"Building a Better Bay Area" Highlights Win-Win Development Strategies to Strengthen Area Economy

November 18, 2008 -- East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable...

On September 24, 2008, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) released an eagerly awaited report—one of the first of its kind—highlighting a growing majority of responsible development policies in the Bay Area that are making a difference in people’s lives. Entitled Building a Better Bay Area: Community Benefit Tools and Case Studies to Achieve Responsible Development, this report shows that a growing “responsible majority” of over 78 jurisdictions in the Bay Area have established close to 200 community benefit policies providing affordable housing, living wage jobs, and neighborhood services.

The evening news helped highlight that even in the current economic downturn, community benefits—such as living wage jobs, affordable housing, and neighborhood livability—are all the more necessary to mitigate the harsh effects of the economic recession. Here’s a link to the TV story - www.ktvu.com/video/17552833/index.html.

Over 60 people packed the report release event, representing the wide range of stakeholders who benefit from community benefits, including local government officials, workers, and residents. Participants heard about case studies of community benefit outcomes, including:

  • The $1.4 million pilot biotech training academy through the Bayer Agreement that has now grown to train thousands of students
  • $50,000 outreach grants to small and local retailers at the CIM project in San Jose, and
  • The LEED green building and living wage standards in the SMART project Request for Proposals (RFP) in Santa Rosa.

These case studies show that community benefits are being implemented at all stages of local government, from the policy and process levels down to the specific project-based outcomes. These community benefit outcomes are also flexible enough that local governments can tailor the use of these tools to achieve the unique needs of their constituency and market.

"We need to make it easy to do the right thing, and impossible to do the wrong thing,” says Dr. Carl Anthony, Former Chair of the Berkeley Planning Commission. “It's going to take [people] like us....to require new ways of doing development in our cities. This report is pointing a way to help us make it happen.” Dr. Anthony was part of a distinguished panel of experts at the report release event.

We were fortunate enough to have an exciting group of panelists who brought their unique policy and planning perspectives to the issue of responsible development:

  • Dr. Carl Anthony, former Chair of the Berkeley Planning Commission, highlighted the planning process for the Bayer Laboratories agreement, and the model community planning process used in one of the first community benefits agreements in the Bay Area.
  • Sarah Muller, Director of Health Policy and Community Development at our partner organization, Working Partnerships USA, highlighted the innovative new Cost-Benefit analysis pilot project in the City of San Jose—one of the case studies in the report. This analysis has brought greater transparency and informed decision-making to the development process.
  • Marie McKenzie, Redevelopment Project Manager in East Palo Alto, conveyed the necessity of setting clear expectations on the front-end and making it easier for employers to “do the right thing”—a contributing element to the highly successful local hiring policy in her city that is also spotlighted in the report.

EBASE looks forward to taking the report “on the road”, to community coalitions across the Bay Area, graduate student classes, planning and policy journals and conferences, and more. We are also updating Building a Better Bay Area with new community benefit policies, projects, and practices, such as the recent Community Impact Report passed in Petaluma and spearheaded by New Economy Working Solutions’ Accountable Development Coalition in the North Bay.

For more information on Building a Better Bay Area report, contact Jennifer Lin at jenny@workingeastbay.org.

Look out for EBASE’s upcoming video from the Building a Better Bay Area release event: http://www.workingeastbay.org/article.php?id=620