What If

The Challenge

As California stands at the threshold of the 21st century, some alarming statistics are creating concerns about the future quality of life for its citizens. By the year 2020, the state's population of 33 million is projected to reach 45.3 million, an increase of 37 percent. At the current rate, the state is adding nearly 4 million people, or the equivalent of the population of Los Angeles, every seven years.

This surge in population growth is already creating complications in a number of areas. One of the most impacted is the field of education. Coupled with state mandated reforms in educational practices that include bold measures like class size reduction, pressure has come to bear on the need for more and better educational facilities and an adequate supply of teachers to address these and other critical issues. "Smart" planning is required to determine where and how these needs can be met.

Pressures of growth are also taxing the physical infrastructure in other areas. Urban centers, rural main streets and residential neighborhoods are deteriorating. Poor planning decisions are stretching public infrastructure to the limit and draining economic vitality from cities and towns. Instead of supporting the improvement of urban infrastructure, a long-standing trend towards suburban development is competing with the renewal of the urban environment. Thousands of acres of farmland and greenfields are being consumed and problems with transportation, public finance and environmental sustainability are escalating.

What is needed is a means by which current programs, procedures and policies developed at every level of state, regional and local governance can coalesce to address these challenges and offer solutions to meet them. Two current movements in the state of California offer insights into some of the opportunities that are available. The first movement focuses on issues related to education reform, including the development of educational infrastructure. The second movement involves the concept of "smart growth" as an antidote to suburban sprawl and a means for creating more livable communities. While each of these movements presents possibilities for bettering California's current crisis of expansion, an alliance of these two concepts will provide even greater opportunities and insights.