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High Speed Rail Symposium

On November 3, 2009, the Center for a Sustainable California in collaboration with Sedwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold LLP hosted a symposium with key stakeholders regarding the implementation and resulting development of CA High Speed Rail in the Central Valley.  By gathering key figures from the CA High Speed Rail Authority, leaders of local government and Councils of Government, NGOs such as the Sierra Club and the American Farmland Trust, academics, and practicing professionals, the conference intended to coalesce the concerns of the different groups and identify the most critical issues.

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To provide guidance to the discussion, the symposium began with presentations from prominent experts.  Dan Leavitt of the CA HSR Authority provided an update as to the Authority’s progress and schedule in building the HSR, including environmental review of different segments of the HSR route.  Peter Calthorpe of Calthorpe Associates presented an overview of land use considerations particularly in relation to the jobs/housing balance and meeting goals related to greenhouse gas emission reductions.   Carol Whiteside of California Strategies provided specific insight as to the growth impacts and necessary considerations for the implementation of HSR in the Central Valley.

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Following, Robert Cervero of the Center for a Sustainable California and professor at UC Berkeley identified key issues regarding local connections to HSR stations through a Japanese case study.  Additionally, Steve Roland and Amber Brumfiel of the Sedgwick law firm presented specific issues regarding land use law, easements, and permitting that will be relevant to building the HSR.  Finally, James Frye of HNTB noted design-specific considerations through some examples.

The ensuing discussion focused on these key issues:

  1. The growth inducing impacts and location of housing related to HSR in the Central Valley
  2. Consideration for prime agricultural land
  3. HSR station location related to the size of the city and “downtown” area
  4. The importance of feeder connections to the HSR station and the proximate growth and TOD mix (commercial/office/residential)
  5. Monitoring and accountability of land use policies
  6. Planning coordinated with relevant cities and their General Plans
  7. Funding sources and fiscal incentives

By identifying these key issues, the next steps will include further study of potential impacts, greater outreach, and an analysis of different proposed implementation policies.  The Center for a Sustainable California would like to be a resource for stakeholders and authorities to make the most informed decisions regarding land use, transportation, and planning practices and overall HSR implementation.

For more information, please contact Christian Eggleton at

Image of High Speed Rail symposium
© 2009 Center for a Sustainable California, University of California, Berkeley