Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Jay Reed offers his opinions on Measure N and Measure M

Successful Land Use Measures in the Bay Area?

Hi everyone. It's Jay Reed again. Hope everyone had a great holiday season. Today's blog has to with a couple of successful land use measures that were on last November's ballot. 

Each passing year brings new challenges to the State of California. From freeway congestion to water supply and climate change to cost of living, California residents deal with a myopia of issues to grapple with every day. Not too distant from the periphery of every day lives is one that most of us don't even think about: land use. 

Land use in California is a slippery slope. After all we want to protect precious open space but we all understand the need for housing (as long as it's not in our backyard). It's no secret that large businesses want to be located in California. But in addition to the increased tax burden that the state is imposing on both small and large businesses, the cost of living for most employees to live and work near their employers is out of reach. 

Take the Bay Area for example. Some of Fortune 500's largest businesses call the South Bay home, such as Cisco, Netflix, Apple, Google, Juniper, Yahoo and on and on. And while Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino and San Jose all reap the rewards of huge businesses located in their respective cities, most employees are forced to call Stockton, Manteca and Gilroy home. In fact San Jose was just listed as the most expensive city in the entire country. 

Why are these towns so expensive? Because they've done an awful job of planning for their future. And residents that are fortunate enough to call these places home are arguably the worst offenders of encouraging more housing in their communities. They mistakingly think that more housing means more traffic. That's a fallacy. The lack of housing and encouraging more business causes more traffic. One only has to travel on 280 or 85 each day to see the lines of cars waiting to exit De Anza Boulevard for their jobs at Apple to understand this point. 

On the flip side of this argument is in Redwood City where the city has encouraged high density development in its downtown. The only problem is that the city has done little or nothing to encourage walkability and transit friendly development. The downtown is completely untenable now and takes up to 30 minutes to travel two blocks on Jefferson Ave. Freeway congestion on Highway 101 is nearly backed up between Highway 92 and Highway 85 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. everyday. 

So with all this in mind, I was encouraged that two measures on the November 2014 ballot, land use measures in fact, passed.  One was Measure M in Menlo Park (Menlo Park is a strong anti-growth town, as is most towns along the Peninsula) and the other was Measure N in San Bruno.

Anti growth groups put Measure M on the ballot in Menlo Park, which would have altered the city's general plan prohibiting office space and other housing development in Menlo Park. Measure M was soundly defeated by the voters. It's an interesting juxtaposition from what most observers are used to on the Peninsula. 

Measure N in San Bruno lifted antiquated development guidelines. Planners and developers are hopeful that by lifting these rules would spur economic investment and development in San Bruno's downtown. San Bruno voters resoundingly passed Measure N.