A new California study has found that smart growth is even smarter than you might have thought. Conducted by the influential urban design firm Calthorpe Associates to help the state guide implementation of its 2008 first-in-the-nation strategic growth law, the analysis weighed 10 years of the status quo against “urban infill and compact growth” geared toward public transit. It found huge benefits in number of important metrics — read on for a look.

smart growth, urban design, sustainable cities, mass transit, walkable communities, california, sb 375

You’d expect the plan to create reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, since passenger vehicles are the largest single source of them in California, and smart growth focuses on creating walkable, transit-friendly communities. But a reduction of a full quarter of all emissions? That’s awesome!

In a state with an ever-impending drought, reducing water use is also a pretty big deal, and smart growth would free up 19 million acre-feet of the wet stuff — enough to put more than 14,000 football fields a foot under.

California also has a pretty disastrous state budget, to which smart growth could lend a $3.4 billion-a-year hand. Last but not least, your bank account (if you live in California) could be padded by $6,400 annually.

Senate Bill 375 will provide emissions-reducing goals for which regions can plan, integrate disjointed planning activities, and provide incentives for local governments and developers to follow strategic growth patterns.

+ Calthorpe Associates