas and the consequent movement of job seekers and young families into those areas. While urban advocates contend that transit is the key to housing preferences today, Kotkin and Cox point to numerous surveys noting the continued preferences of young people to move to the suburbs to raise children, taking advantage of lower crime rates and better school systems that exist there. In addition, contrary to the belief of many urbanists that the now aging Baby Boom generation will leave the suburbs and move downtown, the exact opposite seems to be true.
Thus fully crediting the New Geography guys, the State Senate Republican Caucus folks go on to reveal some very unique wrinkles of their own to the theme. And one of them in particular impressed me as it revealed a new possible effect of SB 375. That being a massive dislocation of the urban poor. Here is how they knocked this one out of the park:
We do not yet know the full effect of the SB 375 scheme on the overall cost of housing. If we start to increase the supply of housing in the urban core, what will that do to the people who are currently living there? Low income families will be forced to compete for housing with higher-income, higher-end developments. The result could be to drive these families out of the urban core to outlying communities where the cost and time to travel to work will increase. This is the exact opposite of the stated effect that SB 375 envisions would discourage positive developments that communities with the state are undertaking.
A very interesting point indeed. Is the end result of SB 375 actually all about affluence? If you are to coerce suburban residents into moving to new city core high density developments in the name of cutting commute times, thereby reducing the greenhouse gas producing emissions of their personal transportation, what happens to the people who are already living there? Where do they go? And wouldn't their resulting longer commutes just replace the greenhouse gas emissions of those who so recently had taken away their homes?
Can it be that SB 375 not only greenwashes development, it also helps to greenwash gentrification as well? And did it really never occur to the involved Sacramento social engineers and state central planners that there are already people living in these urban core neighborhoods, and that when you "redevelop" these existing areas to build yuppie transit ghettos, you are also taking away the homes of less affluent people who have lived there for decades?
And then there is this warning to city planners who would succumb to the false arguments of the supporters of SB 375.
Professors Kotkin and Cox believe that the desire to live in suburbs will continue, and point to examples of high density infill projects that have been abject failures. In his article "The Suburban Exodus: Are We There Yet?" Cox states:
"Misleading ideas sometimes have bad consequences. The notion that suburbanites were afflicted with urban envy led many developers to throw up high-rise condominiums in urban districts across the country. Sadly for these developers, the Suburban Exodus never materialized, never occured. As a result, developers have lost hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars and taxpayers or holders of publicly issued bonds could be left 'holding the bag.'
"Around the nation, condominium prices have been reduced sharply to attract buyers. New buildings have gone rental, because no one wanted to buy them. Other buildings have been foreclosed upon by banks, and units have been auctioned. Planned developments have been put on indefinite hold or cancelled ... Looking at the data, there remains little evidence that the stated preferences on which the predictions relied have been translated into the reality of a shift in preferences towards smaller lots in cores or inner ring suburbs. Domestic migration continues to be strongly away from core counties to more suburban counties. Core cities are growing less quickly than suburban areas ..."
You can only imagine what the fate of the ill-conceived Downtown Specific Plan would have been had Measure V failed. And should those who wish to change the planning structure of this town prevail and higher density urbanist housing schemes become part of our future, the property values of those owning homes here in Sierra Madre would suffer as fewer people would wish to buy here.
This entire "Briefing Report" can be found by clicking here. It is nice to see at least one of the 2 major political parties is examining the possible effects something like SB 375 will have on actual people. And not merely engaging in the glorification of the benefits to some of the usual Sacramento development and real estate lobbies. Or shamelessly flogging the supposed planet saving benefits we will all receive through the gaudy gentrification of old line urban core neighborhoods, or overdevelopment in towns such as ours.