The ballot is our first line of defense

by By James W. Kelly

What do they have against kids? That's one question. There are others about Redwood City's Mission Implausible & the City Council's wish to trade open Bayfront for residential towers.

Who's increasingly missing from San Mateo County's population base? Families with school-age kids: Housing for them is needed to reinvigorate the Peninsula. It's the heart and soul of true urban renewal. But that's not what a developer and political allies would build at a marshland marina.

Of 1,930 high-rise units, only a handful would be priced and sized to young families & certainly not those seeking to survive on a single income, keeping one spouse at home for the kids. Nor, in fact, is multi-story housing ideal for young children to come and go. There's the worry over safety in unattended elevators, over kids playing outdoors, beyond sight and surveillance.

Nothing about Marina Shores speaks of serious effort to reduce vehicular traffic, like a limit of one car per unit. Or housing without cars. It's happening. Major cities in Europe, Asia and South America have banned or heavily restricted cars in some areas. In their place is public transit cramped up to meet people's everyday needs and work commutes, to and from schools, shopping, health care, cultural interests and more.

It's argued higher-density housing combats sprawl. But sprawl isn't only into farm and range land. There is vertical sprawl: Buildings invade pristine space overhead, where birds fly free, air is refreshed and pollution swept away, structural mass turning light into shadow, breeding wind-chill and blowing litter. For young, child-bearing families, verticality, far from deterring horizontal sprawl, spurs it.

Where land and water meet and beach, marsh, island, lake front, river bank is always a magical place. Growth need not destroy. They remain treasures, those places whose magic still lives and is prized, like Norway's fjords, most Swiss lakes, much of Germany's Rhine and, in Australia, of Sydney harbor. Our Bayfront warrants similar respect for what fits where and what doesn't.

It's good Redwood City can vote for or against Marina Shores. Better would be a county-wide vote at stake is a Peninsula precedent. Towering condos along one shore will likely beget more. In that sense, Redwood City's ballot becomes our first line of defense.

Our marine estuaries magic is in short supply. What a shame to bury acres of it under piles of concrete. Especially when they would do nothing for our most critical housing shortage. While families flee us for decent room to rear children, residential high-rises, with their high social and environmental costs, don't merit priority. Smart growth they're not.

James W. Kelly, a retired newspaperman, has lived in San Bruno 51 years. He is active in community causes, including public transportation, the American Cancer Society and support for fellow laryngectomees.



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