CONCORD -- A Bay Area plan for where to build new houses, shops and offices in a way that helps cut greenhouse gases relies on increased population concentrations some communities may reject, a state homebuilding industry representative told Contra Costa business and political leaders Thursday.

"My concern is that we are way down the road in this process, but not a lot has been explained to the public," California Building Industry Association attorney Paul Campos said. "There is a near-poetic discussion of the scenarios but a studious avoidance of the word 'density.' "

One Bay Area calls for directing a majority of the 1.5 million new people expected to live in the region by 2040 into existing communities, where they can live closer to jobs, shopping and transit.

Planners say the shift will cut automobile trips, one of the chief sources of dangerous climate change emissions.

About a year from completion, the plan is required under legislation passed after California in 2006 adopted AB32, which mandates the state cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to 1990 levels.

The regional agencies leading One Bay Area -- the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments -- rely on what Campos characterized as "aggressive" hikes in population concentrations, or densities, that average 20 percent but double in some cities.

"If anyone thinks Palo Alto will accept a 100 percent increase in density, then do I have a deal for you," Campos said, speaking to several hundred political, business and community leaders at the Contra Costa Council's annual Contra Costa USA conference.


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Metropolitan Transportation Commissioner and Orinda Councilwoman Amy Worth cautioned against overreaction, comparing the regional effort with Contra Costa's exercise of about a decade ago called "Shaping Our Future."

It was an often-contentious planning effort in which the county and its 19 cities settled on broad concepts about where to accommodate new houses, shops and offices in a way that preserved open spaces and encouraged the use of public transit.

"One Bay Area is a merger of each of the nine Bay Area counties' versions of Shaping Our Future, and they reflect the consensus reached in each community," Worth said. "No community will be forced to build anything its residents don't want."

Compliance with One Bay Area is voluntary.

But the purpose of these "sustainable community strategies" is to direct billions of dollars in transportation investments into communities that meet regional goals.

A city may reject the regional vision, but roads and transit money could go elsewhere. In the meantime, a city must still show how it will meet mandatory greenhouse gas emission cutbacks.

Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com, www.ibabuzz.com/politics or at Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.

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