Land Use BMPs: Government Processes

Many statements of positive growth principles have been generated by stakeholder processes inclusive of multi-state, regional, governmental, nonprofit, and business interests. Two are presented as examples: the Western Governor's Association and a San Joaquin Valley Blueprint stakeholder process. There have been a number of processes in the Sacramento region of the Watershed, including the SACOG process and Valley Vision process, which are addressed below. Few coordinated, multi-county processes have been held in the larger watershed are; one of these processes was a future scenario exercise in Chico sponsored by the Great Valley Center, also addressed below.

The principle challenge in these processes which produce guiding principles, scenarios, and consensus statements is to make those dictums relevant and useful on a local decision-making level. A review of SACOG and Valley Vision is helpful as an example of a regional process having impact on city and county land use planning. But in the wider watershed area, the principal challenge will be to have coordination and participation in a regional dialogue that can inform and guide land use decision-making. One approach is developing a series of Best Management Practices that can be compelling in themselves. The legitimacy of any approach will be determined by the level of participation. Both the following examples of guiding principles had impressive participation: the first example is the Western Governor's Association, the second a San Joaquin process.

Western Governors' Smart Growth Principles

This set of smart growth principles, distilled by the Smart Growth Network, received significant funding from the U.S. EPA. The principles were presented to and endorsed by the Western Governors Association. The principles are:

  • Mix land use
  • Foster "walkable" close-knit neighborhoods
  • Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas
  • Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
  • Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost-effective
  • Provide a variety of transportation choices
  • Promote distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place, including rehabilitation and use of historic buildings
  • Take advantage of existing community assets
  • Encourage citizen and stakeholder participation in development decisions
  • Strengthen and encourage growth in existing communities

While these principles were endorsed by Governors, subsequent action steps were not adopted along with the commitment to principles. Implementation effectiveness of goal statements like the above is not clear, has not been documented, and is in most cases structurally difficult — for example, California's land use decision-making is localized with city and county elected officials and their appointed commissions.

The Blueprint in the Central Valley

The Blueprint processes provide an example of principles which have been developed through stakeholder collaboration and are accompanied by proposed implementation plans. In the Sacramento Valley, the most densely populated metropolitan counties have collaborated through SACOG with the complementary stakeholder process of Valley Vision. The San Joaquin Valley has also developed guiding principles through its Blueprint process, cited below excerpted from California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley: Land Use, Agriculture and Housing Work Group, Strategic Action Proposal of September 2006 [PDF, 388 KB].

At its first meeting, the Land Use, Housing, and Agriculture Work Group identified the following 16 core values:

  • Regional Coordination of and Consensus About Land Use and Transportation Plans
  • Balance
  • Sustainability
  • Preserving Productive Agricultural Lands
  • Conserving Natural Resources
  • Healthy Environments
  • Vibrant, Diversified Economies
  • Adequate Housing for All Income Levels
  • Effective Transportation
  • Healthy Communities
  • Clean Air and Water
  • Accommodating Growth
  • Adequate Funding
  • Intergovernmental Collaboration
  • Efficient Use of Land and Public Resources
  • Incentives for Implementation

Values similar to those of the Partnership's Land Use, Housing, and Agriculture Work Group were also expressed in two sets of strategies for sustainable growth adopted by both the San Joaquin Valley Regional Association of California Counties and the Central California Mayors Conference over the course of the past year. The following excerpt is consolidated from the similar statements adopted by each group at its own meeting (California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley: Water Quality, Supply and Reliability Work Group, Strategic Action Proposal of September 2006 [PDF, 128 KB]).

Principles for a Sustainable San Joaquin Valley

In order to preserve and enhance the region's quality of life, growth should be accommodated in ways that use the region's agricultural, natural and financial resources efficiently, enhance the region's economic competitiveness, and ensure more certain and adequate funding for local government.

  • New growth should be located in or adjacent to existing communities whenever possible.
  • Land use planning and development solutions should be regionally coordinated and locally decided to encourage compact development and more efficient land use.
  • The best locations for placement of higher densities that are most effectively integrated into region-wide transportation opportunities should be identified regionally.
  • Premature or unnecessary conversion of prime or productive agricultural land should be avoided.
  • Incentives that link funding of regional transportation improvements to land development should be provided.
  • Policies to increase housing supply and affordability should be supported with policy and action.
  • Regional strategies should be developed to ensure sufficient water supply and water quality.
  • Regional infrastructure needs should be collaboratively planned and include funding strategies.
  • A process which enables regular, ongoing conversations about issues of regional significance should be established and maintained.

The San Joaquin Valley Regional Association of California Counties and the Central California Mayors Conference recognize that there are local conditions that may force exceptions but believe sustainable growth within the cities and counties of the San Joaquin Valley requires a shared vision supported by common goals and actions.

In the Sacramento Metropolitan Region, SACOG's Blueprint effort has been perhaps the most successful regional approach to land use collaboration across jurisdictions. One of its complementary processes, Valley Vision, conducted an extensive multi-stakeholder outreach, assessment, and scenario planning exercise that helped inform the regional approach. Valley Vision indicated in a 2006 interview with SRWP that it has no intention of moving beyond the SACOG defined region in its stakeholder outreach efforts. There is need in the larger Sacramento Watershed region for an approach of this kind. [Summary of the Valley Vision approach]

Blueprint approaches are in early stages of development in the Butte County area and in the Redding/Shasta area. In 2006 interviews with SRWP, complementary stakeholder outreach efforts such as Valley Vision were not at that time anticipated.

SRWP will be further developing its overview of governmental processes in the Sacramento Watershed as part of a grant-funded assessment to be completed in the first quarter of 2008. See also SRWP's Watershed Roadmap project.