November 18, 2008
Greenbelt Alliance’s Message to the President-Elect
TO PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA:
Congratulations! Your election two weeks ago has opened a new chapter for the nation and the planet. You called for change, and the nation responded.
You begin your presidency in challenging times. We face economic uncertainty. It will take decisive action–nationally and also locally–to rise to the challenge.
Here in the Bay Area, we have a reputation for taking on challenges and creating solutions. Greenbelt Alliance is ready to lead, to help our region turn uncertainty into positive change. With Greenbelt Alliance’s help, the Bay Area can be a model for the rest of the country for ways to create vibrant, sustainable communities for the 21st century.
LEAVING A FAILED MODEL BEHIND
For too long, government policies and spending priorities have encouraged unsustainable development. As the housing bubble has burst, we have seen the consequences of this failed approach. People are stranded in homes they cannot afford, struggling to fill their gas tanks for long commutes to distant jobs.
It’s time to set new priorities, at all levels of government–federal, state, and local. It’s time to rethink how metropolitan regions grow. It’s time to invest in neighborhoods for the well-being of our communities and our environment.
Where better to start than the Bay Area?
INVESTING IN OUR COMMUNITIES
It’s time to build cities we love. Creating vibrant, walkable neighborhoods with jobs, homes, and schools for all will get us there: this will save people money, support local businesses, and improve our communities. Many Bay Area cities are starting to take steps toward this goal; many more could join them.
It’s time for a 21st century transportation system. Investing in public transit and creating safe streets for biking and walking will be better for our wallets and for the environment. Recent encouraging steps toward this goal are the passage of the new North Bay SMART train, a statewide “Complete Streets” bill, and the nation’s first high-speed rail line. Now we need to focus development around public transportation, to make it work better for more people.
PRESERVING THE ENVIRONMENT WE DEPEND ON
It’s time to safeguard our food and water. We can put our farms and watersheds off-limits to development so that we can count on delicious local produce and clean drinking water. Solano and Napa counties’ recent passage of protections for almost one million acres of farmland and watersheds help show the way.
And it’s time to tackle the global climate crisis, the most pressing environmental issue of our time. We can take decisive action to cut greenhouse gases by reducing our need to drive. New California legislation is linking our development patterns to their impacts on the climate.
Action from Sacramento is only a start. We need action on the climate at the federal level, and we’re counting on you, Mr. President-Elect, to take that action.
We’ll be working hard here at the local and regional level; the Bay Area needs to plan for development that reduces driving, protects farmland and watersheds, and is better for the climate and for people. In this, if we succeed, we can serve as a model for the nation.
The people of the United States have voted for change.
The Bay Area stands ready to make it.
For 50 years, Greenbelt Alliance has been the San Francisco Bay Area’s advocate for open spaces and vibrant places, with offices in San Francisco, San Jose, Walnut Creek, San Rafael, and Santa Rosa. www.greenbelt.org