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Nine million expected to be in the Bay Area in 2040—where will they live?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Here in the Bay Area, “growth” has a very literal meaning. We have a growing population and – especially in San Francisco – limited space. This fact spurs questions about the type of growth we will see and whether there will be a suburban sprawl. Others wonder about the increase of condos, strip malls and big box stores.

Many development experts argue that not all growth is good for a given place. Instead of just “growth,” they say we should be aiming for “smart growth.”

A number of local journalists tackled this issue in the latest edition of the non-commercial newspaper SF Public Press. It published a special report titled “Growing Smarter: Planning for a Bay Area of 9 Million,” produced in collaboration with Cage lab at UC Berkeley’s geography department, Earth Island Journal, and Bay Nature Magazine. The series explores the economic, environmental and human impact of a future population boom in the Bay Area, including a report entitled, “Can San Francisco Add 150,000 More people?”

BEN TREFNY: What are the different population projections? What competing numbers are we looking at here?

MICHAEL STOLL: So the current 2010 census says the Bay Area has 7.2 million people. The state department of finance made a projection that in 2040, the population of the Bay Area would be about 9.5 million people. They recently reduced that based on some new data about the economics of the Bay Area, job creation, to 8.4. That’s a huge difference.

BEN TREFNY: They just cut a million off the top.

MICHAEL STOLL: The economy is changing so rapidly and economists have gotten into this as well – you need the economics in order to figure out how many people are going to be coming to the Bay Area to be attracted to jobs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. You have to imagine what industries are going to be leading then; what are going to be the housing needs; who’s going to want to live where how much demand will there be for this smart growth that planners want to build in transit villages and in the urban core. There are a lot of moving pieces and the science of demography is anything but it’s a very imprecise science.

Listen to the complete interview above. 

Ben was hired as Interim Executive Director of KALW in November, 2021.