More is Less: More homes in Mountain View is better for the environment

December 7, 2011

CONTACT:
Jeremy Madsen, Executive Director, jmadsen@greenbelt.org, (415) 543-6771
Jennifer Gennari, Communications Director, jgennari@greenbelt.org, (415) 543-6771 ext. 318
Sara Barz, Communications Associate, sbarz@greenbelt.org, (415) 543-6771 ext. 307

More is Less: More homes in Mountain View is better for the environment

Report finds more homes is “environmentally superior” to business as usual

San Francisco—Counter to conventional wisdom, a Mountain View report has concluded that adding more homes would reduce how much people drive, an “environmentally superior” plan to one with fewer homes.

Most cities, when planning future growth, study the environmental impacts of the plan they prefer and then a second alternative with less development. In a precedent-setting move and at Greenbelt Alliance’s urging, Mountain View also studied an additional one with more homes than their preferred plan. They found that the alternative with more homes had the fewest environmental impacts.

Building homes in the right places—near jobs and transit options—reduces the need to drive for everyday needs, with the associated benefits of improved air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, the report finds. The City of Mountain View contracted LSA Associates to complete the draft report as part of the update process of the city’s General Plan, its blueprint for growth through 2030. Click here for more details.

“Mountain View has boldly imagined what would happen if they added more homes rather than fewer, and discovered an environmental benefit because more people would be able to live near major employers and transit options,” says Greenbelt Alliance Executive Director Jeremy Madsen. “This sets a precedent for other communities to follow—to ask, if we can do more, will it benefit our residents and our planet? The answer may often be yes.”

“It’s a new way of thinking,” adds Greenbelt Alliance Campaign Organizer Ellie Casson. “Greenbelt Alliance provided the encouragement but this analysis wouldn’t have happened without local advocates, staff, and city officials willing to make it happen.”

Benefits for the economy, quality of life 
Mountain View’s report also confirms Grow Smart Bay Area, Greenbelt Alliance’s 2009 vision for the region. If other cities routinely study the option of adding more housing, the region will reap environmental and economic benefits when the next generation of growth is directed to enhance existing neighborhoods.

In fact, planning to not meet our housing need is a good way to kill jobs. CEOs of Bay Area companies identified “high housing costs for employees” as the number one business challenge each year for the past seven years. And there are intangible benefits to providing places to live that require less driving—improved health by walking and biking more, reduced financial burden of a long commute, and more time with friends and family.

Opportunities exist right now to incorporate this thinking into city planning efforts. For example, in Oakland, plans are underway to put more homes along a former “auto row” section of Broadway, and in Marin County, where cities should plan for more homes near transportation hubs, making it possible for its workforce to live locally.

“Mountain View has taken a first step that can be duplicated throughout the region,” says Madsen. “Increasing homes in places where people already work, with plenty of train and bus service, will make the Bay Area a model for a sustainable future.”

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For 50 years, Greenbelt Alliance has been the San Francisco Bay Area’s advocate for open spaces and vibrant places, with offices in San Francisco, San Jose, Walnut Creek, San Rafael, and Santa Rosa. www.greenbelt.org


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