California planning low-carbon oasis where cars aren't king

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low carbon oasis (AP) low carbon oasis (AP)
SummaryThe marshes could be turned over to birds, satisfying environmentalists, or paved over with single family homes.

68 percent will be multi-family and 32 percent single family.

There is ample room for skepticism. California's exurbs mushroomed during the last economic boom, turning now-bankrupt Stockton into a Bay Area suburb with an hour and a half commute in each direction.

Building high-density communities will only alienate buyers, said Joel Kotkin, a professor of urban development at Chapman University in Orange, California. "You'll end up in a situation where we have housing that people don't want," he said.

Tea Party activists nationally have campaigned against sustainable development, seeing it as a threat to property rights.

And then there are the environmentalists and homeowners who do not want the last patches of undeveloped land clogged up with dense housing that's bad for wildlife and property values.

"I wouldn't want to live in something like this. People are going to be packed in like sardines," said Margaret Lewis, a member of the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, a group dedicated to protecting the San Francisco Bay's remaining wetlands, which opposes the Newark project.

Having to battle environmentalists for more sustainable projects is not what developers had in mind.

"There's an identity crisis in the environmental movement," said Peter Calthorpe, an urban planner who designed models for the state's regional planners. Environmentalists in the 1970s were the vanguard opposing sprawl. And now, he says, they provide cover for anyone who opposes dense urban housing.

GOVERNOR'S MANSION 2.0

The early signs are that once such developments are built, they can be popular.

On a chilly evening in midtown Sacramento, developer John Hodgson points out two former auto showrooms and a vintage fire house that have been converted into mixed-use buildings, with restaurants at street level and apartments and offices above.

The top floor of one such building, steps from the Capitol, holds Governor Jerry Brown's weekday residence.

Hodgson said demand is being driven by the young "creative class," who eschew the car-centric, big-yard lifestyle of their parents. But the parents - "empty nesters" including Hodgson himself - also like living downtown.

When Byron Buck's kids left home, he and his wife left their five-bedroom suburban house for a downtown Sacramento loft.

"The big epiphany for me

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