Fifteen Events That Have Shaped California’s Human Landscape



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National Environmental Policy Act, January 1, 1970


Some of the most significant determinants of California’s landscape are those entities or processes that stop or modify human actions. Parks and national forests, with their restrictive rules, perform that function. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its offspring, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), also shape the human landscape by injecting scientific appraisal, public input, and mandatory ownership of responsibility into nearly all development decisions. As platforms for environmentalists’ guardianship of the land, they have immeasurably added to the state's cumulative human landscape.

When President Richard Nixon signed the NEPA legislation on New Year’s Day, 1970, it brought a new era of federal land and resource management by implementing five mandates: (1) agencies must strategically plan to minimize environmental impacts of their actions; (2) they must allow public input in the planning process; (3) they must produce an environmental impact statement (EIS) if there may be significant

environmental effects and evaluate alternatives to their proposed action; (4) they must cooperate with other federal, state, and local agencies; and (5) they must use an interdisciplinary, place-based, and science-based approach to planning (Caldwell 1998; Council on Environmental Quality 1997; Fogleman 1990).

NEPA has had four major effects. First is the aggregate of direct effects on planning and federal action. Foresters for the U. S. Forest Service maintain that environmentalists have used NEPA to effectively block logging, especially salvage removal of dead and down or burned trees. This in turn has preserved the forest ecosystem but also modified it by continuing to allow a buildup of fuel (Stone 2000). In Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, NEPA-mandated public input caused the National Park Service to increase the size of its proposed wilderness and eliminate a number of "donut hole" exclusions where limited development could have later occurred (Dilsaver and Tweed 1990). NEPA also affects highway construction using federal funds, management of the Central Valley Project, off-road vehicle and grazing policies on Bureau of Land Management desert lands, and any other projects involving the federal government.

The second effect of NEPA is subtler but no less profound. Federal environmental management is so influenced by the law that many ideas and projects are rejected out of hand because of the expectation of an angry public reaction. Likewise, the stipulation for science-based evaluation has empowered natural and cultural resource scientists in plaiming and day-to-day management. Richard Sellars (1997) claims that NEPA was responsible for a large influx of scientists into the National Park Service and a movement of their role in planning to center stage.

The final impact of NEPA was to encourage states to adopt similar laws and practices. In California that took the form of the California Environmental Quality Act, a body of law that goes much farther than NEPA in shaping the state’s landscape. CEQA, passed later in 1970, has been shaped by court decisions to a greater degree than has NEPA. In one of the earliest and most important decisions, Friends of Mammoth v. Board of Supervisors (8 Cal. 3d 247, 1972), the court stated that CEQA not only applies to actions of state agencies, but also to actions requiring permits or other discretionary decisions from state or local government in California. This means any major development in the state, whether government or private, must follow the CEQA review process.

Like NEPA, the CEQA process mandates scientific data gathering, an assessment of alternatives and impacts, issuance of an environmental impact report (EIR) if there will be impacts, and public disclosure and

input. Also like NEPA it has become a vehicle for environmentalists’ actions to block projects. According to the California Legislative Affairs Office (1997), between 35,000 and 40,000 projects per year are subject to the CEQA process. Of these, up to 2000 per year require an EIR. Public input is a major factor. In No Oil, Inc. v: City of Los Angeles (13 Cal. 3d 68, 1974), the California Supreme Court stated that public controversy alone demands an EIR (Varner 1992). In this case the city had attempted to quietly change zoning to allow for oil exploration in Pacific Palisades.

When an EIR is necessary, delays and project costs rise dramatically. Hence it is used not only to assure environmental compliance, but also to stall projects until their proponents have lost interest or capital. According to Varner (1992), the use of CEQA by NIMBYs (not-in-my­ backyards) has discouraged many investors from even considering real estate projects. Furthermore, as the CEQA related caseload builds up, the bureaucracy is less able to expeditiously handle it.

