Minnesotans For Sustainability©


Sustainable:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.




Parts I & II of III.

California: Shaping New Directions

A State Planning and Population Growth
Position Paper

Californians for Population Stabilization*

Part I:

Part II:
The Influence of State Programs on
Population Growth


Table of Contents

Part I Introduction
Population Growth Trends 1940-2040: State of California
Executive Summary and Conclusion
Significant Findings and Conclusions
Existing State Planning Statutes - Unused, Ignored and Forgotten

Part II Influence of State Programs on Population Growth
The California Water Program
Agricultural Land Conservation
The California Environmental Quality Act

Part III The Future of The Central Valley - A Case Study
Overview of State Comprehensive Planning
Creation Of The State Office Of Planning
Establishment of the Office of Planning and Research (OPR)
California Government Code Sections 65025-65050
Chapter 1.5. Office of Planning And Research


Part I: Introduction

California is unique in many ways —the variety of its climate and landscape, its racial and natural diversity, its richly productive agricultural base, a world-class university system, its leadership in technology and its dynamic economy. These advantages combine as a powerful magnet for people across the United States, and particularly from less-favored areas of the world. In terms of distance and movement, California has been the focal point for one of the greatest migrations in human history.

The State’s population grew from 20 million in 1970 to 33.25 million by the beginning of 1998. By the year 2020, it is expected to rise to 49 million (California Department of Finance, 1998). Nearly 16 million more people will be living within urban and metropolitan areas of the State within 21 years. Even more horrendous is the State’s projection of 32 million more people by the year 2040 (See the chart on the next page.) While there undoubtedly are differences of opinion regarding the level and time frame of projected growth, and the manner in which State government should respond, there can be no doubt that the current levels of population growth exacerbate almost every problem facing California.

By far the largest component of the State’s growth will be continued immigration from foreign countries. Of the almost one million legal immigrants entering the United States annually, over 40% settle in California. The "Golden State" is rapidly losing its luster; public opinion polls consistently show that Californians are dissatisfied with the crowding, congestion and environ-mental degradation which has accompanied the State’s unabated population growth. And increasingly, they are frustrated with the seeming paralysis of their elected officials to address issues that are of longer-range than the next election.

Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) is a non-profit organization founded in 1986 in response to the public’s concern as expressed in the polls and in other growth forums. In examining the many disparate factors that influence population growth, including effective family planning, high fertility, teenage pregnancy and immigration, CAPS was inevitably led to the conclusion that a common denominator was the sheer number of people being added to California each year.

In recognition of this fact, CAPS has adopted as its principal objective the reduction of the rate and extent of future population growth in order to permit progress toward achieving sustained employment, improved access to education and health care, adequate housing, the preservation of the natural environment, and improvement in the overall quality of life for the State’s residents. While cognizant of the complexity of influencing population growth, CAPS does not consider this goal to be extreme or unattainable, but rather one that reflects the reasonable expectations of most Californians and should be actively pursued by California State government.

Population Growth Trends 1940-2040: State of California

Complicating efforts to deal with population issues is the fact that many of the State’s major problems, such as water and air pollution, ill-planned urban expansion and loss of agricultural land, cut across jurisdictional boundaries. Responsibility for dealing with these matters is often delegated to local agencies who typically lack the technical and financial resources as well as the legal authority to act effectively. Moreover, as is the case with most environmental and public interest groups, CAPS’ ability to focus on the broad picture of California’s future is severely limited by the necessity to fight "brush fires" whose resolution ideally should be attained within a framework of statewide goals and objectives. As noted by the Council on California Competitiveness, 1992), a business-oriented group appointed to assess the business climate in California:

"All segments of the community suffer because of the poor planning and inadequate management of California’s growth. State government must clearly identify statewide objectives and require regional and local agencies to conduct their activities in concert with these objectives."

CAPS commissioned this report in the firm conviction that State government must assume a lead role in addressing the future of California and in assuring that there is in place a coherent framework of goals and objectives to guide the State into the 21st Century. With a new Governor, and many new members entering the State Legislature in January 1999, it is timely to address the issue of State leadership in planning for the future.

In accordance with the objectives of this report, CAPS directed its consultants to:

  1. determine the degree to which State programs and actions are guided by an overarching set of statewide goals, and
  2. review the key factors which have hindered past efforts to develop and implement such goals.

