Thursday, June 1, 2017

My Comments to Plan Bay Area 2040 (due today!)

Dear Planners and Politicians of Plan Bay Area 2040:

I am writing you today to express my comments about Plan Bay Area 2040 which presumes to guide the entire San Francisco Bay Region to a better future WITHOUT citizen input.  Like my 6000 neighbors in Marinwood –Lucas Valley in unincorporated Marin, I already have a plan for the next twenty five years of my life and Plan Bay Area 2040 it isn’t.  I believe that America’s promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” does not need a bureaucracy to implement.  Sadly,  MTC and ABAG disagrees and has laid out a plan which at its outset promises to diminish the middle class and make transportation and housing more expensive. 

In my community of Marinwood in unincorporated Marin, 80% of the RHNA allocations for Marin were placed in just 3 square miles of the possible 840 square miles.   Our bedroom community has been identified as the preferred location for housing despite our lack of shopping and employment opportunities.    Plan Bay Area offers us nothing except grief and higher taxes.  We have chronicled much of it on

Here is a list of issues of concern in no particular order.

1.)    Plan Bay Area 2040 will lead to displacement of tens of thousands of people, destroy the social fabric of hundreds of communities and neighborhoods. It will hit ethnic communities the hardest due to economic and race criteria as a basis for community redevelopment .   It takes decades for communities to emerge and only a few years to destroy.  Hunters point,  San Francisco Mission,  the Filmore District are just a few examples of dislocation of communities.  Marin City,  a traditionally minority community is slated for redevelopment in Marin.  Generations of African Americans have been born, raised, married and passed in this tight knit community. It is a source of strength and pride for its residents.  Now, developers have an eye on this well located community to put market rate and luxury housing which will push out old residents due to construction and economic pressures.  It is wrong and immoral and at its heart, racist as it presumes that to “improve” the community, housing opportunities must be made available for Caucasians.   I filmed many community meetings there.  Here is a small sample.
2.)    Plan Bay Area 2040 fails to anticipate innovation in the changing workplace due to automation.  No one can predict the future but that doesn’t seem to stop planners from trying.
We know the vast changes that have come to our own lifetimes due to technical innovation but we could have hardly predicted how the pattern of life would change with advent of personal computers, the internet and bioscience.  Future innovations in science, medicine, robotics and transportation are likely to change the direction of the Bay Area in ways we cannot even imagine.  It is foolish to plan a transportation system without considering the impact of self driving cars, narrow vehicles, self chaining cars and changing demographics in the Bay Area due to the high cost of government.
3.)    Plan Bay Area 2040 fails to account for the near certainty of an earthquake and other natural disasters that could lead to the displacement and disruption of thousands of people’s lives.  Survivors from such an event will need new homes.  Where will they live?
4.)    Plan Bay Area 2040 does not adjust for the business cycle and recessions.  No growth happens at a regular rate as PBA 2040 suggests.   In fact, the boom and bust cycles in San Francisco has been happening since its founding. 
5.)    Plan Bay Area 2040 fails to assume the drag on construction and business formation created by high housing development fees and taxation.    California is one of the highest taxed states in the USA. Marin County is one of the highest taxed counties in California.  This makes Marin County a poor choice to build or expand a business.  PBA 2040 assumes unlimited growth without considering the effect of low cost jurisdictions.  Without business, there is no job growth.  The overly optimistic assumption of job growth in Marin by the MTC is unsupported by historical jobs data.  
6.)    Plan Bay Area 2040 Urban Sim model is error prone and proven to be unreliable.  Since Urban Sim has been in use for Plan Bay Area, staff at the MTC has been given feedback that it has huge errors.   For example, the cities of Sausalito and Corde Madera have “lot inventory” in FEMA flood zones and areas that are not economic to develop.  In Marinwood Lucas Valley,  landslide risk and steep hillsides limit large scale developments.  Urban Sim is too inaccurate to use as a planning tool.
7.)    Sea Level rise is ignored as a limiting factor in Plan Bay Area 2040.  Freeways, housing developments and rail tracks are predicted to be under water in 2040.  If Plan Bay Area 2040 has been created to thwart climate change, why isn’t Sea level rise taken seriously?      We know that due to improved efficiency of automobiles that GHG targets have been met WITHOUT Plan Bay Area.  Will sea level change happen or not?  Guessing an outcome that will cost citizens billions of dollars and destroy communities is not acceptable.
8.)    Quality of life is not considered in Plan Bay Area 2040.   Planners assume that the sun will always shine, San Francisco Bay Area will lead the world technology markets and public transit will never break down.  They never consider that public transit, for example, will cost the local economy jobs and economic output.  They never consider the working mom who cannot take public transit and care for her children or that the high cost of living will not enable families to provide a decent quality of life. 
9.)    Infrastructure upgrades will be needed but no funding source has been identified in Plan Bay Area 2040. When communities expand, they need new schools, sewer systems and expanded government services.  Who will pay for this expansion?  Since taxes are among the highest in the nation now, will middle class families be willing to pay more taxes for the “privilege” of high density housing? Probably not.  It will invite emigration to neighboring states.
10.) Local democratic representation is ignored in favor of a centralized bureaucracy that is unaccountable to local concerns in Plan Bay Area 2040.   This model of governance has been proven a failure across the United States and the globe.  It is antithetical to our democratic traditions  and disenfranchises citizens. Many will flee the Bay Area in favor of local governments that recognizes a citizen’s right to self government.
11.) Outreach in Plan Bay Area 2040 has been insufficient and ignored the number one constituency of voters- working families.  The “Plan Bay Area” club of politicians, bureaucrats and special interest groups do not represent the majority opinion.   Most people are blissfully unaware of Plan Bay Area 2040 but rest assured they will learn- and rebel once the plans are felt by the average voter.  Marin County, for example was only given one public meeting barely a week prior to public commentary deadline.  Only a handful a people of the 500,000 Marin residents attended.   Surely, the Planners at MTC are deluding themselves if they think people won’t notice.   Those of us who attended the meetings noted how flimsy the arguments of Plan Bay Area are.  There will be a steep political price to pay for manipulating the public. 
12.) The regressive taxation to be implemented in Plan Bay Area 2040 will hurt lower and middle class citizens the hardest.  VMTs, bridge tolls, congestion fees, toll roads will create greater social inequity than ever before.  Workers, business and the labor force who must rely on personal transportation will be forced to pay the highest cost.  This will definitely reduce economic output and incentivize people to flee the state.

It will be far better to allow Plan Bay Area 2040 the chance to achieve TRUE public approval with a full engagement process known as VOTING.   The central planning scheme is only as strong as the public support.

A vote of “no plan” is far superior to the costly, centrally planned nightmare known as Plan Bay Area 2040.


Stephen Nestel
Marinwood, CA 94903

A youtube playlist featuring many of the Plan Bay Area many moments can be seen at

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