CASA Compact Approved: Representation Takes Another Hit?

Directors of ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) voted on January 17, 2019, to authorize the Executive Board President to sign on to the CASA Compact (Committee to House the Bay Area). Vote was 21 Yes and 9 No. This win occurred in spite of serious concerns expressed by those who contributed public comments and by ABAG directors present at the meeting. A video of the meeting is available on the ABAG website.

CASA is a “15-Year Emergency Policy Package to Confront the Housing Crisis in the San Francisco Bay Area.” It is really a package of radical proposals prepared by the MTC/ABAG staff, intended to support legislation already initiated by the California legislature. At various times during the meeting directors indicated that the “ship had already sailed,” and ABAG’s only choices were to follow the ship by signing on to the CASA Compact or be left behind without any voice as to what happens in Sacramento.

Our Concerns

This website has expressed concerns about CASA since MTC/ABAG introduced the plan. Our concerns keep growing, not only about the CASA Compact specifically, but mostly about the inexorable march away from representative government. By not paying sufficient attention to the actions of legislators in Sacramento and the actions of regional agencies, we the people are voluntarily giving up our rights to representation. By not remembering that declarations of emergency – especially a long-term emergency, such as CASA’s 15 years – are often preludes to removal of rights and constitutional guarantees, we the people are falling into a well-known trap.

At the ABAG Executive Board Meeting of January 17, some directors revealed their view on representation: When they wear their local hat at their city or county meetings, they represent residents. When they wear their regional hat, they represent MTC/ABAG. Housing and transportation laws enacted by state legislators during the past five years have diminished the power of cities and counties, and enabled regions to create mandates that local jurisdictions must follow. Local hats representing residents become merely symbolic, while constitutional representation disappears.

Public and Directors’ Concerns

There were 65 public speakers at the ABAG Executive Board meeting of January 17. The majority of their comments fell into two categories: vehement opposition to CASA, and support for CASA because there was supposedly nothing else on the table to start the ball rolling to solve the housing crisis.

The majority of comments by ABAG Directors supported moving forward with CASA, again because there was nothing else with which to “do something” about the housing crisis, and besides, the ship had already sailed. Here are rough paraphrases of some of the Directors’ comments, followed by their vote on the CASA Compact. For information, also here is a summary of the counties that voted NO:

Candace Andersen, County of Contra Costa; Thom Bogue, City of Dixon; Monica Brown, County of Solano; Pat Eklund, City of Novato; Wayne Lee, City of Millbrae; Rafael Mandelman, County of San Francisco; Nathan Miley, County of Alameda; David Pine, County of San Mateo; Dennis Rodoni, County of Marin.

Directors’ Comments and Votes

Candace Andersen, County of Contra Costa: There are problems with mandating rent control, minimum zoning, and relinquishing city and county revenue streams to fund regional plans - NO

Jesse Arreguin, Berkeley: CASA’s process is not perfect, but unless we vote “yes,” we have no voice. A “no” vote also means loss of a funding sources - YES

Thom Bogue, City of Dixon: Small employers and landlords do not have room for more taxes. The finance part of CASA needs to work for these residents – NO

Monica Brown, County of Solano - NO

Cindy Chavez, County of Santa Clara: This CASA authorization is not an endorsement. There will be further opportunity later for outreach. Give robust discussion points to legislators so they can craft the laws – YES

Chris Clark, City of Mountain View: If ABAG says “no” we take ourselves out of the conversation. We need to share our thoughts with legislators and work with cities. YES

David Cortese, County of Santa Clara: MTC Executive Director must convey to legislators all comments made during this meeting, so that legislators know what to expect in the way of opposition to proposed legislation, and can best do outreach when time comes to place proposals for funding sources before voters – YES

Pat Eklund, City of Novato: Control demand via control of where the job are. CASA was put together without representation from a majority of cities, especially small cities. People are leaving because of high taxes. Developers are holding on to permits and not building anything. Corporations benefit unduly from Proposition 13, and reform is necessary - NO

Leon Garcia, City of American Canyon: We need to understand what a region is. We need a transportation summit. YES

Liz Gibbons, City of Campbell: CASA makes no mention of transportation, jobs location, labor costs. Additional sales taxes on individuals exacerbates the affordability situation - YES

Gibson McElhaney, City of Oakland: How is our vote tonight meaningful if the ship has already sailed? CASA does not adequately address middle-income residents, homeowners, housing quality, link of housing to jobs - YES

Barbara Halliday, City of Hayward. CASA is a start, but we need more time to address economic analysis of additional housing and infrastructure – YES

Dan Kalb, City of Oakland: At ABAG we play a role different than the one we play in our city halls. Here we think regionally. We need to add to CASA a requirement to fund undue rent increases. Tax abatements should only apply to below-market units, not any development. There should be no building outside growth boundaries - YES

Wayne Lee, City of Millbrae: Taxes are heaped upon individual taxpayers. Where are corporations? We need a multidimensional approach. We need to build where people want to live - NO

Jake Mackenzie, City of Rohnert Park: Everything in CASA has been in Plan Bay Area all along - YES

Rafael Mandelman, City & County of San Francisco: San Francisco supports a specific approach. CASA does not give enough thought to local behavior. Just focusing on zoning changes is not effective – NO

Nathan Miley, County of Alameda: NO

Raul Peralez, City of San Jose: We need to support CASA so we can move forward in finding funding sources. We need to demand that employers contribute in the funding - YES

Dave Pine, San Mateo County: People a leaving the Bay Area because of housing costs, so we need to act. CASA is like a rough draft or framework – NO

Rabbitt, County of Sonoma: People are leaving because there is no housing. If we had a health crisis, we would take action, so why not take action on the housing crisis. ABAG needs to act, since the ship has sailed - YES

John Rahaim, City & County of San Francisco: The entire region is unaffordable. We are voting on a framework. We should not be arguing details, but focusing on concept - YES

Belia Ramos, County of Napa: CASA is a tool box. We should move forward - YES

Dennis Rodoni: Marin County: NO

Carlos Romero, City of East Palo Alto: Local control has destroyed the Bay Area. We need to think regionally - YES