Plan Bay Area: MTC/ABAG final hearing – this Thurs 7/18!

17 07 2013

     On Thursday evening, July 18, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) will hold a final public hearing on Plan Bay Area, the region’s thirty year plan for growth.   This plan would direct the largest share of the region’s growth to the region’s urban core—two-thirds of the region’s overall housing production is directed to 15 specific cities.   San Francisco alone has a very tall order: our city will absorb 25% of that urban development (and 16% of the total growth throughout the region), which equates to 92,000 new housing units and parking and transport for more than 190,000 new workers.   San Francisco’s population will be expected to grow from 850,000 in 2010 to over 1,080,000 in 2040.  The question is how that amount of new growth can be “done right.”

     Over the past several weeks, MTC/ABAG agencies’ staff and committees have issued proposed revisions to the draft plan and also responses to comments received for the Final Environmental Impact Report.   Despite objections and hundreds of comments from a broad constellation of equity advocates urging more significant changes particularly around issues of displacement-prevention, affordable housing funding, and local transit services funding, the final proposal being present to MTC/ABAG commissioners for approval this coming Thursday maintains the essential design and flaws of the original draft (see CCHO’s comment letter and Tim Redmond’s last Bay Guardian article).  The proposed Plan Bay Area continues to fail to identify resources to provide for either sufficient transit operations or the affordable housing to accommodate the rates of growth being assigned to communities.  And the plan’s characterization of its potential threat of resident displacement as a result of increased development pressure on so-called “Communities of Concern” in urban neighborhoods is weak, and in the EIR response is downright dismissive as simply a “localized” issue (Plan Bay Area_Displacement resp FEIR_3_1_Master_Responses).

     Perhaps the greatest concern of CCHO and our local and regional allies (many of whom are coordinated through the regional Six Wins for Equity coalition) is the plan’s Equity Analysis finding that the proposed Plan Bay Area growth scenario is projected to create the greatest risk of displacement for disadvantaged communities of any of the alternative approaches studied (including the ‘no project’ option)—the plan readily acknowledges that the potential for “community disruption” from resident displacement will increase by 71% (from an already-problematic 21% displacement potential increasing to 36% within Communities of Concern).  Despite this elevated risk of displacement and the exacerbated shortfall of affordable housing, MTC and ABAG have rejected or watered down concrete proposals to ease gentrification and displacement risks.   Instead, there has been an effort to gloss over those risks in Plan Bay Area.

     An alternative scenario was presented to the regional agencies—the “Equity, Environment and Jobs” (EEJ) alternative—that Plan Bay Area’s own analysis indicates would do a better job addressing climate change, increasing access to opportunity and lead to a more sustainable and healthy Bay Area for all of the region. The version of the plan that MTC/ABAG have instead stayed with and which is now being considered at this Thursday’s vote fails to include many of the core elements from the EEJ alternative.

     We suggest that SF advocates reinforce the Six Wins coalition’s ask to MTC/ABAG commissioners to direct staff to develop a clear and firm timeframe, including a commitment to engage community stakeholders, in developing priorities for the Bay Area’s share of cap and trade funding, strengthening the transportation block-grant funds program (“OBAG”) to link it more directly to affordable housing and displacement-prevention policies, and developing a regional youth bus program.

     San Francisco’s front line working class neighborhoods and communities of color stand to take the brunt of potential negative impacts from this regional “smart growth” plan, and at least theoretically they could be situated to receive the potential benefits of public infrastructure investments and stimulated economic activity.  But while the risks are real—we don’t need a plan to know that the struggle against gentrification in our neighborhoods and the plague of evictions is not just a theoretical possibility—the potential benefits are illusory.  It requires more than feel-good policy statements and promises of future “best-practices” to protect vulnerable people from being displaced out their neighborhoods in the tide of infill real estate development and to be guaranteed a real share of the fruits from “equitable” smart growth.      

To express your concerns in advance of Thursday’s MTC/ABAG hearing, contact our SF reps:

David Campos (MTC) (415)

Scott Wiener (MTC) – (415) 554-6968,

Eric Mar (ABAG) – (415) 554-7410,

Jane Kim (ABAG) – (415) 554-7970,