« Is it our turn yet? | Main | Terry Lamphier for Supervisor??! »

13 March 2010


Steve Enos

All that dumb growth, low density, massive infrastructure growth in Roseville and Lincoln has now caught up with them and they have crashed.

Smart growth projects and smart growth commuinities have fared a lot better than the dumb growth, low density sprawl communities in the downturn



Some examples please of smart growth communities that have fared a lot better than dumb growth communities. Smart growth increases the cost of housing and we have lost many young families that migrated to Roseville and the low cost "dumb growth" houses and wide choice shopping. However, if your look closely Roseville did a Legacy Growth Plan, the forerunner of NH2020 and planned where they wanted growth and where they desired to preserve land. The chose the marginal range land for the growth, protecting the productive agriculture land. We may think that Roseville was dumb growth, but that is not the case. It was planned. We choose smart growth over creating a place for those dreaded "big box stores" and now our citizens are shopping in Roseville and Auburn, keeping the tax dollars for their infrastructure development. Roseville can offer businesses and homes fiber to the home broadband, parks, playgrounds, dog parks, wide tree lined streets and lower cost housing. What did they do wrong? Really? That bad?

RL Crabb

My advice is...If you really want to live in Roseville, move there. Houses are cheap!



I like living here, but young families are leaving for the lower cost houses in Roseville. Our local building codes, with the State add ons, have made it harder to build affordable housing. Roseville succeeded where we have failed. Two of my four daughters, with grandchildren live in Roseville and find it a very kid friendly place to live. Great schools and lots of activities for growing children. That said, we are not moving to Roseville.

RL Crabb

I burned my Costco card more than a year ago when I figured out that the yearly fees were more than I was saving on discounted merchandise. Granted, people with big families probably come out better, but for us it was more of a hassle to go to Roseville for 0 savings.

My aunt moved to Rocklin 10 years ago when it was still relatively small. Five years later she was surrounded by condos, and can't drive to shopping because of the increased traffic. Her view of the mountains is long gone, and she's sorry she ever moved there.

It never ceases to amaze me how people move here to escape crime and congestion, and then want to do the same thing here. It's been a favorite subject for my comic strip for years.


We combine visits with the grandkids and Costco shopping and it pays, since we are already in town. When Costco opens on Auburn, it will be interesting to see if it increases traffic on SR-49.


My daughter and young family moved to Lincoln a few years ago. Three little girls, husband works in Sac, new house $295,000, 2 blocks from an elementary school, a few miles from the Galeria, (12 Bridges), lots of open space, lots of young families. They would love to live back here (where they both grew up) but no jobs. Maybe the only thing we will be left with here is a bunch of old people and our smart growth ideas.


In the 70s I was in the Air Force and selected was to go to Command and Staff College in Montgomery Alabama. Ellen's cousin was just finishing his Air War College tour at Maxwell AFB and offered to hep us find a place to rent while we were at Command and Staff College. He found us a lovely big old house in a mature neighborhood, with trees shading the street and a big side yard.

Ellen’s cousin children were grown and this would have been a great place for a mature couple, but not for a growing family. There were no children in the neighborhood for our kids to play with. The school that would attend had boarded up windows and the play ground looked like a war zone. We were dismayed, to say the least. We enrolled them in a private school.

A few weeks after AC&SC started we visiting my old Aviation Cadet Training room mate who was also attending AC&SC, we saw a house in their development neighborhood with grass 2 feet tall in the yard, the place looked abandon. We contacted a local realtor who contacted the owner, who did not live in the community. The former renter had stopped paying the rent, and he was willing to make a deal. We rented the place and started cleaning the house and the yard, for the first months rent. The former renters had left the refrigerator full of food and turned off the power. We moved the whole mess to the carport, and got our refrigerator out of storage.

Point of the story, we moved across town from a mature neighborhood to one with children the same age of our three girls. They continues to attend private school, but they now had friends to play with in the neighborhood. This maybe one of the reason that young families are moving to Roseville, kid friendly neighborhoods.

RL Crabb

Let's get down to reality here. You and Russ grudgingly agree that the earth is going through a period of climate change. You just don't think it's manmade. And you want to go back to the days of sprawling cities, asphalt, and a green lawn on every lot.

You never mention the age old problem of the west; water. With the current system already strained to the limit, where do you plan on getting enough of it to feed your suburban utopia? You could dam every river in the Sierra, but if the climate decides not to cooperate you're going to end up high and dry. (And you've got as much chance of building those dams as hell freezing over anyway.)

Or let's say the climate goes the other way and we get too much water. Decades of dumb planning allowed thousands of homes to be built on delta floodplains. Can you say Katrina? Who pays for the repairs to the levees, the developers or the taxpayers? If they don't get repaired, who pays for the disaster?

Your argument just doesn't hold water.

George Rebane

Bob, not sure which of MY arguments you see as being leaky. I hope you're not shoving someone else's in my mouth and then taking them to task. While that's a common ploy in what passes for public discourse in these parts, I've never seen it advance the discussion.

I cited three references, each of which make/summarize a compelling case to consider additional information before we resume growth under a bevy of dusted-off smart growth banners. As with climate change, the debate on growth is not over. Are you arguing otherwise?

