Publication Detail

Achieving Sustainability in California’s Central Valley


Research Report

Sustainable Transportation Center

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Suggested Citation:
Lubell, Mark, Bret Beheim, Vicken Hillis, Susan L. Handy (2009) Achieving Sustainability in California’s Central Valley. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-09-06

This report analyzes the barriers and catalysts to sustainable growth and development in Central Valley cities at a crucial time of rapid population growth in that region. Sustainability has been described as “the current object of planning’s fascination” (Campbell 1996), yet the term’s exact meaning remains vague. This report aims to clarify the concept of sustainability as applied to cities in California’s Central Valley and identify some of the major factors influencing a city’s ability to achieve sustainability goals. The Central Valley is at a critical juncture: the 2009 population of about seven million people is expected to grow to 12 million people by 2040, according to California Department of Finance estimates. “By developed world standards, such growth is phenomenal,” outstripping any other region in California, the United States, and even Mexico (Johnson and Hayes 2004; p.7). It’s timely to assess the capacity of Central Valley cities to manage the economic, social, and environmental problems associated with this rapid population growth in a sustainable manner. The issues discussed in this report will take on added urgency as California’s response to climate change—including state laws like SB 375 and AB 32—encourage local governments to take action to reduce emissions.