As California stands at the threshold of the 21st Century, some
alarming statistics are creating concerns about the future quality
of life for the state's 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.
Pressures of growth are taxing the physical infrastructure. State
mandated reforms in educational practices, including bold measures
like class size reduction, have created the need for more and
better educational facilities. Poor planning decisions are stretching
other forms of public infrastructure to the limit and draining
economic vitality from cities and towns. 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 with smarter strategies for planning
Smarter planning for education means designing schools that serve
as centers of their communities, a concept endorsed by the U.S.
Department of Education and leading national educational facilities
planning organizations. The concept calls for gymnasiums and play
fields that double as community parks and recreation centers;
auditoriums that serve as community theatres; and incorporating
centralized libraries, health clinics and other community services
into schools that are designed for greater community access and
engagement. Smarter schools can also take advantage of a wide
range of community resources-like museums, zoos, and other existing
facilities-to create integrated learning centers.
Developing smarter schools that serve as centers of their communities
is a concept that also has implications for the so-called "smart
growth" strategies for urban and regional planning. Over the past
thirty years, California's growth pattern has consumed tremendous
quantities of land for sprawling low-density development, with
the car and its attendant infrastructure-streets and highways,
street parking, and parking lots-taking up at least a third of
all developed land. This strategy for accommodating growth also
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.
The current model of sprawl development can be counteracted by
designing more livable cities and towns. The planning and design
of more community-centered schools can help make cities and towns
more attractive to live in by: 1) Creating magnets for urban development;
2) Encouraging the development of inner city housing and employment
opportunities; 3) Improving mobility; 4) Reducing suburban migration;
and 5) Conserving greenfields.
Likewise, the implementation of smart growth principles supporting
more urban development can improve education reform by: 6) Encouraging
the creation of learning communities within the rich infrastructure
of the urban environment; 7) Enhancing opportunities for community
access and participation; and 8) Supporting teachers and school
personnel by providing more affordable and attractive places to
live and work.
There are a small, but growing, number of programs and projects
in the state that represent some ways to achieve the goals outlined
for smarter schools and smarter growth strategies. This report
includes an overview of seven case studies that embody some of
these smarter planning principles. These ideas and examples point
to an opportunity to implement smarter, more efficiently planned
community infrastructures through integrated resource development.
Even a small improvement in the allocation of public resources
could yield billions of dollars annually in the California economy.
In order to accomplish these goals, some changes in planning,
policies and practices will be needed to:
- Support more participatory and community-based planning.
- Support innovative educational facilities that promote the
concept of learning communities and schools as centers of community.
- Support the joint use of all public facilities.
- Support the planning of urban and suburban projects based
on the principles of smart growth.
- Support the assessment of all public expenditures based on
the concept of integrated resource development.
- Support the development of an ongoing vehicle for communications
and decision-making between all agencies, institutions and organizations
involved in education reform and smart growth issues
California, wake up! Every year educational facilities are built
all across the state. Too many of these facilities are dinosaurs
the day they open. At the same time, a wide range of libraries,
parks and other state, regional and local facilities are being
planned and constructed to duplicate many of the same functions
and services. Meanwhile, a demand for 250,000 new homes every
year is consuming acres of farmland in suburban sprawl, exacerbating
critical problems with transportation and pollution. A crisis
already exists. The rapid escalation of this crisis is producing
irreversible consequences for the quality of life in California
now and in the future.
The resources needed to meet the challenge are already available.
Powerful movements aimed at education reform and smart growth
offer promising concepts, coalitions, policy recommendations and
communications vehicles to intensify the evolution of creative
An immediate statewide summit to explore pathways of convergence
for these two movements would be a good place to start.