CAPS asked its consultants to focus on the operations of the State Office of Planning and Research (OPR) located in the Office of the Governor as the only agency with the legislative mandate to perform the central planning function in State government. Additional focus is given to the topics of water development and distribution, transportation, agricultural land conservation and the California Environmental Quality Act because of their powerful influence on population growth and distribution. Analysis of the ominous potential for urbanization in the Central Valley, is included as a case study of the failure of State government to recognize and act to preserve the State’s agricultural base. The report concludes with a brief overview of the history of comprehensive planning in California, suggesting key factors in the failure of past State planning efforts.

Executive Summary

The single conclusion of overriding and pervasive significance is that State and local government planning efforts in California consistently ignore the fundamental source of most of the State’s problems - the number of people to be accommodated. Time after time, issues of growth are cast in quantitative concerns for the things people need, whether measured in classrooms, water supplies, highway construction, open space and recreation areas, housing, sewer plants or any of the myriad of other requirements of concentrated urban life including the money needed to pay for them.

The fallacy of planning for whatever may be required regardless of the number of people who will reside in California in the 21st Century is well-reflected in a lead article of the California Development Bulletin (1993):

"California’s task is not to prevent growth, but to prepare for it, capitalize on its opportunities, and manage it intelligently and responsibly," according to the Governor Wilson’s long awaited Strategic Growth Plan. The plan calls for the development of State and local policies to implement the plan "to deal with the inevitable growth that will occur in California."

The notion that unlimited population growth is inevitable is pervasive and accepts that our task is to manage better whatever population growth ensues. That such "management" is even possible is in serious question. Moreover, the assumption that such management can be accomplished to off-set the social, economic and environmental costs associated with unlimited population growth is without foundation.

Significant Findings and Conclusions


  • Population projections prepared by the State Department of Finance for the next 41 years (to 2040) are not absolutes. They only indicate what will likely occur if there is no significant change in policy at the State, regional and local level to reverse or seek different population scenarios. Accommodating 65 million people may indeed be the ruination of California. State planning legislation already enacted offers a process for assessing the consequences of this growth and for securing public understanding and support for an alternative future.

While most State agencies in general utilize population projections and assumptions prepared by the State Department of Finance, those projections reflect the trends which have emerged over the past decades. The projections go unquestioned by State agencies and local governments. The implications of population growth and distribution among the State’s regions are seldom discussed in the public arena and consequently the projections become self-fulfilling prophesies.

As noted earlier, over the next 21 years to the year 2020, California’s population is projected to reach the staggering level of 49 million.

  • Even assuming that this growth can be sustained, how will it impact education and other public facilities?
  • How will we dispose of the wastes of another 17 million people?
  • How many new jobs will be required and how much new revenue must be generated to meet the increased costs of growth?
  • Above all, what kind of California will emerge if population predictions for the years 2020 and 2040 become reality?

We do not have answers to these kinds of critical questions, and, tragically, questions are not even being posed publicly in these terms.


  • At the present time, the approach of California State government to growth might well be characterized as "if you build it, they will come." State agencies such as the Department of Water Resources and Caltrans exert a powerful and lasting influence on statewide patterns of population growth and distribution. In general, however, these programs are based upon population projections of the State Department of Finance and assume an almost straight-line projection of present trends. To the extent that this data is used to determine the infrastructure required for growth, these projections become self-fulfilling prophesies.


  • Politicians, particularly at the State level, largely ignore the long-range consequences of population increases. In part, this occurs because there is no planning program which provides credible data on the connection between major policy issues such as education, health care and population growth. The principal reason, however, is that leaders tend to avoid the controversial nature of growth policies. Predictably, neither of the two principal candidates in the recent gubernatorial campaign publicly recognized the association between key policy issues and the State’s high level of population growth.


  • Local governments in California are being overwhelmed by massive growth and change. The response of State government has been to place even more complicated planning requirements on these local units, ignoring the limits of funding, technical expertise and legal authority available to them. Several sanctions have been imposed on cities and counties which failed to meet the State’s planning mandates. However, State government has failed dismally to put its own house in order and to provide guidelines in such critical policy areas as agricultural land preservation, urban expansion, transportation and resource management.


  • The failure of California State government to achieve a balanced statewide transportation system, to take timely action to preserve the State’s rich agricultural base, and to rationally allocate limited water resources offer clear examples of the need for comprehensive State planning.


  • California statutes recognize the key role of the Governor in statewide planning. As the head of the Executive Branch and a powerful political leader, the Governor has all the authority required to undertake a meaningful statewide planning program. However, for almost 30 years, successive governors have either paid lip service to or have completely ignored the legislative mandates that require preparation and submittal to the Legislature of a statewide plan focusing on the central issues of population growth and land use.


