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«A Thesis Presented to the faculty of the Department of Public Policy and Administration California State University, Sacramento Submitted in partial ...»

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NOT JUST THE SUBURBS ANYMORE:

CAN THE SUBURBAN COMMUNITY OF EL DORADO HILLS, CALIFORNIA

BECOME A SUSTAINABLE SUBURB?

A Thesis

Presented to the faculty of the Department of Public Policy and Administration

California State University, Sacramento

Submitted in partial satisfaction of

the requirements for the degree of

MASTER OF SCIENCE

in Urban Land Development by Ellen Desvarro

SUMMER

2012 © 2012 Ellen Desvarro

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ii

NOT JUST THE SUBURBS ANYMORE:

CAN THE SUBURBAN COMMUNITY OF EL DORADO HILLS, CALIFORNIA

BECOME A SUSTAINABLE SUBURB?

A Thesis by Ellen Desvarro

Approved by:

__________________________________, Committee Chair Robert W. Wassmer, Ph.D.

__________________________________, Second Reader Peter M. Detwiler, M.A.

____________________________

Date iii Student: Ellen Desvarro I certify that this student has met the requirements for format contained in the University format manual, and that this thesis is suitable for shelving in the Library and credit is to be awarded for the thesis.

__________________________, Department Chair ___________________

Robert W. Wassmer, Ph.D. Date Department of Public Policy and Administration iv

Abstract

of

NOT JUST THE SUBURBS ANYMORE:

CAN THE SUBURBAN COMMUNITY OF EL DORADO HILLS, CALIFORNIA

BECOME A SUSTAINABLE SUBURB?

by Ellen Desvarro The suburban community of El Dorado Hills (EDH), California, is the embodiment of modern-day suburbanization, characterized by its mostly low-density housing and auto-dependent residents. Suburban developments lack connectivity, walkability, and mixed-uses, thereby requiring residents to drive more. However, continued development of such sprawling communities is not economically, environmentally, or socially sustainable. They do not address reducing green house gas (GHG) emissions or reducing vehicle miles travelled (VMT) as mandated by California’s Assembly Bill 32, and Senate Bill 375. Nor do they address potential future housing demand of the aging baby boomer and millennial generations, preferring smaller housing with minimal yard maintenance and easy access to retail, recreation, employment centers, and transportation choices.

This study examined whether it is feasible for EDH to become a sustainable suburb, addressing future housing demand and the reduction of GHG and VMT. The Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ Blueprint provided a benchmark to assess whether current plan policies in EDH are consistent with Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS). In addition, focus interviews with local planning professionals provided an institutional perspective to the viability

–  –  –

overall research questions: what are the obstacles to realizing a sustainable, walkable, smart growth suburb for EDH and is it feasible?

EDH faces numerous challenges to attain sustainability. One major challenge is consumer preference. The result of this study showed that a majority prefer single-family dwellings in low-density neighborhoods. EDH lacks diverse housing choices and mixed-uses.

However, more compact and mixed-use developments offer the greatest impact to lowering GHG and VMT because residents drive less. Current EDH Specific Plans addressed mixed-uses minimally, and some not at all. Lastly, EDH lack walkability, connectivity, and regional mobility. To tackle SCS, EDH residents must be convinced that having a Smart Growth vision is a way to allow growth to take place compactly and at certain areas thus preserving open space and natural resources and ultimately the rural character of the area, the main objective of the General Plan and EDH Specific Plans. Addressing growth utilizing Smart Growth principles could guide EDH to an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable community in the future.

_______________________, Committee Chair Robert W. Wassmer, Ph.D.

_______________________

Date

–  –  –

I am extremely grateful to my primary and secondary advisors Rob Wassmer and Peter Detwiler, whose guidance were significant and invaluable. I would like to thank Andrea Howard, Scott A. Johnson, the El Dorado County Planner, and El Dorado Hills residents who participated in the interviews and surveys. Their input provided fundamental data for the results of this study.

