A recent article in the OC Register provides a good example of why some decisions should be made at the state level:

Mission Viejo councilmembers axed plans for a new Department of Motor Vehicles location in the Kaleidoscope shopping mall over traffic and safety concerns.

The DMV — which would have been the first for the city — was initially approved by the city’s planning commission for a vacant spot in the Kaleidoscope shopping mall off Crown Valley Parkway.

But on Tuesday, June 11, the City Council rejected the plans after a multitude of disapproving messages from residents and apprehension from councilmembers.

The city government cited concerns over traffic.

I was quite disappointed by this decision, as it means that I will have to drive a much longer distance when I need to renew my drivers license.  Last time I had to drive up to a crowded DMV facility in Santa Ana, where there was an extremely long line.  This means the decision will actually increase the amount of traffic congestion in Orange County, even if it reduces traffic congestion in Mission Viejo.

This problem has become endemic to those parts of California that are near the coast.  The very same issue of the OC Register had another example of NIMBYism in action:

A Toll Brothers proposal to build a 2- to 5-story apartment complex with 306 units and an attached six-story parking structure in Doheney Village is set to go before the Dana Point City Council on Tuesday, June 18.

The city Planning Commission’s approval of the project earlier this year is being appealed by Supporters Alliance for Environmental Responsibility, or S.A.F.E.R., a California public benefit corporation that contends environmental studies done as part of the required consideration of the development didn’t meet health and environmental requirements.

Even if this development is eventually approved, the hurdles to development created by “environmental groups” stop many projects, and actually end up hurting the environment.  The people who are unable to live in this dense 306 unit development would likely end up somewhere else, almost certainly a place that is worse from an environmental perspective.  They might be forced to move to the cheaper “Inland Empire”, where people use much more AC to cool their homes and drive much longer distances.  Or they might move to Florida, Texas, or Arizona, which also have a worse environmental record than coastal California.  

Local governments in California that restrict development generally end up hurting the environment and/or making traffic worse.  Only a state government is able to “internalize the externalities” in these decisions.  This is why most NIMBY policies are enacted by local governments, and most of the recent opposition to NIMBYism is coming from state governments.

PS.  The term “Inland Empire” refers to Riverside and San Bernardino counties, which are just east of Los Angeles.  They now contain nearly 4.7 million people.

PPS:  Here’s a picture of Dana Point: