Picture of Amanda Brown-Stevens

Amanda Brown-Stevens

A Defining Election: Bay Area Residents Vote Climate Resilience

In our nearly 65 years of experience, Greenbelt Alliance has seen a lot, especially when it comes to local elections that have shaped the Bay Area as we know it today. Through voter-approved initiatives like urban growth boundaries, we have been able to protect critical open space lands. And by advocating for climate-smart development—within existing cities and towns and not on vital natural and working lands—we’ve seen residents throughout the region approve measures that invest in homes for people across the income spectrum. These are the results that, over our long history, we are proud to champion!

While many of these wins have positively impacted our environment and communities in the region, we must acknowledge that California is one of the most climate-stressed places in the world. The record-breaking temperatures of the summer, coupled with the National Weather Service’s forecast of “soaking early season rains likely for most of the region,” reminds us that these extreme weather events (very much associated with a rapidly changing climate) are here to stay. Exacerbating the climate crisis further for many Bay Area residents are soaring housing costs, closing off opportunities and leading to a devastating increase in housing insecurity and homelessness. As a result, vulnerable populations have been unjustly exposed even more to these harsh climate impacts.

That is why our rallying cry around election seasons over the past few years has been to “vote climate resilience!” This year, this call to action was amplified in order to cover 20 ballot measures throughout the Bay Area that will have significant impacts on our environment and communities well into the future.

The results we’ve tracked over the past week have left us heartened by the trends in some critical races embracing this sentiment. For example in Marin County, Tiburon and Belvedere voters have resoundingly chosen to protect the Martha Property by saying yes to Measure M. This is a place Greenbelt Alliance highlighted in our latest version of At Risk, the Bay Area Greenbelt report, where 110 acres of what was unprotected land faced development proposals on its fragile hillside, much of which is prone to mudslides that have put people at risk and devastated native habitat. And over in Solano County, preventing sprawl development on critical open space lands was the priority for Benicia residents, where more than 80% voted to renew the City’s Urban Growth Boundary—a line that separates urban areas from surrounding natural and agricultural lands—for another 20 years!

In the East Bay, Livermore and Alameda County voters supported updating previously approved policies to better protect and enhance agriculture and open space—as well as economic development in the South Livermore Valley—by passing Measures P and D respectively. By passing these measures, residents acknowledge that economic drivers that are compatible with protected open space, and that are critical partners with environmentalists in maintaining long-term conservation goals, can work together to achieve climate-resilient land-use management.

We are also encouraged that in Menlo Park voters showed their support for affordable homes for the teachers and educational workers of the Ravenwood School District by voting no on Measure V, a measure that would have made it more difficult to build multifamily homes. And in Oakland, Measure U also passed, a bond measure that includes significant funding for affordable housing development. Speaking of bond measures, voters around the region—from Sonoma County to Emeryville to the city of San Mateo—invested in critical infrastructure to increase climate resilience!

Out of the 20 ballot measures Greenbelt Alliance endorsed for the November 2022 Election, 17 won! This is a huge victory for climate resilience—housing people across the income spectrum in urban places close to where they work, while also protecting the open spaces that offer invaluable nature-based solutions to climate change.

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