Compromise makes best policy
There was a time when politics was about negotiation and compromise. To get something done, two sides came together, listened to each other then ceded ground from their absolutist positions until they met somewhere in the middle.
That middle ground is where deals are made. When each side gives up something that they want, neither side is totally happy, but at least things get done.
Our current state of politics at all levels of government is so combative that no one wants to compromise anymore. This leads to paralysis and it is clearly on display nationally, which is why next to nothing gets done in Congress anymore.
But these sort of extreme, unwavering stances have also infected local government, preventing action on important issues.
In Petaluma, we have seen competing goals and interests collide, leading to a state of stasis. A good example of this is two of the city’s top stated goals — action on climate change and more affordable housing. Both are pressing problems and both require urgent action.
However, it is clear from some of the debates in the community that extreme positions on either side could lead to bad policy making. This is where compromise is key.
The housing affordability crisis has squeezed working class families and is making Petaluma a less inclusive place to live. The only way to combat this issue is to build more housing.
But more housing, when done poorly, could end up negatively impacting the climate by putting more cars on the road. This is why transit-oriented development is so important. It increases the housing stock and encourages residents to use public transit, walk or cycle.
One of the most important transit-oriented developments in Petaluma, the Corona Station project, took an unfortunate step backward this week. The development has long been planned to tie into a proposed second SMART station at Corona Road and McDowell Boulevard.
Without the development, Petaluma won’t get a second station, which is important for increasing ridership on the transit system that is taking cars off the road and reducing traffic and climate change.
The planning commission last week criticized the development for not being dense enough and not including commercial development. In response, the developer made concessions, bringing the project back this week at a higher density and removing a request to change the zoning for the project.
Despite the concessions, the planning commission still denied the project, throwing into doubt a project that will increase Petaluma’s transit options and boost the housing stock. The planning commission is not wrong in its desire to try and make the project more transit-friendly. But if it is not profitable for the developer, then nothing will get built and Petaluma will be left with an empty dirt lot that the SMART train whizzes past.
Let’s not let perfection be the enemy of the good. This project is destined to come back for ultimate approval at the city council. We hope the developer can make some more concessions to appease city leaders, and we also hope the city can give some ground to the developer.
It is through this kind of political compromise that things get done.