  • The framework of State planning enacted by the Legislature in 1970 provides sufficient direction and authority to enable the Office of Planning and Research (OPR) within the Office of the Governor to undertake effective statewide planning. The Legislature has provided clear and concise statements of policy and legislative intent regarding the character of the State planning process it desires and the products to be delivered. No useful purpose will be served by studying and reformulating existing State planning legislation. The tools are at hand. It only requires the will of the Governor and Legislature to adequately fund the planning process already well-conceived under State law.


  • Acting through its Department of Housing and Urban Development, the federal government has contributed the overwhelming share of funding for past State planning efforts in California. Neither the State Legislature nor any governor has supplied the funding necessary to mount the scale of effort required in California.


  • While some useful recommendations resulted from past State planning efforts by OPR, the general consensus is that they were conducted on a piecemeal basis and were not presented in a form useful to the Legislature. This confirms that statewide planning can only be effective if it explicitly addresses, as the starting point of analysis, statewide population growth trends.


  • It should be recognized that population policy is not an end in itself, rather, it is the means to secure social, economic and environmental objectives. The failure of State government to take appropriate action to influence population growth constitutes, per se, a population policy. It commits the State to accept present growth trends as the basis for a wide range of highly important decisions, and, in large part, to deal with major policy issues on a crisis basis.


  • Federal programs, such as immigration, water storage, economic development, transportation and overall social service have a major impact on California. There is a tendency on the part of State political leaders to avoid confronting these policy areas on the basis that they are beyond the scope of State authority. This position ignores the fact that California has the largest congressional delegation which, if given clear signals from the State Capitol, can be a powerful ally in achieving State goals and objectives.


  • State programs, such as water, transportation, resource management and coastal protection, also exert a powerful and lasting influence on patterns of population growth and distribution. These programs need to be designed and implemented so as to achieve statewide goals.


  • The prospect of another 15 million people in Southern California holds little hope for sizing and constructing water delivery and transportation systems in ways that will be cost-effective while meeting the needs of the future population.


  • The State Department of Transportation (Caltrans) does not have the necessary authority to engage in truly long-range transportation planning. Multi-modal transportation planning essentially has become mostly short-range, eliminating the opportunity to identify and begin purchase of rights-of-way that eventually will be needed for new interregional transportation facilities.


  • The current prospects for saving the productive agricultural capacity of the Central Valley are dismal. The acreage in urban use could, by 2080, exceed the acreage in agricultural use, thus transforming the valley to a second-class agricultural region.


  • Conflicts are emerging as the result of State and federal policies and programs which purportedly seek to preserve agriculture while at the same time are looking to agricultural water supplies as a primary means of meeting the needs of the State’s future urban population. Can we have it both ways?


  • The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is not fulfilling its potential for measuring long-term and cumulative environmental impacts because of its emphasis on a project-by-project approach to environmental assessment.


  • The threats to California are clearly visible in almost all regions of the State. Yet, this study has been unable to identify even one single program at any level of government which, at the present time, will significantly alter the present trends of steady and irreversible destruction of basic resources and deterioration in the quality of life in the State.


  • California’s statutes set forth the deliberate intent of the Legislature that the planning process mandated therein include meaningful opportunities for the public, local officials and the private sector to respond in open forums to findings and recommendations presented by OPR. This important provision has not been complied with in previous State planning efforts. It was clearly intended that alternative scenarios of future growth, together with projected costs and benefits, would be set forth so that all concerned would be in a position to make rational choices about California’s future.


  • This report has cited a number of sources—federal agencies, scientists, business and environmental leaders, local officials and the Legislative Analyst—who recognize the value and support of statewide planning in California. While there will undoubtedly always be differences in opinion about specific policy issues, there is general agreement that population projections are not set in stone and can be altered by intelligent intervention by State government.


  • Safeguarding the future of our magnificent State presents a challenge to policy-makers. They will be required to set aside short-term benefits and political advantage in favor of committing themselves through the exercise of statesmanship to a coherent view of the future—a vision that energizes the powerful forces of the public and private sectors and which assures citizens of California that their grandchildren will inherit a State whose natural resources and quality of life have been guaranteed by the courage and foresight of their political leaders.

Existing State Planning Statutes: Unused, Ignored and Forgotten

Little known and even less understood, California for almost 30 years has had a well-conceived mandate which sets forth a comprehensive State planning process and assigns this function to the Office of Planning and Research (OPR), in the Office of the Governor. Enacted toward the end of Governor Reagan’s first term in 1970, much of OPR’s mandate has gone unnoticed and unattended by four administrations. This gross oversight has cost California precious time which could have been used to test ways that unbridled population growth could be arrested and replaced with responsible statewide policies to manage growth for the benefit of current and future generations.

