Blogging Bayport Alameda

September 8, 2006

Smart Growth…a return to olde tyme development, part two

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 2:40 pm

Continued from part one 

Measure A proponents like to talk about how retaining Measure A is the only way to retain that small town uniqueness in Alameda.  That Measure A, and only Measure A, can preserve the “quality of life” for residents in Alameda.  But Measure A like restrictions didn’t create Main Streets across the United States.  Measure A restrictions didn’t create wonderful mixed use districts that combine generous public spaces with housing and retail that one can find all over Europe.   And Measure A restrictions didn’t create Alameda’s own historic neighborhood stations.

Smart Growth is not, as was characterized by Councilmember Tony Daysog in a San Francisco Chronicle article about revisiting Measure A in 2004, “…crafted at UC Berkeley…”   It is, in fact, a return to pre-war methods of developing cities.   “New urbanism” is a term used interchangably with “smart growth” and the Congress for New Urbanism has a great online tour, you can take that talks about new urbanism in general.  This is what the CNU had to say about new urbanism’s roots in the past:


While other jursidictions are looking to the future and developing for the long term sustainability of an area, some of Alameda remains locked in the past and refuses to even talk about Measure A.  These residents question the term “smart growth” and what that means and instead offer up their own buzzwords like “planned growth” and “Growth that Fits.”  While I know what “smart growth” means, I have no idea what “Growth that Fits” means and what it entails.   And, just a fyi, all smart growth is planned growth but not all planned growth is smart growth.

One jurisdiction looking to future is the County of Sarasota, Florida, who have developed a 50 year plan around the sustainability of the region.  They have ablely outlined the principles of Smart Growth as:

  • Mixed use (Residential, Commercial and Open Space zoning in the same area)
  • Compact building design
  • Housing opportunities for a range of household types, family sizes and income
  • Walkable neighborhoods
  • Distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
  • Preserve open space, natural beauty, historic buildings and critical  environmental areas
  • Strengthen existing neighborhoods
  • Provide a variety of transportation choices
  • Predictable, fair and cost-effective development decisions
  • Encourage citizen and stakeholder participation in development decisions

A more local example of smart growth in action in a suburban environment is that of Hercules, CA, which saw the need to move away from the strip mall type developments that had sprung up in cities nearby (Pinole and Richmond) and create a town center atmosphere.  But they also had a desperate need to find money to fill the city coffers as they were receiving little to no money from property taxes and did not have much retail to secure sales tax dollars.  They settled on the principles espoused in New Urbanism to help guide their future development.  And they have created a vision for the entire city that understands that Hercules is a commuter city, but that residents need to have access to retail within walkable distances.  And, they have begun implementing that vision.  And according to an article in the SF Chronicle, Hercules is on to something amazing:

Since Hercules enacted its ordinance, the city has become a living example of what New Urbanism looks like in a suburban setting.

Hercules is in the forefront of New Urbanism in the Bay Area for two reasons: It includes one of the largest undeveloped parcels of bayside land in the region, and the town’s residents and leaders share a cohesive vision of their town’s future.

“Soon, the development will be completed,” he [Steve Lawton] said, “and not only will this be a better place for future generations to live and work, it will demonstrate a new way for California to grow.”

What sets the new Hercules developments apart from standard suburbia is the attention paid to public spaces and residential architecture, and a land plan that combines a variety of uses in a compact “town center” accessible not just to drivers, but also pedestrians.

Sustained support by town officials, a “let’s make this work” attitude and access to redevelopment funds are other key factors in the town’s success, Lawton said, along with “patient developers with deep experience in the complicated approval process.”

“We’re planning for 40 years in the future,” Lawton said. “It’s the only way to give the next generation a decent place to live.”

“A neighborhood isn’t just a collection of houses,” he [Daniel Parolek] said. “Developers aren’t just selling square footage in a house, they’re selling a place, and ultimately it’s up to the city to have that vision and hold developers to it.”

This tells me that the formula for a successful development project is not our leaders being under suspicion for working with well with developers.  We should encourage open communication line between developers, city officials, and citizens.  The developers are not the enemy, nor are our city officials that hold opinions that differ from ours when it comes to issues of development.

Some other examples of smart growth or new urbanist examples in “suburban” communities include:

Orenco Station in Hillsboro, OR

Prospect New Town in Longmont, CO

And more West Coast developments


  1. Lauren – what interesting information! Thanks for sharing! I hope that other blog readers will take the time to browse through the links – there are some wonderful images of what other cities have built for themselves. It would be so exciting if Alameda could move in this same direction.

    Comment by Val — September 8, 2006 @ 3:13 pm

  2. Lauren – read the City of Alameda Housing Element document for 2001-2006. It debunks all of HOMES criticisms about Measure A. And it was written 6 years ago.

    Comment by keepmeasurea — September 8, 2006 @ 8:39 pm

  3. Lauren,

    Thanks for your information. I think if Dave hadn’t been so negative, I wouldn’t have put much thought into it and would have just voted to keep measure A. But after a lot of thought, reading and consideration I am coming around to believe Smart Growth is really the way to go for Alameda.

    I still need to think a few things through but I am leaning against measure A now…which with my vote and the rest of my household equals several votes.

    Comment by Joe — September 9, 2006 @ 10:13 am

  4. I just finished reading about Orenco Station in Hillsboro and the article about Hercules and wow…I totally agree with the concept and think that it can happen here. I hate to see all the urban sprawl happening in California and think we need to keep our orchards and farmlands (as well as our illegal’s who work them)


    Comment by Joe — September 9, 2006 @ 10:42 am

  5. Lauren
    Thank for posting anyones opinion. I went to keepmeasuresa blog and he doesn’t post anyones opinion but his own. It seems as he can dish it out but not take anyones elses opinion. As far as I am concerned after seeing that, I will ignore all his futher comments…as he seems closed minded.

    Comment by Joe — September 10, 2006 @ 8:11 am

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