The Silver Lining Behind Local Planning Department Challenges

Inside this issue of the Contra Costa Lawyer, we see how the state and local jurisdictions are addressing the ever-increasing demand for space in the East Bay—for housing and cars. The increased congestion in Central Contra Costa is palpable; it seems to have increased exponentially in the 11 years since I arrived here, and I regularly hear comments about the I-680, Highway 24, and Highway 4 corridors seeming more like Los Angeles County than Contra Costa. Decreasing rain fall and worsening air quality in our area add to that L.A. feeling.

In spite of this pressure cooker environment, I find reasons to be optimistic among this month’s articles. Two of the authors, Inga Miller and Ken Strongman, volunteer their time, for Orinda and Walnut Creek, respectively, to help address the planning challenges that our county and cities face. Strongman and Miller are only two of the many busy individuals who volunteer on commissions, boards, and councils across the county to tackle these difficult issues. It is inspiring to see such commitments to public service in local development and planning.

Adding to the difficulty of these volunteers’ jobs are the statewide policies discussed in articles by Miller, Amara Morrison, and Marie Quashnock. This tension between the state and local control seems necessary and appropriate, however. Ultimately, I believe our communities benefit from Sacramento’s guidance for how we may best accommodate difficult but inevitable changes in local planning.

Another point of personal inspiration for me is the work of non-profit Bike East Bay, featured this month. Replacing cars with bikes wherever possible seems essential to maintaining and improving our environment, air quality, and quality of life. I can personally attest to the benefits of bicycle commuting (provided there is a safe corridor available):  fitness, stress relief, financial savings, and much more smiling.