PLAN BAY AREA | After three years and exactly 249 public meetings, a mash-up of regional  commission’s may approve “Plan Bay Area” next month, one of the most long-ranging local planning strategies in generations. Except, outside of a small group of hardy conservative activists, along with a smidgen of opponents across the political spectrum, the transportation, land-use and housing proposal is virtually unknown to the general public.

The plan, mandated by the state following the passage of SB 375, legislation requiring the state’s metro regions to produce a regional transportation strategy, also aims to reduce greenhouse emissions related to transportation by encouraging transit-oriented communities. Plan Bay Area hopes to achieve greater density while being more environmentally-friendly by 2040 when estimates forecast the region’s population will balloon by more than 2 million.

However, conservatives, many hailing from the northern and eastern expanses of the Bay Area and far less urban than its inner areas, decry the likely presence of affordable housing and so-called “stack and pack” high-density housing. In addition, over the past few years, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) have conducted hundreds of public meetings on the issue often featuring vociferous opposition from constituents. Plan Bay Area could be approved by the two bodies, compromised of locally-elected public officials, by July 16.

Plan Bay Area critic Friday at a MTC/ABAG meeting in Oakland. PHOTO/Steven Tavares

Plan Bay Area critic Friday at a MTC/ABAG
meeting in Oakland. PHOTO/Steven Tavares

Aside from ideological disagreements, many of those objecting to Plan Bay Area have repeatedly charged MTC/ABAG with a lack of transparency, stacking the deck with proponents (or, as one critic derisively calls them, “paid actors”) and creating facts in order to fit their stated goals. In addition, some have also contested MTC/ABAG’s growth forecasts over the next 30 years. At a hearing Friday morning, staff for MTC admitted nearly all of the public speakers have voiced disagreement with the plan.

Chris Pareja, a former congressional candidate in the 15th District, says the plan’s intention to lower greenhouse emissions by creating high-density housing in urban centers will actually price out lower income residents from purchasing single-family dwellings. He also objected with its assertion Latinos and Asians historically choose to live in high-density apartments and typically do not possess cars.

“I don’t know when it became politically-correct to call us colored people again, or to decide it is in our best interests and equity to be moved into high-density homes and neighborhoods near tracks and bus lines? I thought we were passed that?” said Pareja. Later, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, a member of MTC, stood by the report’s findings saying Asian immigrants new to this country often do not have the means to purchase a home or automobile. Opponents also had disparaging words for the findings of a new telephone survey discussed Friday.

The polling of over 2,500 residents conducted by MTC/ABAG, showed consistently strong support for a brief description of Plan Bay Area in all nine participating counties. However, it also raised the question of local versus regional control which split nearly every community straight down the middle, regardless of its general political bent. One speaker posited any pollster can craft questions to suit their own purposes, while another claimed no more than 1-2 percent of residents know anything at all about Plan Bay Area. “This is living in what I call the empire of lies,” he told the commission. During these times, when legislators in Sacramento routinely raided local coffers to balance the state’s budget, the sentiment is unsurprising.

Before Friday’s hearing, opponents of Plan Bay Area held a rally in front of the MTC/ABAG building in Oakland. Rosa Koire, the executive director for The Post Sustainability Institute, told the small gathering waving anti-Plan Bay Area signs, the only way to stop the plan from being implemented is through legal action. Although MTC/ABAG could approve the plan at the July 16 meeting, tenor of board discussion’s Friday suggest big issues still remain unresolved.

Steve Heminger, the executive director of MTC, was harangued by Alameda County’s irascible Supervisor Scott Haggerty over the last-minute inclusion of over $3 billion in funding for the plan derived from a yet-to-be approved legislative allocation of cap-and-trade revenues. After a brief and somewhat hostile give-and-take, Heminger said the addition “could have been done differently.” Some commissioners, including Haggerty, called for further discussion on the issue. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said exactly how cap-and-trade revenues will be spent is undecided in the Legislature. Last Monday, the Legislature approved a budget allowing the state to borrow $500 million in cap-and-trade proceeds for the general fund.

