what Sacramento did wrong

I’m reviewing the City of Sacramento’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), preliminary draft. I’ll have several more posts on this, but what immediately comes through to me is that the plan doesn’t acknowledge what the city did wrong in the past to create such a carbon-intensive city.

So, let me help with that:

Transportation

  • focusing the transportation network on continuously expanding capacity for motor vehicles, ignoring and more frequently being hostile to other modes; this has changed slightly, but is still the dominant approach
  • spending almost all funds on roadway capacity expansion (more lanes and interchanges) instead of maintaining what we have; every pothole is a policy failure
  • refusing to accept responsibility for sidewalks, which are a critical and core component of the transportation network
  • refusing to spend any general funds on transportation improvements, other than required matches, depending instead almost entirely on grant funding from the state and federal levels
  • providing free and below market rate parking throughout the city, which not only subsidizes but increases motor vehicle use
  • going all-in on motor vehicle electrification, while nearly ignoring electric bikes; there are no electric bike incentives, and no electric bike charging facilities
  • failing to update the outmoded 2006 pedestrian plan, and/or to combine it with the bicycle plan into an integrated active transportation plan
  • refusing to develop policy around transportation solutions, as though every project were unique and had nothing to do with other projects or with the overall pattern; the bicycle and pedestrian master plans are examples, laying out individual routes but not creating policy that determines what kind of facilities are appropriate for what kinds of streets and intersections
  • refusing to innovate and pilot new ideas, as every peer city has been doing; despite accepting the progressive NACTO guidelines, the city has actually not implemented anything that does not comply to the letter with the regressive MUTCD guidelines

Housing and Land Use

  • zoning which prevented multi-family and mixed use throughout most of the city; this has changed a little, and will change more with the 2040 General Plan, but the legacy of this will be with us for generations, and yes, the intent was largely racist; zoning of this sort makes everything further away, requiring more driving
  • setting development standards which make inefficient use of land, with setbacks and height limits, which again, spreads everything out
  • eliminating inclusionary zoning without creating a viable method of funding affordable housing through development impact fees or other mechanisms; for example, the city only contributed pittance $2.8M of the $40 or so that the newly opened Lavender Courtyard cost
  • supporting and celebrating large residential greenfield developments while ignoring infill development, and placing requirements on development that are easy for large developers and onerous for small developers; this has changed a bit, but not much
  • bending over backwards to promote and subsidize very large projects, such as the arena and Delta Shores, while paying no attention to small businesses; every empty storefront is as much a failure of the city as it is of that business

None of this is to say that the city is not doing some good things, or that it is not light years ahead of the county, and ahead of most of the cities in the region. But overcoming carbon addiction requires admitting that you have a problem, and largely created the problem, and can’t overcome the problem until you stop doing the wrong things.

I think it is important that the CAAP not only state what the city will do, but also what it will STOP doing.

Author: Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

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