Growing Smarter

Friday, June 12, 2009
Before and after: how to turn a pavement into a paved paradise

A Greenbelt Alliance case study turning bleakness into civic pride

If you’re going to unveil a grand plan for development, you might as well do it from a place where you can see a big chunk of it. So it was a clever idea to launch the new Grow Smart Bay Area initiative from San Francisco’s Carnelian Room, 52 stories up, with its splendid panoramic views of the waterfront. The proposal, launched earlier this week, was put together by the Greenbelt Alliance, a Bay Area smart-growth advocacy group that just celebrated its 50th anniversary. It anticipates how the Bay Area can accommodate an anticipated 2 million more residents by 2035 without overflowing into the surrounding open space.

Through analysis of current land use, it recommends specific areas, including the northeast part of Santa Clara county and the length of El Camino Real, for intensive infill development. “Things aren’t being built right now, so we should take advantage of this time–now is the time to think about policy innovation,” said Jeremy Madsen, Greenbelt Alliance’s executive director. “This is our opportunity to make the San Francisco area a model metropolis.”

More than 200 urban planners, developers and other supporters showed up for the pep talk on June 10, and Mary Nichols, the chair of the California Air Resources Board, capped things off by talking about how such plans were important because they provided examples for implementing SB 375, the anti-sprawl law. “This [Grow Smart Bay Area] is a vision that we would embrace–it’s a great model.”

—Lydia Lee

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