Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Acting Independently from Sacramento and Washington

A consistent theme of this blog is that drivable suburbia is largely the result of top-down directives.  I argue that cities, more so than states or nations, have an intuitive understanding  of how civilization should be organized, an understanding that was ignored during the post World War II building boom.

(I’m currently reading “The Trouble with City Planning” by Kristina Ford, who puts the blame squarely on the Federal Housing Act of 1954.  Section 701 of the act required federally approved plans before releasing federal funds for local housing projects.  Planners quickly learned that plans with a separation of uses, the defining characteristic of drivable suburbia, would be readily approved by the federal authorities.)

Given my bias toward greater local control of government, I’m pleased whenever I note a municipality exerting some independence.

A North Bay case in point is a recent action by the City of Healdsburg to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco from the state standard of 18 to a Healdsburg standard of 21, becoming the first California city to do so.

Admittedly, changing a few numbers on the signage in convenience stores is orders of magnitude different from encouraging land uses that overcome the multitude of sprawl-incentivizing policies from Sacramento and Washington, D.C, but independence doesn’t come quickly or easily.  Restricting the access of young adults to tobacco is a worthy goal in itself, so is a reasonable first step toward land use independence.

Today tobacco, tomorrow North Bay zoning codes and impact fees that no longer discourage compact development.

In my next post, I’ll offer my thoughts on the transit-oriented development plans being offered for public comment in Petaluma.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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