View From Lodi, CA: California`s Sprawl Driven By Population Growth (Which Is Driven By…)


Last week, the Lodi News-Sentinel published a
three part series about community growth titled

“The Search for Open Space.”

Without a doubt, sprawl in Lodi is the number one
topic among local residents. Lodians are surrounded by
housing and commercial developments. No matter how many

superstores
Lodi already has,

more
are just around the corner.

Lodi 2003 barely resembles the Lodi that I moved to
in 1987. The question is not whether we can maintain a
greenbelt between Lodi and Stockton but whether
California will be able to preserve any space, anywhere.

The News-Sentinel series dealt mostly with
growth in the immediate Lodi neighborhood. But wherever
you travel in California, cement is everywhere.

And, to coin an old phrase, “you ain`t seen nothin`
yet.”
Coming soon to southern California are two of
the biggest building projects ever undertaken, Newhall
Ranch and Tejon Ranch.

Newhall, long plagued by controversy, got the green
light from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
last June to build 20,885 homes on 12,000 acres.
Construction will begin in 2006. Tejon, still awaiting
formal approval, would add 23,000 additional homes.

The two projects will be adjacent to I-5 and will
draw 130,000 new residents to what is already one of
California`s most congested areas.

The growing nemesis we call sprawl is defined as the
rural acres lost as an urbanized area spreads outward
over a period of time. And sprawl is driven by two
elements: an increase in per capita land use and

population growth.

In California`s case, per capital land use (number of
acres used per person) has remained stable since 1982 at
0.167 acres used per person. Population growth pushes
California`s sprawl. Since California`s population
increases by

600,000 people every year
, no solution to growth can
ever be reached.

Every one of those 600,000 people needs

housing
,

roads
,

schools
and

hospitals
. Building those facilities creates sprawl.

In the on-going debate about what the answer might
be, analysts are willing to talk about how to more
efficiently use land but not about methods that might
help stabilize population.

Most sprawl studies—including the recent
News-Sentinel
series—emphasize urban planning. But
no matter how creative the urban plans may be, at the
end of the day the question remains: how are we going to
accommodate 600,000 new people every year?

One popular proposal is to build “in” and “up.” Homes
or apartment built within the city alleviate the need to
construct homes on the edges of town. 

But an infill only delays sprawl and creates a series
of urban woes, mainly traffic and pollution.

Look at

Los Angeles
to see what happens when growth reaches
its apex. Los Angeles is one of the most efficient
California cities in terms of per capita land use. The
number of acres used per person has gone down
consistently since 1970 and is now 0.1205 acres per
person.

But also since 1970, Los Angeles sprawled out 252,
160 acres because it had to accommodate huge population
increases. [PDF]

Today, Los Angeles is literally out of land. The
little remaining land in Los Angeles cannot be developed
because it is too mountainous,

too hazardous
or reserved by the federal government.

Ultimately, all discussions about California`s future
lead back to the same point: can we absorb 600,000 new
residents indefinitely?

The answer, of course, is no. And the goal of
population stability is ever more elusive because of the
lack of political will. No one wants to talk about it.

[Joenote to VDARE.COM
readers:
I asked Leon Kolankiewicz, environmental
scientist and national natural resources planner who
recently co-authored the Center for Immigration Studies
report,


“Outsmarting Smart Growth: Population Growth,
Immigration and the Problem of Sprawl”

, to comment on the impact of

immigration
on California`s
urban sprawl. He said:

“These newcomers and their
California-born descendants need land to live, work,
play, go to school, drive, shop, etc. And much of that
land will be farmland or natural habitat.


Foreigners don`t forsake their homes to transplant
themselves on American soil to continue to consume
modestly at Third World levels…immigrants want SUVs just
like Americans, use disposable diapers just like
Americans, live in large, air-conditioned homes with
yards just like Americans, and so forth.

Immigrants don`t abandon
their homelands to come here, and work cleaning our
buildings, cooking our food, and tending our gardens and
toddlers only to ride bicycles and buses and live in
cramped apartments. They aspire to more.”]

Over 25 years ago, China
introduced its one-child policy. Contrary to popular
misapprehension, the policy is not law. China does,
however, advocate delayed marriage, delayed childbirths,
fewer and healthier births and one-child per family. The
result is that fertility rates in China have

dropped significantly
in
recent years.

India, with a population
above one billion and home to 17% of the world`s
population on only 2.5% of its land, has authorized its
states it seek out policies to effectively deal with
reducing population by

limiting births.

The problems in China and
India are wildly complex. But I admire the fact that the
two countries realize that action on population must be
taken or the countries will lie in total ruin.

In the meantime, the US—with
population growth rates higher than both China and
India—takes the opposite approach:

  • The
    United States encourages births through federal tax
    incentives, most notably the

    child tax credit.

  • The
    federal government will not enforce immigration laws.
    Not only do nearly two million legal and illegal
    immigrants annually add directly to the population
    base but the

    larger families
    they have

    after arrival
    insure that
    population pressures remain intense.

Native-born
Americans have reduced their

family sizes
to replacement level. But California
still gets 600,000 new residents annually. It can`t
cope. And until we get real immigration reform, we`re
just whistling past the construction site.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.