Environmental group finds Bay Area lacks "smart growth"
By Caitilin McAdoo, Bay City News Service
June 28, 2006
The Bay Area does not have the necessary policies in place to
bring about "smart growth" in the coming years, according
to a report published today by the Greenbelt Alliance, a local
land conservation agency.
According to the report, the region is projected to gain about
1 million people by the year 2020. So called "smart growth"
is a term used to encompass everything from preventing urban sprawl
to protecting open space to providing adequate public transportation
that will relieve traffic congestion and reduce pollution.
"The sooner we act the more opportunity we will have to
make growth have a positive impact," Greenbelt Alliance East
Bay Field Officer David Reid said. He said staff members, interns
and volunteers spent about a year and a half researching and compiling
information for the report. "Now is the time to build the
strong foundation for smart growth," he said.
Reid said that if cities have smart growth policies in place,
they will be able to build stronger communities, which will in
turn contribute to better schools and reduced crime rates. In
addition, if counties protect open space areas, they will be able
to better protect natural resources such as water supplies from
becoming contaminated, he said.
The Greenbelt Alliance evaluated the policies governing development
in the 101 cities and eight counties in the Bay Area. San Francisco
was evaluated as a city and not as a county.
According to the report, Bay Area cities were doing about a third
of what they ought to be doing to make sure policies were in place
to prevent urban sprawl, make sure parks are accessible to residential
areas, create affordable housing, encourage mixed uses of land
and define how they would like to see their areas be developed,
among other things.
On average, counties scored slightly higher than cities in having
existing policies for growth currently in place, but were reported
to still be about half as prepared as they should be according
to the report.
Counties were evaluated for their policies related to managing
growth, protecting open space, preserving agricultural land, conserving
natural resources and developing public transportation.
The report also found that only 25 of 78 eligible cities (cities
not bounded by water or other cities) have urban growth boundaries
to define where development should and should not go.
Only 31 cities require parks to be within walking distance of
every resident. Only 59 cities have ordinances that require a
percentage of homes be affordable to low or moderate-income families.
Seventy-nine cities allow a mix of homes, shops and jobs in their
downtowns and near transit, making it easier for people to walk
from one to another.
Five of eight counties have open space districts. Sonoma County
received the only perfect score on its open space protection policies.
Reid said that he hopes cities will use the report to strengthen
their own general plans by looking at other cities that may be
doing better in some areas. He said he also hopes citizens will
use it as a tool to become active in promoting smart growth in
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