Smart Growth & Sustainable Development

By Darrell Beck

Here in our small backcountry town of Ramona, we first began hearing about “Smart Growth” and “Sustainable Development” around 1993-94 at the onset of the Clinton Administration. At that time our current board of county supervisors had just been seated and enthusiastically supported Clinton’s new environmental policy, based on the United Nations doctrine called “Sustainable Development” that would be approved and enforced within San Diego County.

More recently, urban planners and their students have been busy trying to “capture the character of Ramona” by applying Smart Growth and Sustainable Development features to the town; most notably a mass of high-rise apartments concentrated within the parking lot and atop the old Victoria Supply property at Seventh and Main streets. After diagnosing the humble architectural style of the rural farming town, one of the third year masters students asked: “How can we foster Smart Growth?”

Since the early 1990s many changes have been made that adversely affect property rights; namely the county supervisors have adopted sweeping land use measures related to the environment, endangered species, and critical habitat and to the acquisition or confiscation of many thousands of acres of private property. This land acquisition effort is known as the Multiple Species Conservation Plan (MSCP) that requires “mitigation for unavoidable impacts” by property owners before they will be granted authority to use what remains of their land.

The supervisors’ actions also support new-urban notions of Smart Growth, Sustainable Development, affordable housing, mixed-use housing, public transit, urban boundaries, bike lanes, pedestrian friendly communities, alternative transportation, green belts and other Smart Growth measures in their efforts to control our lives and plan our futures.

Unfortunately, they have failed to include, or consider, sustainable infrastructure such as water, sewer, fire protection, law enforcement, schools, roads and jobs that are necessary to support the concept of Smart Growth.

So what is Smart Growth? Smart Growth in America is described as: “an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in compact walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl and advocates compact, transit-oriented, pedestrian and bicycle friendly land use and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices.”

“Smart Growth promotes long-range, regional considerations of sustainability over short-term focus.” Smart Growth is said to provide a “sense of community;” also affordable housing, mixed-use housing, maximizes access to public transit and discourages automobile use. Smart Growth encourages “urban growth boundaries, green belts, pedestrian based lifestyles, preserves critical habitat, water and reduces pollution.” Smart Growth is especially desirable because its environmental proponents claim it is critically necessary to stop global warming by reducing “man’s carbon footprint” by curtailing human activity.

The Smart Growth theory was first observed in the USSR and Eastern Europe (primarily East Germany) during the 1960s from a book published by urban planners at the University of Moscow titled: “The Ideal Communist City, Alexei Barurov,” (Smart Growth and the Ideal City)

According to the Soviet urban planner’s book……American suburbs are “a chaotic and depressing agglomeration of buildings covering enormous stretches of land.” The cost of providing services to such “monotonous stretches of individual low-rise houses” is high. As a result, the search for a future kind of residential building leads logically to “high-density, mixed-use housing.”



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