No sooner had some of us taken a brief moment to celebrate the fact that Senator Wiener’s notorious SB 50 was shelved for the rest of the year than like some B horror movie, the creature emerges from the Black Lagoon in yet another form. Leaving the best for last, it seems that State Assembly members Mullin, Chiu, and Wicks, joined by the ever-ubiquitous Senator Wiener (San Francisco) and the CASA Compact crowd, were only getting warmed up with their push for SB 50 and its evisceration of locally elected government’s control of land use and zoning.
A number of Marin Post contributors have written about the CASA Compact and its far-reaching implications about planning, development and the loss of local control (MTC’s CASA: A Coup by Any Other Name and CASA's Housing Compact - How ideologically-driven policies will make housing less affordable).
Now, driven by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the San Francisco Bay Area’s very own self-anointed, unelected, and completely unaccountable regional funding behemoth, the CASA Compact juggernaut is pushing to wrest control of the levy of taxes and fees away from voter’s in order to fund their creation of an all-powerful, top-down, regional planning and development agency (and what they hope will come back in some form next year, in a revived version of SB50).
They are literally proposing an entirely new form of government disguised as a "special district." MTC anticipates raising over $1.5 billion dollars a year from these new taxes and fees on your homes and businesses.
As currently proposed, AB 1487, AB 1487, the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Housing Finance Act,
“would establish the Housing Alliance for the Bay Area (hereafter the entity) and would state that the entity’s purpose is to increase affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay area, as defined, by providing for enhanced funding and technical assistance at a regional level for tenant protection, affordable housing preservation, and new affordable housing production.“
So far, it sounds like some benign public education organization. But nothing could be further from the truth. This proposed legislation will be subject to one-time voter approval at the November 3, 2020, general election. If approved, it will
“…authorize the entity to impose various special taxes, including a parcel tax, certain business taxes, and a transactions and use tax, within its jurisdiction and to issue bonds, including revenue bonds.” (Emphasis added)
The bill would also
“authorize the entity to impose a commercial linkage fee” on businesses, …and require a city or county in the San Francisco Bay area that has jurisdiction over the approval of a commercial development project to collect that fee as a condition of that approval and remit the amount of fee to the entity.” (Emphasis added)
The movers and shakers behind the CASA Compact claim that this gargantuan new tax and spend, planning bureaucracy is urgently needed because
“(a) The San Francisco Bay area is facing the most significant housing crisis in the region’s history, as countless residents are contemplating moving, spend hours driving every day, are one paycheck away from an eviction, or experience homelessness.(b) The San Francisco Bay area faces this crisis because, as a region, it has failed to produce enough housing at all income levels, preserve affordable housing, protect existing residents from displacement, and address the housing issue regionally.” And “(c) The housing crisis in the San Francisco Bay area is regional in nature and too great to be addressed individually by the region’s 101 cities and 9 counties.”
It goes on to say that
“A regional entity is necessary to help address the housing crisis in the San Francisco Bay area by delivering resources and technical assistance at a regional scale, including, …assembling parcels and acquiring land for the purpose of building affordable housing, and monitoring and reporting on progress at a regional scale.” (Emphasis added)
To put that in plain English, they are saying, this “crisis” is too large and complicated for anyone but us to really understand and fix, so we have to create a powerful, new, unelected, politically appointed, regional government agency – unlike anything you've ever seen – that will be able to impose an unlimited list of taxes and fees upon all of the Bay Area’s residents and businesses, the proceeds of which we can use at our own discretion (i.e., big, opaque government knows what’s best for you).
Donald Trump would be proud of their use of scare tactics to instill a sense of urgency, followed by a plan that is built on hubris, is contemptuous of all democratic participation, and crafted and supported by major financial and corporate interests, who want you to do your fair share, while they extract the financial benefits.
If this concept of what government powers does not scare the crap out of you, then you are either not paying attention, get all your “facts” from social media, or are someone who will benefit financially from it.
This legislation is designed to be the companion of some future version of SB 50 coming in 2020, to fund the removal of any semblance of not just local control, but fundamental "democratic" control over planning and zoning.
My advice for everyone in the SF Bay Area is to wake up and kick your sleepy-eyed city councils into consciousness, and demand they pay attention to Assembly Bill 1487, or risk being swept over by the “tax and spend” tsunami that's coming.