20120419-200953.jpgThis week’s Sacramento News and Review (Thursday, April 29, 2012) has a feature story titled “Onward, Sprawl,” highlighting the impacts of the passion for growth of Sacramento County, Folsom, Rancho Cordova, and Elk Grove. I highly recommend a read. The Sacramento Bee has a short article in the Wednesday, April 18 edition titled “County kicks off plan for Hwy 16 growth,” yet another area for development east and south of the developed area of the county.

It will be impossible to serve these new developments with a functional transit system. RT is already not able to serve the sprawling suburbs of Sacramento county, and these developments are much further out from the central cores that contains most of the jobs in this area. Neither light rail nor bus service works when the distances are great and the ridership small, as it would be for these far-flung areas. Driving will increase, more and wider roads will be needed, traffic will be induced, and those people looking for respite from an auto-dominated landscape will feel a need to move even further out, to get away from it all.

Of course the government and developers give lip service to transit, environmental values, and jobs. And why shouldn’t they? They won’t have to pay for any of these things. It is nearly a perfect world for a developer: buy agricultural land very cheaply, get the county or city to pay for all of the major infrastructure (Capitol Southeast Corridor, $500 million of your tax money, just one example), buy a little influence with local politicians (fire sale prices), and walk away with a huge amount of money. Of course all the long term operations and maintenance are paid by the taxpayers, not the developers. If the development turns out to be cheesy or empty, like so many are, the developer is long gone.

I am not suggesting that all developers are out for the quick buck. Those who develop infill projects, like the one going in across the street for me, providing retail below and housing above, both in demand in midtown, are contributing to the local economy. Of course they intend to make money, but they don’t take the short cut of internalizing all profits while externalizing all costs.

Places all over the United States are beginning to see the error of greenfield development, converting productive land to subdivisions and strip malls, and are setting a different course towards economically and environmentally sustainable urban development.

Why has the Sacramento region not yet seen the light? Why does it continue to prefer and encourage sprawl? I am guessing two reasons: 1) We continue to elect to our councils and boards people who either are developers or are on the pockets of developers. The next election, I’d suggest that you ask people running for office if they take campaign contributions from sprawl developers, or if their business benefits from sprawl development. We need to start seeing these types of politicians as the low life’s that they are, not deserving of being elected, let alone driving our communities into an endless cycle of development and decay. 2) Government official are desperate for tax income from any source. Why are they desperate? They have to pay off the bills resulting from the development approved by previous politicians.

Large scale development projects are a pyramid scheme. People who get in on the ground floor reap the profits, while the rest are left holding the bag.

Infill, not sprawl!

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