Local elected officials on the Association of Bay Area Governments Executive Board and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission voted last month to adopt Plan Bay Area, the region’s first integrated transportation and land-use strategy.
The plan, developed to meet the requirements of Senate Bill 375, seeks to accommodate needed housing growth and transportation investments within the nine Bay Area counties, while decreasing per capita greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks. It also recognizes that the Bay Area’s enviable economy cannot grow without building new housing in transit corridors close to the region’s major employment centers.
With Solano County’s population of 413,786 projected to increase 24 percent between 2010 and 2040, Plan Bay Area’s proposed growth and conservation strategies aim to improve travel time from home to work and to schools while also improving access to open space, active recreation and services.
Contrary to what some opponents claim, Plan Bay Area is locally driven, with local jurisdictions defining where they wish to see future housing, retail, office and mixed-use development.
As part of the plan, elected officials from Solano’s cities nominated 11 priority development areas including Vallejo’s downtown and waterfront transit hub, the neighboring downtowns of Fairfield and Suisun City, and Vacaville’s historic district. These areas are where local officials believe future growth brings positive amenities to their communities. The priority development areas are complemented by locally nominated priority conservation areas, which were designed to preserve open space and agricultural land.
A priority development area designation does not change any local zoning, general plan or land use controls. That is why local residents will continue to have the same voice in determining local land use decisions as they’ve always had. Solano County residents that don’t live in a priority development area will notice little if any change. If anything, the plan should improve their quality of life.
Parts of the Bay Area – Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose – are already planning for more housing near jobs and transit to meet their projected job and population growth. Focusing more of the region’s new housing in larger urban areas allows us to take some of the pressure off of smaller towns and rural areas, allowing them to focus on preserving small-town character, open space and farmland.
This type of long-range planning for the needs of future generations is essential to protect our economy and our quality of life. Plan Bay Area does not have any impact on property rights and it will not force residents to move from single-family homes or give up their cars.
Rather, it provides more options for the range of people who live here now by considering connections to transit, housing for all income ranges, proximity to jobs, and open space. It also provides more choices for your children and grandchildren whether they choose to live in a single-family home or an apartment and whether they choose to take public transit or drive their own cars.
Finally, attracting more jobs and revenue to Solano County will depend on our ability to better connect our employment centers with new housing and transportation investments and doing so in ways that reduce commuter traffic. As we implement the plan, focusing on our priority development areas, we will also be developing new strategies to mitigate traffic congestion on Interstate 80 and increase the efficiency of tracks serving both freight trains and commuter trains along the Capital Corridor (e.g. adding passing tracks).
Plan Bay Area is a work in progress, because we are required to update and revise it every four years, allowing us to learn from local best practices and new information. We look forward to developing additional ways to engage and involve the public when we revisit this process again in 2015.
To learn more about Plan Bay Area, visit www.onebayarea.org/.
Linda Seifert is chairwoman of the Solano County Board of Supervisors. The Association of Bay Area Governments is the official regional planning agency for the nine counties and 101 cities and towns of the Bay Area. Formed by local government leaders in 1961, it is recognized as the first council of governments in California.Seifert sits on the association’s executive board.