Story in progress: ‘Smart growth’ or bay fill in Redwood City? ABAG has the numbers


The Association of Bay Area Governments’ Jason Munkres speaks with the author. Photo by Ian Umeda/SF Public Press.

The Bay Area needs more homes for its growing population, but does it make sense to house 30,000 people on unstable land, in earthquake country, that’s also at high risk of inundation by rising sea waters? A massive development proposal on the fringes of the San Francisco Bay, in one of the last potentially developable areas in the region, is raising questions about the definition of smart growth.
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Some figures from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to chew on:

  • The Bay Area’s nine counties and 101 cities are home to 7.2 million people, making it the fifth most populous metropolitan region in the country
  • Over the next 25 years region’s population is expected to increase by 1.6 million, an average of 64,760 new residents per year (about half of this increase is due to the difference between births and deaths, or natural increase. The other half is due to in-migration)
  • 1.6 million new jobs will be added to the Bay Area’s existing economy by 2035
  • About 700, 000 new homes will be needed by the same time to house the rising population
  • The Bay Area is the most transit-rich region in California, yet only 6 percent of all trips people make are by public transit. Walking and biking account for only 10 percent of all trips. By 2030 congestion here is expected to increase by 103 percent
  • Commuting between the Bay Area and  the Central Valley is expected to grow by 90 percent during the same period (ie by 2030). In areas between San Mateo and Santa Cruz, the increase projected at 120 percent
  • 50 percent of the region’s carbon emissions comes from the transportation sector alone, 84 percent of which is from on road vehicles.
Jason Munkres, ABAG regional planner last week, says the figures are their “best professional guess at what’s going on” and could change with time. “In the plannning profession figures change. They are constantly in flux. We have new information, we have new laws coming in all the time,” he says.
Munkres says the Bay Area had the capacity to absorb the projected population increase. “It might not be easy and a lot of local jurisdictions don’t agree with our forecasts. But we think it could be done with a lot of effort,” he said. Munkres didn’t think that a combination of building housing on existing infill as well as on open space was required to address the needs of a growing population, but that’s what is going to occur.


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[The Public Press is developing an in-depth report for the fall print edition and the website. We are raising funds on the journalism micro-funding site to pay for the reporting and photography on the story.]