CEQA not only affects real estate and other developments but has also been used to manipulate private industry resource use, modify state water projects, save historic structures, and preserve existing human landscapes (Littleworth and Garner 1995). A 1994 court decision required , the Pacific Lumber Company to conduct a wildlife survey as part of an EIR before cutting old-growth redwoods (Carrizosa 1994). The delay helped to forestall the company long enough for the federal and state governments to negotiate acquisition of the area for preservation. In the late 1980s, historic preservationists successfully used CEQA to save an historic truss bridge over the Russian River. A CEQA delay discouraged a developer in Santa Barbara from razing a neocolonial office building in order to build a new office-industrial complex. After opponents rejected a plan to move the old building, the developer modified his plan to incorporate it into the new complex (Freeman 1990). Again like NEPA, the CEQA process has brought acute awareness of the environmental (defined in CEQA to include the human environmental) effects of any action or policy. If only to avoid litigation, agencies and developers must be aware of the import of their decisions. Environmental “accidents” are thus less likely. Change has been slowed perceptibly on the state's lands.

A major criticism of both CEQA and NEPA is that they are project spe­ cific and defeat coordinated general planning (Varner 1992; Stone 2000). Others, including Olshansky (1996) and Rubens and Delvac (1991), challenge this opinion. However, courts in California have held that the EIR process must take into account the cumulative significance of a project. In a San Francisco case the court noted that “without such control, piecemeal development would inevitably cause havoc in virtually every aspect of the urban environment” (quoted in Rubens and Delvac 1991, 37).

The federal Council on Environmental Quality has adopted similar rules for analysis under NEPA of the cumulative impact of myriad small decisions.



The stipulations under both NEPA and CEQA to plan on the basis of cumulative impact further enmeshes land management in a very public, often acrimonious, attempt to shape the environment and landscape towards a vision imagined by human society. The cumulative impact of the two laws is impossible to quantify. Given the massive population increase in the state since their enactment and the development demands that it has brought, these checks on piecemeal, sometimes ill-considered development are perhaps among the most extensive of California landscape shapers.
Produ<;tion of the Intel 8080 Mi<;ropro<;essor, De<;em.ber, 1973
The evolution of the California landscape was hardly the concern of Intel Corporation engineers as they perfected a dramatically improved microprocessor in their lab facilities late in 1973. As technology histo­ rian Michael Malone (1995, 18-19) argues, however, "history may well recognize it (the 8080 microprocessor) as the most important single prod­ uct of the 20th century:' Indeed, its influence across California, across all of the American landscape, has been so widespread, so ubiquitous that it is almost impossible to imagine modern life without it. Within the Golden State, the computer revolution it fueled (including the intro­ duction of personal computers and software (1970s), computer networking (1980s), and the Internet (1990s) reshaped the state's economic geography and cultural landscapes in fundamental ways (Winslow 1995). Perhaps it was only appropriate that Intel's discovery took place in Cali­ fornia: since 1973, Californians have been America's consummate computer consumers and producers, both with profound geographical implications (California Trade and Commerce Agency 2000; Ceruzzi 1998). California is home to more computers than any other state and their omnipresence has fueled the profound decentralization of cities as well as the growth of many previously isolated rural areas. As the leading producer of computer-oriented high-technology hardware, the state's landscape is also liberally littered with manufacturing facilities, research centers, and associated communities, all oriented around producing the myriad products that followed the fateful introduction oflntel's 8080 innovation.
California's urban environments, and their spatial propensity to sprawl, are directly related to the ubiquitous presence of the microprocessor in everyday life. From our morning alarm clocks and coffeemakers to the evening entertainment on our satellite- or cable-fed television sets, the
60
envi ronmenta l effects and eva lu ate a lternatives to their proposed action;(4) they must cooperate with other federal,state, and local agen­ cies; and (5) they must usc an interdisciplinary. place-based, and science-based approach to planning (Caldwell 1998; Council on Environmental Quality 1997; Fogleman 1990).
NEPA has had fou r ma jor effects. First is the aggregate of direct effects on pla nning and federal action. Foresters for the U. S. Forest Service mainta i n t ha t envi ronmentalists have used NEPA to effectively block logging, especially salvage removal of dead and down or burned trees. TI1is in tu rn has preserved the forest ecosystem but also mod i fied it by continuing to allow a buildup of fuel (Stone 2000). 1n Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, NEI’A-mandated public input caused the Na­ tional Park Service to increase the size of its proposed wildemess and eliminate a number of•donut hole• exclusions where limited develo?­ ment could have later occurred (Dilsaver and Tweed 1990). NEPA also affects highway constmction using federal funds, management of the Central Valley Project. off-road vehicle and grazing policies on Burea u of Land Management desert lands, and any other projects i nvolving the federal governmen t.
The second effect of NEPA is subtler but no less profound. Federal environmental management is so influenced by the law that many ideas and projects are rejected out of hand because of the expectation of an angry public reaction. likewise. the stipulation for science-based evaluation has empowered natural and cultural resource scientists in planning and day-to-day management. Richard Sellars (1997) claims that NEPA was responsible for a large influx of scientists into the National Park Service and a movement of their role in pla nning to center stage.
The final impact of NEPA was to encourage states to adopt simila r laws and practices. In Cali fornia that took the fom1 of the California Envi­ ronmental Quality Act. a body of law that goes much farther than NEPA in shaping the state’s landscape. CEQA. passed later in 1970. has been shaped by court decisions to a greater degree than has NEPA. In one of the earliest and most important decisions. Frimds of Mammoth v. Board of Suptrl’isors (8 Cal. 3d 247, 1972). the court stated that CEQA not only applies to actions of state agencies, but also to actions requiring permits or oth er d iscretiona ry decisions fro m state or loca l gover n ment in Ca l i fornia. This means any major development i n the state, whether government or private, must foll ow the CEQA review process.
like NEPA. the CEQA process mandates scientific data gathering. an assessment of altematives and impacts, issuance of an environmental impact report {EJR) if there will be impacts, and public disclosure and
61
input. ,\ Jso like NE J>A it has become a vehicle for environmenta lists’ actions to block projects. Accord i ng to lhe California Legislat i ve Affairs Office (1997), belw(-cn 35,000 and 40,000 projects per yCar are subject to the CEQA process. Of these, up to 2000 per yCar require an EIR. Public input is a major factor. In No OiL Inc. ‘ City of Los Angell’S (13 Cal. 3d 68,

