Tuesday, September 29, 1998
Every day, people pass by here, and they probably notice all these nice new homes going up. But what most of them don't realize is that this is no ordinary development. These homes are a sign of new and innovative thinking here in Sacramento. A sign that people understand a challenge facing not just California, but all of America: now that America is growing again, how do we grow according to our values?
How do we build more livable communities? Places where families can walk, bike, shop, and play together. Where people spend less time in traffic, and more time with family and friends. Where we restore historic neighborhoods; protect centuries-old farmland; turn shopping malls into village squares ; and build parks, not just parking lots. By meeting these challenges, we can build an America that is not just better off, but better.
One answer is right here in Metro Square. Instead of building further and further out, the builders of Metro Square came downtown. They're turning a vacant lot into a brand new neighborhood of 45 attractive, affordable homes just a short walk from shops, restaurants and mass transit. Is this what families are looking for? Well, when these homes were put on the market, every one of them sold the very first day -- even though half of them aren't even finished yet! The idea is catching on. Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Serna and the City Council, Capitol Park Homes -- another in-fill development -- will soon be going up not far from here.
The American landscape has changed dramatically over the past 30 years, and nowhere is that more evident than here in California. For well over a century, people have been drawn to the Golden State -- from across the country, and across the world. It's easy to understand why. And together, you've built an economy that surpasses that of virtually every nation in the world. The question now is how to sustain it. How do you accommodate the millions more expected in the years ahead? How do you preserve the natural wonders and quality of life that attract them? How do you keep your economy healthy and strong?
Look up and down the Central Valley and you see that the challenges are real -- and that the stakes are high. Blessed with some of the finest soil anywhere, the valley is home to our nation's most productive agriculture. But this rich farmland is disappearing. And as the cities spread out, the roads grow only more congested and the air more polluted. With the valley's population projected to double or even triple in the next 50 years, another 1 million acres of farmland could be lost. Think about it: One million acres -- that's three new cities the size of Los Angeles.
Fortunately, in the Central Valley, and all across California, people are coming together to map out new strategies for smarter growth -- so that families can live in neighborhoods like this one; so that cities thrive, businesses keep their cutting edge, and farmers can stay on the land. Down in Fresno County, the American Farmland Trust partnered with the County Farm Bureau, the Building Industry Association, and the County Chamber of Commerce to urge local officialsto adopt "smart growth" strategies.
Just last week, Californians and the Land, a new group made up of business, government, and environmental leaders, issued a compelling report calling for bold action to preserve California's prosperity by preserving its quality of life. The key, the report says, is smart land use.
Californians have also come to understand that the best hope for meeting the state's competing needs is cooperation, not conflict. And I believe it is vitally important that the federal government be a full partner in these efforts. That is why I am holding a series of "listening sessions" around the country. I want to hear first-hand -- from homeowners, builders, local officials, and farmers -- how the federal government can help communities realize their own visions, and grow according to their own values. Land use, of course, is a local matter. Our role is not to prescribe top-down solutions, but rather to provide tools and resources to help communities grow the way they want to.
Today, I'm pleased to share another step we are taking to help this community grow the way it wants to. Sacramento already boasts one of the nation's finest light rail systems -- the Starter Line runs just a few blocks from here. Today, the Federal Transit Administration is announcing a $20.2 million grant to help construct a new 6.3-mile extension to south Sacramento. This new line will follow an old Union Pacific right-of-way, another example of reinvesting where we've already built, instead of pushing further and further out. With this new federal commitment, we will help Sacramento ease traffic congestion, reduce air pollution, and make it easier for families and commuters to get around.
With projects like these, the people of Sacramento are building not just a more livable community, but also a more economically powerful community -- a place where a high quality of life attracts the best-educated and trained workers and entrepreneurs. A place where good schools and strong families fuel creativity and productivity. A place where the best minds and the best companies share ideas and shape our common future.
A better quality of life need never come at the expense of economic growth. Indeed, in the 21st century, it can and must be an engine for economic growth. I know that message is being heard across California. And by your example, we can help spread it across America. Thank you -- and keep up the good work.
NAACP Annual Convention, 1998
The Brookings Institution
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