Dan Saponeís August guest editorial explored whether or not our City Council should address climate change. He concludes that this is indeed an issue that calls for council action. I agree. Pleasantonís severe jobs/housing imbalance generates more commute traffic, and therefore more air pollution, than other Tri-Valley cities. The impacts extend far beyond our own residents and businesses.
To put Pleasantonís negative effect on the earthís climate in perspective, consider this:
More people commute into Pleasanton to work than into any other city in the Tri-Valley. This is hardly surprising since only 5 percent of Pleasantonís housing is affordable to these non-resident Pleasanton workers, who have a median income of $89,800. Currently 42,498 people--80.2 percent of Pleasantonís entire workforce--must commute here from other communities. About 47.1 percent of these commuters live beyond the Tri-Valley area. Sadly, the latest U.S. Census figures show a worsening trend. In 1990, only 36.6 percent of Pleasanton jobs were held by people commuting from outside the Tri-Valley. During the same period, from 1990 to 2000, the percentage of Pleasanton residents working in Pleasanton fell from 27.3 percent to 19.8 percent.
Now letís look through the smog into the future.
Pleasantonís General Plan projects commercial development to grow from todayís approximately 20 million square feet to an eventual 28 million square feet, although there is no actual limit. The Association of Bay Area Governments predicts that the number of jobs in Pleasanton will grow from todayís 53,013 to 78,670. Thus, Pleasantonís currently planned commercial development will create a need for a total of at least 49,169 units of workforce housing (1.6 workers per housing unit, one worker for every 358 square feet of commercial development). That is 20,169 units more than Pleasantonís 29,000 unit housing cap allows.
No other city will agree to build housing for Pleasantonís workers. They have workers of their own to house. Environmentally concerned residents should ask the City Council how far away Pleasantonís workforce will have to live, how many miles to work they will have to drive, and how much air pollution this will this cause.
Environmental talk is cheap, and so, as Dan Sapone points out, is joining environmental organizations. The City Council could make a greater contribution to preventing climate change by rebalancing jobs and housing so that a majority of Pleasantonís workforce can afford to live in Pleasanton. Global warming, along with fuel scarcity and rising prices, compels us to safeguard our communityís quality of life and economic vitality by planning for development that minimizes commute distances and brings needed workers close to employers.
Pleasanton must develop an adequate amount of affordable workforce housing to protect the rest of the world from the impacts of our planned economic growth. As the well-known mantra of the environmental movement suggests, we need to ìThink globally and act locally.î Residents should encourage the City Council to raise the housing cap to a socially responsible level.
Becky Dennis served on the City Council from 1993 to 2002. She volunteers as a housing advocate with Pleasanton Citizens for a Caring Community, and serves on the board of the Tri-Valley Interfaith Poverty Forum. Becky and her husband Murray have lived in Pleasanton since 1988. Their children, David and Matt, attend Amador Valley High School.