Welcome to another match up in our Sweet 16 Round of the Strongest Town Competition. We invite you to read the answers that representatives from these two towns provided to questions about transportation, incremental growth, adapting to challenges, and more. Please scroll down to the bottom to vote.


(Photo by singalto1)

(Photo by singalto1)

Bellingham, WA

Entry submitted by: Aaron Silverberg and Janette Rosebrook

Give an example of an incremental project that has happened in your town.

Community Energy Challenge (Opportunity Council) - worked with thousands of residents to assess and retrofit their residences to be optimally energy efficient. Created many green jobs to perform these services. Left residents in much better financial shape as their energy bills decreased significantly, their homes increased in value and work was performed by local contractors that put that money back into the local economy.

Describe your town's transportation system and what transportation options are available for residents.

Buses, bikes!, very walkeable, car traffic is very manageable and well balanced.

Describe how residents of your town are actively involved in local decision making.

Either at the Bellingham City Council meetings or at neighborhood groups like the Columbia Neighborhood Association meetings/events

Tell us a story about how your town adapted to a challenge in some way.

The town lost its biggest employer, Georgia-Pacific, 10 years ago and the town jointly decided to assist in the cultivation of multiple small local businesses to shift the local economy to a more resiliant, diversified base -- the results have been impressive 10 brew pubs that have strong followings, food trucks that are doing brisk business all over town, small businesses from coffee houses to housewares to books flourishing both downtown and in Fairhaven.

Is your town financially strong and resilient for future generations? How do you know?

Yes, there is Western Washington University which provides a substantial economic base with it student bodies contributions, also a well-educated, connected employee base, many non-profits and NGOs that are actively fostering sustainability (e.g. Sustainable RESources, Opportunity Council, Whatcom Land Trust, etc.).

Does you town have a central "downtown" or district? If so, please describe this place.

Yes, there is both a central downtown market for local craftmakers and Terra Organics - a combination grocery, multiple food vendors, gathering areas and Film is Truth as well as meeting rooms.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

The leisurely pace of life that encourages people to be kind, open and cooperative.


San Francisco, CA

Entry submitted by: Robert Bregoff

Give an example of an incremental project that has happened in your town.

Our bike network is great and continuing to expand and improve. This was promoted by the great SF Bike Coalition.

Describe your town's transportation system and what transportation options are available for residents.

We have very good transit coverage. Local City transit has buses, LRVs, and there are two BRT projects underway. SF MUNI, the transit system, has been improving after a sort-of melt-down under the previous mayor. We have an additional subway line under construction (Central Subway) and new LRV rolling stock arriving soon. See SFMTA.com

Describe how residents of your town are actively involved in local decision making.

San Francisco is a balance of small town and big city. While the City/County has around 850,000 and our land area is just 48 square miles, bounded on 3 sides by water, SF is one of the main job centers and the cultural center of the Bay Area.

Tell us a story about how your town adapted to a challenge in some way.

The housing crisis and our limited geography has made SF one of the most expensive markets in the US. Plus, many of well paid tech sector employees want to live in SF, even if their jobs are in Silicon Valley. SF has adapted by strategically raising zoning height limits in key growth corridors, and putting parking maximums on new construction. Some special zoning areas (i.e. the Market Octavia Plan) have parking maximums of .5:1, and buildings adjacent to transit sometimes have zero parking. There has been a building boom, and most San Franciscans are YIMBYs. We still can't keep up with demand, given lack of buildable space and historic building protections, but the city is growing and changing, for the good, or maybe not always, but that's a complicated issue.

We continue to attract a population of “idea people” and I believe we will continue to be a magnet for the brightest, and most colorful people.

Is your town financially strong and resilient for future generations? How do you know?

I believe it is. Our financial sector is very diversified, even though sometimes it looks like a tech town. We have an extremely strong tourism economy, which will likely continue to grow. We're at or near the top of every international "top destinations" list. During the last financial crisis in the first decade of this century, our economy continued to be strong, the percentage of foreclosures was very low, in contrast to outlying suburbs, which really suffered. We continue to attract a population of "idea people" and I believe we will continue to be a magnet for the brightest, and most colorful people.

Does you town have a central "downtown" or district? If so, please describe this place.

Yes. A large financial and retail core that supports about 280,000 jobs. Over 50% of these are held by San Franciscans. Over 50% of commuters take transit, the 35% drive alone stat is shrinking. The rest walk and bike.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

Going to a great restaurant on foot, or by bike. We have great restaurants, and many of them, and every neighborhood had a wide selection of different types of food, and most have no formula retail chain restaurants. It's so satisfying to see many bikes locked up in front of a great, sometimes expensive, restaurant.


Voting is now closed.