Friday, February 2, 2007

Notes on Joint Venture Silicon Valley Conference

Just came back from the the Joint Venture Silicon Valley's State of the Valley Conference. Interesting speakers, some related to our work, others were more "just business", but it was useful to get out and meet folks. Thought I'd just repeat here some of the notes I took on what they said, and some editorial comments of mine.

  • 25% protected of Silicon Valley is open space (didn’t define what that meant).
  • Protected open space increased 1.5% and accessible protected land increased 3.3%. I consider that second figure to be very important – responsibly-managed public access reinforces public support for open space.
  • New construction residential density increased markedly over the last 3 years. This is very good and contrary to the national trend. On the other hand, 3 years is a short time. I’ll speculate that it might be a reaction to the high price of housing.
  • Says only 26% of households can afford a median price home. This is smaller than San Jose’s estimate of 33% - could reflect the larger geographic base, or one of the two estimates are wrong. If JVSV is right, there’s even less justification for San Jose’s assumption that house prices can continue to increase faster than household income.
  • Household income went up in 2004-2005, but has gone down overall in the last five years.
  • Panelist Aart De Geus made an interesting comparison between investing in education and ecosystem management, especially regarding global warming. In both cases, your payoff/punishment can be delayed for decades, so it’s hard but important to get sufficient investment in doing the right thing.
  • A quote: “if everything you tried works, then you’re not trying hard enough.”
  • Late-morning panel – Is Clean Technology Silicon Valley’s Next Wave of Innovation: lots of interest in solar power, which has tremendous potential to help the environment and stop global warming. Every good thing has its downside though. CGF welcomes new economic development that clean power can bring to the area. We see no reason why that new prosperity should expand sprawl in the area, though. The danger is that something good will be used as an excuse to do something bad. The model for that problem is Stanford University, which used the excuse of providing a location for Carnegie Foundation to push development up into the Stanford Foothills. We don’t want to see that problem writ large by clean power in Silicon Valley.
  • Al Gore gave the keynote address. Had a lot to say about the importance of Silicon Valley in helping develop clean power, but nothing directly related to open space. He did, however, sign on to a petition by the environmental community opposing the logging proposal in Santa Clara County, so that kind of support was great to have.

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