State law requires that every metro area have one–but try pleasing everybody
A sweeping “green” vision for the future of transit and housing in the Bay Area inched a step closer to realization in Oakland last night.
Officials from the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission voted on portions of Plan Bay Area, a 25-year strategy for land use and transportation for the Bay Area’s growing population, which is expected to surpass nine million by 2040.
The plan also proposes ways to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction target of 15% by 2035 outlined under SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act – namely by encouraging high-density housing near transit hubs and along corridors.
“What this strategy is about is trying to be more efficient in our use of land,” MTC executive director Steve Heminger told KQED’s Cy Musiker before the meeting, “and also trying to be more cost-effective with our transit investment. As repeated studies have shown, if people live near BART they’re much more likely to use it than if they have to drive a long distance to get there.”
But the meeting was not without its share of contention. Some in attendance viewed the plan as an example of bureaucratic overreach. One resident called the document a “utopian masterplan.” Another said it was “quasi-dictatorial” and “collectivist.”
[module align=”left” width=”half” type=”pull-quote”]“We want to make sure the public participation we’ve invested for the last 18 months means something.”[/module]
Others in attendance, such as Carl Anthony, co-founder of Oakland-based Breakthrough Communities, said the plan does not go far enough to address long-standing historical inequality in housing and access to transit across the region. His group was part of a larger coalition of social and environmental justice groups in attendance called Six Wins for Social Equity.
“Many people are very disappointed,” Anthony told me. A high-profile figure in the Bay Area environmental justice movement, Anthony said that among other things, the current version of the plan does not take public health into consideration, nor does it ensure that proposed investments in high-density housing won’t displace poor communities near transit hubs.
“We want to make sure the public participation we’ve invested for the last 18 months means something,” he said.
A 2011 analysis of the goals of SB 375 by the Public Policy Institute of California suggested that policy should make driving more expensive to get people out of their cars, and that it’s just as important to co-locate transit with jobs, as with housing.
A final draft of the Bay Area plan is expected later this summer, said Napa County commissioner and president of the Association of Bay Area Governments, Mark Luce. From there, he said, completion of the Environmental Impact Report is expected to take about six months.