Land Use

Skyline Boulevard stretches through the Santa ...

Great Place for 'Stuff'

Urbanized areas take up less than 5% of the land nationally. The map, to the right, gives a rough approximation of that. The metropolitan areas occupy more land area than urbanized land, because whole counties are included. Those counties that are considered to have urban population usually have a total population above 60,000. That figure is used because those counties are included for the annual ACS (American Community Survey). This is not an accurate account for people who live in an urbanized area, but does give an idea of the spatial distribution of people. Of all the counties (3,077) only ¼ of them have populations above 60,000, as shown in the chart, below-right. All of those counties hold over ¾ of the people, as shown in the chart, below-left.

The main point of that is that the HDC (high-density coalition) places so much emphasis on holding back land area from accommodating further population growth, yet there are over 50 million people that take up so much more land. Of course they do not “occupy” all of that land in ¾ of the counties, but they do have much larger yards, and have infrastructure (roads, wiring, plumbing. etc.) that takes up more land on a per person basis.

It is true that rural growth is rather small, but has in fact, reversed its long decline and has been increasing, somewhat since the 90s, as can be seen on the very first graph. I theorize that there will be a blowback to all of the land use restrictions, in even more people moving to those rural areas, and people being able to more truly enjoy open space. That blowback has probably partially started, by some people being pushed out of urban areas by the high costs. For some, people even commute long distances to enjoy the benefits of living in lower density areas. That is true for Dr.Bossard, although Davis is an urbanized area. Changes in the workplace are making rural living more feasible. By rough estimate, for every person in a rural area, they might take up about the same amount of space as at least 10 or more people in an urbanized area. Let’s look at single family residences, at 10 DU/acre, suppose 2.5 persons per household (25 people/acre then). A person who moved “out” might buy 10 acres, occupyies the same space as 250 urban people. And the material for his/her utilities might be equal to or more than that for the 250 people.

The rural people just aren’t that noticeable. When in an urban area, the undeveloped area is scarcer. Holding back land from being developed has many negative consequences and is rather selfish.  Here’s a rendition of how some people think:

My city is closed. I like it the way it is. No more people allowed. I’ll take more business and retail taxes though. As far as where people are going to live, to support that, beats me. But I like nature, that’s why I live in a huge urban area.

If people really like nature, that’s where they should live. For those who have lived in coastal California, they can cash in their property gain and move to a cheaper place, in the boonies. The plenty of open space can be seen in the percentage break-down for the country in the chart, below-left. The map to the right shows the proportions in each state.

The number of non-urban people living in California is roughly equal to those living in the Bay Area, yet they take up considerable more land and resources. Their cost of living is also a lot lower. That is real sprawl, which happens to be fairly affordable. The trick is to get a job, although that is becoming more feasible. That transition away from high density has actually been happening. In the choropleth map, below, you can see the areas of growth. The areas of high growth, in purple & orange are inland, where there is considerable lower density. The map to the right shows density. The third map, below-right, show growth also. All coastal areas are below the state mean.

For how land use is distributed in California, the chart, below-left shows that. New urban- land growth is not a bad thing. There is plenty of space for it. The effort by the HDC (high-density coalition) can actually be responsible for more land being converted to urban use. More on urban growth boundarys and house inflation to follow. It is true that much of the California terrain is mountainous, but much more hillside development can occur. Leaving the hills undeveloped, turns out to be pretty expensive in opportunity cost. The view? Nice houses can beautify hillsides, especially considering that more nature can end up on a developed hillside, due to landscaping. Otherwise, it’s mostly yellow grass and chaparral. The population keeps growing and more space is needed. There is definitely not an overall shortage of non-urban land. For proper land use, shouldn’t the land be used? Being “viewed” is not real use. the people who enjoy looking at other people’s property frequent art galleries, and go out to “the country” often? To these people look in others windows to see the view of their property?


About Randall
A contrarian, not for conflict, but because many decisions are made, without considering the full impact & consequences.

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