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Berkeley’s role in regional growth

Robert Clear
Tuesday October 15, 2002

To the Editor: 


Darcy Morrison (Forum, Oct. 7) rails against the proponents of “smart growth” because Berkeley is too small a portion of the total region to make “an impact on the housing market regionwide.” This is an argument against personal responsibility. If you apply Morrison’s logic to other endeavors you get conclusions that even Morrison presumably will eschew. Why conserve energy or water? Why recycle or use trash receptacles? Why not lie, steal or worse if you can get away with it? 

Any one person’s contribution to these activities makes little difference to their overall level. When enough people waste, litter, lie or worse, it is easy for the individual to get discouraged and feel that their effort and honesty are meaningless. The same holds for land use policies. Berkeley and the other urban areas of the region can make a major difference in land use if they act in concert. But if Berkeley drops out, there is less reason for other cities to act in a responsible manner. If enough cities drop out then we will indeed get the sprawl Morrsion and others are resigned to. 

The real discouraging part of this argument is that sprawl isn’t worth it. Elliot Cohen (Forum, Oct. 9) claims that growth in Berkeley will increase auto traffic, but his comparison is relative to no growth anywhere in the area. Unfortunately, until U.S. population stops growing we have to put it somewhere. The data that exists (see “Location Efficiency: Neighborhood and Socio-Economic Characteristics Determine Auto Ownership and Use - ...”, by Holtzclaw et. al. in Transportation Planning and Technology, Vol. 25(1),pp 1-27, March 2002) suggests that directing growth to Berkeley and other urban areas instead of rural areas will result in less overall regional auto ownership and use. It is not clear whether this will also result in less local traffic, but it is very clear that it will result in less traffic regionally, less air pollution, less habitat destruction and fewer traffic accidents and fatalities. Sprawl isn’t just ugly, it’s deadly. 


Robert Clear