by Bryan Shadden
Those who prefer
the serenity of rural life often imagine the city as a fast-paced metropolis,
filled with both hustle and bustle.
But in reality,
our larger cities are victims of extreme congestion, with highways that
often crawl at an infuriating pace.
on the other hand, seems to move at light speed. Suburbs often seem
to blossom overnight. And the cause of congestion can often be traced
to how those communities are planned.
The Sacramento Region
Blueprint is a planning effort led by the Sacramento Area Council of
Governments -- or SACOG -- and the civic group Valley Vision. They're
hosting a series of workshops that are focused on dealing with growth.
The majority of
people at these meetings aren't city planners or officials. They're
ordinary citizens concerned by some alarming data: that in the next
50 years the growth problems considered bad now will only get worse.
The "base case"
is the Blueprint Project's starting point, a forecast that shows reason
for concern. By 2050 the region's population will balloon to 3.6 million
people, and the number of homes will more than double, reaching 1.5
million. And, if cities continue to sprawl, a lot more time will be
spent on those slow-moving freeways.
So the message is
clear: to grow smartly in the future old habits must change.
But the people at
SACOG say the worst can be avoided and to convince citizens, they're
relying on a technological crystal ball: computer software called "Places
Planning" that paints multiple pictures of how the future could
The software allows
users to virtually speed up time, giving an instant glimpse of how development
decisions will impact the Valley. And that access to instant information
is influencing many.
The proposals creating
a buzz at Blueprint workshops all point in the direction of "smart
growth," and developers are starting to respond. David Mogavero
is known by many in the region as a pioneer for filling in empty urban
lots with creative developments.
the public is hungry for innovative housing projects -- and is in some
ways a step ahead of their elected officials.
But many elected
officials are coming to recognize the need for smart-growth. More than
100 officials serve throughout the region, some 30 of whom make up SACOG's
Board of Directors. But their smart-growth message is often diluted
by local political pressures at home.
Welcome to Davis,
population 60,000 and growing. With a major university and an interstate
to contend with, Davis has a variety of growth issues that stir passions.
Sue Greenwald is
on the Davis city council, and while she agrees smart-growth is essential
she cautions that not all new developments are equal.
So what kind of
housing do people want? In today's world, does the American Dream has
less to do with where you live
and more to do with how you live?
take many forms -- such as Sacramento's Metro Square, a development
that shows buyers are interested in smartly built communities. And David
Mogavero says the proof is in the sales figures; ten hours after the
sales office opened, every unit was sold.
So as demand for
variety in housing grows, both local officials and citizens will need
to collaborate, deciding not only what smart-growth means for their
communities, but also how they should get there. And projects like the
Blueprint are providing the essential first step of communication. And
as more housing alternatives come on the market, buyers will ultimately
be voting for their futures with their pocketbooks.