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Planning Issues and Innovations from the San Francisco Bay Area

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2017 has been another year of challenging planning issues and innovative approaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. From regional plans to special-topic studies, the efforts are many and varied. This article provides an overview of a few of the region’s recent housing, land use, and transportation documents. The reports provide food for thought for planners, consultants, and policy makers addressing critical planning challenges, such as alternative transportation and affordable housing.


Plan Bay Area 2040

The Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission released the Draft Plan Bay Area 2040 on April 3, 2017 and its Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on April 17, 2017. Plan Bay Area 2040 is the Regional Transportation Plan and Senate Bill 375-mandated Sustainable Communities Strategy that provides an integrated transportation and land use plan to accommodate projected household and employment growth in the nine-county Bay Area, while also achieving targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions.  Plan Bay Area 2040 is a limited and focused updated of region’s previous integrated transportation and land use plan, adopted in 2013. The public review and comment period of the Draft Plan and Draft EIR continues until June 1, 2017.


Rethinking the Corporate Campus: The Next Bay Area Workplace

Low density employment—SPUR terms it “job sprawl”—is resource intensive, lengthens commutes, increases GHG emissions, penalizes and isolates low-income households, and has long-term economic impacts. In this report, Rethinking the Corporate Campus, SPUR explores how employers make decisions about workplace location and form, finding that the major factors that drive workplace location decisions are: talent acquisition and retention, security and intellectual property, usable floor space, and growth and exit strategy. Based on these findings, SPUR describes several specific recommendations for local government to foster “a more efficient, sustainable and high-performance pattern of employment growth,” including updating zoning to permit employment growth near transit, devising specific plans that change single-use job centers to mixed use areas, and instituting shuttle routes between job centers and regional transit stops.


Silicon Valley Bike Vision

Only 1.7 percent of Silicon Valley residents bike to work. Joint Venture Silicon Valley and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition examine bicycle infrastructure and identify challenges that prevent biking in the report, Silicon Valley Bike Vision. High-stress streets and intersections, and obstacles that force bicyclists far out of their direction of travel can deter all but the most confident cyclists. The report makes suggestions on how agencies can make biking a compelling alternative, including working actively with bicycle advisory committees who make recommendations to a City Council or Planning Commission, updating a bicycle master plan, and updating zoning code parking requirements to help reach traffic reduction targets.


Right Type, Right Place: Assessing the Environmental and Economic Impacts of Infill Residential Development through 2030

Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley and Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at UC Berkeley School of Law set out to evaluate environmental and economic impacts of three housing scenarios in terms of meeting California’s 2030 GHG reduction goal. The Centers concluded a scenario with all new development in infill areas provides the best results in terms of GHG reduction, while also generating economic benefits. Policy considerations for working toward this scenario include implementing urban growth boundaries, decreasing parking requirements, and rezoning for more multifamily housing.


At Risk: The Bay Area Greenbelt

Greenbelt Alliance describes development pressures in eight Bay Area Counties and rates farmland and natural areas as being at high, medium, or low risk of development over the next 30 years. The strong Bay Area economy and rise in housing prices has increased development pressure on the greenbelt, which can result in loss of natural and agricultural lands. Making the case that encroaching into open space is not the appropriate response to the Bay Area housing crisis, the Greenbelt Alliance suggests several policies for communities to consider to avoid sprawl, including decreasing parking requirements, supporting creation of in-law units for rent, and permitting taller development.

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Gary Jakobs

Gary Jakobs

CEO/Principal – Environmental

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