Bay Area residents are well-acquainted with the region’s critical need for better public transit and affordable housing, but our streets and our stormwater infrastructure are also badly in disrepair, and contribute greatly to the runoff of trash and toxic pollutants into San Francisco Bay.
Potholes and cracked streets are a huge liability for cities. For example, Oakland’s potholed streets are among the worst in the region, ranked 89 out of 109 Bay Area cities. They cause serious damage to peoples’ cars and create serious costs for the city. They also are harder for street sweepers to clean, causing trash and other pollution to be left behind, where they wait to flow straight into the Bay the next time it rains.
We’ve written before (here and here) about the stormwater system of pipes and channels that carry rainwater polluted with trash, oil, pesticides, and other toxins directly into our creeks and into the Bay. Unless we invest in stormwater infrastructure improvements that remove pollution from rainwater before it flows into our creeks, or capture and treat it for drinking water or irrigation, this serious threat to the health of the Bay will only worsen.
One option involves constructing solutions that mimic nature, allowing polluted water to filter through plants and soil (such as rain gardens and bioswales) before flowing to the Bay. This green infrastructure is not only a solution for stormwater pollution, it also reduces local temperatures on hot days (saving energy money on air conditioning), and creates pleasant new urban green space that encourages people to walk or bike instead of using cars. Expanded urban greening like this has even been shown to reduce crime.
The good news is there are opportunities on the November ballot for Oakland and Berkeley residents to secure the much-needed funding for street and stormwater infrastructure improvements.
In Oakland, Measure KK is a $600 million bond that would fund investments in Oakland’s roads, community facilities, and housing. About $350 million would go toward repaving and repairing streets and sidewalks and improving bicycle safety; some of these improvements are likely to include green infrastructure. Additionally, $100 million would be invested in acquiring, preserving, and building affordable homes, and $150 million would go toward improving libraries, parks, public safety buildings, and fire stations.
Berkeley’s Measure T1 is a $100 million bond for improvements to streets and sidewalks, storm drains, parks and recreation centers, and the city’s public buildings, with an explicit emphasis on the utilization of green infrastructure. Check out our Bay Smart Voter Guide for more detailed information about these measures.
We’ve put off investing in our roads and stormwater infrastructure for a long time, so the price tag has grown, and it will continue to grow unless we act now. The Bay Area’s booming population will only place more stress on our roads and create more polluted runoff. Be a part of the solution by voting “Yes” on measures KK and T1 in support of investing in our city infrastructure, for the health of our communities and the health of the Bay.