197-l), lhe California Supreme Court stated that public controversy alone demands an EIR (Varner 1992). In this case the city had attempted to quietly change zoning to allow for oil exploration in Pacific Palisades.


When an E l R is ncccssal’y, delays and project costs rise d rdmatica lly. Hence it is used not only to assure environ mental compliance, but also to stall projects u ntil their proponents have lost interest or ca pital. According to Va rner (1 992), the usc of CEQA by N I MBYs (not-i n-my­ backyards) has d iscou raged many investors from even considering real

estate projects. Further more, as the CEQ/\ related caseload bu i lds up.

the bureaucracy is less able to cxpcditiouSI y handle it.


CEQA nol only affects real estate and other developments but has also been used to manipulate private industry resource usc, modify state water projects, save historic structures, and preserve existing human landscapes O. ittleworth and Gamer 19951. A 199-1 court decision required the Pacific lumber Company to conduct a wildlife survey as part of an EIR before culling old-growth redwoods (Carri7. osa 199-1). The delay helped to forestall the company long enough for the federal and slate governments to negotiate acquisition of the area for preservation. In the late 1980s. h istoric preservationists successfully used CEQA lo save an h istoric lntss bridge over the Russian River. A CEQA delay discouraged a developer in Sa nta Ba rbara from razing a n eocolon ia l omcc bui lding

i n order lo bui ld a new office-i ndustria l complex. After opponents re­ jected a plan lo move the old build i ng. the developer modified his plan to i ncorpora te il into the new com plex (Freeman 1 990). Aga i n l ike NEPA, the CEQA process has brought acute awareness of the environmental (defined in CEQ/\ to include the human environmental) effects of any action or policy. If only to avoid litigation, agencies and dc,•elopers must be aware of the import of their decisions. Environmental accidents• are thus less likely. Change has been slowed perceptibly on the sl. llc’s lands.


A major criticism of both CEQA and NEPA is that they drC proj(‘Ct spe­ cific and defeat coordinated general planning (Varner 1992; Stone 2000). Others, including Olshansky (1996) and Rubens and Dclv,,c(J991), chal­ lenge this opin ion. I lowcvcr, cou rts in California have held tlldtthe EIR process must lake into account the cumu l at i ve significance of a project.

I n a San Frd ncist’Ocase the court noted that "wilhoul such control, piecemeal

devclopmcnl would i nevita bly cause havoc in virluully every aspect of

lhc ur ba n en v ironment• (quoted i n R ubens a n d Dclvac 1991 , 37).
62

·n,e federal Council on Environmental Qual ity has adopted sim ila r ru les for analysis under NEI’A of thecumldati. . c i mpact of myriad small decisions.


