Plan Bay Area 2040:  Regionalism Marches On

April 3, 2017

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments released Plan Bay Area 2040, an update of the original regional transportation and land use plan implemented by MTC and ABAG in 2013.

Does Plan Bay Area 2040 differ from the original 2013 plan?

Objectives are the same – a roadmap for the Bay Area’s future growth that implements the two mandates of 2008 Senate Bill 375:  1) Climate protection by reducing CO2 emissions, and 2) Adequate housing by ensuring 100% of population growth at all income levels is accommodated.  Methodology remains the same:  1) Most population and job growth concentrated in Priority Development Areas, and 2) Little or no growth outside PDAs or Priority Conservation Areas.

Emphasis differs.  Focus on “Equitable Access” to housing is now greater than in 2013.  There is more reliance on policy changes and compulsory legislation, rather than dependence on market incentives.  Emphasis on mapping the Bay Area into “subregions” – “Big 3 Cities,” “Bayside”, and “Inland, coastal and Delta” – is also new.

Why the changes from Plan Bay Area 2013.

Plan Bay Area is on its way to achieve or exceed its targets on climate protection, adequate housing, open space, and economic vitality.  It will barely reach targets on adverse health impacts, share of affordable housing, and use of automobiles.  It is moving in the wrong direction on housing and transportation costs as percentage of income, percentage of residents at risk of displacement, time travelled to reach jobs, and vehicle maintenance costs due to pavement conditions.  The planners chose to double down on the missed targets. 

What in Plan Bay Area 2040 should be of concern?

Plenty:  1) A region is not a jurisdiction to which voters elect their representatives; therefore, bureaucrats developing and administering Plan Bay Area are not accountable to residents in any way.  2) Embedded in the plan is the ability to promote compulsory regional and state legislation, even though PBA maintains its proposals are “voluntary guidelines.” 3) PBA has already achieved the two mandates of SB 375, and now it is expanding into more overt micromanagement and social engineering that lack authority of enabling legislation. 4) The plan’s methodology of concentrated development of housing and jobs along transit-rich corridors, coupled with targets of equitable access, creates astronomical housing costs – costs of subsidies and costs of producing higher more expensive buildings. 5) PBA 2040 fails to deeply assess the current increase in outmigration of Bay Area residents, simply ascribing the trend to high housing costs, thereby rendering the plan’s growth projections problematic.

So what can be done?

Although voters have no control over Plan Bay Area 2040, they do have control over legislation, especially funding legislation.  Keeping a close eye on what legislation is on ballots and what legislation elected representatives are passing puts control back in the hands of residents.

Communicating to elected representatives the concerns posed by Plan Bay Area 2040 and suggesting alternatives could result in a better strategy than the current.  Less emphasis on vast swaths of open space and a first-rate transit system is a good start.