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Working Together Can Solve Growth Issues

Working Together Can Solve Growth Issues

UCR Study Finds Collaborative Regional Planning Produces Promising Results.

(June 24, 2008)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Collaborative regional planning shows promise in solving issues such as transportation, housing and land use policies in California, according to researchers at the University of California, Riverside.

In a report published June 24 in Policy Matters, UCR’s quarterly publication on public policy issues, the researchers show that California faces several challenges related to population growth, economic needs and infrastructure development that require planning and coordination among various government and stakeholder groups.

For example, “the state’s continuing demographic growth and urbanization intensify the conflicts between regional transportation policies and land use practices at the municipal level,” said authors Juliann Allison, UCR associate professor of political science, and Jonathan Davidson, a UCR research analyst who studies policy impacts of the Clean Air Act for the Mellon Foundation.

The report, “Collaborative Regional Planning in California: Potential Models for Sustainable Governance,” was conducted by UCR’s Blakely Center for Sustainable Suburban Development. Allison is the center’s associate director.

Allison and Davidson singled out collaborative efforts in Sacramento, Merced, Riverside, San Diego and Southern California as examples of regional planning at its best.

“In each case, confidential interviews identified civic entrepreneurs whose persistent low-key persuasiveness were key elements for cooperative strategies,” Davidson said. “These ranged from adopting a regional Blueprint Scenario to intergovernmental agreements for protecting natural habitats.”

Those collaborative efforts are:

Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) — The council adopted a planning Land Use Blueprint to guide capital-area growth to 2050. Organizers combined consensus-based land use visioning with innovative transportation processes in conducting citizen workshops that used geographic information systems and “clicker” technology to gain rapid feedback. As a result, major developers are working on infill projects with potential for higher density and access to existing infrastructure, and local governments appear to be more receptive to higher density, transit-oriented development.

Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG) — The association prepared the 2004 Regional Transportation Plan, which involved a partnership with the California Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. Planners met with stakeholders, including under-represented groups, in community workshops where citizens were asked to consider estimated costs while indicating the type of development they preferred. This process was credited as a significant influence for five of the county’s six cities adopting local impact fees to finance regionally defined transportation projects.

Riverside County Integrated Project (RCIP) — This county-led process emerged from intense negotiations among environmental activists, developers and other land-use stakeholders in one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions. The result was the creation of the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, a revised transportation plan that aims to reduce project delays, and county General Plan amendments that improve predictability for developers and property owners. The collaborative process brought together opposing and politically powerful groups to negotiate the plans.

Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) — The association adopted a growth-visioning plan, Compass Blueprint, after conducting surveys, workshops and regional dialogues. The primary implementation strategy is to encourage transit-oriented development by using only 2 percent of remaining compatible land within the region through 2030. Planners conducted workshops that asked participants to map a development pattern for population and economic growth.

San Diego County Association of Governments (SANDAG) — This countywide agency adopted a Regional Comprehensive Plan that could serve as an advisory guide to local government land use decisions. It links transportation, land use, housing, environment and other elements into a coordinated growth vision toward 2030. The plan proposes a framework that favors compact, mixed-use developments and housing options for all income levels.

The case studies illustrate the collaborative planning ideal that public policy should be determined cooperatively through active stakeholder involvement, the study’s authors said.

“(I)n every case, these collaborative initiatives emerged from individuals’ shared visions to proven examples of regional cooperation and collaboration in the interest of planned growth,” Allison and Davidson wrote.

The researchers conducted 80 interviews with county managers, consultants and groups of stakeholders representing environmental, development and social equity interests.

As part of the study UCR’s Survey Research Center surveyed residents of Merced, Riverside and San Diego counties and several counties surrounding Sacramento about local problems, and their interest and involvement in local land use and growth decisions.

Residents in all regions cited traffic congestion as the most severe problems in their regions, followed closely by the lack of affordable housing and the high cost of building new roads and water lines.

In Riverside and Sacramento counties, more than one-third of residents surveyed said they have “a lot” of interest in local growth and land-use decisions. But residents of all counties surveyed said they are less likely to be directly involved in these decisions.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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