Most of us in the Bay Area live in city. We know which city we live in and we try to keep up with current events. Our city leaders try their best to represent us but they must always try and balance competing interests. As you go up the ladder of government, this gets harder and harder. Home rule allows cities to make a lot of important decisions on the their own with very little input from higher levels of government such as counties, states and the federal government.
Planning decisions about what can be built where are an important component of city building. As the economy of the Bay Area has accelerated at unprecendented levels, creating 500,000 new jobs since 2009, this has created an acute housing crisis.
Housing is difficult for cities to approve quickly because of the real and perceived impacts on schools, open space and traffic without any significant new revenues to help pay for these services.
This situation has created more and more pressure for the higher levels of government to start the process of reducing the amount of control the cities have over their own land uses decisions. As city planners and urban designers, we believe the best response to this is to work to make sure our cities are able to make good decisions that benefit existing residents but also seek to help address serious regional issues. The lack of housing at all levels, but most seriously the lack of affordable housing, is a true crisis facing our region.
For the Bay Area to continue to lead the state and the nation in value creation, we must find a way to house our growing population. For this to happen, cities need to be supported in their efforts to facilitate new housing at all income levels.
This website, KeepPlanningLocal.org, will explore these themes of local decision making informed by regional issues and how to find the balance that is currently difficult for many Bay Area cities to achieve.