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Public Engagement is Guiding Plan for Bay Area’s Long-Term Growth

An Op-Ed response to Palo Alto Patch coverage of population growth and planning in Palo Alto and throughout the Bay Area.

By Randy Rentschler

Planning for the Bay Area’s long-term growth is both a challenging task and exciting opportunity. If we do it right, Plan Bay Area—the long-range integrated land-use/transportation plan through 2040 for the nine-county region—will result in communities where people want to live and work, now and in the future. That’s critically important, as our region is expected to grow from about 7-9 million people by 2040. That’s like adding another two cities the size of San Jose, or four Oaklands.

More than 100 people attended the first Plan Bay Area public workshop on April 21 in Mountain View. This interactive presentation with electronic voting and group discussions on future growth scenarios was an exciting kickoff to our regional effort. Not surprisingly, we heard a diversity of opinions about how the South Bay and the region as a whole should grow. Some people preferred denser, more urban growth patterns, while others preferred to see their communities unchanged. (If you want to know more about what your neighbors think, see the results of three public opinion surveys recently commissioned by Metropolitan Transportation Commission.)

There is no doubt that some areas within the region will indeed grow and that needed infrastructure investments to support that growth, such as more transit service and service to new destinations, would likely go to support new housing. This multi-year planning effort begins a conversation that will need to continue at the local level, as cities and counties update their general plans and zoning.

Whether at public meetings or through polling and other discussions, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) are thrilled by the participation, feedback and diversity of opinions we have received so far about Plan Bay Area. Through this regional dialogue, we are collaborating with elected officials, policymakers and residents in building a plan that will be sensitive to Bay Area communities’ environment, economy and social equity.

To date we have held workshops in Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Napa, Solano and Contra Costa counties. Each has been illuminating. Still to come are workshops in Marin, Sonoma and Alameda counties. Bay Area residents are invited to join and make themselves heard. The schedule of workshops and registration details are available at OneBayArea.org/workshops.

Randy Rentschler is director of legislation and public affairs at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the transportation planning and financing agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

HowMany.org May 26, 2011 at 11:12 PM
Bravo for long-term planning and sustainable growth, but don’t let the ink dry on those buy-sell agreements just yet. A few key points to consider: - The groups behind this development effort say we have a choice, but they present the most important choice as a simple assertion: Bay Area population will grow by 2.2 million people by 2035. Our roads, downtowns, parks, transit resources will all be more crowded. - According to their website, in 2010 SVCF granted roughly $75,000 each to 16 organizations that advocate for building more housing, and for groups that go to public meetings to advocate for more residential construction. - According to California law S.B. 375, Bay Area cities are forced to join this transit-based development effort in order to qualify for billions in Federal and regional transportation funding. - Transit-based development, as defined by S.B. 375, provides a loophole used by real estate developers to avoid compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). - We have 10 percent unemployment and a glut of vacant housing in the Bay Area. Building 900,000 more units and increasing the population by 33 percent will only increase job competition, strain resources and add congestion, while the few profit. - And the challenge of reducing our carbon emissions consistent with California law will be made more difficult as a result of this hypothetical population increase. It’s that simple. You can choose Bay Area.

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