OPR has a broad and significant legislative mandate to develop statewide population and land use policy and plan comprehensively for the next 20-30 years, and to assist other State agencies, federal agencies and local governments in the process. (See Attachment.) In its 28 years of existence, OPR has yet to undertake the first component of such policy which is described in the California Government Codes Section 65025 as follows:

"The Office of Planning and Research shall give immediate and high priority to the development of land use policy. As a first component of such policy, the office shall develop, in conjunction with appropriate State departments and federal, regional and local agencies, a statewide plan and implementation program for protecting land and water resources of the State which are of statewide significance in terms of the State’s natural resource base and the preservation and enhancement of environmental quality and are threatened due to urban expansion, incompatible public or private use and development or other circumstances."

The legislation sets forth declarations of State policy and legislative intent. Key statements include:

It is the policy of the State and the intent of the Legislature to protect California’s land resource, to insure its preservation and use in ways which are economically and socially desirable in an attempt to improve the quality of life in California.

The Legislature also finds that decisions involving the future growth of the State, most of which are made and will continue to be made at the local level, should be guided by an effective planning process . . . and should proceed within the framework of officially approved statewide goals and policies directed to land use, population growth and distribution, development, open space, resource preservation and utilization, air and water quality, and other related physical, social and economic development factors.

  • . . .that land use decisions be made with full knowledge of their economic and fiscal implications, giving consideration to short-term costs and benefits and their relationship to long-term environmental impact as well as long-term costs and benefits.
  • . . .that recommendation, continuous evaluation and execution of statewide environmental goals and policies and plans are included within the scope of the executive functions of the Governor and responsibility for assuring orderly administration of this process within State government should be assigned to a governmental unit reporting directly to the Governor.
  • . . .that analysis of the impact of individual programs on the achievement of statewide environmental goals and the necessity of allocating fiscal and other resources of the State among competing programs and needs requires integration of the planning and executive budget functions within State government.
  • . . .the importance of public participation at every level of the planning process. . . .that each State, regional and local agency concerned in the planning process involved the public through public hearings, informative meetings, publicity and other means available . . .and that the public be afforded the opportunity to respond to clearly defined, alternative objectives, policies and actions.
  • . . .that the State planning process should be designed to influence legislative policies and actions and therefore should specifically include: 1) provisions for regular review and positive action by the Legislature on statewide environmental goals, plans and policies; and 2) clear identification of legislative actions required to carry out statewide environmental goals.
  • . . .to have one agency at the State level which is responsible for developing State land use policies, coordinating planning of all State agencies, and assisting and monitoring local and regional planning. The Legislature recognizes that the Office of Planning and Research in the Office of the Governor, as the most appropriate State agency to carry out this statewide land use planning function
  • . . . (without) any direct operating or regulatory powers over land use, public works, or other State, regional or local projects or programs.
  • . . .to assure orderly planning for specific functions such as water development, transportation, natural resources, economic development and human resources by units of State government who exercise management responsibility for these functions. . . .to provide, as part of the State planning process, that State functional plans proceed from common assumptions and forecasts of statewide growth and development . . .
  • . . . that the State planning process, particularly with regard to the preparation of statewide goals and policies, should incorporate the recommendations and views of an advisory council that is responsive to, and of some assistance to, the planning concerns that occur on a local and regional basis.

A review of related legislation pertaining to OPR’s State planning function reveals the following:

1. Many of the elements required as a minimum in shaping the statewide planning program are already included in various functional plans or programs of other State agencies. However, there is no process in place for integrating these elements within the framework of statewide policies.

2. The declarations of State policy and legislative intent contained in Article 2 of Chapter 1.5 of the Planning and Zoning Law pertaining to OPR (See Attachment A) gives considerable depth of meaning to OPR’s planning function, including population growth and land use. However, none of the declarations have been followed by OPR.

3. OPR has produced only two of the eight statewide Environmental Goals and Policy Reports that were required over the past 28 years. These reports were produced during the administrations of Governors Reagan and Brown, Jr., but only minimally complied with the planning statutes and were not implemented, chiefly because of a lack of support by the Governors.

4. OPR is, at present, a demand/response agency. It researches and develops recommendations on directives from higher authority, handles the functions of the clearinghouse for environmental documents and periodically publishes reports of interest to local planning agencies. However, it lacks adequate funding and a professional planning staff with the qualifications to perform mandated State planning functions.

