Update, May 17, 2011:
Registration for all remaining Plan Bay Area workshops this spring is now closed. Stay tuned for information about what we heard, and for future public comment opportunities.
May 6, 2011
Public interest in Plan Bay Area has been so high that MTC and ABAG have added a second workshop in Alameda County. Nine public workshops – one in each county – were originally scheduled for this spring. However, so many people signed up for the May 19 event in Berkeley that a second workshop has been scheduled on May 24 at the agencies’ Oakland headquarters to accommodate the high demand in Alameda County. To date, nearly 750 people have attended or signed up to attend one of the 10 workshops. The goal is to educate the public about Plan Bay Area and to seek their input in identifying top priorities for the region’s long-term growth.
“I am tremendously encouraged by the public’s engagement and enthusiasm for Plan Bay Area,” said Doug Kimsey, MTC planning director. “It is further proof that Bay Area residents really care about creating a prosperous, sustainable future, not just for themselves, but for generations to come. The public response is no surprise since our region has made farsighted planning a priority for decades. It is part of our culture here in the Bay Area.”
Each workshop has a similar format, with opening remarks by a local elected official followed by an overview of the evening’s program. Five of the workshops are co-sponsored by Envision Bay Area, a strategic initiative of Silicon Valley Community Foundation and several nonprofit organizations. (See sidebar, “Envision Bay Area.”)
“We are delighted to help residents and community leaders make informed decisions about the growth and development that will shape the future environment, economy and everyday life in their communities,” said Erica Wood, the foundation’s vice president for community leadership. “Plan Bay Area is a call to action. As our region grows from 7 million to 9 million people by 2040, we must be innovative in planning communities that will be sustainable in the long run.”
Envision Bay Area worked with MetroQuest to develop an interactive, online tool called “YouChoose Bay Area.” That same tool has been adapted for the workshops, so that participants can collectively voice their choices for the future. At each workshop, participants use electronic handheld devices to vote for their top regional priorities, and they play card games to spark discussion about growth patterns, place types, transportation investment strategies and policy initiatives. (See sidebar, “Anatomy of a Workshop.)
“It was interesting,” said Janikke Klem, who attended the first workshop in Mountain View. “The way the information was presented made me think about things in a more multi-faceted way. It wasn’t just about residential development; it was about how things are put together – transportation, housing, economic development, businesses.”
“I liked the card [games],” said workshop participant Wendy Lao. “It allowed us to think about which scenario we want our city to grow like in the future, and also compare that to what the scenario is like right now.”
Copies of two key documents were made available for people who want to take a deeper dive or who simply want to learn more about Plan Bay Area. The first, Building on a Legacy of Leadership, explains how and why change is coming to the region, points out the benefits of sustainable communities and summarizes major milestones in Bay Area regionalism. The second document, the “Initial Vision Scenario,”is a first-cut proposal that identifies the areas where the growth in the region’s population might be housed.
The agencies also are conducting outreach to community-based organizations representing African-American, Asian and Latino communities. For example, volunteers fromKBBF radio fanned out at the Roseland Cinco de Mayo Festival in Santa Rosa and asked attendees to complete a short questionnaire (available in both Spanish and English) on “How Would You Plan for Growth in the Bay Area?”
“Be excited and be ready for an incredibly interactive experience, whether you’re attending one of our workshops or other community-based events and meetings” said MTC Planner Grace Cho. “They span quite a spectrum of activity. We’ll show you a good time, and we’re here to listen.”
The complete schedule of Plan Bay Area workshops is available on OneBayArea.org. For more information about outreach to community-based organizations, please contact Pam Grove at (415) 778-6706.
Anatomy of a Workshop
Considering coming to one of the remaining Plan Bay Area workshops? Wondering what they’re like? Here’s a look at the most interactive parts of the program, where participants get to vote their priorities and play card games to get a handle on what Plan Bay Area is and what’s at stake.
First, a facilitator uses the online YouChoose tool to project onscreen a list of 14 regional priorities, such as clean air, easy access to transit, or big houses with big yards, among others. Participants use electronic voting devices to rank each priority on a scale of one to five, where one represents very strong support and five represents very low support. When the voting is over, everyone can see the group’s collective priorities ranked from top to bottom.
Workshop participants also vote for one of three types of progressively denser long-term land-use patterns for the region: “planned growth,” “more urban,” or “most urban.” The YouChoose tool not only enables people to see in real time how their neighbors voted; it also illustrates some of the resulting challenges and trade-offs. For example, the “most urban” land-use patterns would improve air quality (because people wouldn’t need to drive as much), but would make it more difficult to build more big houses with big yards (because development would be more densely concentrated). Anyone can experiment with the YouChoose tool by visiting www.youchoosebayarea.org/.
Finally, everyone is grouped into tables with other participants who chose the same preferred land-use pattern. Then they get to play card games. In the first game, each participant gets a deck of “Transportation Investment Strategies” cards. The cards feature different options for making better use of the current transportation network, expanding roadways, providing new transit service to new destinations, improving bicycle and pedestrian networks, or offering cities financial incentives. Each player chooses four cards from the deck that they feel are the preferred priorities for the region. They put their cards on the table for all to see and discuss, and the results are tabulated. Players also receive wild cards on which they can write their own preferred strategies, if they don’t see others they like. The second card game is similar to the first, except this time players are asked to choose three cards from a deck listing policy initiatives that can support the reduction of emissions from vehicles, such as requiring employers to allow employees to telecommute or subsidizing the purchase/lease of electric vehicles and hybrids in the Bay Area. The policy initiatives game also features wild cards.
After closing remarks the cards are collected along with completed participant comment sheets. Everyone is thanked, and the results are tabulated to help MTC and ABAG planners develop detailed alternative scenarios for consideration under Plan Bay Area.
Envision Bay Area
Part of the secret to Plan Bay Area’s success to date is our partnership with Envision Bay Area. This strategic initiative led by Silicon Valley Community Foundationhas been instrumental in developing the YouChoose Bay Area online visual simulation tool, as well as promoting the workshops, recruiting participants and helping to design and facilitate each program.
The other Envision Bay Area partners are Greenbelt Alliance, TransForm, Northern California Public Broadcasting, Calthorpe Associates, MetroQuest, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Community Information Challenge.