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SG-W:/ Dealing with Growth -- lesson from Calif



See article below from the Sacramento Bee
(maybe something applicable to other states as well)

Craig <harvey@ic.net>

------------------------------------------------
Dan Walters: State's growth is inevitable;
how to deal with its effects is a choice

By Dan Walters -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 5:35 a.m. PST Sunday, Dec. 16, 2001

Dramatic and consistent population growth is a fact of life for
California's present and future. We can expect that the state's
population, now about 35 million souls, will increase by more
than a half-million a year, or more than 5 million a decade,
largely due to foreign immigration and a high birth rate.

The political response to that phenomenon has generally taken two
forms, seemingly different but, in fact, similar in effect and
equally wrongheaded.

The first is to acknowledge growth but largely ignore its
collateral effects and assume that, somehow, it will be absorbed
without spending on new public works to serve it. The second is
to oppose facilities to serve population expansion, such as
housing tracts and highways, and hope that, somehow, growth will
go away.

The first response is often found in communities that cater to
developers of subdivisions and shopping centers, without
addressing the underlying needs for expensive new roads, schools,
parks, and water and sewage systems. It may be termed, for lack
of a better phrase, conservative myopia.

The latter is the province of environmentalists, latter-day
Druids, trendy communities -- Marin County comes to mind -- and
others on the port side of politics. They are often able to stop
growth in a particular area, but the true effect of liberal
tunnel vision has been to create enclaves of bucolic affluence
while shifting growth's effects onto neighboring communities.

The Sacramento Bee, in a recent series of articles focusing on
the Highway 50 corridor, examined what happens when rapid and
heavy development is not accompanied by equally powerful
mitigation. Traffic congestion, water quality degradation and
other negative effects, The Bee reported, are the results of such
shortsightedness.

What The Bee described along Highway 50 is a microcosm of
California's urban landscape in the 21st century. The state has
absorbed tens of millions of new residents -- 11 million just in
the last two decades -- while adding very little to public
infrastructure and living on the legacy of highways, schools,
water systems and other public facilities built largely in the
quarter-century that followed World War II. Simply put, we are
unwilling to do anything about population growth itself -- that
would involve such hot-button issues as immigration restrictions
and tighter birth-control policies -- but neither have we been
willing to face growth and its side effects squarely.

The Bee series focused on Folsom, a fast-growing suburb of
Sacramento, and its eagerness to approve new subdivisions and
retail facilities without compelling developers and/or taxpayers
to pay for the sewage and storm runoff systems that such growth
requires. The result has been a serious water quality degradation
problem in the nearby American River.

What happened in Folsom needn't happen. Just a few miles away is
Roseville, another community that experienced growth every bit as
dramatic as Folsom's but acknowledged and mitigated its effects
with new roadways, water and sewage systems, libraries, parks,
schools and other facilities. When big-scale developers rolled
into town in the 1980s, Roseville -- unlike Folsom -- imposed
hefty development fees to pay for the infrastructure the extra
bodies required. There were complaints that the fees would raise
home prices, but they allowed Roseville to evolve from a railroad
town into a residential and shopping city with a strong
employment component and, in the process, become a better place
in which to live, work and raise families.

If Folsom's head-in-the-sand approach exemplifies California's
larger growth problem, Roseville is an example of how a community
can extract the benefits of growth without being overwhelmed by
it -- one that the state as a whole could and should emulate.

Population growth probably is inevitable in California, but
degradation of the quality of life is not. We -- individually and
collectively -- can choose to ignore growth's effects or hope
that it goes away, or we can deal with it forthrightly and in
ways that maximize its benefits and minimize its problems.

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