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Plan Bay Area 2050

Regional Housing Control Total Assures Continued Crisis fueled by Growth

From the turmoil in international affairs to regional politics, we live in a topsy-turvy world. Playing loose with the truth has become commonplace and the resulting chaos is unsettling. Democracy is being undermined.

The fastest way to regain balance and stability is to review the assumptions, check the numbers, ask questions, raise our voices, build coalitions, and pace ourselves for the long-term.

One long-term project worthy of continued scrutiny is Plan Bay Area 2050.“ That’s so far out in the future, I’m not going to worry about it,” is a common refrain. But if elected city officials and local community leaders are to stop getting clobbered by regional bureaucrats and legislative mandates, we have to start to pay attention. The tipping point in community politics is as crucial as the national level, but we can have greater impact at the local level.

Let’s connect the dots starting with background information about the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), and Plan Bay Area.

Connecting the Dots:

The inner workings of ABAG and MTC are viewed with mistrust by community groups and the public, and for good reason, since the general public has essentially been systematically shut out of the planning process with “dog and pony” show workshops substituting for real input gathering by both agencies.

Plan Bay Area in 2013 was passed amidst great public outcry, criticism and resulted in several lawsuits. In the intervening years, MTC and ABAG have essentially merged, but many see it as a hostile take-over, achieved by MTC extorting ABAG with threats of withholding funding.

Much of MTC’s work happens through its creation of self-serving insider coalitions like the CASA Committee, which has force-fed more than 10 pieces of housing 2019 legislation that benefits developer interests and putting the financial burden on dis-empowered communities.

At the September 19, 2019 meeting of the ABAG Executive Board, the agency approved two resolutions that open the floodgates to the desired hyper-growth outcomes of Plan Bay Area 2050. The first resolution approved the Regional Growth Forecast Methodology that includes the key term “regional housing control total.” The second resolution approved the 2050 Cross-Cutting Issues, Vision, and Guiding Principles—more about that later.

Ten Steps Connecting the Dots about Plan Bay Area 2050:

  1. The Regional Housing Control Total is the forecast for the Bay Area growth through 2050. It includes in-commuters as a condition of the legal settlement with the Building Industry Association’s lawsuit of 2014.
  2. The BIA is an advocacy organization representing more than 400 residential development industry professionals in the Bay Area. BIA members are automatically part of the CA BIA Association, with 6,000 members; and the national organization with more than 220,000 businesses. BIA’s Governmental Affairs staff address issues that confront the industry such as “growth controls, frivolous and abusive lawsuits, “excessive” environmental regulations and runaway fees.” With a nod to favoring self-interests, BIA is presently calling the shots on growth, not state demographers, Department of Finance, or community general plans.
  3. Growth to 2050 will be based on estimated job growth, housing needs, and in-commuters. The intent of the Agreement is to “provide housing opportunities within the region to those employees projected to work within the region during the course of the planning period.” In other words, ambitious employment growth projections drive the housing control number.
  4. The Regional Housing Control Total has grown. Plan Bay Area 1.0 (2010-2040) – Est. 660,000 new housing units.Plan Bay Area 2.0 (also 2010-2040) – Est. 822,000 new units (based on more robust job growth and added in-commuting). Plan Bay Area 3.0 (through 2050) – the figure TBD.
  5. The higher the unsubstantiated Regional Housing Control Total, the higher the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) number.
  6. The higher the RHNA, the more local jurisdictions will be given high numbers to build “their fair share” of housing for all income levels.
  7. The higher the local RHNA numbers, the more cities will face a perpetual, “theoretical” crisis. The “crisis” will justify continued self-serving cries from BIA and corporate profiteers that “we (still) have a housing crisis, and legislators have to do something!”
  8. Legislation that undermines local control will inevitably result (someone needs to be blamed) and contribute to greater gentrification, displacement, homelessness, inequity and injustice, while land will be accumulated into the hands of fewer and fewer of the 1% in the form corporate monopolies operating without regulation.
  9. Cities unable to plan for and fund the associated infrastructure, public services and schools costs will face bankruptcy. Long-held public assets such as libraries, parks, and civic buildings will be swallowed up in public/private partnerships. The private already-wealthy will benefit, but the common good will be undermined.
  10. The effort to undermine local control is a national trend. In July, U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind) introduced the “Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) Act” to force cities to do more building, under the guise of addressing the issue of affordability. But the clamor to take authority away from local jurisdictions is a in truth move to remove barriers for the largest development and banking interests, allowing them to consolidate power by putting local zoning and planning control into the hands of regional agencies influenced by builders like BIA, developers, and those same global real estate interests. This trend contributes to “the financialization of housing,” which I wrote about in Cal Matters (8/7/19).

The year 2050 seems a long way off.Many of us will be dead, but what are our lives about if not about leaving a legacy that maintains principles of community and democracy?

Plan Bay Area wraps itself in all the fancy words of a utopian vision. That vision is purportedly “to ensure by the year 2050 that the Bay Area is affordable, connected, diverse, healthy, and vibrant for all.”

Of course, we’re all for that.But how is MTC addressing the issues of its core mission: traffic, congestion, and ever-increasing taxes, tolls, and fees? How about staying in their own lane of dealing with buses and reliable schedules, parking, and the impact of autonomous vehicles?

Growth and planning are necessary things, but Plan Bay Area 2050 is already off the rails. It looks more like obesity than fitness. It portends greater strife than equity.

What can we do?

Talk to your MTC and ABAG representatives. In Marin, Damon Connolly is the rep to MTC.Pat Eklund and Dennis Rodoni are reps to ABAG. Each city has a rep to ABAG; find out who that is and talk to them.

Ask candidates running for City Council positions about their opinion of Play Bay Area 2050 and regionalism.

Contact Assemblyman Marc Levine and Senator Mike McGuire with your point of view about the financialization of housing.

Submit letters to print and social media.

Talk to neighbors and friends and forward this article to them.

Sign up for the Plan Bay Area email list.

Do something. Our future depends on it.


ABAG, MTC, PBA 2050, Regional Housing Control Total, BIA