Population: 31,589,000
Counties: 58
Governor Gray Davis

Key Laws/State Agencies/Court Decisions/

Click here for the amount of protected land in California, and click here to review California's federal transportation spending.
Source:  Pew Center on the States & Changing Direction:  Federal Transportation Spending in the 1990s. Surface Transportation Policy Project

The James Irvine and William and Flora Hewlett Foundations created the California 2000 (C2K) Project to support policy research and public education on fiscal, governance, and land use reform issues in California. C2K facilitates information-exchange and fosters dialogue among policymakers, organizations and citizens. 
To learn more about that affordable housing C2K Campaign, click here
Contact Information:
The California 2000 Project
980 Ninth Street, Suite 2380
Sacramento, CA 95814

Fair Share 100K+ Housing Campaign
An innovative coalition of environmental, transportation, and housing advocacy groups on Thursday called on Bay Area cities to build at least 100,000 units of affordable housing in the next six years, citing the Association of Bay Area Governments' (ABAG) Regional Housing Needs that is expected to show a dire shortfall in housing for low and moderate income families.
Contact Information:
Greenbelt Alliance
530 Bush Street, Suite 303
San Francisco, CA 94108 

Upcoming Legislation:
Farmland Protection and Urban Infill Housing Bond Act of 2002 (AB 52)
If it passes the legislature this year and is signed by Governor Davis, AB 52 will appear on the ballot in 2002.  AB 52 would raise money, perhaps as much as $2 billion, for farmland protection and infill housing.

SB 910 (General Plans; Housing Elements) 
SB 910 would penalize cities that do not plan for affordable housing.  The measure states that if the state finds a local housing element to be out of compliance, a court should presume the element is invalid. The proposal requires courts to impose fees of up to $1,000 per unit of the jurisdiction’s fair-share housing requirement, and — maybe most importantly— cuts off state funds for cities and counties that do not comply with housing element law. It is bitterly opposed by many municipal officials, especially ones in the Bay Area, who feel it unfairly penalizes them for the hyper-inflated housing market. 

Key Laws:
For an overview of California's planning and zoning statutes, see the excellent summary provided by the American Planning Association.

The newly-created Smart Growth Caucus in the California State Legislature is pursuing a variety of bills to encourage smart growth.

The California Planning and Development Report released a summary of land-use bills intoduced in the 2001 Legislature.

The Coastal Act of 1976 ( Cal. Pub. Res. Code - 30000- 30900). 
The policies of the Coastal Act deal with public access to the coast, coastal recreation, the marine environment, coastal land resources, and coastal development of various types, including energy facilities, ports, and other industrial development.

Tahoe Regional Planning Compact 1969 ( Cal. Government Code 66801).
The compact created the The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA). TRPA leads the cooperative effort to preserve, restore, and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe Region.  TRPA has created a Code of Ordinances which regulates, among other things, land use, density, rate of growth, land coverage, excavation, and scenic impacts. These regulations are designed to bring the Region into conformance with the threshold standards established for water quality, air quality, soil conservation, wildlife habitat, vegetation, noise, recreation, and scenic resources. 

CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act)
Based on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 1969) CEQA 1970 (Public Resources Code 21000-21177):
"It is the intent of the Legislature that all agencies of the state gov. which regulate activities of private individuals, corporations, and public agencies which are found to affect the quality of the environment, shall regulate such activities so that major consideration is given to preventing environmental damage, while providing a decent home and satisfying living environment for every Californian."  CEQA requires most projects to produce an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) which is the main opportunity for public input.

While there is not state mandate for Urban Growth Boundaries, eleven California communities have adopted them. 

State Agencies:
California Coastal Commission
The Coastal Commission was established by voter initiative in 1972 (Proposition 20) and made permanent by the Legislature in 1976. The mission of the Commission, as the lead agency responsible for carrying out California's coastal management program, is to plan for and regulate development in the coastal zone consistent with the policies of the California Coastal Act. The Commission is also one of two designated State coastal management agencies for the purpose of administering the federal Coastal Zone Management Act in California. 

Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC)
Created in 1965 by the Legislature the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) plans and regulates development of San Francisco Bay and shoreline. 

The California Coastal Conservancy (CCC)
CCC is a unique state resource agency established in 1976 by the Legislature, uses entrepreneurial techniques to purchase, protect, restore, and enhance coastal resources, and to provide access to the shore. We work in partnership with local governments, other public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private landowners.