For a plan seemingly close to approval, there are indications some commissioners are far from merely tweaking the plan before next month. Novato Mayor Pat Eklund, a member of ABAG, went as far as to suggest on two occasions changing the plan’s name from something less definitive of a unified region. Citing polling in support of Plan Bay Area at 80 percent, Haggerty posed the question: “Why don’t we send it to the voters?” Although there is not hard rule against extending the discussion past July, Heminger said additional months worth of uncertainty could affect other transportation projects. While Bates added, any vote of the people could not occur until next year, at the earliest.

Cross posted from East Bay Citizen

3 Responses

  1. Rosa Koire

    We are suing to stop Plan Bay Area, the nine county land use and transportation plan which is a violation of your constitutional rights and a shocking overreach of the experiment in regional governance.

    Our nation is a constitutional republic with a framework of direct election that rises from local government through county, state, and up to the federal level. This framework ensures that the peoples’ rights are protected and that our voices are heard. Plan Bay Area is designed to empower a layer of regional government between state and county, and ultimately between state and federal which renders our voices irrelevant. These regional boards are not elected by the people; the board members are selected out of elected officials who support regional goals.

    Regional boards like the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) are holding the purse strings for state and federal transportation and grant dollars. MTC and ABAG have fabricated Plan Bay Area though they claim that it was crafted in response to the needs and desires of Bay Area residents. Most people have never heard of Plan Bay Area. Of the seven million residents of the Bay Area approximately three tenths of one percent have participated in the so-called planning sessions. These planning sessions were tailored to elicit responses that favor high density urban development (Smart Growth), the preferred scenario of Plan Bay Area. Those voicing a dissenting opinion were virtually ignored, labeled as NIMBYs, or as political fringe. As a liberal Democrat, registered since 1974, I recognize this kind of smear as a way of chilling our civil rights by attempting to intimidate those who reject Plan Bay Area’s blatant violation of property rights.

    PLAN BAY AREA violates the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution by taking property rights without just compensation. By the creation of Priority Development Areas this Plan restricts 80% of residential development and 66% of commercial development to just a few small areas of your city–until the year 2040. If your property is outside of the PDA (96% of property is outside) you will likely not be able to build or expand your building–and you won’t be paid for this loss.

    PLAN BAY AREA violates the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution–the Equal Protection Clause. Owners of properties in the Priority Development Areas will receive development permits at a rate of approximately 80 times more than owners of property outside of the Priority Development Areas.

    PLAN BAY AREA violates voter-approved Urban Growth Boundary ordinances. Because the Priority Development Areas are within the UGBs but are much smaller restricted areas they are in violation of ordinances that clearly state that development must be encouraged out to the limits of city services: Urban Growth Boundaries. These ordinances are found throughout the Bay Area and cannot be changed without voter approval.

    PLAN BAY AREA permanently strips all development rights from rural properties in the nine county Bay Area. Plan Bay Area is effectively taking conservation easements on all rural lands without paying for them.

    PLAN BAY AREA restricts development rights of property within the Priority Development Areas, too. Construction will be limited to mixed-use high density Smart Growth development. Existing buildings are likely to be out of compliance with your city’s General Plan (legal non-conforming) and permits to make additions or changes will likely not be granted.

    This Plan is dependent on tax subsidies and handouts and will devastate the Bay Area for more than a generation. Property rights are a foundation of our freedom and are non-partisan. Join us now in stopping Plan Bay Area.

    Rosa Koire, Executive Director

    Rosa Koire, author of BEHIND THE GREEN MASK: U.N. Agenda 21, and executive director of the Post Sustainability Institute, is a forensic commercial real estate appraiser specializing in eminent domain valuation. A retired District Branch Chief for the California Department of Transportation, her thirty year career in litigation support and land valuation culminated in researching and exposing the planning revolution impacting land use: UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development.

    The public comment period for Plan Bay Area closed on May 16, 2013. MTC and ABAG are expected to adopt the Plan on July 18, 2013. Legal action is now the only way to stop Plan Bay Area. Please donate to the legal fund at our websites.


  2. Gary Wesley

    The state and local governments expect to benefit from the public projects and private developments that will implement the growth plans for regions up and down California. Corporate executives want more relatively cheap workers from other countries – especially workers who have never heard of unionizing and want only to remain in America. The real PLAN is for the rich to get richer.


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