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California Regional Blueprint Planning

Blueprint Plans for California regions

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Regional Blueprint Planning

The selection of the indicators has been guided by the comprehensive, long-term regional planning and visioning efforts of the State’s eighteen federally designated Metropolitan Planning Agencies (MPOs) and Councils of Governments (COGs) which are responsible for transportation planning and investments of federal and other resources.

COGs also are responsible for identifying the share of the region’s housing needs for each community (see These efforts, known under various names within the regions but referred to generally as “Blueprint Planning,” were initiated in the 1990s as a means for local governments and regional agencies within metropolitan regions to coordinate long-range plans for transportation investment, air quality, and land use.

The desired outcomes for the Blueprint Plans are to:

Foster More Efficient Land Use Patterns and Transportation Systems That:
  • Support improved mobility and reduced dependency on singleoccupant vehicle trips, and reduce congestion
  • Increase transit use, walking and bicycling
  • Encourage infill development
  • Accommodate an adequate supply of housing for all incomes
  • Reduce impacts on valuable habitat and productive farmland
  • Improve air quality
  • Increase efficient use of energy and other resources
  • Result in safe and vibrant neighborhoods
Provide Consumers With More Housing and Transportation Choices

Improve California’s Economic Competitiveness and Quality of Life

Establish a Process for Public and Stakeholder Engagement That Can Be Replicated to Build Awareness Of, and Support For, Critical Infrastructure and Housing Needs

The Report also recognizes that California’s regions are unique—each facing a different set of demographic, economic, environmental, and other assets and challenges. As a result, the Report focuses on how each region is progressing compared to its past performance, rather than how regions compare to one another. The Report does describe patterns across regions to help regional stakeholders as well as state policymakers understand similarities and differences that could inform decision-making.

However, the purpose of this Report is to encourage every region to make progress towards its own shared vision of the 3Ps regardless of how they compare to other regions.

The Report recognizes that there can be important variations within the counties of larger regions. To enable readers to examine subregions more closely, develop comparisons, define their regions differently, or for other reasons, data was collected on a county-bycounty basis and are available electronically (see

Neither a top-down, “one size fits all” approach which views California only through the lens of statewide issues nor a bottom-up “go it alone” approach which views California as an unrelated set of regions with unique destinies will work. Instead, there are a set of major statewide challenges that can be best understood as variations on shared regional concerns.

Major Statewide Challenges

Growing Population: Between 2000 and 2006, California’s population grew almost 10%. Every region grew between four and sixteen percent (see chart on pg. 9). Immigration has played an important role in driving population growth in California. Indeed, it has played a role in every region, though with varying contributions from foreign immigration and domestic in-migration.

Growing Diversity: California has become more diverse since 2000. The mix of ethnicities is also changing in every region, though at different rates among different groups. Some regions have experienced a decline in certain ethnicities, while others have experienced balanced growth in all groups, and others have experienced much faster growth in some compared to other ethnic groups.

Aging of the population: Many regions are projecting that households with children under the age of 18 will drop while households without children will increase with the aging of the baby boomer population. This demographic change will bring different demands for services, transportation and mobility choices, and will affect demand for the type and preferred location for homes. Growing Congestion: Over the longer term, California has

become more congested as transportation infrastructure has not kept pace with growing population, expanding trade and goods movement, and increasing distances between jobs and housing. For some regions, inter-regional commute and goods movement corridors are the biggest concerns, while for others it is local streets and highway connections that have become overwhelmed by growth.

Growing Pressure on Agricultural Lands, Open Space, and Ecosystems: California’s development patterns have accelerated the conversion of agricultural land and open space and disrupted ecosystems. Every region is experiencing development pressures, although in different combinations depending on their existing urban form, industry mix, and rural landscape. Some regions are experiencing air quality problems primarily from transportation sources, while others see significant contributions of pollutants from agricultural and industrial sources and construction.

Growing Housing Costs: California’s housing costs have skyrocketed. Every region is experiencing the effects of this trend, though in different ways. Some regions have not provided enough housing for their workforce, increasing prices and commute distances. Other regions have built much more housing, some of which is bought by people who then commute long distances, move from more expensive housing markets, or purchase a second home – all of which have raised prices and made homeownership more difficult for local buyers.

