Plan Bay Area 2050
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) brought its mockery of public engagement to the Pickleweed Library, in the Canal Area of San Rafael on Thursday, November 7th.
Don’t take my word for it. Decide for yourself if MTC is carrying out a transparent and inclusive public process to educate the public about Plan Bay Area 2050, or perpetrating a ridiculous charade of activities they hope will pass for public participation.
As I’ve discussed in previous articles, MTC has started a three-year process to prepare Plan Bay Area 2050, a roadmap to the Bay Area’s future. The 30-year plan covers four areas: transportation (supposedly MTC’s lane of expertise), housing (the lane they’ve crept in to), the environment, and the economy (the lanes they intend to dominate).
In October, MTC started a two-month series of more than 30 pop-up events at libraries, farmers markets, college campuses and other public places throughout the nine county Bay Area. The setup is that two MTC staff members set up only one 24” by 36” colorful poster board purportedly describing the strategies in the four focus areas, noted above (just one small poster board to describe the entire 30-year plan?), and another board to post comments on.
People who stop to talk are invited to give feedback. This “feedback” (on a massive 30-year Bay Area plan) is then recorded on a yellow post-it note and stuck onto the second poster board, which is divided into three sections: one depicting a smiley face at the top section, one with a sad face in the middle, and one with a light bulb for good ideas at the bottom.
The MTC website calls events “opportunities to participate in the development of the Bay Area's next transportation and land use plan.”https://mtc.ca.gov/our-work/plans-projects/plan-bay-area-2050.
Public Participation in the Canal District in San Rafael: Failure to Address Real Issues
I called the Canal Alliance and was told they had been no public notice of an MTC public engagement event being held that day.The San Rafael News Pointer didn’t include a calendar listing or an article. Inside the Pickleweed Library, all I found at the “event” were six Hispanic mothers with infants and young children, who had come to the library for story time with the librarian.
The women seemed grateful for the invitation to stay in a social setting where their young children could play with toys and books, while the Spanish-speaking MTC rep asked their opinion of Plan Bay Area 2050.
But these women were rightfully more interested in what someone called “kitchen table” concerns, better solved by a local neighborhood association or local City Council. They worried that the park isn’t safe, that rents are too high, and that food prices keep climbing. They wondered if there will be more ICE raids, how their kids are doing in school, and the threat of gangs.
Was Plan Bay Area 2050 going to address that? The urgency of their concerns weren’t captured on the MTC pop-up board with MTC’s language of urban growth boundaries, mitigating impact from sea level rise and earthquakes, or top priorities for transportation investments.
A few elected officials and community leaders also gathered at the Pickleweed library. Novato City Council member and Marin’s rep to the Association of Bay Area Government (ABAG) Pat Eklund; Supervisor Damon Connolly’s aid Mary Sackett and Supervisor Dennis Rodoni’s aid Lorenzo Cordova were there, along with Marin Group Sierra Club Chair Judy Schriebman and community leaders Valerie Hood, Fairfax, Steve Nestel, Marinwood, and Bruce Corcoran, Strawberry, among others.
Meanwhile, outside the Pickleweed Library, Marin citizens, like residents throughout the nine-county Bay Area, are being systematically excluded from meaningful public engagement about Plan Bay Area 2050, because of MTC’s farcical dog and pony roadshow.
The show must go on?
MTC is barreling along with these massive, expensive plans without actually engaging the public. MTC has failed to provide evening or weekend workshops when working people could attend. They have failed to offer adequate public notices of meetings or, in most cases failed to hold any meetings at all where MTC staff can make comprehensive presentations, provide explanatory materials, and take questions from the public, locally-elected officials, and the press.
MTC has basically denied the public any opportunity whatsoever for a respectable dialogue about community vision, values, and priorities and how they relate to the 30-year plan.
Instead we get a Plan shaped by big business and corporations (the CASA Compact, $100 billion Mega-Transportation bill, Regional Housing Finance Authority, etc.) promoted by financial interests, legislated by ambitious politicians, and implemented by an unsupervised staff.
As things are, MTC might more appropriately stand for “Missing The Citizens” or “More $$ To Corporations” or “Malicious Threat to Communities” or “Misappropriation of Taxpayers' Coin.”
Here’s another example of MTC’s callous disregard for informed community participation.
The MTC website invites citizens to play an online game called “Mayor of Bayville.” They say, “It only takes five minutes.” They brag, “It’s our very first online game.” (We hope it’s their last!).
They go on to say that “In the fictional Bay Area city of Bayville, you are the Mayor and you make the rules.” And “Your choices as Mayor will have real-world impact, as the decisions you make in the game will help determine which strategies should be recommended to make the Bay Area more affordable, connected, diverse, healthy and vibrant for everyone by 2050.”
Who do they think they’re kidding?
The final meetings coming up: one for the blind
On Saturday, November 16, MTC will be at 1155 Market Street, 10th floor, San Francisco from noon to 3:00 pm at the offices of Lighthouse for the Blind. Will the blind be provided a poster board in braille? If the blind live in the dark without vision, this setting is a fitting parallel for MTC's lack of vision for what meaningful public participation looks like.
The final Marin MTC pop-up event will be held on Sunday, November 17, 2019 from 10 am-noon at the Marin Civic Center Farmer's Market (3501 Civic Center Drive, San Rafael).
Grab a friend and plan a Saturday or Sunday outing. See for
yourself how MTC is manipulating public engagement. Post comments to this blog.