To date, the Conservancy has undertaken more than 700 projects along the 1,100 mile California coastline and around San Francisco Bay. These projects often accomplish more than one of our goals. The Coastal Conservancy: 

  • Improves public access to the coast and bay shores by acquiring land and easements and by building trails and stairways. 
  • Protects and enhances coastal wetlands, streams and watersheds. 
  • Restores urban waterfronts for public use and coastal dependent industries, especially commercial fishing. 
  • Resolves coastal land use conflicts. 
  • Acquires and holds environmentally valuable coastal lands for purposes that are in keeping with the Coastal Act. 
  • Accepts donations and dedications of land and easements for public access, agriculture, open space, and habitat protection.
Governor's Office of Planning and Research
Serves Governor and cabinet as staff for long-range planning and research, develops long-range goals and policies for the State, evaluates state agency plans and programs for conformance to adopted goals and policies, provides assistance to local gov., coordinates and assists local permit process, operates clearinghouse for environmental documents. 

Smart Investments
State Treasurer Philip Angelides has made investing in California'a communities a top priority of his administration.  For an overview of his policies to direct California's resources to areas where infrastructure currently existsts, please see

California Main Streets Program
California State Trade and Commerce Agency runs the California Main Streets Program.  Modeled on the successful Main Streets Progam of the National Main Streets Center, a project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, provides technical assistance to communities seeking to revive their main streets.

Court Decisions:
Friends of Mammoth V. Board of Supervisors (1972)
State Legislature codifies CA Sup. Court ruling extending CEQA applicability to private projects requiring discretionary approval by public agencies.

Nolan v. California Coastal Commission,  483 U.S. 825 (1987)
U.S. Supreme Court found that the Coastal Commission's condition to a coastal development permit requiring dedication of access along the beach across Nollan's property was a "taking".

Brookings Report on Growth in Los Angeles
Sprawl Hits the Wall: Confronting the Realities of Metropolitan Los Angeles by the Southern California Studies Center at USC and the Brookings Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy, shows that the Los Angeles region is at a crisis point. There is limited additional land on which to grow, and there are few additional resources left to consume, which means that the region can no longer run away from its problems: a distressed regional core, a severely taxed environment, and a fractured governance structure. The report argues that the Los Angeles region should, and can, grow differently.

Sprawl and Wildlife
A new National Wildlife Federation White Paper, Paving Paradise, finds for the first time on the basis of quantified research that sprawl is the leading cause of species imperilment in California. Outranking all other factors, sprawl contributes to the imperilment of 188 of the 286 California species listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, or 66 percent of the state's listed species.

Beyond Sprawl: New Patterns of Growth to Fit California.  A report sponsored by California Resources Agency, the Bank of America, Greenbelt Alliance and the Low Income Housing Fund. Beyond Sprawl provides a hard-hitting concise summary of the costs of sprawl to California's economy. The report also describes the consequences of sprawl for farmland, the environment, older citizens, and low income people. One of the more readable discussions of sprawl. 

Report on Pedestrian Safety
A new report released by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) finds
that pedestrians throughout California are in serious danger navigating streets and
intersections that are increasingly built for speed and traffic. According to the report,
"Dangerous by Design: Pedestrian Safety in California", Sacramento, Contra Costa,
Los Angeles, Santa Clara and San Mateo are the state's five most dangerous
counties for 1999. Regions characterized by rapid growth and sprawling
suburban-style development, with wide streets and fast-moving traffic, typically pose
the worst problem.

Principles for Smart Growth
The Smart Growth Subcommittee of the California League of Cities has adopted "Ten Principles For Smart Growth," which will guide future recommendations from the League.  Though the League is focused specifically on California, the principles are broad enough to be used for any region in the country.

Fiscalization of Land Use
Prop 13; assessed value based on 1975 property tax cannot exceed 1% of assessed value; increase in assessed value limited to 2% a year unless ownership changes.  Reliance on fees and sales tax revenue increases competition for new high value retail and office development, discourages investment in older communities, creates obstacles to affordable housing development.

"Growing Pains." A series of articles in the Sacramento Bee.


"Sprawl Gives High Density Housing an Appeal." San Francisco Chronicle.  November 28, 2000.

"Passenger Strain:  Too few seats, no place to park. Is this any way to run a railroad?" San Francisco Chronicle. January 28, 2001.

"BART-Oakland Airport Plan Revived Light-rail link among 3 proposals under study." San Francisco Chronicle. January 9, 2001.

"Job Growth Slowing in Peninsula Traffic, housing issues threaten middle class." San Francisco Chronicle. January 15, 2001.

