California Warns Against the Dangers of Urban Sprawl
Irelandâ€™s booming economy has increased the demands on the countryâ€™s infrastructure. Traffic gridlock as well as housing and office space shortages are among the significant problems facing the countryâ€™s infrastructure, and the media have devoted significant column inches and air time to tackling these difficulties.
Interestingly, California, the wealthiest state in the U.S., has recently debated how it can ensure that infrastructural problems do not affect its booming economy. "Beyond Sprawl: New Patterns of Growth to Fit the New California, produced by a coalition of government, environmental and business organisations, makes recommendations about how California can continue to grow while still fostering the economic vitality and quality of life that makes it such a vibrant place to live and work.
According to the report, although the pattern of urban and suburban development that has characterised the development of California since the end of World War II, i.e., sprawl, has helped fuel the stateâ€™s unparalleled economic and population boom and enabled millions of Californians to realise the enduring dream of homeownership, California can no longer afford the huge costs associated with sprawl.
In the last decade, urban job centres in California have decentralised to the suburbs; new housing developments have moved ever deeper into agricultural and environmentally sensitive areas; and private car use has continued to increase. This sprawl has resulted in housing and such activities as jobs and shopping being scattered over huge areas, and frequently, long journeys are required to connect people with these activities.
Californiaâ€™s business climate is becoming a less attractive than surrounding statesâ€™; suburban residents are paying a higher prices in taxation and car expenses; and the residents of older cities and suburbs in the state are losing access to jobs, social stability and political power.
California, according to the report, needs to create more compact and efficient development patterns that not only accommodate growth but also help maintain Californiaâ€™s environmental balance and economic competitiveness.
More certainty is required in delineating where new development should, and should not, take place. There is a need to be more explicit about conservation and development priorities, and to better integrate those priorities.
More efficient use needs to be made of the land that is already developed. Older urban and suburban neighbourhoods should be promoted as comfortable places to live and do business, and the process should happen without displacing low-income residents.
A legal and procedural framework should be developed to create the desired certainty and send the right economic signals to investors.
1. Where development is allowed, state and local permitting procedures should be streamlined.
2. Developments at the metropolitan fringe should have to pay the entire marginal cost of the project, including the costs of constructing roads, developing water supplies, mitigating environmental problems and creating regional imbalances.
3. Californiaâ€™s local governments should promote more efficient and co-ordinated local land-use priorities.
4. Technological change needs to be used to combat sprawl, not encourage it.
Political alliances must be formed among environmentalists, inner-city community advocates, business leaders, government experts, farmers and suburbanites to enhance the quality of life in the stateâ€™s communities and to protect Californiaâ€™s resources.
The report concludes that if it is to build a strong, vibrant economy and to ensure a high quality of life for residents in the 21st Century, California must move beyond sprawl now.
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