5. Specific powers and duties of OPR as the comprehensive State planning agency are set forth in Article 4 of the State Planning Act. However, the statutory mandates have either been ignored or carried out inadequately.

The statements of State policy and legislative intent described above were enacted at various times, mostly in 1970 and later in 1976, and provide considerable insight into the planning process required of OPR. In failing to fulfill its statewide planning responsibilities during four separate administrations, the State has clearly operated under a double standard. Cities and counties are required to adopt and maintain adequate general plans under the threat of severe sanctions.

Upon determination by OPR and the Attorney General that there has been a willful failure to prepare an adequate local general plan, suspension of all authority of a city or county to approve land use entitlements, subdivisions and parcel maps and all types of development permits may be imposed. Such suspension has been applied to several cities and counties in California over the last few decades. However, no sanctions have been imposed on OPR by the Legislature for its continued failure comply with its responsibilities as set forth in the statutes. Nor has the Legislature acted by resolution or other means to encourage successive governors to act.

It is tragic that 28 years have passed during which intelligent choices on statewide goals and policies could have been presented to the people by successive governors and the Legislature —choices which made in timely fashion, might have anticipated the consequences of unbridled population growth.

As background for the discussion in Part II, selected functional planning assignments undertaken by various State agencies, the reader is encouraged to review Attachment A which sets forth all of the laws pertaining to OPR and its planning functions.

Part II: The Influence of State Programs on Population Growth

Programs of State government, such as water development and distribution, transportation, resource management, environmental quality and coastal protection, exert a powerful and lasting influence on patterns of population growth and distribution. However, these programs are seldom designed in an integrated manner, nor are they designed to achieve any statewide goals beyond those directly related to individual departmental functions. For example, if water and transportation were to be viewed in an integrated fashion as they impact on patterns of population growth, these programs might well be cast in substantially different ways.

In general, the philosophy of State government towards growth might be described as "if you build it, they will come." In providing the essential major infrastructure to accommodate growth, this approach of course becomes self-fulfilling. As noted in Part I, the population projections prepared and updated by the State Department of Finance are almost universally utilized by State agencies and local governments, with little or no consideration of how they might be altered by the conscious intervention of the people acting through State government.

The unwillingness to seriously address the issues posed by a doubling of the State’s population to 65 million by the year 2040 poses the potential for staggering irreversible impacts. In his daily column for the Sacramento Bee (April 18, 1993), Dan Walters referred to the State’s future population growth as "a time bomb ticking away."

Citing the impact on schools as an example, he noted that California, must build 20 classrooms each day of the year just to keep pace with the present growth in school enrollment, with billions of dollars more required for teachers and operational costs. He further stated that "the potential impacts on housing, transportation, water supplies, waste disposal systems, parks, air quality and other environmental and infrastructure elements are equally severe." In concluding his article, Mr. Walters provided some political insight into the failure of public officials to grasp the magnitude of the population crisis:

"Politicians shun these long-term issues because they are complex and carry overtones of ethnic and generational conflict. But the quality of life for all Californians, rich and poor, Anglo and non-Anglo, elderly and young, is under assault. Our very existence as a society depends on our ability to diffuse this demographic time bomb before it explodes in our faces."

In his 1970 book Future Shock, the Alvin Toffler pointedly comments on the lack of any clear direction in planning programs conducted within the United States. His observations seem equally to fit the California experience:

"They (our plans) call for new highways, new roads, new power plants and schools. But the plans cancel, contradict and reinforce one another by accident. Few are logically related to one another, and none to any overall image of the future. No vision —utopian or otherwise— energizes our efforts. No rational, integrated goals bring order to the chaos."

The remainder of this section examines the State’s programs for water, transportation, agricultural land conservation and environmental quality to:

  • highlight the absence of any statewide goals in these multi-billion dollar operations, and
  • identify how such programs can assist in carrying out statewide goals and policies dealing with growth and development.

The California Water Program

California’s State water project involves the massive transfer of water from Northern to Central and Southern California, thus fueling the explosive growth of metropolitan Los Angeles and its surrounding metropolitan and urban areas. It also opened up several million more acres in the San Joaquin Valley to irrigated agriculture. In the face of controversy over plans for the construction of new water storage facilities since completion of major reservoir and aqueduct facilities in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the State and its water customers have concentrated on a variety of approaches to water conservation to expand the beneficial use of existing water supplies.

