Key Points

· By 2035 there will be an estimated 1.2 million new jobs and 900,000 new households in the San Francisco Bay Area (Association of Bay Area Governments, n.d.); without planning and management, this population increase will result in rising air pollution levels, climate change, escalating cost of living, increasing traffic, and less green space.

· Silicon Valley Community Foundation partnered with area nonprofits and government agencies on a two-year initiative, Envision Bay Area, to engage residents and community leaders in conversations about growth.

· At a series of 10 public forums more than 800 participants came together, including those who were fully on board with walkable communities near transit, those for whom high-density urban centers hold zero appeal, and everyone in between. About one-fifth of the participants had never attended a regional planning meeting.

· The community foundation developed an interactive web-based simulation tool to provide graphic illustrations of the various ways in which a city or community can grow, from a continuation of suburban sprawl to high-density, inner-city growth.

· This article examines what Silicon Valley Community Foundation learned about engaging new voices and the challenges that can occur in public debates over something as critical as what kind of community to create.

Open Access