The SliJ>ulations under both NEPA and CEQA to plan on the basis of cumulative impact further enmeshes land management in a vely public, often acrimonious, attempt to shape the environment and landscape towards a vision imagined by human society. The cumulative impact of the two Jaws is impossible to quantify. Given the massive population increase in the state since their enactment and the development demands that it has brought. these checks on piecemeal. sometimes ill-(:onsidcrcd development a re perhaps among the most extensive of California land cape shapers.

Production of the Intel 8080 Microproecssor, December, 1973

The evolution of the California landscape was hardly the concern of Intel Corporation engineers as they perfected a dramatically improved microprocessor in their lab facilities late in 1975. As technology histo­ rian •\lichacl Malone 0995, 18-19) argues, however, "hislOI’y may well rccogni7. c it (the 8080 microprocessor) as the most important single prod­ uct of the 20"‘ century. ‘ Indeed, its inftuence across California, across all of the American landscape, has been so widespread, so ubiquitous that il is almost impossible to imagine modern life without it. Within the Golden State, the computer revolution il fueled (including the intro­ d uction of personal t’Ompulers and software (1970s), computer networking (1980s), and the Internet (1990s) resha peel t h e state’s econom i c geography and cullural landscapes in fu ndarncnlal w. tys (Winslow 1995). l’erhaps i l was only dppropri ale thal lnlcl’s discovery look place in Cali­ fo rnia: si nce 1973. Cal i forn ia ns have been Ameri ca’s co nsu mmate compu ter consumers and prod ucers, both wit h profound geographical implic:Mions (Cali fornia Trade and Commerce Agency 2000;Ceruzzi 1998). California is home to more computers than any ot lwr state and their omnipresence has fueled the profound deccnlrdli7. alion of cities as well as the growth of many previously isolated naral areas. As the leading producer of computer-oriented high-technology hardware, the slate’s landscape is also liberally littered with manufacluring facilities. research centers, i!nd associdled communities, all oriented around producing the myriad products that followed the fateful introduction of Inlets 8080 innovation.


California’s urban environ ments, and their spatial propensity lo sprawl, a rc direct ly related to lhe ubiquitous presence of the m icroprocessor in cvcl’yd ny life. From our morn i ng a lar m docks and coffccmakcrs to the evening entertainment on our sa tellite- or cable-fed television sets, the
high-tech world has refashioned the landscape at many scales (Malone

1995, 28-30). Most importantly. it has allowed many Californians to work away from a traditional office setting. thus freeing them from the need to locate near the central city. For thousands of California businesses, it has allowed for the electronic centralization of information, while at the same t ime permitting the spatially dispersed utilization of that infor­ mation. Simply put, ponder the flowering of sma ll branch banking. brokerage, and insurance operations as well as the growth of suburban reta i l ing outlets, all seamlessly l inked to larger parent compan ies and nationa l or global econom ic networks by those glowing screens perched on a lmost every office desk. Out on the suburban boulevards beyond, the humming traffic signals, glowing streetlights, and the automobiles themselves resonate with a similar high-tech harmony. Even the pedes­ trians fumble with their palm-held electronic devices, while commuters pass the lime in traffic on their cell phones. The spatial implications are dear: all of these innovations are enabling people, information, and economic activities to move more easily across the Ca liforn ia landscape and to faci li tate the dispersal of urban activities beyond the central city (Abbott 1993, 1 23, 170-71 ). The recent grow th of the I nternet is cont i nuing the pattern and it is no coincidence that ZD Nes 10 •Most Wired Cities and Towns in America• include three large urban areas in California (San Jose, San Diego, and San Francisco) (ZO Net 2000).


Indeed, the microprocessor reaches far beyond the slate’s metropolitan heartland into even its traditionally mral recesses. Personal computers, fax machines, modems, and the immediate connect. ivity oflntemet com­ munications-all a direct outcome of the microprocessor revolution-have made it much easier for ind i viduals and sma ll busi nesses to loca te in high-amenity non metropolitan portions of the state. Indeed. as demog­ rapher Kenneth Johnson (1999) has recently demonstrated, there is a widespread and national "Rura l Rebound" shaping the cultura l land­ scapes of hundreds of America’s non metropolitan counties. Fueling the turnaround are communications advances that have freed businesses "to select nonmetropolitan locations and enjoy their perceived advan­ tagesO· ohnson 1999, II ). In California, for example, Johnson’s data re­ veal siz:. 1ble population gro\\1h rates in every nonmetropolitan county in the Sierra foothills as well as a ll across the northwestern part of the state. Other recent studies confirm the pattern and its causes. Duane’s

