California planning low-carbon oasis where cars aren't king

Comments (8)

my breaking news: springsteen and goldberg, and all the rest of the ‘has beens’ will be holding a free concert shortly celebrating this event. however, final plans are on hold until parking arrangments for their limos are made!

Dec 14, 2012 11:27am EST  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:

This is a great idea and long overdue. But should also consider altering the housing type to include in home business use so even the commutes are reduced. They might also consider using open space for agricultural and other recreational use.

Most suburbs are little more than bedroom communities.

There is no way that fuel is going to become cheaper in the future. There is also no reason why residential real estate development must build in energy intensive private auto use and the redundancy of home versus commercial use or the long commute.

Until the collapse of the real estate market, I had been working from my own house for almost 20 years and I have never missed a daily commute. The best thing about it was, when I had little work to do I could always spend the time working on the house or yard and had more flexibility to adjust my schedule.

The historic model for urban life has always been compact residential and commercial uses that were within walking distances of each other or performed in the same building. It took the ancient Pompeian – a city of about 30,000 people – about 30 minutes to walk from one side of the city to the other. One can walk across the length of Venice in about one hour. Hardly any quarter of Venice is more than 30 minutes from Piazza San Marco. And it is a very interesting and rich waking experience.

Communities built along the lines of the proposed development would encourage people to walk again. That will shed acres off the American fat ass and barrel stomach.

If the communities were large enough they might also encourage the use of in home schooling that isn’t the stuff of survivalist mentalities. How interesting it would be if teachers took students into their own home based classroom while also being part of a public system that allows the students to use other classrooms in the homes of other teachers? The school system could save at least half the typical public school budget devoted to physical plant maintenance and the students would be expected to behave as though they were in the home of someone and not warehoused in a crowded factory setting. Long-term residency could also encourage at home computer-based education, community based enrichment activities and even special tutoring within minutes of a students home. That was also the historic model in some old world settings. Lifetime tutoring could become the norm form education. That is the very highest quality education and was the privilege of aristocrats and the wealthy.

Dec 16, 2012 8:25am EST  --  Report as abuse
GSH10 wrote:

The community in Brooklyn I was raised in from 1959 to 1972 was exactly this. I walked to elementary school and most stores without having to cross a street. Middle and high school were walking distance too. When the weather was bad, we rode the bus that ran very regularly with extra capacity during peak times. The train to Manhattan and the rest of the city was as convenient as convenient gets.

More than “A Tree Grew in Brooklyn.” We lived a couple of blocks from a fishing pier that was surrounded by beach, marsh, and vacant land teeming with wild life. We had beautiful parks, playgrounds, and school yards with many baseball fields and all of the childhood accoutrements one wuld expect. We played outdoors year round and walked everywhere.

As urban life goes, it was as good as it gets.

Dec 16, 2012 9:36am EST  --  Report as abuse
americanguy wrote:

These types of developments never work.
Check results from across the country.
People will move in, then get bored with living like someone in a prison, then move out. Most people just don’t like being confined to one area.
Then there is the issue of finding toxic chemicals in the land years down the road, after which the EPA will buy the development for 10 times what it is worth, clean it up, then sell it back to the original developer for next to nothing. Runoff from the buildings and landscaping chemicals will destroy the marsh. It always happens.

Dec 16, 2012 10:46am EST  --  Report as abuse
carlo151 wrote:

The suburbs are dead, they are becoming the new ghetto. Prices on suburban homes will drop as energy prices increase.
The 20-30 something generation no longer wants to move there. Isolated.

Think about it, taxes are high because services are expensive to provide. Police must cruise further to cover scattered suburbs using more gasoline . We see what happens to power during storms, you can be way down the list of repairs when you are a 4 home dead-end street.

I moved there for a yard for my son to toss the football around, but all he wanted was a high speed internet connection…. which took a while to get in the burbs also.

Baby boomers like will be the last hold-outs.

Dec 16, 2012 11:40am EST  --  Report as abuse
USA4 wrote:

dream on… most people want to live outside of cities and densely populated areas. want proof? look around you. unlikely to change anytime soon.