The State Department of Water Resources (DWR) annually updates the California Water Plan which is its bible for water projects. After the Peripheral Canal controversy of the early 1970’s, DWR has engaged in a variety of initiatives to conserve water statewide while essentially not developing any major new projects which would increase the supply of water. Water pricing is now viewed as one solution for providing the additional millions of acre feet of water needed for municipal and industrial (M & I) use in the years ahead.

This requires selling agricultural water rights and/or excess water to urban water districts. However, this conflicts directly with efforts by others to preserve productive agricultural lands and reduce the rate of expanded urban water use. What is important here is that the consequences of reducing agricultural production in favor of excessive population growth and urban expansion are not understood by the vast majority of Californians and their State legislators.

DWR’s most significant current planning effort is the Cal-Fed program (a joint federal-State effort) to develop alternatives for improving the water quality and fisheries habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and also improve the quality of water transferred through the Delta to Southern California via the California Aqueduct. This joint operation is intended as a way to secure agreements by State, federal, agricultural, urban and environmental interests on the best way to manage the Delta in light of the myriad of State water contractors and beneficial uses prescribed by law. However, the Cal-Fed program has been criticized as an effort to revive the Peripheral Canal.

Ironically, the best way to improve the ecology and water quality of the Delta may well be to have a peripheral canal which is used at appropriate times of the year to release waters upstream into all the rivers and streams entering the Delta. This assumes that the canal would be sized to assure that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) would not be able to transfer and convert more agricultural water to urban use in the future, beyond that allowed under any current water contracts.

Most recently, Cal-Fed officials have determined that it is at least seven years premature to recommend a 42 mile long canal from just below Sacramento to the vicinity of the Tracy pumping plant, even though such an "isolated" canal may eventually prove to be the ultimate solution. Presumably, such a canal would not be capable of transferring water beyond that currently covered by contracts with urban and agricultural users under the State water project.

Discussions of solutions to the State’s continuing massive shortfall of available water have been mired in conflict for several decades among and between State and federal water agencies, environmental groups and agricultural and urban water users. The Cal-Fed program is intended (in part) to find acceptable solutions, and the various interest groups have shown a remarkable willingness to cooperate.

However, in considering future major water projects, there is no serious examination of their impact on population growth and distribution. Again, we see only a concern for meeting whatever future water needs may emerge, regardless of the concomitant costs and dislocations associated with the amount of population growth encouraged by new water supply projects.

Since its inception, the California Water Plan has been designed to provide water to meet the needs of an unspecified future population. But as noted above, since major new water storage facilities have not been constructed since the early years of water plan implementation, the potential for conflict among potential users continues unabated, as concern for adequate supplies to meet undefined future needs continues.

There is little doubt as to the position of the Metropolitan Water District and San Diego area water districts on the need to guarantee future water needs identified by the population projections of the State Department of Finance for the years 2020 and 2040. For Southern California (excluding Santa Barbara County), the projections are approximately 7.8 million more people for 2020 and 15.3 million more in 2040 in the seven county area of 20 million people today. For Los Angeles County alone, the 2040 projection is for 6.2 million more people in addition to the existing 10 million. The San Francisco Bay Area also is fast becoming short of adequate water supplies for its existing population of about 6 million. And, another 1.3 million and 2.0 million are expected by 2020 and 2040 respectively.

Is it written somewhere on tablets of stone that these projections should be the target of water agencies? The economic, social and environmental impacts of these projections have not been calculated and assessed in terms of alternative patterns of population growth and distribution.

The first and only time that alternative population distributions have been considered by DWR was in its 1970 update of the California Water Plan (Bulletin 160-70). As an experiment, an entire chapter was devoted to theoretical distributions of population which envisioned new town development at selected locations along the Interstate 5 corridor from Kern County to Shasta County and along the Sierra foothills east of the then projected Eastside Freeway. This was a serious effort to identify growth problems and opportunities.

Unfortunately, the effort was considered by decision-makers as an interesting but essentially academic exercise and was never used for policy or planning purposes.

Another significant policy failure is the State’s continued delay in funding a final solution to agricultural drainage in the Central Valley. The Kesterson Reservoir fiasco highlighting selenium-laden water and dead and mutilated waterfowl, offers a grim warning to State and federal officials. One solution being discussed is to retire millions of acres of farmland which has become contaminated with selenium and pesticides on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. This might make available several million acre feet of water for other potential urban and agricultural users assuming that the costs of the water can be met over the long haul.

