Here is a link to a good wrap-up on the latest meeting in Contra Costa County about the efforts to force more high-density housing into our communities. It’s titled “Bay Area planners steamroll local communities.” In a nutshell, here’s the issue: A bill passed in 2008, SB 375, and named “The Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008″ is the state’s attempt to drive development in a way that would decrease use of our vehicles. One of the ways to accomplish this goal is to force higher-density development in corridors adjacent to public transit. Areas more distant from the urban area would be designated open space. Those opposed to the open space plans claim this would infringe on private property rights.
Personally, I have very mixed feelings about these plans: I love and use open space. I’ve seen this area transition from agriculture (which is “open space,” to me) to an unending vista of housing developments, a smaller version of the Los Angeles basin. To me, that sort of “urban sprawl” planning is just wrong. Those developments of the 1960s and 1970s became possible because our local government taxed the farmers out of their property. Big money developers threw up houses as fast and as cheaply as they could, paving over some of the richest farm land the world has known. I don’t want to see more of that type of land use.
The best planning comes from a balance between public good and private interest. There is a public good by maintaining open space. Perhaps we need to define what we mean by “open space.” It isn’t just the land designated and maintained by the county for hiking and horse-back riding. Open space could also be defined as the grazing lands on our hills, the vineyards now stretching across the Livermore hills and the undeveloped redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains.