Ben Boyce


The election is over: time for a reboot

Posted on December 5, 2013 by Ben Boyce

“When the dust settles, we’ll all still be here.”  And so here we are, in the aftermath of the Measure B election, and we now have a great opportunity for a deeper community discussion on land use and development issues.  It was a hard-fought election, with much passion and energy on both sides.  Tempers were frayed, long-standing allegiances challenged, and a lot of time and money invested on both sides to arrive at a narrow defeat of Measure B.  The closeness of the vote demonstrates the need for ongoing dialogue, so that we can arrive at a community consensus, which respects the perspectives of all the parties.  This is potentially a chance for a reboot, a teachable moment.

David Bolling called for the formation of a sub-committee of the Citizen’s Advisory Council (whose members are appointed by the city council and the county supervisor) to come up with recommendations for best practices for regional development. That is an excellent recommendation. Having served on the Chain Store advisory committee in 2011, prior to the passage of the Chain Store ordinance, I know that a dedicated study group can bring the full weight of careful analysis and empirical investigation to arrive at sound public policy.

In preparation for the potential adoption of this project by the advisory council, a post-election meeting of the principals on both sides of the Measure B is hereby proposed.  I hope that this meeting will be an opportunity for some fence mending and a frank exchange of views that contribute to a more durable policy consensus within the progressive community.

We should not be having ad hoc political battles on every proposed development. In his concession speech, Larry Barnett called for community dialog, and we’re ready to take him up on that offer. David Keller, board member of Sonoma County Conservation Action (SCCA), first made the suggestion that we convene a post-election briefing meeting. I invite the community to work on coming to a policy consensus after the election, so that we can put our energies into shaping the growth of the city in a rational manner, rather than having these bitter scraps on a case-by-case basis.

I am grateful to the Living Wage Coalition, who took this matter under close consideration, and came out in support of the Sonoma Hotel project and in opposition to Measure B, after carefully weighing the facts and values.  My allies in the North Bay Labor Council provided boots on the ground for the campaign.

Our local and regional concerns must be resolved by applying a consistent set of principles embedded in an integrated public policy structure. These policies govern general plan land-use, energy and water systems, transit connectivity, environmental sustainability, job quality and labor rights, urban planning and Smart Growth.  Our regional problems cannot be solved one city or one parcel at a time.  We need a holistic approach.

The environmental movement in this county had some success from the 1960s through the 1990s in blocking runaway development by using public process and mobilizing opposition to development projects. That method has crystallized into what I call “Environmentalism 1.0”, which is characterized by a reflexive opposition to almost any proposed development. The distinction between “development” and “accountable development” is not part of their vocabulary. “Environmentalism 2.0” is about using enlightened public policy to shape development at a regional level. It’s about systems —  transit, housing, water, and energy —  set in bio-regions.

The transition from 1.0 to 2.0 is the shift from site fights to policy systems.  The 21st-century evolution to a bio-regional systems modality will eventually supersede the 19th-century county-based political structures.  This task of rebuilding our civilization from the ground up to be more energy efficient, environmentally sustainable, and socially durable is the great work of our time.  That is the lens through which I view any local policy issue.

Regional accountable development advocates employ a decision matrix for objectively evaluating proposed projects. As a professional member of the Accountable Development Coalition (ADC), which brings together labor, environmental, housing, transportation and land-use organizations, I have had the opportunity to participate in evolving a new paradigm, sustainable development with shared prosperity, which is taking root across the U.S.

The ADC core principles encompass five core domains of sustainability and social equity, each of which has a set of corresponding policy prescriptions. (1) Affordable Housing (2) Land-Use Standards (3) Environmental Standards (4) Transit-Oriented Design (5) Economic Development. David Keller of SCCA recommended adding to the decision matrix is “sense of place” and “community character”.  That is harder to quantify, but it is a very real concern for many local citizens. That will be a fascinating discussion.  It is overdue.

I am excited by the unique opportunity at hand to set a standard for regional social equity and environmental quality by establishing the first union Living Wage hotel (built to silver LEEDS standards) in the Wine Country. We anticipate that the positive example of a step-by-step pathway for creating a Living Wage business will reverberate throughout the region and fundamentally alter the economic equation for working people. Creating a sufficient wage base for workers to be able to live well in our community is a victory for social justice.  Our sense of place and community character will be enhanced by our commitment to social equity.  That’s a town that I’m proud to live in.