Stop Development, Stop Traffic?

October 27, 2008
In an effort to reduce traffic, citizens in Santa Monica, California have proposed a yearly cap on commercial development. Though many in the congested city are behind it, opponents say it's not an effective way to reduce traffic -- and that its passage could set a dangerous example.

Popularity can have its downsides. Santa Monica, California knows this better than many other cities in the United States. The affluent and scenic beachside town has the climate and the amenities to attract tourists, families and businesses alike. But it is also a draw for some of the less desirable elements of city life, like homeless people, scarce parking, and traffic – probably the city's three most notorious issues. But while it can be easy for many residents to avert the eyes away from the homeless and to park in a private garage, the city's choking traffic is unavoidable.

Rising frustration over Santa Monica's congestion has led a group of citizens to qualify a ballot initiative for the November general election that would fight what they argue is the root of the problem: commercial development. The bill would cap the amount of commercial development allowed per year in the city at 75,000 square feet for the next 15 years. This is the equivalent of about two acres, or like building a new supermarket and a handful of fast food restaurants. This is a significant cut for a city that sees an average of 160,000 square feet of commercial development each year...