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Increasing Density Could Lower California’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Automobiles drive on the Interstate 5 freeway, Nov. 29, 2016.

California researchers say increasing neighborhood density will help the state's cities reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses they generate.

A pair of UC Berkeley researchers tried to gauge the impact of different housing development strategies on that state's desire to meet its goal to reduce global warming gas emissions.

The researchers considered city planning that allowed for sprawl, had some in-fill housing and focused planning efforts on increasing density in cities.

The research was funded by the nonpartisan think tank Next 10.

The study found densely developed communities reduced the need to drive and that put fewer greenhouse gasses into the air.

"What happens is that there will be a significant reduction in the number of metric tons of CO2 that go out per year so that it would be like taking 378,000 cars off the road," said Noel Perry, founder of Next10.

Perry said it also makes economic sense to build housing that focuses on more units per acre although there are pressures to keep neighborhoods from adding too many people.

"The researchers certainly understand that the in-fill housing is an important direction to go in, but appreciate the challenges that are involved in terms of the policy changes that are needed at both a state and local level," Perry said.

The study finds that doing nothing or only partially increasing density is not as effective in meeting the state's climate goals.

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