Last month, The Atlantic asked, “Why are developers still building sprawl?”
Surveys show that more and more people want to live in walkable neighborhoods with convenient public transit and easy access to amenities and entertainment. Yet across the country, developers have been slow to adjust to this transformation in consumer preferences. In cities from Las Vegas to Atlanta, developers are still stubbornly focused on paving over natural and agricultural lands to build car-dependent single-family homes in far-flung suburbs.
Fortunately, the Bay Area has been bucking the national trend. As our CEO Jeremy Madsen explains to The Atlantic, “I think we’ve moved into a different era in the Bay Area in terms of how we’re going to grow in the future.”
Madsen notes that many Bay Area communities are rejecting sprawl and encouraging development within existing urban boundaries. Voters in Dublin emphatically shot down a ballot measure last fall that would have allowed sprawl development in the greenbelt just east of the city. San Jose—the former poster child for sprawling suburbia—is re-imagining how it grows with an ambitious plan to create “urban villages” along public transit hubs.
But even though there’s a critical mass of opinion and market direction in the Bay Area, it’s not easy to retrofit a region. It’s going to take concurrent investment in affordable homes, public transit, public spaces, local businesses, and the protection of our natural and agricultural lands.
The scale of the problem is highlighted in the Association of Bay Area Governments’ State of the Region 2015 report. In short, the severe shortage of homes near jobs is driving housing costs up and forcing residents into lengthy car commutes.
That’s why Greenbelt Alliance’s work is so critical. By stopping sprawl development and creating the types of vibrant neighborhoods that people want, we’re helping to alleviate the region’s housing crisis and to elevate the quality of life on all sides of the Bay.
Photo: Daniel Hoherd