In conclusion, water availability is certain to become the major determinant of population growth in California. The State’s water policies and programs clearly have failed to address the issues posed by the attempt to meet all perceived water needs of the future.


The State’s transportation policies have supported the low-density urban sprawl which characterizes California’s patterns of urban development, and which has resulted in the decline of central cities and an almost complete dependence upon the private automobile as a means of transportation.

Created during the administration of Governor Jerry Brown, Jr., the California Transportation Agency (Caltrans) has responsibility to advance multi-modal approaches aimed at improving transportation facilities throughout the State, but the agency conducts this responsibility in a near planning vacuum. The State’s once-vaunted highway planning, design and construction program has become a strictly project-oriented operation. Essentially, it has become a short-term capital improvement program operated out of Caltrans District Offices without adequate attention to interregional and interstate planning, and with inadequate funding to maintain the existing highway system. Referred to as STIP (State Transportation Improvement Plan), this short-term planning has replaced the longer-range planning which the former Division of Highways had pioneered, and which once was a model for State transportation systems throughout the country.

While Caltrans’ attention to long-range planning has deteriorated badly, it must also be said that even in its heyday of highway planning and construction, as in the case of its water program, the State has failed to use transportation policy as a means to influence population growth and distribution. Whether a freeway was built before or after the fact of urban sprawl, the consequences of freeway construction were not examined in terms of their influence on regional patterns of population growth and urbanization.

Like cries heard in the wilderness, a few planners and legislators called for more deliberate assessment of how best to spend gas tax and interstate highway funds in California’s regions. But the juggernaut of highway construction during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s was not to be abated, moderated or shaped as an instrument of population growth policy.

The California Transportation Commission’s (CTC) mission statement does not contain any mandate for either medium-range or long-range planning for any mode of transportation or for an integrated approach to all modes. This reflects the actions taken during Governor Jerry Brown’s Administration to gut the highway planning and construction process. All long-range planning has been placed in the hands of the few multi-county, and many single-county Councils of Government (COGs). Caltrans District offices are not allowed (by statute) to do long-range planning. The planning which is being done is by the multi- and single-county COGs throughout the State, with many State highway improvements being funded by local measures approved by the electorate rather than by State transportation funds.

Since counties are more likely to be concerned with local highway needs, it is understandable that there is little attention to large-scale inter-regional and statewide needs for highway improvements.

The California Inter-City High Speed Rail Transportation Plan, a part of the State transportation plan, is being designed without consideration of its probable impacts on population growth and distribution. For example, the Highway 99 corridor through the San Joaquin Valley is proposed as the logical north-south alignment for a high speed rail facility, but the majority of people within the affected cities have little understanding what is being proposed. Only three public hearings were held on the recommendations of the High Speed Rail Commission, and the plan has been sent to the Governor and Legislature. This proposal could have significant impact on population growth and distribution, but facilities are being planned to connect the Bay Area and Southern California via the U.S. 99 highway corridor based on population projections by the State Department of Finance for 2020. As noted earlier, these projections envision a continuation of current trends. There has been no attempt to develop alternative scenarios of population growth and distribution in any of the State’s most populous regions that will be served by the new rail system.

Given the population horizons described previously, the near grid-lock and "road rage" which already characterizes highway traffic in the State’s metropolitan areas is a problem of horrendous proportions.

For example, the prospect of another 15 million people in Southern California defies the imagination.

  • Do we double the width of all existing freeways?
  • Do we cut through established neighborhoods with environmentally devastating multi-billion dollar freeway construction?
  • Do we require the white collar labor force to work at home, communicating via computer and modem with their central offices?
  • Do we extend the commute hours to cover the period 4:00 AM to 8:00 PM, scheduling each commuter for different times of the day?
  • Do we invest billions of dollars in automated systems of traffic movement and control?
  • And, what will be the social and economic costs required vis-à-vis other demands for State and local?

Integrated long-range statewide and regional planning is clearly required to effectively evaluate the consequences of growth alternatives and enable the people of California to make intelligent choices for their own and their descendants futures.

Agricultural Land Conservation

The first major effort at agricultural land conservation policy in California was the Williamson Act enacted in 1971 by the State Legislature. Intended to provide tax relief to farmers whose lands were in the path of urban expansion, the potential for contracts between landowners and counties was extended to all owners of agricultural land, regardless of location and productivity. Consequently, millions of acres of agricultural land were covered by contracts, with property tax assessments based strictly on the agricultural productivity of a given ranch or farm. With several means available in the law to terminate a contract, with or without some repayment to the State, the Williamson Act has at best slowed the march of urban expansion in some urban areas.

