The Impact of Laws

Today’s lunchtime news chum provides three examples of how laws significantly influence cities and lives in California:

  • Collier-Burns. Unless you’re a highway geek like me, you probably have never heard of Collier-Burns. But this act is the reason there are so many freeways in California cities. It was examined in a recent KCET Departures article. Collier-Burns was an act in 1947 that raised the fuel tax by 50%, vehicle registration fees by 200%, and centralized bureaucratic power in one agency — the California Division of Highways (which later became Caltrans). This, combined with the Federal Transportation cost sharing for highway construction, led to a massive construction boom of highways and freeways in the 1950s and 1960s that affects our lives and cities still today. Of course, today C-B raises a lot less money … and the money it raises doesn’t go as far, because there is a lot less gasoline being consumed (more cars, but they are also more fuel efficient), and highway construction costs are up.
  • Parking Requirements. A fascinating article from Los Angeles magazine looks at the impact of mandated requirements for parking spaces — and the impact of free parking — on Los Angeles. For example, the Disney concert hall holds 150 concerts a year primarily to service the debt it acquired in building the parking spaces. Buildings have massive at ground parking structures, which reduce pedestrian accessibility. Transit is less used because of the ubiquity of parking. All sorts of impacts come from the requirements for parking. Shopping centers have acres of parking because of requirements; the asphalt stretches make things hotter — and harder for street traffic. Houses lose lawns because of the requirement for 2-car garages moves them to the front of the house.
  • Gas Prices. As well well know of late, gas prices in California are high. One suspect, though, isn’t being mention: it is California’s unique blend of summer or winter fuel. This blend is only for California, meaning that California is its own fuel market, and can’t use fuel from other states. Thus, the costs for fuel are higher in California (at least 30c), and the loss of a California refinery has much greater impact on California prices than anywhere else.