Yesterday I attended the meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Program and Allocations Committee. At that meeting, Steve Heminger, the Executive Director of MTC, presented a proposal that would condition the receipt of Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP) funds on a city’s or county’s housing production in compliance with each municipality’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation quota (RHNA).
I spoke at public comment, because I felt compelled to call out what I called the “gross misrepresentations” in the staff report that RHNAs are about housing production, and that cities produce housing, which are untrue. Cities and counties can zone and provide incentives for housing but are not themselves, typically, housing developers.
Unusually for an MTC committee, there was a vigorous debate, with four commissioners intensely criticizing the proposal. The dissidents included Damon Connolly of Marin, who came up to me afterward and thanked me for my comments. The other naysayers were people who usually defer to MTC’s agenda: Spering, Haggerty, and Pierce, plus reps from two smaller cities, Dutra-Vernaci (Union City) and Bruins (Los Altos).
The committee chair, BART board member Nick Josefowitz, skillfully threaded the parliamentary / discursive needle and, with the help of Oakland Mayor Schaaf and SF Supervisor Jane Kim, got what was referred to as Option B (a complex menu of incentives and conditions) advanced to the full MTC. Damon, Spering, Haggerty, and Pierce are all on the MTC Board but not on this committee, so they couldn’t vote. The split between the big cities and the rest was blatant with big cities favoring the proposals and smaller cities being against it.
I also spoke with the director of the Transportation Authority of Marin, Dianne Steinhauser, who said I could quote her statement that Heminger had sprung this proposal on TAM and the other Congestion Management Agencies, aka County Transportation Commissions, only ten days earlier—meaning that they’d had no time to discuss it. Indeed, Haggerty, an Alameda County Supervisor, said at the meeting that the director of the Alameda County Transportation Commission was texting him to vote No, not realizing that Haggerty had no vote at this meeting.
The full MTC Board will debate the measure on October 25. It’s an important item, because, as someone said at the meeting, it represents a centralization of authority away from the Congestion Management Agencies (CMAs), i.e., the counties, and toward MTC. Plus, it shows how MTC is transforming itself into a one-stop regional housing and transportation planning agency.
The actual details of the proposals are complicated, so more to come, soon.