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Bay Area Council Economic Institute

Special Interests Push for Northern California "Megaregion"

Plan Bay Area in 2013, marshaled through by our regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission, was conceived with thinking from transit oriented development and urbanization advocates and resulted in a concerning regional vision. This vision forced Priority Development Areas (PDAs) that concentrated high density housing on many neighborhoods across the entire region including Strawberry, Marinwood, Terra Linda and Marin City, amongst others. It took years for these neighborhood's residents to undo the damage and rescind this targeting.

Chief amongst the special interests advocating this growth have been the Bay Area Council and SPUR. Both advocate a rapid growth agenda as necessary to ensure the Bay Area remains competitive for companies hiring employees and provides rapidly expanding transportation infrastructure focused on transit. This might be an understandable goal if it didn't include trampling over any and all local control in the process.

The Bay Area Council (BAC) and SPUR are back and up to no good again resurfacing a 2007 idea for a Northern California "megaregion". With MTC's ascent to power over ABAG one might imagine that this is timely:

Here is the original idea proposed by SPUR in 2007:

Here is the updated 2016 piece published by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute:

Advocating Moving from Regional to Mega-Regional Control

SPUR and BAC have been effective at influencing regional bodies such as MTC and ABAG, and were consulted and involved in the formulation of Plan Bay Area 2017. They would love an expansion of regional control to mega-regional authorities making their conduit of influence broader and more powerful (and by contrast reducing the influence of residents).

Who Paid for this Report? We the Taxpayer Did, But it Doesn't Serve Us!

What is most worrisome is the source of funding for this new June 2016 report includes MTC and multiple public rail authorities! This means we the public paid for this piece that advocates a plan undermining public influence, and further diminishing public control over housing and transportation.

Then this includes a list of Joint Powers Authorities and public regional transit organizations. From page 2 of the report:

"The Bay Area Council Economic Institute thanks the content contributors and generous funders of this project:

Alameda County Transportation Commission, Altamont Corridor Express / San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, The Cambay Group, Inc., Capitol Corridor, Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, Innovation Tri-Valley, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Sacramento Area Council of Governments, San Joaquin Council of Governments, San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, San Joaquin Partnership, University of California at Davis, and University of the Pacific"

Perhaps a records request might be sent to these public organizations asking how much they contributed and suggesting that they not use public funds for advocacy.

What Does the Report Recommend?

The mega-region plan makes bold recommendations including:

- by implication, the formulation of a mega-regional authority; perhaps an expanded version of the MTC with even less accountability and with even more of a fixation on rail, and an abandonment of continuing funding for highways;

- "by right" housing approval; this is the new proposal tacked onto the Governor's budget that effectively removes the ability for local governments to stop new housing projects near transit corridors. This would cover anywhere within 1/2 mile of SMART or a regular bus stop;

- expanding rail service and prioritizing rail connectivity (of course, since several rail authorities sponsored this!).

There is a great diagram on page 31 showing mega-region commuting patterns. Note that absence of any arrows around Marin.

On page 39 there is a map advocating extending Sacramento's Capitol Corridor rail system across from Martinez and Vallejo to Napa and Petaluma. (Remarkably SMART goes unmentioned!).

Hopefully politicians will see through this urbanist's pipe dream - dished up in one very articulate, seemingly authoritative and well presented white-paper.


MTC, mega-region, transit, housing, megaregion