The Planetizen News Brief - 12/31/09

Population growth slows in the U.S., air quality rules challenge density in California, and farmers look at Detroit as a new agricultural center -- all on this week's Planetizen News Brief, produced for Smart City Radio.

Full Transcript (Audio available as .mp3 at Planetizen)

Population growth seems to be slowing in the U.S. and many are piling the blame on the economic recession. New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show a nationwide population growth rate of just 0.86% for the year period ending on July 1. That’s the lowest growth rate the country’s seen all decade. A recent article from USA Today looks at the new Census estimates, which show other seemingly recession-related anomalies in American demographics. The formerly booming states of Nevada and Florida had more people moving out than moving in – a phenomenon not seen in those places in decades. And the state of California had its fourth lowest population growth rate in more than 100 years. With fewer people moving during the recession, births are the major factor driving growth this year. And as the 2010 Census approaches, many states are worried that unless growth picks back up in the coming months, they maybe losing some congressional seats when the House of Representatives is reapportioned after the decennial census count in April.

Meanwhile, in California, city planners and environmentalists are finding themselves in an awkward position. New rules intended to reduce carbon emissions in new development may end up making it more difficult to build those projects with higher densities, according to an article from the New York Times. High-density development has increasingly gained popularity amongst planners looking to promote environmentally friendly development and move away from the car-dependent suburbs and exurbs that have proliferated over the past 50 years. But the new draft rules from the San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management District set tight limits on the allowed carbon emissions from new developments. If estimates on proposed developments go over the line, time consuming and expensive environmental impact reports will be required. Many say these rules, though intended to reduce the environmental impact of development, may simply disincentive the dense urban developments planners and environmentalists have been trying to encourage.

And finally, out in Detroit, where new development is almost a foreign concept, the city is seeing a new boom of investment – from an unlikely source. A commercial farming company has been steadily buying up abandoned and foreclosed property within the city in hopes of developing a new urban farming operation. According to an article from the Los Angeles Times, the company has plans to buy up more than 5,000 acres of property in the city and convert it to productive farmland. But the plan is starting relatively small. The farmers will begin operation this spring, with 30 acres of land. And though the land is small and scattered throughout the city, some see hope for the future of this venture in turning Detroit from a dying city to one teeming with life.