You Choose Bay Area: New online planning tool offers ways to envision growth, shape policies

Susan Mernit

By 2035 there will be an estimated 1.2 million new jobs and 900,000 new households within the Bay Area.

Where will all of these people live? Where will the new housing be built? How will people get around? Will the air we breathe and the water we drink be clean? Will we still be able to enjoy extensive and accessible open spaces?

Envision Bay Area – an initiative led by Silicon Valley Community Foundation in partnership with Greenbelt Alliance, TransFormCA and other partners – is holding five county forums this spring around the Bay Area to discuss the growth and development of our communities.

Participants in these forums will work together with an interactive web-based simulation, YouChoose Bay Area, to outline priorities, choose different growth options and see future consequences. The tool helps users see the links between growth and planning for things such as open space conservation, clean air, water consumption, public health, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and access to mass transit.

Why does this matter now?

In 2008, the California legislature passed SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act, which identifies clear strategies to reduce emissions through housing and transportation planning decisions and funding mechanisms. Under SB375, each region in California must adopt a Sustainable Communities Strategy (or SCS) – a region-wide transportation and land-use plan that will meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set by the state. The Bay Area will adopt its SCS in March 2013 as part of the Regional Transportation Plan, and this tool can help you, and our local policymakers, make some decisions about which strategies to recommend.

To conduct these forums, Envision Bay Area has teamed up with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Association of Bay Area Governments, which will be crucial to aligning transportation, land-use and housing policies to meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets as required by state law.

Envision Bay Area is a two-year initiative and is partially funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It includes lead nonprofit partner Greenbelt Alliance; consulting partner, TransForm; renowned urban planning firm Calthorpe Associates; Northern California Public Broadcasting; and an advisory group representing leading businesses, public health experts, environmental and social-equity advocates, labor, community-based organizations and academics.

Learn more by reading the Envision Bay Area case statement or contact Shanahan Lim at slim@siliconvalleycf.org for more information. The forum for our areas is being held on May 19 at The David Brower Center in Berkeley.

Get involved

YouChoose Alameda County
Thursday, May 19, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley
Register for the Alameda County Forum here.

This article was originally published in Oakland Local.

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