Sustainable Development Ends Suburban Sprawl

By John Addison (10/3/08) Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law SB 375 stating, “This landmark bill takes California’s fight against global warming to a whole new level and it creates a model that the rest of the country and world will use. When it comes to reducing greenhouse gases, California is first in tackling car emissions, first to tackle low-carbon fuels, and now with this landmark legislation, we are the first in the nation to tackle land-use planning. What this will mean is more environmentally-friendly communities, more sustainable developments, less time people spend in their cars, more alternative transportation options and neighborhoods we can safely and proudly pass on to future generations.”

Sprawl has been an enormous problem in California as 38 million people crawl through jammed suburban streets, then chocking freeways, only to finally search for a parking space near work. In California there is a car, SUV, or truck for every adult driver. California has a frightening dependence on oil. Compared with nations, only the U.S. and China guzzle more gasoline than California. Yep, California slurps oil products faster than all of Japan, all of Germany, all of India, or all of Russia.

Recent draughts and wild fires have also brought the early effects of a climate crisis to California, which produces food for much of the nation. With global warming, there is less snow storage of water, more polluted water, and therefore less water. Given an emerging crisis, California is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. SB 375 will build on AB 32, California’s first-in-the-nation law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Who says that Republicans and Democrats cannot work together? SB375 was a process that involved getting a wide range of issues on the table that included suburban and urban development, climate change, oil dependency, children’s health, air quality, and transportation. Although the bill was opposed by groups like the Western States Petroleum Association (drill baby drill), it was supported by divergent interests including the American Lung Association, the Building Industry Association, the Coalition for Clean Air, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Developers and environmentalists had to work for common ground, both groups achieving important goals but neither getting all that they wanted. All had to compromise and work together to accelerate smart growth, sustainable planning, funding, and development. People avoided the refrain, “It’s my way or the highway.”

Speaking of highways, in the future communities will be linked with more than highways. Development will be encouraged near effective public transportation. Major transportation systems will be linked with high-speed rail if Californians vote in favor of Proposition 1A, as they are forecasted to do on November 4.

Because of SB 375, at the heart of city plans will be people not cars. More Californians will enjoy easy access to public transportation, safe walking, and more local services. In two years, regional plans and city general plans will include specifics for reducing greenhouse gases and integrating transportation with sustainable development.

SB 375, sustainability and smart growth were actively discussed at West Coast Green. As the largest conference and expo dedicated to green innovation, building, design and technology, West Coast Green serves each year as a gathering place for 14,000 designers, innovators, business leaders, and building professionals.

Sustainable communities shared their success. John Knott, CEO of Noisette, detailed how 80,000 people in North Charleston, South Carolina, transitioned from an area of economic depression and crime, to a community of job growth, walkable streets, pathways, and beauty.

At the Conference’s host city, San Jose’s Mayor Chuck Reed described how they are thriving as a city of cleantech innovation with companies such as Nanosolar and Tesla, adding 25,000 green jobs, while moving to 100 percent renewable energy and all major buildings being U.S. Green Building Council LEED certified.

Communities are becoming more healthy, efficient, and livable. So are homes. At West Coast Green 400 exhibitors showcased the latest in resource-efficiency among a stunning array of green and healthy building technologies that allow us to work and live more efficiently in our homes. A wide range of energy efficient appliances, complete kitchens, and LED lighting was on display. No VOC paints, low-carbon materials, and better insulation were on display that improved indoor health. Displayed were the latest in solar power and solar hot water heating. Experts were on hand to help architects, builders, and homeowners with their plans.

Horticulturalists displayed landscapes that improved on the quintessential water intensive and pesticide intensive lawns. Displayed were plants for roofs, walls, and edible gardens.

At the center of the Expo was SG Blocks Harbinger House which brought many of the resources together into a beautiful home that collected rainwater, minimized home water use, brought in all welcomed sunlight while managing the home temperature. Whirlpool energy-sipping appliances were showcased. Vetrazzo counters dazzled without using imported granite. All energy and resources were monitored and managed by Agilewaves.

Al Gore spoke Saturday morning on the final day of the conference. The Nobel Laureate eloquently reminded all of the urgency needed to deal with the climate crisis and offered positive solutions. In the face of draughts, wild fires, hurricanes, and disappearing artic ice, we cannot delay another year. Decisive action is need.

Vice-President Gore reminded us, “Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world’s energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses. Enough wind power blows to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America.” New energy storage and smart-grid technology makes possible the complete transition to renewable energy.

Vice-President Gore called for a moratorium for new coal power plants. He warned of the climate dangers, water, and energy demands of oil from shale, now being approved in Congress. He renewed his call for “100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.”

Vice-President Gore applauded the innovation and energy efficiency being implemented by those participating in West Coast Green. Mr. Gore sees the opportunity for the U.S. to create millions of jobs and lead the world with innovative products and solutions.

This weekend solar home tours are available across the nation. See first hand the exiting progress and possibilities that are unfolding. Tour

John Addison writes about clean transportation and environmental issues. Over 100 articles and reports are available at the Clean Fleet Report.

1 reply
  1. Akemi
    Akemi says:

    I hope that budget-wise, we will wisely and logically fund, implement and maintain these changes. I've written my own blog entry about the necessity for moving away from sprawl at I live in Sacramento and the local government had cut the budget for the Regional Transit (RT) system. California had a three month state budget stand-off with many cuts to programs. But RT has moved forward with a master plan for the future and so will others. I hope this will lead to a broad consensus among constituents, local officials and state officials to prevent developers from constructing other suburbs in geographically-questionable areas like flood plains such as the city of Natomas.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply