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.
Shaping New Directions
Californians for Population Stabilization*
Table of Contents
Part I Introduction
Part III The Future of The Central Valley - A Case Study
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:
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:
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.
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):
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
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.
We do not have answers to these kinds of critical questions, and, tragically, questions are not even being posed publicly in these terms.
Existing State Planning Statutes: Unused, Ignored and
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 legislation sets forth declarations of State policy and legislative intent. Key statements include:
A review of related legislation pertaining to OPR’s State planning function reveals the following:
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.
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:
The remainder of this section examines the State’s programs for water, transportation, agricultural land conservation and environmental quality to:
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.
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
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.
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.
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 (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,
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
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