Guest Column: Michele Beasley, Senior Field Representative, Greenbelt Alliance
The Bay Area is growing: our economic recovery is leading the state and the nation, our universities attract talent from around the world and our beautiful open spaces and vibrant cities drive a strong tourist industry. Plan Bay Area is an effort to better prepare for growth by meeting changing demands in how we live, work and travel while using infrastructure and land wisely. It is absurd and irresponsible to suggest (as some have recently done in the Daily Post) that the Plan proposes tearing down single family homes. In fact, new homes and jobs are proposed for such places as vacant sites and surface parking lots. Surface parking is perhaps one of the most wasteful and inefficient uses of land. Think of a tired strip mall on El Camino. Now, imagine instead a row of retail shops with outdoor seating, apartments on top and bike parking.
Commuting by bicycle is on the rise. Anyone who knows Ralston Avenue in Belmont knows that during commute hours it is a traffic nightmare. I have zipped by that traffic on my bike to catch Caltrain which now has two bike cars. Caltrain’s ridership is at an all-time high. And no wonder when you think of the traffic on 101. The Grand Boulevard Initiative envisions El Camino Real as a “string of pearls” that makes better use of bus and trains with new homes and jobs that provide a built-in customer base for historic business districts (the pearls) like Laurel Street in San Carlos.
El Camino is the perfect place in San Mateo County to add more homes. Construction of multifamily homes in the Bay Area increased from an average of 35% of total housing construction in the 1990s to 65% of all housing construction in 2010. Builders are responding to market demand! And the market demands more apartments and condos near public transit which many people, including Millenials, empty-nesters and myself, a Gen-X’er, would be more than happy to live in. Why you ask? Because leaving my car at home so I may instead walk to the grocery store or hop a train to San Francisco is way more appealing and low-stress. And what’s not to like about that?
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