Building Stronger Communities

Cars and trucks cause more than half the onshore smog-forming pollution in our county. The state has fought hard for cleaner cars and trucks, and the efforts have paid off. But many of the gains in cleaner tailpipe emissions have been wiped out by the increase in overall vehicle use.

Tailpipe exhaust is not the only impact of cars. Our use of cars also affects the way our communities grow. More than 40 percent of new land development is pavement – about seven parking spaces for each car! Paving over land produces a variety of impacts. It reduces vegetation and increases the overall temperature, and we know that smog forms much more quickly at higher temperatures. More pavement and urban sprawl also increase the total number of miles traveled in cars, as people have to drive greater distances to get places.

The impacts are on our air quality, our quality of life — and on our lifestyles and our public health. Fewer children are biking and walking to school — and more children are obese.  The trends towards driving more and walking less affect everyone’s health.

As individuals, we need to try to combine car trips, carpool, walk, take the bus, or bicycle to the places we need to go. As a community, we need to think about the way we grow.

Communities all over the world are facing this issue. We can learn from their successes and failures. Growth and development principles that encourage reduced driving and other “quality of life” principles have been called many things: sustainable development, smart growth, livable places, pedestrian-oriented design, and neo-traditional development.

Livable Communities Principles

  • Mix land uses.
  • Take advantage of compact building design.
  • Create housing opportunities and choices.
  • Create walk-able communities.
  • Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place.
  • Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas.
  • Strengthen and direct development toward existing communities.
  • Provide a variety of transportation choices
  • Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost-effective.
  • Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.

In our county, groups and individuals have been working on these issues for a long time. We have had many successes in protecting open space and creating biking-friendly, walking-friendly areas. Our upcoming conference is designed to help the community learn more about these important issues.

For More Information

See Land Use and CEQA Environmental Review for APCD guidelines for air quality documents associated with implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

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