"Gridlock Tightens Grip on South Bay Drivers," San Jose Mercury. February 8, 2001.

"Proposal for Public Employee Housing Hits Snag in Berkeley:  Potential site near BART station would displace Ashby flea market," San Francisco Chronicle. February 20, 2001.

"Ballot Measures May Have Wider Impact in State," Los Angeles Times. March 8, 2001.

"Plan features faster, more frequent trains: Hourly trips to Bay Area among Amtrak's goals," The Capitol Alert. March 7, 2001.

"Amid Pines, a Model for Growth," Christian Science Monitor. March 8, 2001.

"Auto Alternative:  Car Sharing Program Can Free San Francisco Drivers from Parking Hassles," San Francisco Chronicle. March 9, 2001.

"L.A. railyard to become state park," Environmental News Network. March 21, 2001.

"Land Trust Sets Sights on Diablo Range," San Jose Mercury News. March 26, 2001.

"Cities unite to fight housing mandate," Contra Costa Times. April 2, 2001.

"New law gives Metro buses the right of way," Santa Cruz Sentinel. April 3, 2001.

"Dashboard dining distracts drivers, health department says," San Francisco Chronicle
April 10, 2001.

"Building a Niche," Orange County Register. April 11, 2001.

"Easements aid farmers, stop sprawl," Contra Costa Times. April 24, 2001.

"Putting Westside on Rails," Los Angeles Times. April 28, 2001.

"Bike lanes possible all way across bay," San Francisco Chronicle. May 1, 2001.

"Commission aims for plan linking bikes, transit, trails," San Jose Mercury News. May 3, 2001.

"Firms Lobby Over Future of Billboards," Los Angeles Times. May 7, 2001.

"Daniel Weintraub: Steinberg has a novel plan to shape growth," Sacramento Bee. May 8, 2001.

"Berkeley's pedestrians to wave way across street:  Flags at crosswalks provide cheap safety," San Francisco Chronicle. May 10, 2001.

American Institute of Architects California Council (AIACC)
Address: 1303 J Street, Ste. 200
Sacramento, CA  95814-2935
Phone: 916 448 9082
Fax: 916 442 5346

Through the AIA's Center for Livable Communities, architects contribute to making safe, attractive, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable communities that offer choices in housing and recreation; transportation alternatives; open spaces, and a shared identity and sense of pride in our communities. In light of the goals of the Center for Livable Communities, the AIACC and the Great Valley Center sponsored in 1999 the "Housing the Next 10 Million" competition.   (Over the next 40 years, 10 million new residents are expected to settle in California's agriculturally rich Central Valley.) Designers of all kinds were asked to develop planning solutions that will help agriculture, natural ecological systems, and urbanization to coexist in the Central Valley. 

California Center for Regional Leadership
455 Market Street, Suite 1100, San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: (415) 882-7300 Fax: (415) 882-7272

California Center for Land Recycling (CCLR)
Contact: George Brewster, Executive Director
Address: 116 New Montgomery Street, 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94015
Telephone: 415-495-5660, 
Fax: 415-882-7666,
Website address:

CCLR is a statewide nonprofit organization founded in 1996 as a project of the Trust for Public Land (TPL) which focuses on creating sustainable communities by identifying and implementing responsible patterns of land use and development. CCLR offers consulting services, small grants, one-day workshops, and other services to encourage and facilitate land recycling in ways that revitalize urban areas, discourage sprawl and conserve greenspace. One of CCLR's innovative projects is the East Bay Land Recycling Initiative,
a partnership with the East Bay Community Foundation, which identifies, assembles, plans and markets urban infill land to developers. In 1998, the Center released two policy papers: "Land Recycling and the Creation of Sustainable Communities:A Strategy for Ensuring Prosperity and Quality of Life for Californians in the 21st Century" and "Strategies for Promoting Brownfield Reuse in California: A Blueprint for Policy Reform," a report
that analyzes California's existing brownfield initiatives and argues that the state falls short of the mark in encouraging widespread reuse of contaminated sites.  Both reports are available for download in the "Reports" section of this page.

California Futures Network (CFN)
Oakland Office: 2201 Broadway
Suite 815
Oakland, CA  94612
Telephone:  (510) 238-9762
Fax: (510) 238-9769

CFN is a statewide coalition created to educate and organize at the state, regional and local levels to achieve land use policies that are fiscally, socially and environmentally sound. 

