Thursday, September 17, 2009

To Be or Not To Be

That is the question, famously posited by Shakespeare in his epic "Hamlet".

It's a question I've been addressing here, about scale of human habitation and about resources manipulated by government to the benefit of development rather than conservation and stewardship. The tension between resources and the public good vs. the need for profit and development is known in public policy as the tragedy of the commons.

Growth and development are fundamental to the fiscal structure of the State of California, throughout all of its agencies, regulations, backroom deal network and resource commissions. The state's history has always been driven by unbridled expansion and sprawl, recently amped by the need for more local tax revenue due to Prop 13 directing funds to Sacramento. This underlying fiscal structure based upon "building stuff" is why the communities have to constantly defend their character and scale. Push-and-pull, yin-and-yang of all history, actually. But now we're into it with limits to resources and natural processes, and the stakes are no laughing matter. That's why I keep arguing for ways to turn the tide, use human intelligence to complete the cycles and integrate into natural systems. Entire civilization systems have failed over that issue ("Collapse" by Jared Diamond) and now we're at a global scale, and must balance our demands and resources.

Otherwise it's over.

I see constructive networks and intelligent solutions emerging in various places, so I list those on my blog sidebar as I find 'em.

It's dynamic solutions, not man vs. nature, or capital vs. poverty, it's a balance based upon the inclusion of natural capital and social capital in the equation. Social capital as in keeping a community intact, which is a classic issue in all small communities - it's about scale, something that's not in the capital development equation as the banking community seems to just have figured out. I see that Phil Angelides is heading up the task force to look at that, it should be interesting. He's a developer who is an original proponent of the "double bottom line", now evolved to "triple bottom line".

A different, needs-based and interesting approach to targeted development is emerging instead of the arbitrary targeting such as is imposed by SB 375 that undercuts CEQA via the RHNA numbers generated by SCAG. This bill forces development around "projected numbers" in local communities even if they are built out and there's no local demand for housing, particularly the condo development this specifically implements. This is development on top of what's already here, it doesn't stop traffic impacts, especially if mixed use development draws regional traffic from households outside the immediate transit corridor. So it's very destructive, even as it is couched in the language of stopping sprawl and making the built footprint more compact via transit linkages. This is how
SB 375 is forcing communities to upzone their land use. That, of course, increases land value and triggers the entire max-out build scenario.

Moving beyond today's strictures into the global value change necessary to guide us into appropriate solutions is the approach discussed in David Korten's "The Great Turning" . This is about establishing a community-based model of commerce and development, as well as preservation and enhancement of the natural world in the future's necessary evolution of climate policy.