Dec 16, 2012 12:44pm EST  --  Report as abuse
forzapista wrote:

Finally, the land that gave the world “free”ways and strip malls comes to it’s senses. Either Californians are sick of spending their lives in traffic or they just cannot afford it anymore.

Dec 16, 2012 2:35pm EST  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:

It really doesn’t matter what “everyone” wants. It is more a matter of suburban and rural areas allowing these kinds of compact developments with mixed use – something this project only suggests – to occur at all. So many communities have minimum lot sizes and outlaw mixed use. Bedroom communities that require de facto automobile ownership are really the American norm. One would suspect that Detroit wrote zoning ordinances for the country.

Speak for yourself Americanguy. I’d give my eyeteeth to live in an urban area, but they are the most expensive places to live because they are the most desirable. I’m “in the sticks” only because it is the only place I can afford. It is also surprising, that even out here, the noise levels can become horrendous. When the power lines go down in a bad storm the neighborhood can sound like a truck stop because everyone gets out their generators. I live in a former vacation area called a “village district” that has been transformed in the 50 years since it was platted and sold off as 1/4 acre lots with cheap vacation houses, into an area with over 800 homes of all grades. It is actually nearly as dense as some Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods GSH mentioned. But it takes a ten mile round trip in the car to pick up groceries or for the bus to get the kids to school. There are no other amenities. It’s not a cheap second home neighborhood anymore.

A better building type than the three-bedroom stick built house with barely used green acre of lot could be attractive in rural areas too. Zoning in this town can require a minimum of 1 acre and in surrounding towns can require up to ten or more. This district is as dense as the older, denser town center that was once the home to mill workers, and its original 1/4 acre lots are illegal to do anywhere again. The mill downtown has been converted to condos and most of the jobs downtown are dependent on a single big electronic firm and the big box grocery store. About 150 of the 800 plus houses are up for sale in this district due to the spec frenzy that collapsed a few years ago.

American suburban development is not undertaken with much imagination and always has to skirt the issue of snob zoning. That is: zoning boards across the country have to be careful not to create minimum lot sizes that can be challenged for being too large. Lot sizes designed to keep low-income people out of their town can cause a zoning ordinance to be overturned by Superior Courts. It violates the Federal Fair Housing Act, I believe (but I’ve never read the entire act). “Red Lining” in another violation of that act.

A compromise to allow smaller lots are the zoning rules in this town now but it isn’t very good as far as I can see. It will allow for one-quarter acre building lots but requires the developer to set aside the other 3/4 acres per lot as conservation land that is actually figured into the price of the lot and is not available for any other use. The homeowner pays for the 1 acre and pays property taxes assessed on that acre in spite of the fact that they are really paying property taxes on 3/4 acres of conservation land.

However, for people who can afford twenty acres of land over the minimum lot size required for their zone, they can claim a property tax exemption of all acreage over the minimum lot size required under a program that, in New Hampshire, is called “current use” and, in Connecticut, is called “farm acres” (with or without an active farm use). Theoretically the acreage is taxable for all taxes due at normal property tax rates for the time it was in Current Use, when the property is sold but that isn’t (or wasn’t the case) the last time I looked about 20 years go. The rates have gone up a bit but I haven’t done the math. 20 years ago the local sleazy lawyer – who also owned to town paper – purposely misprinted my calculation and wouldn’t print a correction. At the time (and I can’t recall the article this moment) I figured the current use owner paid less than 20% what that land would have paid without the designation even when it was sold. The state law also allowed them to have planning board approval for subdivisions of that property. In other words, a property tax exemption designed to conserve open space was transformed into one that allowed local large lot landowners to bank real estate until they were good and ready to sell it.

Another rural community tactic that affects all homeowners is to encourage the set aside of conservation land that takes the land off the property tax roles. Even conservation set asides are being used to insulate old time land owners from future incursions while, at the same time, allowing them to preserve the rural feel without having to own the acreage. Anyone with a house on a small lot actually feels the effects of the shrinking property tax base in their own tax bills.

Yankees can be very sharp.

Dec 17, 2012 7:03am EST  --  Report as abuse
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