However, it has not had a major influence on the ultimate patterns of population growth and distribution which result. Moreover, the State has provided millions of dollars in compensation to counties for the local property tax loss sustained, without achieving any permanent agricultural land preservation.

The State’s programs of agricultural land conservation have been assigned primarily to the Department of Conservation. They include the Farmland Mapping Program, the Agricultural Land Stewardship Program and participation in the Governor’s Watershed Initiative. The farmland mapping program has been in place for several years and is essentially complete for all areas of the State, with up-dates provided periodically for areas where urban development and agricultural use are in conflict. While useful to local planners, these maps do not reflect any clear State policy on the lands to be preserved. The maps are a useful tool, but would be of greater value if agricultural land preservation policy had greater priority at both the State and local level. The resolution of State agricultural land preservation and water policy conflicts will require a much broader perspective which considers interrelated impacts on population growth and distribution.

The Agricultural Land Stewardship Program was established by the Legislature in 1995, to protect and conserve prime agricultural land threatened by urbanization. This program is yet in its infancy, but offers potential for protecting lands whose permanent loss to urbanization would constitute a major impact upon the resource. The program would offer grants to local governments and non-profit entities for the purchase of conservation easements to retain land in agricultural use into perpetuity. The 1998-99 State Budget includes $13.7 million for support of the program. The success of the program may well depend on the consistent application of criteria that clearly identify agricultural lands of significant importance, and provide for their protection within the framework of statewide environmental goals and policies.

The California Environmental Quality Act

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was enacted in 1970, as part of a broad package of environmental legislation including AB 2040 (Wilson) which created the Office of Planning and Research. But unlike OPR’s State planning responsibilities which have languished these past decades, requirements of CEQA have been implemented, albeit among much controversy as to their application. The California Supreme Court, in the "Friends of Mammoth" decision in 1972, clarified that CEQA applied to private, as well as public projects. Since then, with a multitude of court cases, administrative rules and legislative amendments, CEQA has resulted in a complicated process of environmental assessment that has revolutionized the local planning process.

While CEQA has greatly enhanced awareness of environmental issues and the mitigation of potentially adverse physical impacts of a development proposal, its project-by-project approach to environmental assessment diminishes its potential for assessing long-term impacts of population growth on environmental quality.

Three requirements for preparing an adequate Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a project which have potential for influencing growth are:

1) a discussion of alternatives,
2) identification of growth-inducing aspects, and
3) analysis of the long-term cumulative impacts of the project.

Even when an EIR is being prepared for a local General Plan or major plan amendment, these central topics rarely are given the attention which was foreseen when CEQA was enacted. However, the failure of State government to adopt statewide land use and population policy is the major impediment to the successful operation of the CEQA process. For example, a single city or county is obviously in no position to assess the impact that conversion of individual parcels of agricultural land to urban use will have on California’s total agricultural base. Yet in the aggregate, these individual conversions have a profound effect in reducing that base.

A discussion of project alternatives logically should address issues such as different patterns of urban expansion than the ones being proposed, viewed at least on a countywide basis. Unfortunately, local planners typically cannot take this view because of the typically short-range and uninformed view of politicians. Growth-inducing considerations, for example, usually deal with pressures that may lead to conversion of farmland or other open space resources to urban use. However, the period for such pressures to develop is often beyond the timeframe of General Plan proposals.

Cumulative impacts of development do not always take into account the aggregate impact of all past, present and probable future projects within the jurisdiction’s sphere of influence. Seldom is such an assessment made in a manner designed to understand what the cumulative impact of development projects may mean to a large area.

CEQA has undoubtedly enhanced sensitivity given to environmental impacts by planners, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals. It has also focused attention on possible mitigation measures which should be made a part of specific development proposals. However, as noted earlier, its full potential for measuring the consequences of a project in terms of desired patterns of future development has been obscured by CEQA’s project-by-project approach. This is true at both the local and State levels.

Continue to Part III: The Future of the Central Valley: A Policy Planning Case Study
Used with permission of Californians for Population Stabilization ( CAPS).
Parts I & II of III
* California: Shaping New Directions: A State Planning and Population Growth, A CAPS Position Paper
Consultants: Robert E. Grunwald & Frederick Styles
Contributor: Tom McMahon, former Executive Director, CAPS
Californians for Population Stabilization
1129 State Street, Suite 3-D
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-564-6626
Fax: 805-564-6636
Website: < http://www.cap-s.org/ >.
Email contact: <info@capsweb.org>.


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