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July 07, 2008

Richard Florida


« Soul of the Forbidden City | Main | Fatness Index »

Sacramento has developed a new blueprint for density. The Wall Street Journal reports:

For decades, backers of "smart-growth" planning principles have preached the benefit of clustering the places where people live more closely with the businesses where they work and shop. Less travel would mean less fuel consumption and less air pollution. Several communities built from scratch upon those principles, such as Celebration in Florida, sprouted across the country. But they were often isolated experiments, connected to their surroundings mainly by car. So, as gasoline remained cheap, the rest of the country continued its inexorable march toward bigger houses and longer commutes.

Now, smart-growth fans see a chance to reverse that ... Over the past 50 years, cheap gasoline has encouraged developers to build communities further and further away from city cores. Now, city planners are experimenting with "smart growth" that keeps work and shopping close to home.

Sacramento -- yoked to the car and mired in one of the lousiest housing markets in the country -- offers an intriguing laboratory for that idea. Four years ago, just as oil was gaining momentum in its torrid climb to $140 a barrel and beyond, the six-county region adopted a plan for growth through 2050 that roped off some areas from development while concentrating growth more densely in others, emphasizing keeping jobs near homes. The local governments in the area aren't compelled to follow the so-called Blueprint, but the plan -- backed by a strange-bedfellows coalition of ordinary citizens, politicians, developers and environmentalists -- shows signs of working, nonetheless.

Sacramento benefits immensely not just from being the state capitol but from its location in the Nor-Cal mega - an affordable one at that. Oh ... and time costs, not just oil ...


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I wish this type of project could be taken on in Buffalo, NY...

Whitney Gunderson

When I read an article like this, I see Richard Florida's point that time costs need to be considered more seriously when looking at how location decisions are made. This article credits oil prices only for the newfound interest in urban density. But we also have to remember that when suburbs were built, or as the article says, as "the rest of the country continued its inexorable march toward bigger houses and longer commutes," traffic wasn't as bad. So now, with bad traffic and high oil prices, sustainable smart growth makes sense to more people, when actually, it always made sense.

Michael Wells

It will be interesting to see if Sacramento can pull it off. I remember years ago Modesto talking about growth limits and density, and the developers just hopped across the county lines and ignored it. I've come to believe that the Oregon model of statewide planning is the only workable solution, but I'm rooting for Sacramento.

California is a mess in its priorities. We recently flew into Oakland and I looked at the miles and miles of bare, brown close-in hills which are, I assume, protected from development. At the same time they're filling in the San Francisco Bay, I'd guess it's less than 50% of its original size. And they built suburbs and exurbs 50 to 100 miles away to provide commuter housing that are now the hub of the foreclosure and commuter gas prices problems.


"At the same time they're filling in the San Francisco Bay, I'd guess it's less than 50% of its original size"
The Bay is not being filled in. Occasionally some nitwit suggests doing so but their plan is usually met with vociferous protest.

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