Other Voices: Managing growth for sustainability
A new approach to managed growth is certainly needed in Nevada County, as it is in all communities throughout the state. But what are we managing for?
The Managed Growth Initiative, which will be voted on next November, has as one of its major goals to require that Grass Valley’s citizens directly approve any amendment increasing intensity or density of development. How does this approach fit into the current realities of the 21st century at a time when oil production is peaking and global warming poses a serious and credible threat that could result in mass species extinction?
If you think this is hyperbole, consider the fact that the last time that the Earth’s atmosphere contained the amount of methane that scientists predict may be released from the melting permafrost, 90 percent of all species on the planet went extinct.
Land-use patterns are the number one determinate of the amount of energy which we consume in living our day to day lives. This is why Senate Bill 375, which is currently working its way through the state Legislature, requires the 18 metropolitan planning organizations across the state of California to show that their future planning scenarios will result in a reduction in carbon. This requirement will engage regions in a process similar to a process pioneered by Sacra-mento, known as “the blue- print,” which essentially says that we need to plan as a region, not just as individual cities and counties. Air quality, traffic congestion, and carbon know no artificial boundaries. These issues must be tackled regionally.
Maybe a Managed Growth Initiative is needed, but, in my mind, it would look quite different than the one currently being proposed. Any plan which attempts to reduce our carbon footprint is going to require more densification in areas already served by transit and services.
Having recently attended the seventh International EcoCity conference in San Francisco, I encountered several ideas and models which could be applied right here in Nevada County. They include:
• Managing growth in a way that leads us to a sustainable future by limiting growth to areas that currently provide both transit and utility infrastructure.
• Clustering development to accommodate future solar rail service, which has been proposed to run from San Francisco, connecting to Nevada City.
• Filling in our town centers by building over under- ground parking lots which currently break up the continuity of the pedestrian experience.
• Building models of sustainable development, such as Loma Rica as an example of how to best accommodate future growth in the Sierra.
• Holding a town hall “sustainability summit” to formulate an actionable plan for reductions in CO2 emissions.
There is no question that at this point we must address the exigencies of the current global situation as a community. It’s imperative that we reformulate Nevada County’s current land-use patterns and future plans for growth in a way which reduces our dependency on fossil fuels and our reliance on the automobile to meet our basic needs. In the process we will be improving the cultural vitality as well as the economic and environmental health of our community and the planet.
Elyce Judith Klein lives in Grass Valley.
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