Public Comment

Smart Growth: Another View

By Charles Siegel
Monday January 30, 2012 - 09:42:00 AM

In her two articles about regional planning for smart growth, Zelda Bronstein repeatedly claims that the planning is undemocratic. She sympathizes with Tea Party members who have disrupted planning meetings and who gave the biggest round of applause one evening to a Berkeley extremist who is well known for disrupting city meetings.  


She quotes with approval one Tea Party member who explained that she did not go to breakout sessions because "they’re going to do whatever they’re going to do, regardless of the public input" and other Tea-party members who held signs that said “ABAG/MTC don’t speak for me,” “This is a rigged meeting” and “We’re being railroaded.”  


She concludes that these regional agencies should make "future planning for our region, more accountable to the public at large." 


Yet she also writes: "SB 375, signed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger, requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. To that end, each of the state’s eighteen metropolitan planning organizations—in our case, ABAG plus MTC—must prepare a long-range plan that integrates its region’s transportation, housing and land use in ways that get people to drive less. In the Bay Area, as elsewhere in the country, this is called planning for “smart” growth and “sustainable” development." 


In other words, regional agencies are planning for smart growth because they are following a law that was passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor. That sounds democratic to me: the law was passed by elected officials who are "accountable to the public at large." 


The Tea Party is a minority of the Republican Party and a small minority of the State of California. The Tea Party has outsized influence because it gets funding from the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel interests. The Tea Party and its Berkeley supporters are not "accountable" to anyone and certainly do not represent "the public at large." When the legislature required regional planning agencies to consult with the public, they obviously did not intend for SB 375's smart-growth mandate to be nullified by a noisy, disruptive minority who are in favor of sprawl and who deny climate science.  


Democracy is not threatened by regional agencies that are following a law passed by the elected legislators of California. 


Democracy is threatened by extremists who disrupt public meetings and try to prevent government from functioning when it tries to carry out a law that they do not like. 


Charles Siegel