Steve Enos

Stanford Report, March 10, 2010

Stanford research shows Silicon Valley land conservation didn't hurt housing development
Developers in the San Francisco Bay Area have often blamed land conservation initiatives for limiting the region's housing supply and driving up real estate prices. But new research suggests land conservation has had a relatively small impact on development.


It's no secret that the San Francisco Bay Area, where the median house price is $350,000, is home to expensive real estate. Developers have often blamed conservationists for the high costs by arguing that making land off-limits for new construction shrinks the area's housing supply and drives up prices.

But Stanford researchers say that argument holds little water. Only 51,000 more homes would have been built in the southern Bay Area's Silicon Valley if land had not been set aside by nonprofit groups and the government, they say.

In a study conducted by the university's Bill Lane Center for the American West, executive director Jon Christensen, sociology graduate student Carrie Denning and landscape ecologist Robert McDonald analyzed whether land conservation efforts in Silicon Valley – which has about 116,000 acres of protected parks, forests, waterfronts and wildlife refuges – have hurt housing development.

Their findings, published online in the journal Biological Conservation, suggest that land protection may not have much of an impact on the number of housing units available in the region. That's because most of the protected land isn't suitable for development, they say.

"The conserved lands that were saved in the Bay Area tended to be higher elevations in the foothills and along the Bay, and they weren't necessarily prime for urban development," said Denning, the project's lead researcher.

She said the findings are "very significant given the contemporary debate about conserving land in the Bay Area."

"Conservation is just one factor of many that influences housing," she said.

Silicon Valley: Conserve or develop?

Since the 1960s, local conservation groups have campaigned to preserve bayfront property and native biodiversity by buying tracts of land. Their efforts, coupled with new zoning regulations aimed at curbing congestion, made sure that large portions of land in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are off-limits to real estate and commercial developers.

Critics say the conservation stymied development and led to reduced housing stock and higher local land prices. And that has spurred the growth of sprawling communities in surrounding areas, they say.

Their arguments have been backed by several academic studies conducted within the past few years arguing that Silicon Valley – an area of scenic foothills, bayfront vistas and diverse ecological microcosms – has fallen victim to its own robust tradition of conservation.

But the new Stanford study challenges those findings.

In order to understand the impact of land conservation on housing development, researchers created a model to predict how many housing units could have been built on the preserved tracts.

The model measured details such as the slope of the land, the wetness of the ground and the land's proximity to highways and historical centers to determine whether it would be suitable for development.

The researchers wound up with a map showing that the conserved tracts would have held only 51,000 homes, a number equal to 6.5 percent of the 790,000 homes now in Silicon Valley.

That's a relatively insignificant amount, Denning and Christensen argue. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Silicon Valley's population was just over 2 million in 2000, up from the 530,000 people who lived in the area in 1950.

The model also predicted that because of difficult terrain, 41 percent of the hypothetical living units would have been spaced fairly far apart from one another – fitting about 1.2 houses on every acre.

And that likely would have made those houses very costly, because homes built in less crowded areas tend to be more expensive, Christensen said.

The study showed that small parks in existing urban areas would have been more heavily developed than any other category of conserved land. Had these parks been converted to real estate, said Christensen, urban communities would have lost the few open patches of greenery that now punctuate their otherwise concrete cityscape.

High-tech history

Christensen first thought of doing the study in 2008, when he became aware of a database of all protected lands in the Bay Area maintained by a San Francisco-based nonprofit group, the GreenInfo Network. He came across the U.S. Geological Survey's Bay Area development survey at around the same time and began brainstorming research ideas.

"I thought, what if you put those two things together?" said Christensen. "Would it reveal interesting patterns between conservation and development?"

He began trading ideas with McDonald, a scientist at the Nature Conservancy, who became the spatial modeling specialist for the study. Then Christensen recruited Denning, who was just completing her undergraduate degree in history and art history at Stanford, to spearhead the research.

The team created their estimated housing map using a synthesis of historical research techniques and computer graphics technology, a hybrid research approach that forms the backbone of studies developed under the Lane Center's Spatial History Project.

"Stanford is a place where there's an emerging collaboration between humanities scholars and scientists that you don't have in a lot of other places," said Christensen. "We're much more trained as humanities scholars to do close reading. … It's a very different way of doing history."

RL Crabb

I was combining your blog and the one posted on Russ' site. And I'm not saying all smart growth is an answer, but it seems clear that between both of you the model for future development in CA. should look backward.

Drought is not a hypothetical around here. I remember back in the 70's, standing on top of Bullard's Bar dam and looking a puddle down at the bottom. The flow of the river looked more like Squirrel Creek than the Yuba, and on the other side there was nothing but a bare riverbed. In the 90's I spent a lot of time commuting back and forth to Washington and seeing a lot of red dirt where Shasta Lake should have been. Most people agree that growth will continue, but as Clint Eastwood once said, "A man's got to know his limitations." Same with the state.

George Rebane

Steve, thanks for that very interesting report. Those kinds of data and the information derived from them are what I believe is needed to take a broader look at what kinds of growth would benefit people living in Nevada County.

