At a lively meeting last Thursday evening, with many of my colleagues in the region, I voted to adopt Plan Bay Area.

A joint effort of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Bay Area's regional land use and transportation agencies, the plan is the Bay Area's answer to the state requirement to plan for growth anticipated in the region by the year 2040 while reducing per capita greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks to 1990 levels.

These are the technical and legal goals; behind them a lot of real-life issues and many visions were discussed.

The plan has been called a communist plot; a socialist scheme to take away personal property rights; and a conspiracy of the United Nations Agenda 21.

Is it a secret plan for bulldozing rural towns? Is this a plan to remove all cars and replace them with bikes and roller skates?

It's none of these, but the animated, controversial discussions around Plan Bay Area, as a first comprehensive regional strategy, may have led to some of these images.

Some say the plan goes way too far; others not nearly far enough.

This is the beauty of our freedom of expression; we can create any images or thoughts we desire. We even have public forums to share our wildest ideas and interpretations of reality.

Elected by the Mayor's Conference to represent the cities of Contra Costa, and as vice president of ABAG, I have a ringside seat at these animated discussions.


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I cherish our freedom of expression and respect the differing views of all our residents around the 101 cities and nine counties in the Bay Area.

In this role, I must clarify the humble but essential purpose of this regional plan.

It is about how we work together across cities and towns to retain and improve the qualities of our neighborhoods and diverse lifestyles we value.

It is about where to house our children and grandchildren, how to support good jobs for our current and future labor force, and how to improve access to our parks, schools and health care facilities.

The plan anticipates nearly two million more residents in the Bay Area over the next 27 years; most of them will be us, baby boomers becoming seniors, and our children and grandchildren.

The plan articulates the local plans developed over almost a decade of hard work in each of our communities and places them into a collaborative regional framework. It identifies where future housing and job growth might occur in places near transit, shops and services while it explicitly preserves our community control of land use decisions.

It honors urban limit lines, such as the one approved by Contra Costa voters in 2004. And it's a living document that will be updated every four years, so we can adjust as necessary over time.

Major regional centers such as San Jose or San Francisco downtown will significantly expand the number of jobs.

Transit corridors such as El Camino Real or San Pablo Avenue will connect a variety of retail, service and entertainment clusters.

BART station areas regionwide will gradually develop, with additional housing choices for all ages, job centers and educational opportunities for the region.

Small downtowns like those in Cloverdale, El Cerrito, Gilroy or Windsor will strengthen the character of their main streets with restaurants, offices, theaters and festivals.

Most rural towns and single-family neighborhoods will retain their current scale and character. Farms, creeks, hills and critical natural habitat will be preserved.

Whether we have choices of affordable homes to live in, good jobs with reasonable commutes, added transportation options, clean air and open spaces to enjoy will largely depend on whether local city councils choose to implement the broad-based goals of the plan.

This plan encourages all communities throughout the region to plan thoughtfully and collaboratively for future generations. Changes won't happen overnight, and they will only happen as our local communities want them to -- with extensive opportunities for residents to shape the plans. Without local action, it's simply a nice vision.

Plan Bay Area is essential because without our work today our future generations will not be able to enjoy the neighborhoods, parks and beauty of our region.

But it is also a humble process of collaboration since it will take multiple small incremental changes to get to the visions we are proposing today.

Personally, I care about the future we hand to our kids and grandkids. I'm sure you do too!

Pierce is the mayor of Clayton. Email her at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.