One of the issues I give great consideration to is what kind of community we will leave for our children and grandchildren. Will they be able to afford to live here? Will they even want to?
Planning is under way to examine housing and transportation needs through 2040 -- a seemingly distant time but one that will arrive quickly.
Known as Plan Bay Area, this is an integrated long-range land-use/housing and transportation plan for the San Francisco Bay Area, including Contra Costa County.
There is nothing revolutionary about Plan Bay Area. It builds on earlier efforts to develop an efficient transportation system and grow in a financially and environmentally responsible way. You would think otherwise, however, if you listen to those claiming the plan is part of the United Nations conspiracy to take our personal liberties and property.
Rather than abetting imaginary global villains, Plan Bay Area simply responds to state law. Senate Bill 375, passed in 2008, requires regions such as the Bay Area to plan for needed housing growth while reducing emissions from cars and light trucks.
One of the advantages of this law is that Contra Costa elected officials, and not legislators in Sacramento, are at the table making decisions on what's best for our communities.
As an elected member of the Clayton City Council, I also serve as the representative of Contra Costa's cities on the board of one of the agencies tasked with developing Plan Bay Area -- the Association of Bay Area Governments, where I serve as vice president.
ABAG, along with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, released our draft plan for public comment late last month.
My job as Contra Costa's representative is to ensure that the plan positions Contra Costa for the best possible future in terms of transportation, housing and economic development.
That means keeping all land-use decisions local, preserving what we love about our cities and farmlands, working to unclog our highways and maintain our local streets, and encouraging business development and jobs where it makes sense -- while still making room for future generations.
Plan Bay Area concentrates new growth in areas chosen by local governments, with most of it taking place toward the center of our region in large cities like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.
This is nothing new for Contra Costa. In 2004, Contra Costa cities and the county adopted the Contra Costa: Shaping Our Future vision plan. The plan summarized more than three years of community planning into a unified vision for growth in our individual communities and the county.
In the nearly 10 years since its adoption, much of that vision has been implemented locally, adding housing and jobs as envisioned by our citizens.
Contra Costa residents historically have looked forward. More than 10 years ago, our voters also passed an urban limit line which required that all future growth take place within that boundary.
The Contra Costa ULL specifically directs growth into urbanized areas and preserves our rich agricultural areas and open spaces. This locally grown vision will have far more to do with how our cities and county develop than anything adopted at the regional level.
Under both the Contra Costa: Shaping Our Future vision and Plan Bay Area, the vast majority of our existing neighborhoods will see no changes at all. What we will likely see is additional housing near transit and in our local downtowns, which will help to reinvigorate our business districts.
The transportation improvements will help to fill the gaps in our highway network so traffic will flow more smoothly. These gap-closures will improve the efficiency of express bus services between major employment centers.
All of these changes will take time. Our children and grandchildren will reap the benefits of these improvements.
To quote Dwight Eisenhower, "Plans are nothing, but planning is everything." As allied commander in World War II, Gen. Eisenhower knew the importance of planning. As president, his vision gave us an interstate highway system that spurred economic growth and united America. We would do well to follow Eisenhower's lead and work together for a better future.
By setting local and regional priorities now, we will create a Contra Costa County we will be proud to leave to future generations.
Julie Pierce is the mayor of Clayton and vice president of the Association of Bay Area Governments. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.