Congress for the New Urbanism
Contact: Shelley Poticha, Executive Director
Address: The Hearst Building
5 Third St., Suite 500A
San Francisco, CA 94103
Telephone: (415) 495-2255
Fax: (415) 495-1731

Congress for the New Urbanism stands for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built  legacy. 

Great Valley Center
Address: 911 13th Street, 
Modesto, CA 95354, 
Telephone: 209-522-5103. 
Fax: 209-522-5116

The Great Valley Center helps local interests develop solutions to the land-use challenges facing the region.  In November 1999, the Great Valley Center in partnership with Public Policy Institute of California released the findings of a large-scale public opinion survey of the 18-county Central Valley. The survey founds that three in four residents rate their community as an excellent or good place to live. There was great uncertainty, however, about their quality of life in the future. When residents were asked to name the most important public policy issue facing the Central Valley today, a group of five growth-related issues took precedence. Nearly half of those surveyed said that water (13%), the environment and pollution (10%), population growth and development (8%), loss of farmlands and agriculture (8%), and traffic and transportation (6%) are the biggest problems. To keep residents up-to-date regional land-use news, The Great Valley Center disseminates the New Valley Connexions, a newsletter available electronically and by mail.

Greenbelt Alliance
Contact: Tom Steinbach, Executive Director
Address: 530 Bush St., Suite 303
San Francisco, CA 94108
Telephone: (415) 398-3730
Fax: (415) 398-6530

Greenbelt Alliance is dedicated to protecting the Bay Area’s Greenbelt of open space and to making communities a better place to live. To complement its land conservation work, Greenbelt Alliance actively encourages appropriate development within existing urban and suburban areas. 

Growth Alternatives Alliance
The Alliance is a new business environmental coalition of the counties Farm Bureau, Chamber of Commerce Business Council, American Farmland Trust and Building Industry Assn. of the San Joaquin Valley.  Its report, "A Landscape of Choice," endorses farmland preservation, urban growth boundaries and compact development. 

Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network
99 Alamaden Blvd., Suite 700
San Jose, California  95113-1605
Telephone: (408) 271-7213
Fax: (408) 271-7214

Joint Venture's mission is to bring people together from business, government, education and the community to identify and to act on regional issues affecting economic vitality and quality of life. The group convened the Vision Leadership Project (VLT) to guide the development of a shared vision for Silicon Valley by incorporating input from the community and experts.  As a result of this collaborative visioning process, the Joint Venture released “Silicon Valley 2010” a document that provides a regional framework for growing into the next century.

Local Government Commission
Contact: Paul Zykofsky, 
Director, Center for Livable Communities
Address: 1414 K Street, Suite 250
Sacramento, CA 95814
Telephone: (916) 448-1198
Fax: (916) 448-8246

The LGC provides a forum (through its Center for Livable Communities initiative) and technical assistance to enhance the ability of local governments to create and sustain healthy environments, healthy economies, and social equity. A nonprofit, nonpartisan, membership organization, the Local Government Commission (LGC) is composed of elected officials, city and county staff, and other interested individuals. The group publishes numerous reports and guidebooks on sustainable land-use strategies, including “The Ahwahnee Principles for Smart Economic Development: An Implementation Guidebook” which examines 15 common principles that should guide an integrated approach to promoting economic vitality and regional partnerships for all communities. 

Scenic California
275 5th Street, Suite 200
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel: 415-546-1231

Sierra Business Council
Contact:  Tracy Grubbs 
Telephone: (530) 582-4800.

The Sierra Business Council represents a spectrum of business leaders throughout the region working to secure the long-term economic and environmental health of the Sierra Nevada for this and future generations. 

Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group
Contact:  Carl Guardino
Address: 226 Airport Parkway, No. 190
San Jose, CA 95110
Telephone: (408) 501-7864
Fax: (408) 501-7861

The Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group is a trade association representing over 130 of the  largest Silicon Valley employers. SVMG works in a cooperative effort with local, regional, state and federal government officials to address major public policy issues affecting the economic health and quality of life in Silicon Valley. 

Urban Ecology
Contact: 405 14th Street, Suite 900
Oakland, CA 94612
Telephone: 510-251-6330
Fax: 510-251-2117, 

Urban Ecology works with individuals, community groups and local governments to supply ideas and implementation strategies to accommodate growth while conserving land and resources.

Urban Habitat
Address: P.O. Box 29908
Presidio Station
San Francisco, CA, USA 94129
Ph: 415/561-3333
Fax: 415/561-3334

Founded in 1989, the Urban Habitat Program is dedicated to building multicultural urban environmental leadership for socially just, ecologically sustainable communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.