by Bob Benze
President Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order 12898 is a clarification of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Known as Environmental Justice, it prohibits federally funded programs affecting human health or the environment from using practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or natural origin.
The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) would have people believe that their smart-growth land use and transportation policies, which receive federal funds, will among other things benefit low income and disadvantaged people. But exactly the opposite is true.
PSRC policies force new development into tightly-packed urban areas to preserve the rural environment and they impose stringent, costly regulations on the development process. A UW study last year showed these policies severely limit the supply of housing and add $200,000 to the price of the average Seattle house. The increase here in Kitsap is at least $150,000.
This makes home ownership unaffordable to an increasingly larger segment of the population. It also forces landlords to raise rents. A Seattle University class study clearly showed how these policies are forcing minority and low-income populations out of the cities, using the Seattle Central Area as evidence.
People who sell real estate know that their customers, who can no longer afford to live close to where they work, will drive until they can afford to buy. But what this means is that many low income and disadvantaged people must now drive a lot further to get to their job — in some cases fifty miles or more.
So what does the PSRC Transportation 2040 plan do to help? The answer is “nothing”. In fact, rather than working to eliminate congestion, which involves an emphasis on new lane miles, PSRC is instead actively working to reduce vehicle miles traveled by purposely making it harder to drive to work.
This has been the policy for several decades — neglecting road building in favor of public transportation, with the somewhat ironic result that public ridership has actually gone down, from about 6% of trips to less than 3% in the last 20 years — because public transportation simply doesn’t work for most people.
In short, there appears to be conclusive evidence that the land use and transportation policies of Vision 2040 and Transportation 2040 are discriminatory and racially biased — in clear violation of the law of the land.
Not all states have enacted smart-growth laws, like the Growth Management Act we have here in Washington that is the basis for the PSRC planning. The problems I have mentioned, by and large, do not exist where there are no such laws. Slick presentations can’t mask these problems. The facts speak for themselves.