Developing schools that serve as centers of their communities
is a concept that also has implications for a second important
area of reform in the state of California that embodies the "smart
growth" strategies for urban and regional planning. As supported
by organizations like the Urban Land Institute and the California
Futures Network, these principles address issues impacting the
overall quality of life of all Californians. These principles
are evidenced through a balance between economic prosperity, social
equity and environmental quality. These ends require a long-range
planning strategy to accommodate growth in a way that promotes
prosperous and livable communities; provides better opportunities
for housing and transportation; conserves green space and the
natural environment; and protects California's working farm and
forest lands. Following is a list of the California Futures Network's
"smart growth" principles:
- Plan for the Future: Make government more responsive, effective
and accountable by reforming the system of land-use planning
and public financing.
- Promote Prosperous and Livable Communities: Make existing
communities vital and healthy places for all residents to live,
work and raise a family.
- Provide Better Housing and Transportation Opportunities:
Provide efficient transportation alternatives and a range of
housing choices affordable to all residents, without jeopardizing
farmland, open space and wildlife habitat.
- Conserve Green Space and the Natural Environment: Focus new
development in areas planned for growth while protecting air
and water quality and providing green space for recreation,
water recharge and wildlife.
- Protect California's Agricultural and Forest Lands: Protect
California's farm, range and forest lands from sprawl and the
pressure to convert farmland for development.
One way to achieve these results is to counteract the current
model of sprawl development by focusing more effort on the design
of more livable cities and towns. By concentrating higher density
development in more urban environments, more of the open land
currently being consumed by roadways and housing that are the
products of "suburban sprawl" can be conserved as "greenfields,"
which includes farms, forests and natural habitat.
Over the past thirty years, California's growth pattern has consumed
tremendous quantities of land for sprawling low-density development.
The Central Valley, the nation's most productive and prolific
agricultural region, will be threatened if current sprawling land-use
patterns continue. Already, more than 12 percent of the Valley's
farmland has been paved over. If this pattern of low-density sprawl
continues, the Valley will lose more than one million acres of
farmland by the year 2040, much of it on the best soil for growing
crops. This represents nearly 20 percent of the Valley's remaining
farmland (American Farmland Trust and UC Berkeley). In the meantime,
a significant portion of the California economy stands at risk.
Agriculture is California's number one industry. In 1996, California's
agriculture and related food processing industries employed over
500,000 people and generated $75.6 billion in sales (Center for
the Continuing Study of the California Economy). Losing a million
acres of farmland would cost more than $5 billion annually in
lost business for farmers, ranchers, suppliers, processors, and
others involved in agriculture.
From 1970 to 1990, the population of Los Angeles increased by
45 percent while the amount of developed land increased by 300
percent (Diamond and Noonan, Land Use in America). Similar development
in other metropolitan areas has spawned a massive increase in
vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled by the public, and caused
significant environmental harm. Between 1970 and 1995, the state's
population increased by 60 percent, from 20 to 30 million people,
but the number of vehicle miles traveled (vmt) more than doubled,
from 103 billion to more than 270 billion miles of travel per
year (California Air Resources Board). Overall vmt in the state
is projected to nearly double to 488 billion in the next two decades.
The resulting air pollution not only has public health impacts;
it also affects agriculture by reducing crop yields at an annual
cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Sprawling developments consume ever-increasing amounts of land,
with the car and its attendant infrastructureÐstreets and
highways, street parking and parking lots - taking up at least
a third of all developed land. Moreover, this strategy for accommodating
growth produces more traffic congestion and loss of productivity;
air pollution and its environmental and public health impacts;
the loss of open space; the inability of many to reach jobs and
services; and the isolation of children from the elderly among
other social and environmental problems.
Based on these disturbing facts, there is a growing concern that
the traditional means of accommodating growth in California's
population is in need of serious reform.