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November 30, 2020
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Urban growth boundary benefits

By: Lanny Lowery
August 9, 2019

Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) extension may be the reason to vote in the upcoming off year November election.  At the July 23 Rohnert Park City Council meeting the public hearing calling for and giving notice of the “Holding of a Special Election” to extend the Duration of the City of Rohnert Park Urban Growth Boundary to 2040 may be more important in the bigger picture than naming a street in “O” section or determining just how the Sunrise Park Lacrosse Field will be striped and deserves more attention than it received at the council meeting.

Regional Director of Greenbelt Alliance Teri Shore and Rohnert Park supporter Chris Meyer spoke briefly about what UGB is and why it needs to be renewed by the voters.  They told how it preserves open space between Rohnert Park and Penngrove.  They reminded the council and the public that in 2000 a huge majority of voters, over 70 percent, voted to pass Measure N to preserve this open space through 2020.  Soon voters will be asked to extend the ordinance for twenty more years.

Shore delivered a letter to the city council.  She stated, “Greenbelt Alliance plans to organize a grassroots community campaign to ensure that the voters of Rohnert Park approve the renewal of UGB.  Recently, we walked one of the neighborhoods and talked to voters about the vote tonight and the upcoming election.  All of the residents we met were in favor of renewing the UGB!”

Greenbelt Alliance asked the council members to reach out to civic organizations and business groups to educate and inform them about the upcoming UGB ballot measure.  

Shore also delivered the Greenbelt Alliance recommendation “that the city of Rohnert Park request that the County of Sonoma immediately designate the 80 acres [of the southwest corner] as community separator.”  This “will prevent intensification of urban development here and protect the watershed and floodplain.”

Greenbelt Alliance sees UGB as a planning tool for cities and towns to help identify where homes, businesses and schools are located.  The urgent situation parallels projected population growth as the Bay Area will grow from 7 million to 9.3 million people by 2040.  UGB, maintains Greenbelt Alliance, has been a proven tool to prevent urban sprawl.

Urban sprawl, for Greenbelt, means “outward expansion of low-density housing-units, where residents must travel even short distances using an automobile, because of the remoteness of residential areas and inadequate availability of mass transit, walkways, or bike paths.”

UGB has ecological and economical benefits.  Sprawl causes more use and loss of water.  More miles of roads must be maintained as must more sewer lines.  UGB “allows more affordable housing types at increased densities, reduced land requirements per household, has lower public service costs and reduces transportation.”

Sprawl has many negative outcomes.  Greenbelt Alliance states that along with being an expensive proposition for cities, transportation costs rise as density decreases.  Sprawl causes more traffic.  And more specific to each of us, sprawl is harmful to our health.

Citing numerous studies, Greenbelt Alliance shows how sprawl impacts both physical and mental health.  “Cities built around automobiles use provide fewer opportunities to exercise than walkable and bikeable cities.”  Air pollution causes respiratory problems, lung cancer and asthma.  Rising obesity rates, diabetes potential, chronic illness effects, inactivity and mental health impacts are connected with sprawl and lack of walkable cities and towns.  Sprawl makes us unhappy.

For those of a more practical bent, Greenbelt Alliance points out that the UGB protects our natural values.  “The open space and agricultural lands next to our cities provide a vast range of ecosystem services.  Water filtration, water storage and runoff, clean air, pollination, carbon capture, recreation, and natural beauty are just some of the services that our open space provides.”

Sonoma County urban growth boundary renewals have not been restricted to Rohnert Park.  Seven other cities have established UGBs and renewed them since 2010:  Cotati, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma and Windsor.  Cloverdale established its UGB in 2010 by 65 percent of the voters and it will expire in 2030.  Voter approval for UGB renewal has gone as high as 75 percent in Healdsburg and only as low as 65 percent in Petaluma.

Teri Shore and Greenbelt Alliance believe that citizens need to know as much as possible about Urban Growth Boundary Renewal and why it is critical to the future of our community.  Obtain more information by contacting Greenbelt Alliance at greenbelt.org or 707-575-3661.  Shore encourages concerned citizens to email the city council to support renewal of the existing UGB.