Bob, yes I believe we should look in all directions to inform our decisions about growth. Smart growth is an approach that is over 25 years old, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't still consider its ideas along with many others. Ultimately, I believe, that we should listent to the minimally mangled markets, to the extent that government still tolerates their existence.

And your raising the notion of our county's water shortage is a new one for me. I talk to NID a lot, and am not aware of any water shortage concerns for our county. Given our location and water infrastructure, our county will be the last one still drinking were the rest of California to ever get parched. Now selling water to soCal is a quadriped of another hue.

RL Crabb

You're right...Nevada County doesn't have a water problem, yet. But NID is mandated to supply Lincoln with water, so it does affect us. All development in California is dependent on the water supply, smart, dumb or indifferent. It's a big part of the puzzle, and it needs to be addressed as we debate future growth.

Steve Enos

Low density sprawl is costly for many reasons. Roseville and Lincoln ( and many other places)are now in big trouble as sprawl infrastructure is costly to build, maintanin and provide services for. More compact, higher density, walkable, mixed use development is less costly over time.

Back to the future.

RL Crabb

Another reason I believe that water will dictate the future of development in California is the law of supply and demand. Just because Nevada County is water rich doesn't mean we get to keep it. The geniuses in Sacramento could mandate that we send more of it their way, creating an artificial shortage locally. As water becomes more scarce, it will cost more, turning those miles of green lawns into brown deserts.

This is already true in my neighborhood. Our summer water bills are higher every year. As much as I try to mitigate watering with drip irrigation and drought tolerant plants, I'll still end up letting my front yard go brown to save a few bucks.

This will be less of a problem in tight clustered developments, and you don't have to water open space.


" and am not aware of any water shortage concerns for our county"

What would you say to the people that in the last 2 years have had to drill wells as much as 300 feet deeper?

3 on my short street alone. Go to Peters' Well Drilling and ask how many wells were deepened last year. Or check with the Co for permits to do so.


“There is no consensus among researchers about how much compact development would reduce driving, suggesting this is a highly risky proposition.”

Flat out wrong.
Ewing, Steve Winkelman of the Center for Clean Air Policy, Keith Bartholomew of the University of Utah, and Jerry Walters of Fehr & Peers Associates.

Reasearchers warn that if sprawling development continues to fuel growth in driving, the projected 48 percent increase in the total miles driven between 2005 and 2030 will overwhelm expected gains from vehicle efficiency and low-carbon fuels. Even if the most stringent fuel-efficiency proposals under consideration are enacted, notes co-author Steve Winkelman, “vehicle emissions still would be 34 percent above 1990 levels in 2030 – entirely off-track from reductions of 60-80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 required for climate protection.“


The collateral effects of compact developments

MYTH: It creates more traffic and parking problems than low-density development.
FACT: Residents of more compact housing tend to have only one car per-household, compared to 2 or more cars in lower density neighborhoods. According to the National Personal Transportation Survey, doubling density decreases the amount people drive by 38%. Residents of condos and townhouses make 44% fewer trips per day than those who live in low-density developments.
MYTH: It overburdens public services and require more infrastructure support systems.
FACT: The compact nature of higher-density development requires less extensive infrastructure to support it, making delivery of basic services like mail, trash collection, and police and fire protection more efficient.


“Portland's ‘smart growth' restrictions have changed one of the nation's most affordable markets for single-family housing in 1989 to one of the least affordable since 1996.”

This is because Portland is one bitchen place to live! This is bad?

Oregon's 1973 "urban growth boundary" law limits the boundaries for large scale development in each metropolitan area in Oregon. This limits access to utilities such as sewage, water and telecommunications, as well as coverage by fire, police and schools. Originally this law mandated that the city must maintain enough land within the boundary to provide an estimated 20 years of growth, however in 2007 the legislature altered the law to require the maintenance of an estimated 50 years of growth within the boundary, as well as the protection of accompanying farm and rural lands

George Rebane

NC Guy - what you are citing is a collection of opposite contentions which demonstrates the lack of consensus that O'Toole reports. And which I argue is reason for us to re-examine smart growth, instead of simply accept its premises, when we consider new developments. Re your water availability anecdote, there are many places in Nevada County where underground water is simply not available and probably has never been available at shallow depths. At the lower end of Cement Hill property owners have always had to go down to about 1,000 feet to get meager flows; that's why NID is putting in a water line right now. The county has only one aquifer, and that's up near Truckee. For the rest of us it's random water courses through fractured granite formations.

In any event, thanks for the comments NC Guy. They're important and contribute to the discussion. On RR commenters speak their piece openly under their own names. I hope you will also feel confident enough to let us know who you are.


We have had 50 years of the type of growth you and the Bush Co. Property Rights developers love. Let's have some places where others can go without the wringing of hands and shrieking of socialist degradation of Christian Property Values.

Examine the un-smart growth and change it to what ever you want. TX has lot's of places cheep. Or even Sierra Co. You may continue the Grand Experiment there...

As for water?
Enslavement to NID is ok as long as unfettered growth harkens developers here?

The comments to this entry are closed.