As residents of Contra Costa County, we live in one of the most beautiful locations in the Bay Area. We are close to all the amenities of the bigger cities, while enjoying the great trails and open spaces of Mount Diablo, Briones, Black Diamond and other great local and regional parks right here in our backyard. And we have Delta recreation areas that are just minutes away.
Our daily lives cross city boundaries. Many of us commute to jobs in San Francisco, Oakland, Pleasanton and Silicon Valley. We make frequent trips to visit friends and relatives throughout the region. We take bike rides on the canal and Iron Horse Trails.
Clayton's network of trails is well-used and they have lead to our recognition as one of the most walkable small cities in the nation. We live, work, shop and play in the entire Bay Area.
Just like our lives, our greatest land-use planning challenges cross city and county lines. Over the next three decades, the Bay Area's population is expected to grow by up to two million people.
These will be our own children, grandchildren, and the next generation that comes here in pursuit of a better life. We must decide what kind of future we want to pass on to them.
We can plan for that future and make investments today to create healthier communities, a cleaner transportation network, and homes that meet the needs of households of all ages and sizes.
For the last three years, I've been working with our communities and elected officials on Plan Bay Area -- a regional strategy that expands our transportation and housing options while protecting our agricultural resources, open space and natural habitats.
The plan starts by funding long-overdue repairs to our infrastructure. Then it looks to the future by investing in transit that connects workers to jobs, providing incentives for businesses to locate in our cities, offering strategies for making homes more affordable, and helping our communities plan to meet the needs of our younger generations just starting out, and for baby boomers as they enter retirement.
Plan Bay Area's regional vision comes into focus in our downtowns, main streets, and neighborhoods. Its investments and policies are tailored to the character of our unique communities.
The region's three largest cities -- San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland -- see the highest levels of growth. The high rises that are built in the Bay Area will likely go into these cities around transit hubs with more frequent service to more of the region.
Closer to home, eBART will bring regional rail to downtown Pittsburg, Antioch and possibly beyond. eBART will help East County residents get to jobs while taking some commute traffic off our central county freeways and arterials.
The eBART stations in each city will do more than move people. They will help implement community-based plans adopted for the East County station areas.
The plans, funded through a regional grant program that will be strengthened by Plan Bay Area, call for a mix of multi- and single-family housing, local shops and parks that meet the unique needs of each city's residents.
Walnut Creek, Concord and Martinez are also making plans for walkable neighborhoods around BART and regional transit hubs -- each in different ways that reflect the scale and character of their own community.
Small towns like Clayton are looking to the future as well. Plan Bay Area respects our desire to maintain our small-town character while allowing us to make our downtown an even better place to walk, shop and mingle with neighbors.
Most existing residential neighborhoods throughout the region will see no changes, while our central business areas become more walkable and vibrant. All land use decisions continue to remain local, so they will fit what our individual communities want.
By each doing our part, we can make the most of our investments and create a network of sustainable neighborhoods and business districts.
In July, I will join mayors and council members from across the region in voting to adopt Plan Bay Area. Once the plan is adopted, the hard work starts.
I look forward to working with you to make our communities and our region the kind of place where our grandchildren will want to live.
Julie Pierce is the mayor of Clayton. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.