I was just reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about California population density and California sustainable communities that I thought was interesting. Basically, California is trying to reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions caused by vehicles. The thought is that by increasing California’s population density, you can bring more people closer to city centers and resources such as jobs, grocery stores and market places. If people are closer to the resources they need in their daily lives, then they don’t need to drive as far to get there. Less driving equals less greenhouse gas emissions.
The article mentions that these zoning laws can in some ways hurt California. By preventing urban sprawl, according to the Wall Street Journal article, California decreases the amount of development allowed in undeveloped lands, thus decreasing the number of homes available and increasing the cost of these homes. The article purports that the increased cost of living has contributed to people leaving California in search of more affordable living. According to the article, since 2000 over 1.6 million people have fled the state.
The article also mentions that “Higher population densities in the future means greater traffic congestion, because additional households in the future will continue to use their cars for most trips.” More people in one area means more cars in that area, too. However, this is assuming those people need a car. Will people need one if everything they require to live and thrive is walking distance or within the reach of public transportation?
The other option is to continue to invest in suburban development, but this sacrifices open wild lands that California is trying to protect. Should we just infringe on our wildlife’s land just to keep suburbia alive? These are tough questions that we will be faced with in the future and an interesting discussion as to what is the right answer. Do you want to live in high-rise apartments and condos with resources close by or live in the suburbs where we have to commute to get to the market, our jobs and our friends?
I propose another option: Rather than bring people to the city’s centers, why not bring the city centers to the people? By setting up small shops and business spaces that can handle the demand of small sub-suburban areas, people don’t need to drive 5-10 miles to get a cup of coffee or a bite to eat. Of course, the larger city centers will take a hit because the demand is being spread more evenly across neighborhoods, but at least people will not have to travel as far to satisfy their needs.
What are your thoughts?
Thanks to inhabitat.org Wikipedia.org for the photos