Week of October 25, 1999
  Snapshot from the Field

Growth Control's Down Side? Study Claims
It Could Cost Two California Counties 16,000 Jobs

"Managed growth" and "sustainable development" are phrases often on the lips of leading-edge economic development practitioners.

Now, though, comes a study suggesting that growth control may also have a potent economic downside.

The study was commissioned by the Oakland, Calif.-based East Bay Economic Development Alliance for Business (EDAB at www.edab.org), a 650-member, nonprofit East Bay coalition of business and government groups. At issue are the "CAPP Initiatives" that are coming up for a vote in four California cities: Danville, Livermore, Pleasanton and San Ramon.

If they are approved on the ballot in those four cities, the measures would require voter approval of most housing development proposals. (In Livermore, approval would be required for any proposal with 20 housing units or more, while in Danville, Ramon and Pleasanton, approval would be required for any proposal with 10 or more units.)

If the voter initiatives pass, the public will turn down every subsequent housing project, CAPP opponents claim. The actual outcome, obviously, is a matter of pure speculation.

Performed by Economics Research Associates of San Francisco, the $46,000 EDAB study was designed to put some hard numbers on the impact of growth advocates' worst-case scenario - the four measures' approval by voters and a thumbs-down to all future housing plans.

Utilizing that script as its statistical yardstick, the study asserts that the four growth control measures would, by 2020, cost Alameda and Contra Costa counties 30,000 residents, 16,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in gross regional product.

"What the report shows is that the region is not able to absorb the projected displacement if these initiatives are successful," EDAB Executive Director Bruce Kern told the Contra Costa Times (www.mercurycenter.com).

"At a time when elected and environmental leaders across California and the country are working to build denser communities close to jobs, these cities are working against that effort," Kern said.

Initiatives' Backers Slam Study

Predictably, the CAPP initiatives' backers slammed the EDAB survey's findings.

"What this study does not do is calculate the value of our diminishing quality of life," said Stan Erickson chairman of the Citizen Alliance for Public Planning (or CAPP). "If CAPP is able to arrest the decline of quality of life," he continued, "that will make a huge economic difference to our communities, much greater than the minuscule 1 percent impact shown in this study."

The CAPP initiative's "vision," as the alliance's Web site (home.att.net/~alliance/) explains, "is to encourage development which is harmonious with the surroundings and with nature. "We are against what has become widely known as 'sprawl' development. When development occurs it should be a benefit to a community -- not a burden."

Issue Likely to Endure

Given both sides' strong feelings, this issue won't likely be put fully to rest no matter the outcome of the four CAPP initiatives.

Here are a few more of the worst-case statistical impacts that the EDAB study asserts will materialize if the CAPP measures fly in the voting booth:

  • Lack of available housing, the study says, would displace 47,100 people from the Tri-Valley area, including 32,000 in Livermore, 6,100 in Pleasanton, 1,000 in San Ramon, 7,500 in Tassajara Valley and 500 in Danville. As a result, a total of 30,000 people would be displaced from Alameda and Contra Costa counties, or about 1 percent of the 2.92 million people projected to move into the two counties by 2020.
  • While 36 percent of the CAPP-banned development that would not occur in the four cities would be absorbed in other parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, 64 percent of the "lost" development would go to outlying regions, the study contends.
  • Alameda and Contra Costa counties will lose 16,000 jobs by 2020, most of them in housing-related sectors like construction and retail, according to Bill Lee, senior vice president with Economics Research Associates.
  • By 2020, the area would lose an estimated $1.3 billion in gross regional product.
  • Hardest hit by the CAPP measures would be families with school-age children. According to the study, rising housing costs would reduce the number of school-age children in Alameda and Contra Costa counties by 9,000, or 1.55 percent.



©1999 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.