Smart Growth and “The Plan”

Eighty years of zoning has its drawbacks, not the least of which is the idea that growth can’t happen without the government leading they way. This was evident in the comments made by public officials at a recent smart growth conference in Riverside California. Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashely told the audience: The biggest enemy of sustainable growth is suburban sprawl. We’ve got one chance to get it right. This is it. The “solution,” of course is Smart Growth–higher density, mixed use, mixed income, and transit-oriented developments. Few people seemed to talk about how many of issues surrounding urban growth could be resolved by simply getting the government out of the way. The Palm Springs area is already seeing greater demand for higher density and mixed-use development, a natural outgrowth of suburbanization. For example, the Palm Spring Desert Sun article reporting on the conference noted: *A vacant 80-acre poperty near I-10 was is about to be turned into a $250 million mixed-used community; *Developers want to development a mixed-use lifestyle center caled Shenandoah Springs Village in Thousand Palms *Downtown Palm Springs is being considered for another mixed use center. Perhaps sprawl is really much a do about nothing–if government planning would get out of the way, communities would evolve organically and we wouldn’t have to spend so much time at conferences talking about how the old planning didn’t work and needs to be replaced by new planning. The conference was sponsored by UC-Riverside’s Edward J. Blakely Center for Sustainable Suburban Development, the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, and the Urban Land Institute.