Growing Global Competition: California participates in an increasingly competitive global economy, putting pressure on the state’s diverse industries to increase their value and limit their costs through technological innovation, talent recruitment and development, and international partnerships. Although every region has a different industry mix, every region has no choice but to meet this global challenge.

Regional Progress Report

The reality is that California’s regions are making progress on at least some measures. The initial impressions from the summary table on the facing page are that:
  • Every region tells a mixed story—progress in some areas, lack of progress in others—across the full range of place, prosperity, and people measures.
  • Every region has made gains on most of the prosperity measures in recent years—including increases in jobs, income, and new business formation.
  • Most regions have not made progress on a majority of the people measures in recent years—indicators focused on education, health and public safety.
  • No region has gained ground on a majority of the 18 place measures—ranging from efficient development to movement of people and goods, transportation choices, resource use, protected open space, air and water quality, and housing affordability.
  • However, every region has made progress on three or more place measures. Eleven of 14 regions have made progress on five or more place measures.

    A closer look at the place indicators reveals some shared patterns across regions:

  • Most regions have made progress on measures of efficient development, such as the ratio of new multi-family to singlefamily residential building permits. Housing is being built in denser configurations than in the past.
  • People are driving more and experiencing more traffic congestion. This has been a major stimulus to Blueprint Planning efforts. Nearly every one of California’s most populous regions has not made long-term progress in terms of movement of people and goods— recording increases in vehicle miles traveled per household and daily vehicle hours of delay since the 1990s.
  • However, more recently (2000-2005), several regions have showed progress, with lower rates of vehicle miles traveled per household than over the previous decade (1990-2000). Several also experienced less traffic congestion. Many factors likely contributed to these changes, including lower rates of economic growth in the early 2000s, and completion of some congestion relief projects.
  • While half of the regions—including both large urban and lightly populated areas—have experienced increases in transit ridership, almost every region (where data are available) has not experienced an overall increase in the share of the population taking transit, carpools, biking, walking, etc. While there have been increases in transit ridership in some regions, there have apparently been comparable or greater increases in the number of people commuting alone by car.
  • Nearly every region is using more resources than in the past— from gasoline consumption to electricity. The exception is residential natural gas consumption, which has declined in every region.
  • While most regions are experiencing higher rates of conversion of agricultural land to development, a few are recording lower rates of conversion than in the past.
  • Most regions have added to their stock of protected open space— or at least have not taken many acres out of protected status.
  • Most regions have improved their air quality in terms of ozone levels.
  • Some highly-populated regions (Southern California and the Bay Area) have reduced the number of impaired waterways, while others have experienced increases (San Diego) Similarly, some less-populated regions (Central Coast) have more impaired waterways and some (North Coast) have fewer impaired waterways than in the past.
  • No region (where data are available) has made progress on improving housing affordability. A closer look at the prosperity indicators reveals some shared patterns across regions:
  • Every region has experienced a net gain in jobs in non-farm sectors, and every region but two has enjoyed real increases in per capita income.
  • Every region but one has also experienced net growth in new businesses with employees, with every region posting gains in new businesses without employees. In fact, every region has experienced double-digit increases in the number of firms where everyone working is at least a co-owner—a major shift in how economies are structured in California.


By directing growth to already developed areas, local jurisdictions can create critical mass for transit, reinvest in existing neighborhoods, use transportation systems more efficiently, and preserve the character of adjacent rural communities. More efficient development means creating more housing and jobs on less land. One indicator of a shift in the direction of greater efficiency is the ratio of permits for new multi-family housing units compared to new single-family housing units. A greater ratio of multi-family units suggests a shift to more housing on fewer acres. Another measure of efficiency is the ratio of jobs to housing. An imbalance of jobs to housing likely means that some or many workers have to commute to the region from other regions.

Download The California Regional Progress Report (June 2007)

California Center for Regional Leadership
200 Pine St., Ste. 400
San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone (415) 445-8975
Fax (415) 445-8974

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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