Contra Costa County's Shaping Our Future plan, finished in 2003, has mostly been sitting on a shelf since then. It had no teeth to enforce its transportation and housing policies, which include designating areas near BART stations for high-density housing.
Now, with state law requiring coordination of housing development with traffic reduction and transit improvement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, these elements of Shape Our Future are returning -- with much more bite.
In the coming years, two Bay Area-wide government agencies will set a plan for how housing and transportation will be developed across the nine-county region through 2035.
Cities will be required to follow along with that Sustainable Community Strategy or risk losing funding for transportation projects. The first draft of the plan is slated to be released in March.
The rules stem from Assembly Bill 32 and Senate Bill 375, California's landmark efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
The idea is that by planning housing, job centers and transportation infrastructure with an eye toward reducing the need to drive, the region's greenhouse gas emissions will drop.
Officials from the cities of central Contra Costa County gathered last week at the offices of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority to hear regional officials explain how the plan will be developed and what it will do.
"We can't sleep through this process," said Clayton Councilwoman Julie Pierce, one of the leaders of the Shaping Our Future effort. "It will actively impact all of our jurisdictions."
The plan could also steer extra funding toward projects that support public transportation or pedestrian access.
"Transportation projects need to be more closely linked to land use than they have in the past," said Doug Kimsey, planning director for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
In addition to land use rules, the strategy could also include policies to reduce the number of cars on the road, like congestion-based road pricing -- charging drivers to use certain highways or lanes at the busiest times, for example.
The effort is a small part of the state's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Sustainable Community Strategies statewide aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 million metric tons per year by 2020. Laws requiring more efficient cars and low-carbon fuels aim to save 38 million and 15 million metric tons per year, respectively, according to a presentation at the meeting.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments will be the agencies to give final approval to the plan in 2013, and cities will be required to update their general plans to match it.
The Sustainable Community Strategies must account for about 900,000 new housing units before 2035 -- about 650,000 units for normal growth, and another 267,000 for other reasons. One such reason: a requirement that the region add housing for all workers that commute from another region, like workers in Livermore who live in San Joaquin County.
The first draft of the plan puts most of that housing in areas that cities have already designated -- at least preliminarily -- for new transit-friendly developments. Such areas include the Concord Naval Weapons Station land, the area around the Walnut Creek BART station, downtown Lafayette and downtown Martinez.
More information about the planning effort is available at www.onebayarea.org.
Contact Paul Thissen at 925-943-8163. Follow him at Twitter.com/pthissen.