If California’s political leaders are serious about further reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions they need to take the chains off development and increase housing density significantly along the coast.
Coastal California harbors what is, without a question, the “greenest” area to develop in the United States.
It has everything to do with its mild Mediterranean climate.
Spend some time in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Los Angeles and areas a tad further inland such as San Jose.
Living in such places requires little cooling in the winter and little warming in the winter compared to the rest of California.
Cross over the Coastal Range in Northern California or the Santa Ana Mountains in the LA Basin and you’re in Dante’s inferno, Golden State style, in the summer with bone chilling tule fog in the Central Valley and high desert cold that cuts through you in the winter.
The coastal climate is why Southern Pacific Railroad, in cahoots with the forerunner of Sunset magazine, was able to rapidly populate much of the coastal area at the turn of the 20th century to benefit its business plan.
California’s coastland was marketed as a medicinal paradise devoid of harsh winter snow as well as sweltering summer heat.
If you doubt this compare the PG&E bills of a home in Turlock with a home in Pacifica.
The mild Mediterranean climate also requires less water for yards, general landscaping and what farms still exist.
Long before the massive capture of snow runoff with a good chunk of it from the Sacramento River basin transformed the San Joaquin Valley into arguably the most productive farmland the world has ever seen, the promised land for agricultural production was Coastal California.
Places like the San Fernando Valley and Santa Clara Valley were overrun with orchards and row crops.
Coastal California is also where public transit is plentiful to the point the wait for the next bus or light rail is often a matter of 15 minutes and not an hour plus.
Along the coast is where the fabled “head of household jobs” exist that multiply faster than rabbits and don’t require backbreaking work
And in many cases prevailing winds cleanse the coastal air of many pollutants cities such as San Francisco creates sending it eastward into the interior.
This is not a case of Central Valley or even Inland Empire jealously.
The reason is simple. For the better part of three decades more and more of the bills to sustain coastal growth are being paid by places in the state’s interior such as the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
San Jose-San Francisco has been generating more jobs and not enough housing for years. Their various suburbs such as Pleasanton, Contra Costa and virtually any East Bay community you can name are following suit.
They’ve made sure this doesn’t happen by limiting new housing construction via the courts and regulatory procedures while making it virtually a capital offense for anyone to dare mention increasing existing zoning density to accommodate more housing for the jobs they create to keep the money rolling in larger amounts with each passing year.
Local coastal officials love to frame it as a regional problem and then lump communities three mountain ranges away from San Francisco into the region not to spread the wealth per se but to spread the problem. It effectively dilutes the cost to the Bay Area for the problems they create. It ends up forcing the exburbs like Manteca, Tracy and even Modesto and Turlock to not only deal with the problems the Bay Area generates but also to pick up the bill.
It conveniently reduces burdens of cities that are home to lucrative property tax payers such as Google, Facebook, and eBay et al onto places in the Valley spreading into cities even further away.
To argue that is not the case you need to believe if all things were equal Manteca would still have grown by 20,904 people or 31.2 percent between 2010 and 2020. At the same time all of San Joaquin County would still grow a 13.7 percent while Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties would continue to eek out an anemic collective population growth of 6.5 percent over the same decade.
Not only do the four Bay Area counties have more amenities but three — excluding Marin — have been generating tons of high paying jobs cities east of the Altamont Pass are never going to land.
Marin, a logical place based on distance for many of those filling new jobs San Francisco jobs to live, has effectively shut down land development.
You can’t build a structure taller than 30 feet in Marin County which means high density housing such as that now going up around the BART station in Dublin can’t be built. Many parts of Marin County have 20-acre minimum building sites making developments such as Mountain House and River Islands at Lathrop in San Joaquin County the answer to much of the job-rich Bay Area’s housing needs that their economies generate.
Meanwhile the commute required to house workers that keep Bay Area enterprises churning out the wealth that makes the Mark Zuckerbergs and Elon Musks of the world billionaires again and again on a weekly basis is burdening communities such as Manteca. That burden includes everything from congested and deteriorating roads to municipal services struggling to keep up with never ending growth.
Making it worse Sacramento — where the coastal population controls the Legislature — shifts the burden for greenhouse gas emissions onto the backs of those who drive long distances to do the jobs that keep coastal economies humming. And it is all because of the absolute failure of coastal communities to build the housing to meet the needs of their own job market.
Meanwhile, coastal communities reap the benefits of supercharged economies without having to pay many of the bills.
At the same time those who are forced to commute to find housing they can actually afford on annual paychecks exceeding $100,000 get saddled with higher energy bills needed to cool and warm their houses.
It isn’t surprising that the movement to ban the use of natural gas that per thermal unit used and on a cost basis is a more efficient way by far to heat a house has its origins in the green movement thriving in the mild-Mediterranean climate of California’s coastal cities.
Not only does interior California pay the price for coastal California to be prosperous but it gets to foot the bill as well so “coasties” can claim a clear conscience for what their development patterns have done to other parts of the state.