At Committee for Green Foothills, we are often asked why we don’t support specific residential projects given that our region is in a housing crisis. The most succinct answer is that our mission – the promise that we make to our members – is to protect open space and natural resources in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties for the benefit of all. Still, we are keenly aware that housing and transportation are inextricably linked to protecting open space.
This recognition led our Board of Directors to adopt a Housing Policy stating our support for building new housing, particularly affordable housing, near downtowns and transit centers. The housing policy has been updated over the years to reflect the best practices of land use planning, and to meet the needs of our communities. For instance, the policy calls for adding new housing when adding new jobs to promote a healthy jobs/housing balance within cities. A more balanced ratio of jobs to housing helps minimize the many adverse impacts – such as long commutes, housing insecurity, detrimental health outcomes, and pollution – that communities face when there is a housing shortfall. These impacts fall even more heavily on lower income families.
Since 1962, Green Foothills has pursued a vision of a resilient region where everyone has a home – human and wildlife alike – and where natural resources, productive farmlands, and open space are protected. Our Housing Policy plays a part in realizing this vision. We have long advocated that best planning practices include an emphasis on directing new growth to urban areas, which costs cities less in services and avoids sprawl while protecting our natural resources for future generations. We have also championed the inclusion of urban green spaces and parks in our cities to ensure nature is available in walking distance from homes. In this way, green spaces contribute to the physical and mental health of a neighborhood while bringing people from all backgrounds together to enjoy these important public spaces.
Fortunately, many of today’s proposed housing projects are dense and close to transit, promote infill, and avoid adverse effects on natural systems. Jobs in close proximity to housing offer better commutes, result in less greenhouse gas emissions, lead to healthier outcomes, and avoid or minimize negative impacts on watersheds, wildlife habitats, agricultural and open space lands.
We leave championing housing projects to housing groups, but we work alongside affordable housing organizations to advocate for the principles of density near transit, curtailing sprawl development, and ensuring urban neighborhoods have nearby parks. For example, we aligned with affordable housing groups to oppose Measure B in San Jose which would have created a sprawl development of luxury homes, negatively impacting affordable housing laws and open space.
Ultimately, both housing and environmental advocates can agree that we all need a safe home and a livable planet. We hope that our city and county decision makers recognize that every thoughtful land use decision they make can help ensure a more climate-resilient future.