|ABAG and MTC control over 200 Billion Dollars of Transportation Funds|
by Carol Brandt
The regional war on suburbia has been simmering for quite some time but the heat is being turned up and the pot is about to boil over. The “Plan Bay Area” is the brainchild of a head-spinning group of four regional agencies: Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). They hope that the public is too busy to pay attention. However, the resistance is growing as local community leaders and neighborhood groups are starting to stand up against this plan that will forever change the landscape of our small towns. Plan Bay Area will require future housing to be high-density and transit-oriented. It could also allow for a change in the zoning of existing single-family neighborhoods to allow high-density housing units – no more single family lifestyle for you!
Governor Jerry Brown wants to reform the requirements of CEQA review, particularly for high density developments. He claims that CEQA is the NIMBY group’s tool to oppose development. I believe most of the public sees CEQA as a tool to help preserve the character of neighborhoods, downtowns and open space and gives the public the right to speak up for or against a proposed project and hold that project to defined environmental standards. Brown has political allies with Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) and Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) jumping on the CEQA-bashing bandwagon by piling on their versions of CEQA reform bills this past week. At a recent conference on the future of California’s housing, Brown was asked how he avoided CEQA-related lawsuits over all the development that happened under his watch in Oakland. He replied that they put so many projects in the planning pipeline that the opposition couldn't mobilize fast enough. He also said they overwhelmed the opposition with mass, “kind of the Soviet model.” Afterwards he tried to backpedal by saying he probably should not have said that, but it was too late and the press got it down. This is our Governor speaking and we should be outraged.
We also have our local officials participating as board members or commissioners on all four of the agencies pushing the Plan Bay Area. Are they representing our voices or are they helping form this regional high-density plan? ABAG’s Regional Planning Commission includes Supervisor Susan Adams and Novato Mayor Pat Eklund. Supervisor Adams and Supervisor Judy Arnold serve as ABAG’s County representatives as does San Rafael councilmember Damon Connolly. ABAG’s Executive Board includes Supervisor Katie Rice and Mayor Eklund. Supervisor Steve Kinsey serves on the board of MTC. Supervisor Adams also serves on the board of BAAQMD and both Supervisor Adams and Supervisor Kathrin Sears are commissioners on BCDC.
It is contradictory that local officials jump up and down with joy as they champion things like banning plastic bags in the name of saving the environment, yet they don’t object to high-density developments that will require huge increases in demand for building materials, water, energy, schools and other infrastructure.
Regional agencies and politicians are full steam ahead on the Plan Bay Area. Who is listening to the voice of the people? One response is the upcoming Town Hall Meeting, June 20, 2013, 7:30pm at the Marinwood Community Center, San Rafael. The information states the meeting will address planning and housing challenges in Marin and the public will have a chance to learn the truth about Plan Bay Area. It is sponsored by Organized Residents of Marinwood, a group of well-informed citizens.
LA Times story on Housing Conference.