Plan Bay Area adoption set for July 18


By Jennifer Modenessi

Contra Costa Times


ORINDA -- A regional plan some Bay Area residents say could lead to overcrowded schools, taxed infrastructure and high-density development in cities struggling to fulfill affordable housing requirements is up for adoption Thursday.

Officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments are set to meet at the Oakland Marriott to vote on Plan Bay Area, which weaves together long-range housing, jobs and transportation planning in response to state mandates.

Drafted by One Bay Area, a collaboration of agencies including A BAG and MTC, the highly debated plan envisions how cities in the Bay Area's nine counties can fulfill guidelines outlined in Senate Bill 375. That bill requires the state's 18 metropolitan areas to do their part in cutting down pollution as part of a "Sustainable Communities Strategy." One of the plan's 10 targets, according to One Bay Area's architects, is a 15 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, including those from cars and light duty trucks in the Bay Area by the year 2040; another is housing for the projected population growth in all income levels. Both are mandated by state law.

A BAG executive board president and Napa County supervisor Mark Luce said officials hope to minimize traffic congestion and provide housing choices that benefit everyone.

"Ideally, less time will be spent commuting to work which will reduce our environmental impacts and allow more time for caring for families and personal health," Luce said in an e-mail. "(The plan) will also avoid housing overcrowding where multiple families are forced to share housing due to an imbalance between job opportunities and housing availability."

It is the plan's housing component, in which cities follow state housing element law that requires them to zone housing for all income levels -- but not build it -- that is drawing the ire of many residents in the East Bay. They object to growth forecasts, housing requirements in locations near jobs and transportation, known as "priority development areas," and what they say is a loss of local control.

MTC Chair and Orinda Mayor Amy Worth has a different view. "Local control is preeminent in this plan. All the land use and zoning decisions are left solidly with the city council," Worth said.

Earlier this year, Danville residents pushed back on a proposal by city leaders to alter the town's general plan to encourage higher density affordable housing. In March, the city of Corte Madera withdrew its membership from A BAG in response to targets set for affordable and market-rate housing units there.

Discontent with Plan Bay Area has also been growing in Lamorinda, where the group Orinda Watch has held town hall meetings to discuss the plan's potential impacts.

The group is also ratcheting up pressure on the city council to withdraw Orinda's state-mandated housing element identifying where future housing could be accommodated. Orinda residents are decrying a city proposal to double housing density in one location in order to accommodate affordable housing, among other issues.

"The location of housing (in the plan) is not that efficient," said Orinda Watch member Chris Engle. "It's crowding people into multistory developments right next to highways."

There's been less public outcry in neighboring Lafayette, where 1,420 additional households have been projected in the final plan.

Lafayette Vice Mayor Don Tatzin and his council colleagues have pushed back on estimates in the "Regional Housing Needs Allocation" through correspondence and discussions with A BAG officials. Their persistence has resulted in an adjustment of housing, projected jobs and other numbers officials argued were not realistic.

"If we hadn't paid attention to the (housing) numbers, we wouldn't have gotten the reduction. People have to pay attention and be willing to go back and voice their concerns consistently," Tatzin said.

About $14.6 billion in funding over the plan's life span is available through the One Bay Area Grant Program to support infrastructure in cities with "priority development areas."

Officials say they have held about 250 public meetings and workshops during the three-year planning process.
if you go

What: Plan Bay Area adoption at special meeting of MTC Commission and A BAG executive board
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Oakland Marriott City Center, West Hall, 1001 Broadway