Land use policy reform remains politically controversial. The best concepts of sustainable land use will never be realized without political support. For that reason, Urban Ecology proposing and advocating for alternative land use policies that will transform downtown areas and neighborhoods into the walkable, pleasant places that many Bay Area residents desire. Our goal is to initiate, support and broaden a coalition of environmentalists, community groups, progressive developers, business and industry representatives, and other relevant non-profits to be active in reforming land use policies.

In January 1999, Urban Ecology was invited by a group of environmentalists in Fremont to assist them in participating in a city-led redesign of their downtown. Drawing inspiration from our Blueprint for a Sustainable Bay Area, the group named itself PLACE: People for a Livable, Accessible, Community Environment, and began advocating for a different future in downtown Fremont.

Fremont’s downtown is a ten-block, nondescript area that is dominated by a number of busy intersections, parking lots and strip development. PLACE members are advocating for a mixed-use, higher-density, pedestrian and transit-oriented center.

As in San Francisco, the concept of planning for new housing in downtown Fremont is especially controversial. Residents have expressed fears of traffic congestion on the six-lane boulevards that flow through the Central Business District. With Urban Ecology’s help, PLACE members have counteracted those arguments. They have pointed out that without housing, which will introduce a round-the-clock presence, the downtown will not come alive in the way that many Fremont residents wish to see. They have argued that the pleasantness of a downtown area for pedestrians, transit riders, and bicyclists depends on the plan incorporating elements that are controversial today-but can create a higher quality of life for future residents.