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AB 1487 is a controversial bill in the State Legislature, introduced as a part of the CASA (Housing) Compact. It would authorize new taxes to create a new regional bureaucracy to oversee housing policy and programs in the San Francisco Bay Area, keeping a portion of the funds for themselves as administrators. On July 18th, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) Executive Board, comprised of county supervisors and city councilmembers representing the Bay Area's nine counties and 101 cities, voted to "support" AB 1487.
I had sent a letter opposing their action for the following reasons:
First, the current draft of AB 1487 is so extremely vague and ambiguous that “support” is akin to ABAG irresponsibly signing a blank check to Sacramento politicians. Susan Kirsch, founder of Livable California, speaking for herself says,
“AB 1487 presently is an empty bill, stripped down from seventeen to three pages. There remains less than a month to create the policy, and no time for the new bill to be reviewed by City Councils, other government bodies, or the public. In effect, ABAG voted to support a backroom, behind-closed-doors legislative process."
The bill will be resubmitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee August 12. It will be re-filled with provisions that will likely benefit MTC, real estate developers, Silicon Valley corporations and big cities. But it will place a financial burden on the Bay Area’s most vulnerable individuals and communities through higher taxes,
with little likelihood it will provide adequate affordable housing.
Second, ABAG long has been responsible for regional housing policy. The ABAG Executive Board is acting irrationally when it cedes regional housing policy to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). ABAG has acted illegally concerning regional housing policies since MTC gained undue influence over ABAG in 2017. Livable California et al. v. ABAG, now pending in San Francisco Superior Court, challenges ABAG's illegal actions supporting the CASA Compact, a real estate developer-driven initiative to seize land use control powers from our local governments.
Third, ABAG should demand that MTC staff immediately disclose to the public all documents associated with MTC’s hiring of the consulting firm co-owned by State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins’ spouse to assist with development of the CASA Compact. Journalist Zelda Bronstein of 48 Hills and the Los Angeles Times (April 4, 2019) have exposed the potential, if not actual, conflicts of interest. Senate President Pro Tem Atkins removed “housing” matters from the Transportation and Housing Committee to create a new Housing Committee chaired by notoriously pro-development Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco (an action taken mainly to bypass the Transportation Committee, which was skeptical of Mr. Wiener's SB 827 in 2017-18, among his other past proposals). ABAG should not remain willfully blind to this nefariousness.
Fourth, MTC and its staff are not constituted to handle regional housing policy. MTC has eighteen voting commissioners who “shall be selected for their special familiarity with the problems and issues in the field of transportation.” Government Code §66504.
The Bay Area Transportation Working Group and TRANSDEF have demonstrated that the MTC commissioner appointment process is extremely flawed, akin to an incumbent protection racket, with serious irregularities found in eight of the Bay Area’s nine counties in 2018-19. MTC has a disastrous record overseeing regional transportation.
MTC mishandled the Bay Bridge eastern span project, which was delivered years late, billions of dollars over budget and with serious design and construction flaws. MTC lost $100 million in a failed Wall Street "interest rate swap" speculation. MTC diverted more than $100 million of bridge tolls to build a "Taj Mahal" headquarters in San Francisco. MTC's staff acts like a regional "czar" as elected officials fail to exercise effective oversight.
Despite spending billions on public transit projects and programs, per capita transit ridership in the Bay Area has declined since 1980. A complaint is now pending before the State Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that MTC engaged in illegal use of public resources to aid passage of Regional Measure 3 in 2018. MTC likely would engage in similar illegal practices to aid passage of the tax increase measures that AB 1487 would authorize. ABAG's July 18th vote to support AB 1487 is enabling this.
Bay Area voters and taxpayers, beware. Corporate special interests and the politicians that they control are pushing AB 1487 to bring to your ballot in 2020 a "wolf" of higher taxes and crowded neighborhoods beneath the "sheep's clothing" of "affordable housing." They intend to pick your pockets in order to fill theirs. They want to demolish and densify your neighborhood, not theirs. They want to crowd your streets and your children's schools, not theirs.
Please don't take the bait.