California is burning. California is choking. And it’s largely due to climate change.
The human consequences of this catastrophe could not be more acute as roughly one in four Californians live in fire-risk zones. This, coupled with the fact that 40% of the state’s emissions come from transportation, can only lead us to one conclusion: It’s time to abandon the low-density suburb.
From 2011 to 2017, the Bay Area added 4.3 jobs per housing unit and the resultant high housing demand is now fueling our exorbitant prices.
Our refusal to rapidly add new housing to allow people to live close to where they work is pushing low-income Bay Area residents into sweltering and fire-prone inland communities while the rise of super-commuting is also worsening our car-emissions crisis.
The housing crisis is inextricably linked with our climate catastrophe and it’s time we recognize that fact. As the largest city in the Bay Area, San Jose needs to proactively respond to these twin crises or risk being overwhelmed by them.
It’s time to stop planning our cities around cars and parking and start planning them around people.
Here in San Jose, gentle upzoning of our communities through programs such as Opportunity Housing can help us lessen our car dependency by enabling people to live closer to where they work, thus promoting more active and environmentally friendly modes of transportation, such as biking, walking, and transit.
It can further increase housing affordability by enabling people to access opportunities in high-resource communities while providing a fiscally sound method of solving our housing crisis.
But housing, as crucial as it is, is only a piece of the puzzle. Meeting the lofty ideals of our climate emergency declaration means actively weaning ourselves off our addiction to cars at all levels of government.
That includes rejecting traffic-inducing projects such as the Charcot Avenue extension in favor of more sustainable modes of transportation and expediting the completion of complete streets projects to promote more active and sustainable modes of transportation.
The climate crisis is not coming. It’s already here. And we now must decide whether we want to be an inclusive, climate resilient city or a city of climate refugees.
Abhinav Ganesh is a San Jose high school student with an interest in housing and environmental issues.