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Stop Sprawl
Fall 2000 Sprawl Report

States at a Glance: Northern California

Ohlone-Chynoweth Commons
(San Jose)
Parking Lot Becomes Affordable Housing
Bickford Ranch
(Placer County)
The Golf Course is Close; Everything Else, Far

Ohlone-Chynoweth Commons
(San Jose)
Parking Lot Becomes Affordable Housing

One of the oldest settlements in California, San Jose is now a bustling center of high technology. It has grown from a small hamlet to become the third largest city in California. But all this silicon-fed growth has had some serious consequences. The area's traffic problems are severe, its air quality is poor and a housing crunch is threatening the quality of life. But an innovative smart-growth project shows how well-planned communities can provide solutions to all these problems.

Built on an underused parking lot, Ohlone-Chynoweth Commons will provide almost 200 units of affordable housing -- a desperately needed resource in San Jose's red-hot housing market. The project offers space for play and work, including a mist-cooled bamboo forest for kids, on-site day care, a community center and a computer-learning facility. The development will also provide several thousand square feet of retail space accessible to residents and commuters.

One of the smartest features of the development is the landscaped pedestrian walkway that gives residents easy access to the nearby Guadalupe Light Rail Line. The 21-mile light-rail line makes getting to downtown, the San Jose airport or outlying districts fast and easy -- all while reducing the number of cars on the road and helping clean up the air.

Bickford Ranch
(Placer County)
The Golf Course is Close; Everything Else, Far

California's Placer County is one of the two fastest-growing counties in the state. Extending east of Sacramento to Lake Tahoe, it includes the oak woodlands of the Sierra Nevada foothills, dense conifer forests -- and some of the most polluted air in the state.

In the largely rural western part of the county, near Sacramento, the county's board of supervisors is currently considering approving a massive new subdivision that will add to the area's suburban sprawl woes. Bickford Ranch -- 1,950 half-acre lots and a golf course on just under 2,000 acres -- will be built far from existing urban centers. This sprawling development is the result of the county's 1994 general plan, which justified such isolated leapfrog developments by calling them "new towns."

This project, however, does not have the diverse housing types required under the general plan or the shops and stores necessary to provide for the residents' needs. Since there is no public transportation to the subdivision, residents will have to drive. And the 16,000 additional car trips per day Bickford Ranch is estimated to add to local roads will worsen air quality in an area already in violation of state and federal clean-air standards.

Local residents who have organized to oppose the project are concerned about traffic and the project's impacts on open space. The area has some of the finest oak woodlands left in the state, but part of this forest will be paved over since it lies directly in the path of the development.

Sprawling development doesn't only threaten towns and cities -- as Bickford Ranch shows, rural residents and their open spaces are also falling victim to poorly planned growth.

States at a Glance | Introduction | Resources | Acknowledgments

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