The Future of the San Francisco Bay Area

san fran bay The Future of the San Francisco Bay Area

Last week I attended an interesting community forum on the future growthof the San Francisco Bay Area. Sponsored by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (an organization with which Applied Materials has oftenpartnered) and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 80 or somembers of the community gathered to explore various scenarios for theanticipated growth of the area.

It is projected that by 2035 the Bay Area will add 900,000 households and 1.2 million jobs. The tough questions we were asked included:“Where will this growth take place?” and “How will we grow?” Theassumption is that we need to grow sustainably in order to maintain themany great qualities the region possesses.

One other impetus for this envisioning effort is California’s landmark Senate Bill 375 (Steinberg, 2009) that requires the State’s major metropolitan areas to set regionalgreenhouse gas reduction targets. As part of that process, the BayArea’s two regional planning bodies, the Metropolitan TransportationCommission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) arestudying the connections between growth, air emissions andtransportation planning and development. Representatives from bothorganizations were among the facilitators at this session and werelistening intently.

Using interactive keypads and some very nice materials developed bythe Foundations’ facilitators, the participants proceeded to rank 14different priorities, e.g. clean air, greenhouse gas reductions, driving less, proximity to jobs, proximity to other conveniences, etc. The topranked priorities with this rather committed audience were clean air and lower carbon emissions and the lowest priorities were large homes withbig yards and more parking. We were then asked to state our preferencesfor either “exporting” new homes outside the nine-county Bay Area orkeeping homes here (i.e. keeping all new housing growth within thosecounties). Since there was overwhelming support for keeping homes here,we then selected from four scenarios for that growth: business as usual; a “planned future” (including some greenfield development, among otherthings); more urban development; and most urban (i.e. nearly all growthbeing around transit oriented locations). We spent the last part of theevening offering input as to how the region should spend about $200billion in transit funding over that same 20-year timeframe. Althoughthe forum was fascinating, those of us who stayed for the entire program were rewarded with a crisp dollar bill!

I thoroughly enjoyed the process and the evening and believe it wasan excellent example of how to obtain informed and useful stakeholderinput on important issues. Here’s the exciting part – if you care aboutthe Bay Area’s future and want to offer your own input, you can visit and use the interactive tools on the site to explore the same choices and scenarios and then furnish input online.

For Bay Area residents, there are also three more forums coming up like the one I attended, Even if you are simply curious about the planning process and the interactive tools that were used, Irecommend taking a closer look.