California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day? Not quite

At the monthly gathering of the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council last week, the first part of the meeting was about as interesting as this sentence.

But then talk turned to building smarter communities by integrating transportation and land use.

Mike McCoy, director of Urban Land Use and Transportation Center at University of California, Davis, was the speaker. McCoy was paid $14,000 to research Southwest Washington and share his thoughts.

The Levittown, NY, model of postwar suburbia is dead, McCoy told the group. That model was based on good middle-class jobs, plentiful fuel at low prices and unlimited infrastructure.

“The times have changed,” McCoy said.

McCoy’s presentation grew out of a pilot project sponsored by the National Governors Association, which selected Southwest Washington RTC to help figure out how to form a closer connection between how a community grows and the transportation network that ties it together.

McCoy received a less than enthusiastic response after his anti-sprawl talk.

Port of Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Oliver said he’d promise to keep an open mind when the board meets in April to discuss McCoy’s plan in depth, but confessed to being a skeptic.

“First of all, you’re from California,” Oliver told McCoy. “California is not exactly a model of success on many fronts.”

Oliver’s remark drew chuckles from other board members, but not from Vancouver City Councilor Jack Burkman, who serves as chairman.

McCoy is here to help, Burkman said. McCoy wants the board members to get past old assumptions about how a community should grow.

“He certainly is an expert in the field,” Burkman said. He suggested that members could meet with McCoy after the meeting.

McCoy wasn’t fazed.

“It’s OK to chastise me for being from there,” he said.

That’s all the more reason why the board should take him seriously, he said. California has been forced to look at alternative planning models because “we’ve run ourselves broke.”

After the meeting, executive director Dean Lookingbill said it was a good first step.

McCoy presented a planning model that “is a little bit complex, and it’s new,” Lookingbill said.

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