The job-rich communities of Silicon Valley need to come together to establish a simple common goal: We will do what we can to keep the jobs-housing imbalance from getting worse. That is, as employment continues to increase, we will plan for, and ensure, the development of housing in quantities that serve that growing workforce. We don't expect everyone to live and work in the same city, but we want to make it easier for people to live near where they work.
New housing should be built near centers of employment, shopping, and transit. New apartments, condos, and townhouses should be built where office parks now sprawl or surface parking lots blight our downtowns.
As Mountain View is planning in its North Bayshore Planning Area, new homes should be accompanied by parks, stores, restaurants, services, schools/daycare, and transit. Complexes should be designed to accommodate ride-sharing, delivery, and bicycling. Designed right, "car-light" development can actually reduce traffic. With a robust portion of affordable units, we can serve the mix of seniors, families, and workers that our communities need.
Infill development is called "smart growth" because it reduces the demand for energy, water, and transportation to serve the same number of people. Forcing people to commute to our cities from Tracy, Los Banos, or Santa Cruz isn't just wearing for them. It's bad for the planet. This is why environmental groups such as the Sierra Club support infill over urban sprawl.
Many people fear the dust, noise, and traffic diversion associated with new construction, but those impacts don't have to be part of the package. Building here is so desirable that our local governments have the authority to demand the highest quality construction techniques to minimize neighborhood and environmental impacts.
People elsewhere wish they had the economic dynamism and technical creativity of Silicon Valley, not realizing that we are falling victim to our own success. The San Francisco Peninsula no longer resembles the Valley of the Heart's Delight. Indeed, our communities are very different than they were a few decades ago. Change is inevitable, but through careful planning we can preserve our quality of life, welcome newcomers, and retain the people — professionals, service workers, and the retired — who made our area the envy of the world.
Cory Wolbach is a member of the Palo Alto City Council, Lenny Siegel is a member of the Mountain View City Council, and Kirsten Keith is Menlo Park's vice mayor.
This story contains 576 words.
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