new-home-builderCrumbling infrastructure, heavy traffic, overcrowded and underfunded schools, increasing levels of air pollution, water tainted by elevated concentrations of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other toxic chemicals, noise, rising incidences of auto-immune diseases like asthma, cancer and diabetes, and high levels of crime, is it any wonder why so many have chosen to abandon the blight of our urban areas for the opportunity to begin anew in the relative cleanliness and safety of our suburbs. Driven in part by dramatic escalations in real estate values and in part by a strong desire to live in a healthier, safer environment, young couples and families with children (who are according to a growing number of studies many times more sensitive to air, water, noise, and other pollutants as are adults) are especially likely to flee. However, as more and more people seek the relative refuge of these suburban areas with their wider streets, newer schools, and lower incidences of crime, they have brought with them their problems too.

As development of new neighborhoods pushes outward from the urban fringe, increasingly vast amounts of land are consumed. Land that is used for agriculture, open space, recreation, and as wildlife habitat for increasing numbers of threatened and endangered species. As these lands are converted to suburbs in a pattern of development some have dubbed “urban sprawl”, changes are created in weather patterns, agricultural lands are permanently taken out of production, recreational opportunities are reduced, air, water, noise, and light pollution jump in areas once relatively free from it, bio-diversity is threatened, and the number of vehicle miles traveled each year soars even as housing densities increase.

“…how do we keep pace with th(e) burgeoning demand (for California housing) without adding to the already formidable challenges of urban living or without exacerbating the growing challenges of urban sprawl?”

According to the California Futures Network while the population of the state of California was increasing 60% from 20 to 32 million people between 1970 and 1995, the number of vehicle miles traveled in the state was increasing an astounding 160%! And as the state’s population surges another 50% to an expected 47.5 million by 2020 (California Department of Finance), it is estimated vehicle miles traveled could double once again!

Although burdened by a dynamic where one-third of all urban land is devoted to the automobile and its attendant infrastructure– roads, parking lots, etc., curbing the construction of new housing is not an option. Already the only state in the nation to post a per capita DECLINE in housing availability over the past decade, it is estimated California must add an additional 50,000 to 70,000 houses and apartments on top of the 150,000 already built each year just to keep up with demand! But how do we keep pace with this burgeoning demand without adding to the already formidable challenges of urban living or without exacerbating the growing challenges of urban sprawl?

We are rapidly finding ourselves at a crisis point where decisions made today will have far-reaching impacts on the health and well-being of our neighborhoods and the people who live in them for many generations to come. Because we at the Green Neighborhoods Initiative believe safe, healthful, affordable neighborhoods are essential to the continued health, growth, well-being, and fulfillment we as a people, a state, a nation, and a planet experience, we have dedicated ourselves to working with ALL of the stakeholders involved in the development and/or re-development of these neighborhoods–Builders, Master-Planners, Developers, Building Industry Suppliers, Government Agencies and Officials, Local Interest Groups, and the Public each is committed to serve–to bring about solutions to the challenges that lie before us while exploring the many exciting opportunities ahead.