New Funding Round Gives Boost to Open Space

By Ron McNicoll

Funding approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will give new life to efforts to preserve more open space throughout the Bay Area, including the Tri-Valley.

The commission voted to increase significantly its investment in conservation by expanding its first-in-the-nation Priority Conservation Area (PCA) grant program by over 60%.

PCAs consists of natural areas, recreation lands, farms, ranches, and urban open spaces that should be protected.

MTC previously approved $10 million for open space grants for designated priority conservation areas (PCA) 2012. In December, the board decided to add $16.4 million to what are called One Bay Area Grants (OBAG).

Half of the second round of funding will go to the four North Bay counties (Marin, Solano, Sonoma and Napa), which have more open space to protect than the other five counties. However, Alameda and Santa Clara lead the remaining counties, since they have larger open space areas than other counties. The first round of funding was split between North and East/South/West Bay at $5 million for each of those two geographical categories.

In the Livermore area, some 28,000 acres have been designated since 2008 as eligible lands, virtually all in south and north Livermore. In 2015, Livermore had 16,000 acres added to the list. There is no map showing the areas listed as PCAs. However, they will be available in the future.

The Zone 7 Water Agency plan for a chain of lakes using old quarries between Livermore and Pleasanton was made eligible in 2008. The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) served as the lead agency in nominating the area as a PCA. Not all of the lakes are under Zone 7 ownership yet.

Jeremy Madsen, executive director of Greenbelt Alliance, told The Independent that he was glad to see the second round of open space grant money approved.

Greenbelt Alliance members sent in more than 1600 messages to MTC in an effort to support the new round of funding, said Madsen. Greenbelt Alliance focuses on protecting the region’s 3.6 million acres of greenbelt.

“Our big goal is to make sure that development comes to the Bay Area and happens in the right places. It should help people across the socioeconomic spectrum,” said Madsen.

Toward that goal, Greenbelt Alliance has been supportive of smart growth, where high density residential housing is located near transit stations, such as in Dublin. Such urban planning helps to preserve the kind of urban edge agriculture that the Livermore Urban Growth Boundary and Alameda County Measure D were passed to protect, said Madsen.

This article was originally published on January 6, 2016 by The Independent.

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