To many others who have assisted (directly or indirectly) with this endeavor, many thanks to you.

Lastly, thank you Roger. Your enduring support has helped me accomplish this and many other pursuits.

–  –  –

Acknowledgements

List of Tables

List of Figures

Chapter

1. INTRODUCTION

Statement of Problem

Suburbanization in the United States

Implications of Urban Sprawl

Change in Attitude towards Urban Growth and Suburbanization





California Assembly Bill 32 & Senate Bill 375

Regional Planning Efforts through SACOG Blueprint

The Suburban Community of El Dorado Hills, California

Purpose and Goal of this Study

Research Questions

Remaining Chapters

2. LITERATURE REVIEW

Introduction

Review of Literature

Smart Growth in a Metropolitan Area

Impediments to New Urbanism in a Suburban Setting

Suburban Residents’ Resistance to New Urbanism Principles

Smart Growth or New Urbanism Principles versus Practice

Chapter Summary

3. METHODS

Introduction

Part 1-Plan Consistency with Sustainable Communities Strategies

Part 2-Professional Assessment of Sustainable Communities

viii Part 3-EDH Residents’ Sentiment toward Sustainable, Walkable, Smart Growth Suburbs

Chapter Summary

4. RESULTS

Introduction

Part 1-Plan Consistency with Sustainable Communities Strategies

Part 2-Professional Assessment of Sustainable Communities

Part 3-EDH Residents’ Sentiment toward Sustainable, Walkable, Smart Growth Suburbs

Chapter Summary

5. CONCLUSION

Introduction

Research Questions Examined

Summary of Findings, Implications, and Recommendations

Limitations

Future Research

Concluding Remarks

Appendix A. El Dorado Hills Specific Plans

Appendix B. Plan Policy Analysis-El Dorado County General Plan

Appendix C. Plan Policy Analysis-El Dorado Hills Specific Plans

Appendix D. Interview Questionnaire and Results

Appendix E. Survey Questionnaire and Results

References

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1. Table 3.1: El Dorado Hills Specific Plans Land Use Summary

