Bad Analysis

Declining suburban development to discourage long commutes, as this editorial from the Sacramento Bee touts Yolo County for doing, misses the point that even though those folks who want to live in a quiet suburb near small towns will commute to the big city for their job, they will do most, if not all, of their daily shopping in the small town.

Suburbs add to the economy of regions because increasing the population adds to the economy and, as it still stands, most people prefer to live in suburbs; so counties that decline suburban development will also see their economy decline.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

Where Sacramento County supervisors earlier this year delivered a body blow to smart growth by approving the Cordova Hills project, Yolo County supervisors last Tuesday delivered one against sprawl. They sent the Dunnigan Hills project back to the drawing board.

Both projects propose to drop a whole new city into a rural part of the region – Cordova Hills with more than 8,000 new homes and 25,000 residents; Dunnigan Hills with 8,000 new homes and 23,000 residents.

The Dunnigan Hills project was pitched to Yolo County as a 21st century city that would include jobs so people wouldn’t have to drive far to work – reducing traffic congestion, air pollution and driving time, improving quality of life.

In the end, however, the developers, led by Elliott Homes, backtracked from that vision. They asked for relief from the county’s general plan target of 1.2 jobs per household. They pitched, in essence, an “if-you-build-houses, jobs-will-come” illusion.

Yolo County supervisors weren’t buying, telling the developers in a 4-1 vote to redo their plan in a more realistic manner. The one “no” vote came from Supervisor Mike McGowan, who doesn’t think Dunnigan Hills can work in any form.

Given how difficult it is even to attract jobs to Davis, home to a major research university, the developers simply were not convincing that they could bring jobs to a rural area in northern Yolo County.

Supervisor Jim Provenza captures the skepticism of the board. He told The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board that, as presented, Dunnigan Hills would “end up being a bunch of houses with people getting on the freeway to get to work,” a 1960s sprawl-style development, not a 21st century city.

People would end up driving 40 miles to Sacramento or 40 miles to Vacaville for jobs. That’s more than 150 miles a day for a two-earner household, “not what we want to encourage,” Provenza said.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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