View of planned Redlands Blvd area downtown
Planned multi-modal Redlands Blvd near downtown.

Revisiting Measure G: Development in the time of Covid

People in Redlands have not forgotten about Measure G, which our city council unanimously supported. Here’s a great letter from a Redlands resident that recently appeared in the Redlands Community News:

With another election date drawing near, it is more important than ever to revisit the former Measure G, which was so soundly defeated by Redlands voters not long ago.

Though it will be called by another name, the tenets of Measure G will show up again in November.  Between the last election and the next, there has been a great deal of discussion about the relationship between Coronavirus, urban sprawl, and mass transportation.

Interestingly, the Redlands voters were correct for more reasons than the aesthetics when they soundly said “no” to the kinds of development planned for the quaint center of Our Town. Yes, boxy high rise dwellings would be ugly and architecturally inappropriate.  Yes, it is impractical to believe that most Southern Californians will abandon their cars and take to the trains.  Yes, it is a grave concern of downtown small business owners if parking becomes more challenging than it already is.

But the real issues are these: housing density and transit usage.  According to the L.A. Times, “in the COVID 19 pandemic, our much-aligned dispersed urban pattern has proven a major asset….. Overall this highly diverse, globally engaged region has managed to keep rates of infection well below that of dense, transit-dependent New York City.” Prior to the pandemic, the state’s march toward densification had been cast as the safest way forward.  Real statistics now have disproved that theory; even before the onset of COVID, Southern California voters were overwhelmingly in favor of less density, seeing dispersion as a better, healthier option.

Likewise, COVID 19 has altered the outlook toward the mass transit boom.  The latest ridership numbers for L.A.’s Metropolitan Transit Authority reveal ridership is down by over 53% when comparing June 2019 to June 2020. Ridership is down in San Diego, as well, and San Francisco”s BART system expects to lose $975 million in operations over the next 3 years due to ridership declines that at times have reached 92%.

Of course, some of the reasons for drops in public transportation numbers can be attributed to more people working from home and/or virus contagion concerns.  But the question remains whether this new negative attitude toward mass transit and ride sharing will be permanent; definitely it will be years before folks again board trains and buses worry-free. Many authorities now are of the opinion that no community should be spending any more money on public transit and the projects that accompany it until all of this shakes down and there is evidence that riders will eventually return.

So back to Measure G.  Is a densely populated living environment a healthy or attractive proposal for Our Town?  The correct answer is NO.  Let”s keep the charm of downtown Redlands intact for those of us who live here today, as well as for the generations that will follow.

Mary Jo Holmes, Redlands