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Posts from the "Greenbelt Alliance" Category

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Plan Bay Area Passes in a Room Full of Paranoid Conservative Activists

Plan Bay Area, the 25-year regional development and transportation funding strategy, was approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Association of Bay Area Governments last night. The commissions passed a plan that includes some highway expansions and won’t meet the region’s own goals for sustainable transportation, according to projections, but which nevertheless represents a step forward for smart growth.

The meeting ran past midnight after about five hours of public comment. Some spoke in support of the plan, while others urged commissioners to approve an alternative draft that would take stronger measures to encourage transit-oriented, affordable housing.

Most commenters, however, decried the plan as a fundamentally “totalitarian” imposition on property rights, defending the status quo of car-dependent suburban development patterns as “organically grown” communities. As the Greenbelt Alliance and the Marin Independent Journal have reported, some conservative groups rented buses to haul in folks to rail against the plan. Much of their rhetoric smacked of Agenda 21 conspiracy theories.

Georgine Scott kicked off the public comments by reading off a notice she had drafted, declaring that she could seize the assets of the MTC because Plan Bay Area is a violation of the constitution.

“This committee, as subservants and foreign agents, give your allegiance to the foreign corporation of the United States,” Scott said. “I thus accept your ABAG/MTC actions, as said agents making rules ordinances and hearing decisions against the mandates of said constitution, as concerns property, as acts of treason, sedition, collusion, and money laundering. I may seize your respective properties as one of the people of the state of California following this notice, hereafter agreement.”

Scott’s reading elicited a roar of applause from a segment of the crowd, as did this comment from Richard Coleman of Orinda: “If we’re going to have unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats impose high density, high-rise housing on us, then all of the officers, directors and employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Association of Bay Area Governments must surrender their drivers licenses, ditch their cars, and move into stack-and-pack housing.”

Not everyone held the belief that planning for a less car-dependent future constituted a conspiracy to deprive people of their property rights.

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Advocates: Brentwood Sprawl Measure a Litmus Test for SB 375

San_Ramon_sprawl_small.jpgThe ongoing struggle to contain growth within urban boundaries will likely move to San Ramon this November. Photo: cjaureque
While municipal planning organizations around California try to develop the metrics and models required to meet the goals of SB 375, a law mandating smarter growth, a local voter initiative in Contra Costa County is being held up as a bellwether of the public's support for strategic and sustainable development.

Brentwood voters rejected Measure F on Tuesday, June 8th, an initiative which would have increased the city's growth boundary by 740 acres to allow 1300 new homes to be built on open land, some of which is used for farming.

Despite proponents outspending opponents 35-1 and flooding voters' mailboxes with brochures extolling the economic benefits of development, the vote wasn't very close (57 percent - 43 percent ).

"It's very exciting that in Brentwood, a place where the battle over sprawl has been fought recently, the voters stood up and said we need to respect growth boundaries," said Greenbelt Alliance Executive Director Jeremy Madsen, a Measure F opponent.

"I'm very hopeful that the results we got out of Brentwood will send a very clear message to the [sprawl] proponents," he added.

Madsen described the proponents' campaign, led by Contra Costa County political mover-and-shaker Tom Koch on behalf of developers in the area, as a high-spending, glossy affair, "an ad campaign," whereas opponents "stood out in front of grocery markets, went door to door and put up a Facebook page."

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“Grow Smart Bay Area” Promotes Development as a Tool for Change

GSBA_map_small.jpgClick the map to enlarge. Image: Greenbelt Alliance.
Even as our freeways and bridges in the Bay Area are choked with traffic for hours every day, the population in the region is projected to grow from over 7 million now to over 9 million by 2025. Deciding where to build housing to accommodate the growth will be one of the most significant regional decisions and one that must account not only for issues like infrastructure capacity, but climate change, open space management, job growth and health impacts.

That's the message the Greenbelt Alliance has delivered with its series of public workshops to promote "Grow Smart Bay Area," a regional plan for infill development near transit coupled with the protection of open space and agricultural land. As a blueprint for walkable, dense development, Grow Smart Bay Area is an optimistic projection of how planners can accommodate growth within existing towns and cities without giving into the temptation to sprawl further from job centers.

Greenbelt Alliance gathered a panel of experts last week at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek to discuss the challenges of promoting these development patterns and to debate how to make the Bay Area, to borrow Greenbelt Executive Director Jeremy Madsen's phrase, "a sustainable global metropolis."

"Grow Smart is not merely about accommodating the Bay Area's next generation of growth. It's about using growth as a catalyst," said Madsen. "We can use growth as a tool to make our neighborhoods more sustainable, more equitable."

To identify priority development locations, Greenbelt used the California Infill Parcel Locator database and the Smart Growth Strategy/Regional Livability Footprint Project, both developed at UC Berkeley. Those were then cross-referenced with growth projections from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's (MTC) Transportation 2035: Change in Motion report.

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Will San Jose’s New Bicycle Plan Mark Shift From Years of Car Privilege?

San Jose is on the verge of adopting its new bicycle plan at the next City Council meeting on November 17th, which, as anyone who has cycled in San Jose knows, would be a welcome change from decades of traffic engineering focused almost solely on automobility.

"What I'm hoping we're seeing here is a sea-change at the city of San Jose, where there's priority on the pedestrian, bicyclist and transit rider, because historically it's been the opposite," said Michele Beasley of the Greenbelt Alliance, an advocacy group that supports transit, cycling, and pedestrian safety.

The new bike plan would mark a significant break from the past, with policy objectives to double the number of on-street lanes from 250 miles to 500 miles, add 5000 new bike racks, bring bicycle mode share to 5 percent, and achieve League of American Bicyclists (LAB) Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community status, all by 2020. San Jose has tripled bicycle mode share in the last three years, up to 1.2 percent, which puts the city 15th among the largest 70 cities nationally, according to the San Jose Department of Transportation (DOT).

Still, even the top official at the DOT admitted his agency's track record on bicycle infrastructure has been less than stellar.  "Clearly, San Jose has many decades of sprawling, auto-oriented community development to overcome, but the transportation policy tanker is turning," asserted Hans Larsen, acting Director of the DOT, who told Streetsblog he wasn't surprised by the vociferous anger expressed by readers in our post on San Jose's innovative approach to LOS reform.

City Councilmember Sam Liccardo, who represents Downtown San Jose and has been a force for turning anemic references to bicycles in San Jose's transportation policy documents into a full-fledged master plan, said that the city should capitalize on latent demand for cycling infrastructure.

"If we can implement this plan, it will set San Jose on a course to achieve a place among the great cycling communities in the nation, if not the world," said Liccardo. "Our weather, topography, and demographics make San Jose poised for enormous growth in biking mode share--we've tripled our number of riders in recent years--but it will take determination and resources to alter our streetscape and create a more bike-friendly ecosystem."

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