The Bay Area prides itself on being at the forefront of innovative policies to foster healthy communities and the current COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.
On March 16th, six county health officials made the groundbreaking and life-saving, yet difficult decision to enact a shelter in place ordinance. Within days the rest of the state followed suit and since then, the rest of the nation has moved in that direction. This unprecedented level of coordination and bold decision-making cannot end here.
The COVID-19 pandemic intensifies existing problems with our coordinated response to disasters, housing and homelessness, and public health. There is no going back to normal. We knew already that the lack of regional coordination in the Bay Area was a significant barrier to take the bold action needed to address the climate crisis. In the post COVID-19 world we must learn from the steps our counties have taken to work together. We must continue that collaboration to increase the number of affordable homes in our region, rebuild our public transit system, increase access to parks and open space for people of all income levels, and take increasingly bold actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Just like COVID-19, the effects of climate change do not stop at jurisdictional boundaries. How one county prepares for wildfire, floods or earthquakes affects the adjacent jurisdictions. We need a coordinated effort to make our region more resilient to upcoming fire, flooding, and seismic threats. The housing, equity, and economic challenges we face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will resurface with climate change, spreading impacts from one municipality into others. Through their COVID-19 response, Bay Area leaders have shown that the multi-jurisdictional coordination needed to address the effects of climate change is possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a worldwide tragedy with devastating economic and health consequences. How we rebuild and respond will shape our communities and the climate crisis response in the future. At all levels—local, regional, and state—we need to rethink how we allocate our resources, utilize collaborative tools, and explore new legislative and funding opportunities. The Bay Area needs to work together to shift its course to make sure that the effects of climate change do not have the same devastating impacts as COVID-19.
As a regional organization focused on how the Bay Area grows, Greenbelt Alliance has been an advocate of increased regional coordination for over 60 years. We work around the Bay Area to coordinate planning and policy advocacy across counties, we play a key role in shaping Plan Bay Area, and we empower local community members around the region to get involved. We look forward to working together, with local and regional partners across the Bay Area, to ensure wildfire and land-use decisions are integrated into local and county-level planning and to create transparent channels for the tough conversations about what actions it will take on a regional level to reduce our community’s risk to climate threats.