Thriving Communities for All

Thriving communities throughout history have generally followed a simple formula. Towns and cities have been made up of a dense mixture of residential, commercial and other uses, surrounded by agricultural production and open space. In the twentieth century, however, modern zoning laws and other decisions by policymakers turned this pattern on its head and resulted in sprawling, low-density, car-dependent communities. The climate crisis demands that we re-think the last century’s development strategies.

We also believe that all local residents deserve access to non-vehicular transportation, high-quality open space and locally grown food. The only way to achieve these goals, along with tackling the climate crisis, is to densify developed areas and protect agricultural lands and other greenfields from future development.

Reforming Zoning Codes

Local governments must overhaul traditional twentieth century zoning rules, which mandate a separation of land uses, and modify zoning standards such as setbacks, floor area ratios, and height limits which reduce possible density in currently developed areas. We should move to form-based codes which regulate appearance and impacts while allowing a mixture of uses in all developed areas, while prohibiting development of agricultural and open spaces except in rare circumstances.

Building in Better Places

Local jurisdictions also need to stop allowing new development in areas threatened by sea level rise and high risk of wildfire, and stop allowing sprawling development anywhere. Recent decisions by the County to allow residential development by right on remote resource lands are a step in the wrong direction. The twentieth century style of car-oriented development has been a major contributing factor to the climate crisis, and now its fragility is being revealed by the impacts of that crisis.

Coordinating Land Use & Transportation Planning

Local governments should assess new development in terms of the ease of access that future residents, employees, or other users will have to key destinations without using a car. We need to establish high-quality standards for bicycle, pedestrian and transit design, while removing minimum car parking requirements and establishing maximums.

Crucially, local agencies must also abandon the use of vehicular level of service (LOS) as a management tool and vehicular throughput and speed as management goals. All vehicular capacity-increasing projects, which have the effect of inducing additional vehicular travel, should be removed from local plans. Capacity-increasing projects should also no longer be required or allowed as mitigation for development impacts.