To the Editor:
Peter Teichner’s dismissal of smart growth (Forum, Sept. 17, 2002) typifies an attitude that unfortunately is gaining currency in the Bay Area as we contemplate our future and don’t like what we see.
What we see is tremendous growth – approximately 1 million more people in the next 20 years and a 120 percent increase in automobile congestion, according to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). It might be nice to slam the door on all these people and say “No more, you can’t come in,” but more than half of these are our children and the natural increase that they bring as we all live longer. The current economic slump is only temporary, and the Bay Area is still one of the most desirable places in the country in which to live and work despite its problems.
If we do not provide denser and more affordable housing on transportation corridors that will enable people to live close to their work and have real transit options, they’ll live in sprawling suburbs and they’ll drive. A lot more of those cars will be traveling in and out of Berkeley.
In Berkeley, some very well-designed 3-5 story buildings along our major transit corridors are creating a more vibrant, exciting, diverse city with thriving neighborhood stores and allowing our teachers and public workers to live here instead of in far-off suburbs. In my own neighborhood, a vacant lot was turned into a five-story building that houses a cafe and a Mexican ceramics store. It is a great addition to our community and because of the location along transit, the residents own many fewer cars than their counterparts in sprawling suburbs.
Teichner rails against Berkeley’s big developers, but he has the wrong enemy in his sights. Our coalition teams up with Greenbelt Alliance and the Sierra Club to defeat large sprawling projects in the Bay Area Greenbelt. We fight the likes of Shea Homes and Sunset Developers, the mega-sprawl developers. We are successfully convincing voters in areas like Livermore to defeat new sprawl developments because we still have space in our underutilized transit corridors. The sprawl developers are just waiting for smart growth to fail so they can show the voters there is no antidote to sprawl and get their bulldozers to work in undeveloped outlying areas.
Berkeley once had 8,000 more residents than it does today and we have to continue to provide housing. The alternative is to remain silent as farms and open space are plowed to make way for new homes. I urge all to oppose Measure P, which would bring new housing to a screeching halt in Berkeley. After all, among others, these are our children we are trying to house. I'd like them to have the choice of vibrant neighborhoods instead of more sprawl.
Transportation And Land Use Coalition (TALC)