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The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), backed by corporate and financial interests, continue to tighten the screws on local San Francisco Bay Area governments and the quality of life in our communities.
MTC is barreling forward with visions of controlling all transportation and housing through the adoption of Plan Bay Area 2050. Two key components of that control are the proposed $100 billion transportation mega-ballot measure and the proposed Regional Housing Finance Authority (from The CASA Compact).
MTC staff, the Bay Area Council and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group are essentially running the show. The Executive Board of Association of Bay Area Governments sits mute through it all, like a piece of art on the mantel. Instead of being the diligent governing body with accountability that they are supposed to be, they defer to MTC’s every whim.
A good example is the meeting of the ABAG Executive Board this past Thursday, September 19, 2019.
The ABAG public meeting was convened to fulfill a legal court settlement agreement with the Building Industry Association (BIA). It required the hearing on the “Regional Growth Forecast Methodology” used to determine the 2050 “Regional Housing Control Total” and the forecast development patterns for Plan Bay Area 2050.
Due to a strange timing requirement, the public hearing was required to be held the same day the methodology was proposed, which, oddly, was required to be prior to the actual Regional Housing Control Total being disclosed.
The self-serving intentions of BIA were made clear in an email comment from Paul Campos, BIA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, submitted prior to the public meeting.
“The region now should make every methodological decision that. . . will establish the highest housing target for the region.”Then he adds, “Over the next decades, there is no reason to expect the Bay Area to cede its place as the leading jobs creator in the United States.”
And he throws in,
“The Bay Area is unique and has a responsibility to be a global leader in setting the very highest goals for addressing an existential crisis.”
Really? An existential crisis? Plan Bay Area should exemplify being a “global leader”?
You might think Campos’ thoughts about an existential crisis or setting the highest possible growth targets might have generated discussion or at the least a few questions among the ABAG Board, before approving the staff recommendation to adopt the Regional Growth Forecast Methodology without changes.But you’d be wrong.
Except for the excellent points raised by Marin’s rep Pat Eklund, Liz Gibbons from the Campbell (Santa Clara) City Council, and Wayne Lee, from the Millbrae (San Mateo) City Council, the rest of the Board, including Dennis Rodoni, Marin’s rep from the Board of Supervisors, were virtually silent.
When Liz Gibbons asked for a little time to read newly submitted public comments, ABAG Board President David Rabbit recommended she read during the presentation. It was the height of absurdity that consideration of the methodology for a plan in 2050 didn’t warrant even ten minutes of time in 2019 for the Board to review public comments.
Another example of MTC’s manipulation of the Growth Forecast Methodology process was that they had conducted four public workshops, but the workshops didn’t generate a single written question or comment about methodology. All the comments were about PBA 2050. How is that possible? It’s like hosting a workshop on “Methods to Boost Financial Security” and only getting questions or comments about the banking industry in China.
Of the 22 responses to the Methodology workshops, staff responded to 20 people with a version of “bring this up later when the PBA Blueprint is being crafted.”
This is in spite of the fact that there are many aspects of the Methodology that have not been defined or explained in what was presented. For starters, there is no definition of the term Regional Housing Control Total, how it will be derived, or how it will be used.
Based on what we all experienced with Plan Bay Area 2013, we can anticipate big things from Plan Bay Area 2050. Remember, in 2013, Supervisor Susan Adams, Marin’s representative to ABAG, designated areas as PDAs (Planned Development Areas) and TODs (Transit Orientated Development) sites without talking to or telling her constituents. That created an uproar and surge of community organizing.
If Plan Bay Area 2050 rolls forward, we can anticipate four devastating consequences:
- Increased regional taxes and fees on transportation and housing, without commensurate improvements or reimbursement of the costs for either.
- Higher RHNA numbers based on the inflated Regional Housing Control Total growth projections, which have proven to be wildly inflated in the past. These unrealistic state RHNA numbers, approved to benefit the BIA, will perpetrate the false notion that a “housing crisis” is being caused by California cities. This, in turn, will be used by legislators to pass more state mandates undermining local control.
- MTC/ABAG decisions will benefit job-creating corporations, not the impacted communities. Communities will struggle to absorb escalating infrastructure expenses (sewer lines, water, schools, safety services, etc.) because neither corporations nor developers will be held accountable for paying their fair share.
- Couple all these factors with other financial pressures on cities, such as their rising pension liability, and it is highly likely that more cities will go bankrupt during the next recession.
- Local control of planning and zoning will increasingly transfer to unelected, regional shadow governments working for the sake of corporate and financial interests.
I’m reminded of a cartoon that shows a guy running for his life after hearing a team of MTC/ABAG consultants, standing alongside a state legislator, saying, “We’re here to help.”
Building upon, not undermining the strengths of local communities, and working collaboratively with outside agencies is our surest way of arriving at fair, equitable, and sustainable solutions.