How dense: Tea Party rages over smart growth
Photo: Thomas HawkNot content with bringing the gears of government to a grinding halt or holding the global economy hostage, the Tea Party now aims its sights on another target: regional planning commissions.
Three years ago California passed SB 375, a bill which calls on cities and metropolitan regions to reduce vehicle emissions by fostering denser urban areas, linking transit systems, and coordinating land use. As you might imagine, this made many Tea Partiers both apoplectic with rage and filled with fear. The rage comes from the government trying to do anything productive; the fear comes from a United Nations effort that encourages sustainable development, otherwise known as Agenda 21.
Agenda 21 is the conspiracy theory du jour among less-grounded libertarians. The voluntary effort, they say, say proves the United Nations is out to strip our nation of its sovereignty. Naturally, this is the first step towards a worldwide totalitarian government. Organizers of planning meetings in the San Francisco Bay Area discovered regional planning is apparently a key part of this nefarious global plot. And though the Bay Area and its plan to implement SB 375 (known as One Bay Area) seems to have borne the brunt of Tea Party aggression so far, vocal and occasionally disruptive members have been popping up at planning sessions across the state.
From Josh Stephens well-researched article at the California Planning & Development Report:
At the One Bay Area meeting in Concord, they questioned presentations from the audience. An activist who goes by the username “cvminutemen” posted on YouTube a two-hour video of the entire meeting, with a preface suggesting that One Bay Area is part of a comprehensive, global conspiracy. The preface to the video characterizes smart growth, liveable communities, and social justice as attacks on “freedom,” “your prosperity,” “your property rights,” and “the American dream.” And it ironically questions planning that claims to serve “the greater good.”
But that’s not the only irony. The Tea Party activists also fear that One Bay Area, and SB 375 in particular, will do irreparable damage to their suburban and exurban lifestyles. In reality, the bill will likely have the opposite effect, encouraging people to stay in cities, thus freeing the suburbs from the travails of population growth — something Randy Rentschler, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation commission, pointed out.
“The people who reside in less dense areas would probably have figured out, if they had allowed themselves, that we’re not planning on doing anything to Clayton,” said Rentschler, in reference to a city on the edge of the Central Valley. “The cities are taking things that you don’t want.”
That simple logic doesn’t seem to have fazed the ironclad Kool-Aid of Tea Partiers, though. Their distrust of the government has trickled down to the local level (if it wasn’t there already). Hopefully planners can still hear the voices of reason above the noise.