By Miles H Barber
Our residents’ war on developers and new housing projects is not a local skirmish.
What we have is a worldwide population issue that is changing our world and our City.
Consider for a moment that during the lifetime of our average Santa Clara senior, the population of both have exploded.
In 1950, our great little City had 11,700 residents.
In 2016, Santa Clara topped 127,000 residents.
This growth is not peculiar to Santa Clara. It is recognized as a worldwide phenomenon.
Since the time man first stood upright on our planet, it took 100,000 years for the world to reach its first 1 billion inhabitants. That happened around 1804.
Just 123 years later in 1927, the world population reached 2 billion.
In 1975, only forty-eight years later, world population doubled again to 4 billion inhabitants.
In 2015, we reached 7.3 billion in population and we will attain 8 billion by 2023.
Every city in the world is dealing with the same population issues that confront Santa Clara.
In 1950, only 30% of all Americans lived in cities.
Today, 55% of our entire population of 325 million live in cities.
This shift in population location is a result of our changing economic denominator. There are fewer jobs in rural areas and more jobs in urban areas. People follow jobs.
It is understandable why a lot of residents are unhappy with growth. Our City and every city’s infrastructure is not prepared for such evolution. Demands for better streets, expressways, dams, water and power are almost overshadowed by opposition to more housing that, on the surface, appears to be the cause of infrastructure failure.
A great deal of study and research has been done by many organizations addressing the issue of infrastructure, traffic, congestion, housing and jobs.
What has been identified as a successful intervention is not a solution–it is more a mediation. When jobs are closer to housing, the number of miles traveled by workers are seven times less than commuters living outside their employment area.
The anger residents feel over new developments in their neighborhood is not a war waged against developers and new neighbors. It is the growing frustration and fear of a problem that goes much deeper. There is a serious disconnect felt by residents from the inherent problems of population expansion. Opposition to new developments is the face of this frustration fueled by fear. The helpless sense of being lost in a sea of bodies competing for space is overwhelming. Opposition is one of the few ways these fears can be expressed.
As our population continues to expand, neighbors and residents must play a more important role in the process of what is built and what is developed. Residents, cities and developers need to be engaged as participants and contributors working together. There are limited solutions to population growth but without collaboration there will be little preparation or resolution.
It is no longer enough for residents to be opponents of growth without valued and meaningful input.
It is no longer enough for developers to buy ground, draw plans, get approval and erect apartments or high rise condos. The frustration of expanded crowding will continue to intensify as the issue of population growth adds pressure to our privacy, space and resources.
Collaboration, compromise and compatibility are the building blocks for residents, builders, cities and governments working in unison to make livability even possible.
Future living space for residents of built out cities can never again be single family homes.
If you would like to see a vision of our future, take an in depth look at our past sixty-seven years.