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Vision California: Charting Our Future

California CityA new report by the planning firm Calthorpe Associates highlights the vivid contrast between the impacts of conventional urban sprawl and smart growth on California’s land, water, energy, climate and the economy. Charting Our Future documents the initial application of a new computer modeling tool called Rapid Fire to examine four different future growth scenarios.

The model shows that the advantages of a “green future” over a “business as usual” scenario are significant. The former, featuring more efficient development in which more than half of all housing would remain single-family detached units, would by 2050 save the state 240,000 acres of farm, forest and other open land; reduce the cost of highways and other infrastructure by $195 billion; cut vehicle miles travelled by 34 percent, greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds, residential water use by 60 percent and energy used by residential and commercial buildings by 40 percent. Annual household spending on auto travel and utilities would average $20,750 under “business as usual” but only $11,150 under the “green future” alternative.

Reacting to the study, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “This analysis shows we are moving in the right direction in working to design communities that allow Californians to save money by spending less time in their cars and more time with their families. California is leading the nation in tackling smart and comprehensive land use planning that will help us lay a foundation for economic growth, improve our quality of life and meet our environmental and health goals.”

Rapid Fire is the first modeling tool being designed under the auspices of Vision California, an ambitious project intended to provide community planners and state officials with sophisticated new insights into growth and development choices. The project is funded by the California High-Speed Rail Authority and the state Strategic Growth Council. AFT’s California Director Ed Thompson is an advisor to Vision California.

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