0999) detailed economic and socia l assessment of the Sierra foot h i lls cites su bstantial population and economic growt h i n co mmunities such as Sonora, Placerville, Grass Valley, and Nevada City, linking the phe­ nomenon to thegeneral benefits of the technology revolution as well as to the recent inmigration of high-tech firms into nearby portions of the eastern Central Valley Ontel in Folsom; Hewlett Packard in Roseville, etc. ). Smaller companies such as Educational Management Solutions

(Murphys), IntegraTech (computer consulting) (Placerville), and DuoCor, Inc. (computer data systems) (Nevada City) also illustrate the ability of new economic activity-often high-tech in nature-to focus in the midst of such nonmetropolitan settings.
Hundreds of California loca lities d irectly renectthe importa nce of high technology because the state out produces all others in the manufacturing of compu ter ha rdware and software products (Ca l i fornia Trade and Com merce Agency 2000). Silicon Valley (includi ng much of Sa nta Cla ra and po rtions of San Mateo counties) remains the hea rth of such innovations and its cultural landscapes reveal what must be the most dramatic and tangible imprint of the high-tech world upon the Golden State (Matthews 1999; Saxenian 1985; Shallit 1996; Winslow 1995). The statistics are mind-boggling: in 1999 roughly one-third of the world’s high-technology investment capital flowed into California’s Silicon Val­ Icy, and more than 250,000 new jobs were created in the area between

t 992 and 1998 (Economist 1 999). Technology heavyweights such as Intel. . llewlctt Packa rd, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems. Oracle, 1111d Yahoo! ca ll the Va lley home. Their landscape expressions i nclude the sprawling manufacturing and office facilities of the companies themselves, an impressive infrastmct ure of roads, schools, and parks (financed through the high-tech lax base), scores of upscale shopping complexes and luxury car lots (the Valley boasts 250,000 millionaires), and the opulent, exclu­ sive residential neighborhoods (Woodside, Portola Valley. Cupertino, Palo Alto, Atherton, etc. > that house owners and workers lucky enough to be feasting u pon the fmits ofthe latest stock options or initial public offerings (Kaplan 1 999).


Importantly. the Silicon Va lley served as the site for the Stanford Resea rch Institute (SRI) in 1 946, a 660-acre high technology i ncubator and industria l park (one of the nation’s first), originally associated with Stanford University (Cemzzi 1998; Saxenian 1985). Not only did SRI succeed in attracting many major computer-related companies to the area, it also served as a larger model of how such facilities should be designed and laid out on the landscape. Under the SRI model. such high-technology manufacturing operations were designed to have a campus atmosphere, featurespatially extensive one-or two-story buildings, and support aesthetic l andscaping and employee amen i ties (pa rk-like open areas, sports facilit i es. convenient pa rking>, a ll designed to crea te an image of a clean, modern, efficient, and pleasant work place (Abbott

t 993, 62-63; Findlay 1992, 117-59). The model proved tremendously

attractive. a prototype of the late twentieth-centu ry industrial land­ scape which has diffused to many other parts of California as well as the world beyond.

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Today. California boasts m3ny additional Silicon Valley ·wannabees" that reveal the ongoing impact of high-technology manufacturing upon the state well beyond the bounds of the famed South Bay region. Indeed, a recent Wall Street Journal (1999) survey of Americil·"New

1\llap of lligh Tech" fea tured 1 3 nationa l "hot spots. " including four in Ca li forn ia. In addition to Silicon Valley. Ihe survey noted the growth of compu ter hardware, soflwarc and Internet-rela ted businesses in San Francisco (Web startup companies in "Multimedia Gulcll" south of

1\larket Street). the "Digital Coast" (including Ventura, Los Angeles, and

Orangecounties), and San Diego and its nearl>y suburl>s (La Jolla,Sorrento Valley, etc. >. Other firms are seeking locations ncdr Sacramento and in varied nonmetropolitan localities beyond (Duane 1999, 84, 109-1 1 0). The result is a California cult ural landscape increasingly punctuated with

the omnipresence of technology. Indeed, whether it is a high-tech stilrtup firm in some suburban or small-town community or the subtler signature of a nickering personal computer screen in a home office, the microprocessor revolution has fundamentally reshaped the California landscape.



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