What kind of Bay Area do you want to live in now and in the coming years? The region will always be a magnet for residents drawn to its natural beauty, for students attracted to its academic centers and for business lured by its human capital and dynamism. Indeed, the nine counties that comprise the Bay Area will see a growth of nearly 1 million new households and 1.2 million new jobs by 2035, according to economic forecasts.
The idea that regular people—not just planners and elected officials and private sector interests—can voice their visions for how the Bay Area can and should grow is behind an initiative called Envision Bay Area. Led by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in partnership with a slew of nonprofit public interest groups—like the Greenbelt Alliance, TranForm, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Northern California Public Broadcasting—Envision Bay Area is soliciting public input for a long-range planning process and immediate development projects that asks us to order our priorities and participate in shaping the future.
The first way is kind of fun. There is an interactive tool for you to provide input and order your priorities. Is affordable housing key? Is cleaner air and lower carbon emissions important? What about larger homes with big yards? Or shorter commutes to work and close access to shopping and services?
The interactive calculates how the priorities you select and the choices you make—to support more dense, urban growth with infill development that won’t displace residents through gentrification or to continue sprawl in outlying areas—will actually yield certain measurable consequences for carbon emissions, water used, housing affordability and open space preservation.
The second part of the initiative is a series of public forums to discuss the issues of development.
Registration is required and some of the events are already filled, but there are many opportunities to get involved.
Here is a list of upcoming forums, with the next one tomorrow:
• Santa Clara County, April 21 at Microsoft in Mountain View
• San Francisco County, April 25 at Milton Marks Conference Center in San Francisco*
• San Mateo County, April 27 at the San Mateo Public Library in San Mateo
• Napa County, April 28 at the Elks Lodge, Napa*
• Solano County, May 4 at Solano County Events Center in Fairfield*
• Contra Costa County, May 7 at the Concord Senior Center in Concord
• Marin County, May 11 at Embassy Suites Hotel in San Rafael*
• Sonoma County, May 18 at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa
• Alameda County, May 19 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley
This article was originally published in the Bay Citizen.