Survey: Grow or Harm the Climate?
Cities21 and The Alliance for a Livable Palo Alto conducted a Fall 2007 web survey to probe Palo Alto attitudes towards the "inconvenience" created by the "regional land use => climate link" versus anti-growth sentiment. 221 residents from 25 Palo Alto neighborhoods responded to the survey. A no growth scenario with deleterious regional impacts scored poorly. A "super smart growth" scenario (meeting the Regional Housing Needs Allocation target) attracted a solid majority. The survey resulted in more balanced newspaper coverage (and more coverage in general), with local press explaining regional objectives.
By September 25, Palo Alto and all the cities in the Bay Area will be giving feedback to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) about the number of homes that each city is expected to build in the next eight years. Palo Alto's allocation (3,505) has been raised substantially from the last round (1999-2006), because the new allocation criteria stress job levels, job growth and transit access. This is a very controversial subject. This survey was designed to gather data on attitudes and ideas about this issue facing Palo Alto.
The State Housing and Community Development (HCD) Department requires regions to forecast future population growth. HCD approves each regional forecast and then requires regions to allocate the growth among individual cities. ABAG pursues relatively laudable goals in their allocation such as minimizing traffic congestion, pollution, and global warming. ABAG creates a rational, impartial procedure for their allocation. ABAG is an organization that represents Bay Area city governments, so it is not valid to argue that ABAG is out to harm individual Bay Area cities. The fact that most Bay Area cities are unhappy with ABAG's allocation supports the idea that ABAG has a fair, if unpopular, process. The conflict is much more basic: the region is growing but most cities do not want to grow as fast as the region. It's hard to find a villain in this conflict.
The state Climate Action Team sets statewide climate protection policy and has influenced the allocations. For Palo Alto, the Climate Action Team's "smart growth" policy can be summarized as: "build lots of dense housing for Palo Alto workers by the Caltrain stations." Compared to the 1999-2006 allocation, Palo Alto may have been given the largest percentage increase of any city.