How should Chico grow?

There are ways to meet our greenhouse-gas goals

Pamela Posey is a retired school teacher, an organic farmer and member of the boards of the Butte Environmental Council and Friends of Butte Creek.

The efforts of the City Council, planning staff and commissioners on the daunting task of developing a comprehensive plan to guide Chico through the next 20 years need to be applauded. Also to be applauded is their stance on being aggressive about smart growth and taking pressure off building in the outlying areas. However, there are still concerns that need to be addressed.

One concern is attaining Goal CIRC-9, which is to reduce congestion and increase the use of alternatives to single-occupant vehicles. The city has a goal to reduce citywide greenhouse-gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Studies have shown that autos are already causing 54 percent of citywide emissions.

The proposed South (Entler) and East (Doe Mill/Honey Run SPA) Chico developments with 2,000-plus homes and retail/commercial centers will be built far from the urban core, with a historic average of 10 trips per day to town per unit, which will severely affect these goals and plans. Building in outlying areas will produce millions of tons of greenhouse-gas emissions, and increase traffic.

Chico does not meet current state and federal air-quality standards, and these developments will only make it more difficult to do so. Chico should follow the goals of the general plan and maintain a compact urban form.

The second concern is the fiscal impacts on city services for these developments. The city’s share of property taxes is not currently sufficient to pay for necessary services such as police, fire, public works and infrastructure, and these developments will only stretch these services thinner and reduce service to all. Development fees alone will not support these developments.

Is Chico’s 2009 growth rate of 1 percent an anomaly or the trend for the future? With 3,000 units supporting 9,000 new residents already entitled, there is a need for only 2,500 more units for projected growth at 1 percent over the next 20 years. This need could readily be accommodated with urban infill and redevelopment. This would eliminate the need for new developments, new roads, and infrastructure while improving the development and maintenance of existing infrastructure and neighborhoods.

Do we really want to sacrifice the noble goals of infill, neighborhood improvement, redevelopment, and internal infrastructure in the new general plan for sprawling developments into sensitive foothill and creek habitats?