2. Table 4.1: El Dorado County General Plan Consistency Analysis with SACOG Blueprint

3. Table 4.2: Northwest El Dorado Hills Specific Plan Consistency Analysis with SACOG Blueprint

4. Table 4.3: El Dorado Hills Specific Plan Consistency Analysis with SACOG Blueprint

5. Table 4.4: Bass Lake Hills Specific Plan Consistency Analysis with SACOG Blueprint

6. Table 4.5: Carson Creek Specific Plan Consistency Analysis with SACOG Blueprint

7. Table 4.6: Valley View Specific Plan Consistency Analysis with SACOG Blueprint

8. Table 4.7: Promontory Specific Plan Consistency Analysis with SACOG Blueprint

9. Table 4.8: Demographic and Socioeconomic Characteristics of Survey Respondents

10. Table 4.9: EDH Specific Plans of Survey Respondents

11. Table 4.10: How do you usually commute to work?

12. Table 4.11: Top two values in choosing a house and neighborhood

13. Table 4.12: Home size and commute to work

14. Table 4.13: Neighborhood density and transit options

15. Table 4.14: Neighborhood type and walk vs. drive

16. Table 4.15: Lot size and walk vs. drive

17. Table 4.16: Local government influence on growth

18. Table A.1: Northwest El Dorado Hills Specific Plan Land Use Summary Table........ 97

19. Table A.2: El Dorado Hills Specific Plan Land Use Summary Table

x

20. Table A.3: Bass Lake Hills Specific Plan Land Use Summary Table

21. Table A.4: Carson Creek Specific Plan Land Use Summary Table

22. Table A.5: Valley View Specific Plan Land Use Summary Table

23. Table A.6: Promontory Specific Plan Land Use Summary Table

–  –  –

1. Figure 1.1: El Dorado Hills and El Dorado County, California

2. Figure 1.2: Northwest El Dorado Hills Specific Plan

3. Figure 1.3: El Dorado Hills Specific Plan

4. Figure 1.4: Bass Lake Hills Specific Plan

5. Figure 1.5: Carson Creek Specific Plan

6. Figure 1.6: Valley View Specific Plan

7. Figure 1.7: Promontory Specific Plan

8. Figure 1.8: Homes Constructed in El Dorado Hills

9. Figure 1.9: Commercial Developments in El Dorado Hills

10. Figure 1.10: Workforce Commute Map

11. Figure 3.1: El Dorado Hills Specific Plans Areas

–  –  –

The suburb of El Dorado Hills (EDH), located approximately 24 miles east of downtown Sacramento, California, is the embodiment of modern-day suburbanization, characterized by its mostly low-density housing and auto-dependent residents. Most of the workforce commutes out of the county for employment with commuting time over the statewide and nationwide averages.

Even daily errands to the store, the post office, the park, or the gym require the use of automobiles. There is no public transit within EDH. Additionally, the streets are not pedestrian or bicycle friendly, making EDH a truly auto-dependent suburb. If developers build more houses as planned, traffic congestion will become more distressing and there will be no possibility of addressing climate change initiatives passed by California’s Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. Mixed-uses, such as retail and commercial spaces in mixed-use town centers within walking distance from housing, should be incorporated into the built environment. EDH does have a beautiful town center. However, most take their cars to get there. It is not easily accessible by walking or biking. In fact, it is quite dangerous to cross a major road to get there.

Development must move further from just aesthetics and address connectivity and walkability.

More developments that are compact can support future sustainable growth. However, is it feasible for EDH? Can the suburban community of EDH become a sustainable, walkable, smart growth suburb?

To understand how suburbs evolved to its current form, this chapter will first briefly discuss the history of suburbanization in the United States and its unintended consequences.

–  –  –

policies that foster sustainable development practices and regional planning efforts. The chapter then presents a brief history and existing condition of the suburban community of EDH. It offers a perspective as to why a sustainable, walkable suburb for EDH has merit. Lastly, the chapter provides the purpose and goal of the study and the research questions to be explored.

–  –  –

Lang, LeFurgy, and Nelson (2006) documented six suburban eras in the United States.

The first period occurred before 1850, ―Proto Suburbs,‖ which were mere extensions of cities.

Street plans and housing closely resembled the urban core with dense housing at the fringe, which immediately becomes open fields and farming. The second period between 1850 and 1890 were horse-drawn streetcar suburbs identified as ―Town and Country Suburbs.‖ Suburbs in this era became more distinct from the urban core with some detached homes that were still contained in tight row houses. The earliest documented was Llewellyn Park in West Orange, New Jersey, designed by Frederick Olmsted in 1857. By the late 1880s, electric streetcars or trolleys were in use, which allowed suburban houses to extend further from the urban core. The period from 1890 to 1930 was the third era identified as the ―Streetcar Suburbs.‖ The fourth period, ―Mid-Century Suburbs,‖ occurred from 1930 to 1970. The creation of Federal Housing Administration loans in the 1930s assisted making suburban housing accessible for middle-income buyers. The beginning of interstate highways in 1956 assisted in making those suburban homes more accessible as well. The great suburban explosion took place in this era and the dominant housing type became the one-story detached ranch style homes. Simple two-bedroom, one-bath homes produced by William and Alfred Levitt were the first to apply mass production techniques to housing and instant neighborhoods known as Levittowns. The first one built in Long Island, New York in 1947, followed by Levittowns in Pennsylvania and New Jersey (Jackson, 1985;

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way for commercial development in the suburbs, creating some metropolitan areas. This era, identified as the ―New Metropolis Suburbs‖ occurred from 1970 to 2010. Suburban developments that link multiple cities to form a ―Megapolitan Suburb‖ is the sixth era from 2010 and beyond, which is yet to be definitively established.



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