6:00pm

Tue July 23, 2013
Transportation

Controversial Plan Bay Area adopted by regional planners

Last week, two regional government groups voted to adopt Plan Bay Area. An estimated two million people are moving the Bay Area by 2040 – that’s a 30 percent increase. Plan Bay Area creates sweeping transportation, housing, and environmental recommendations for cities to handle that growth.

ABAG (the Association of Bay Area Governments) and the MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) adopted the plan early Friday morning, after a six-hour public meeting that began Thursday evening.

At its centerpiece, Plan Bay Area says 80 percent of growth should be contained in Priority Development Areas, or PDAs. These PDAs are places like downtown San Jose and Oakland’s Jack London Square, areas that are close to public transit and can handle higher-density housing. The idea is to prevent more sprawl by building up existing land, and creating walkable, transit-oriented communities.

The plan also lays out requirements for cities to plan for affordable housing, more transportation infrastructure, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Local governments won’t be forced to comply with Plan Bay Area, but adopting it would give them more access to grant money if they choose to redevelop.

Last week’s meeting included a lengthy public comment section, with well over 150 people signed up to talk. The crowd was mostly opponents of the plan who brought large signs and were prone to chanting. During their comments, opponents repeatedly called on ABAG and the MTC to let the public vote on Plan Bay Area. Chiefly from Marin and suburban Alameda and Sonoma counties, they complained that decisions made by the regional bodies violate the local governments’ independence. Liz Manning of Mill Valley summed up the beliefs of many opponents.

“To all the political bureaucrats sitting here, if you’re so hot on this plan, please lead the way, get out of your cars, and move into the stack-and-packs yourselves,” she said. “For those of you who still have your integrity intact, please find the courage to vote against this unconstitutional atrocity.”

Many said the plan’s intention to create the higher-density PDA’S threatened their suburban lifestyle and accused ABAG and the MTC of trying to artificially change the way people live. Some even invoked comparisons to the Soviet Union and China.

Supporters showed up in large numbers as well, cheering whenever someone spoke in favor of the plan. Many of the supporting speakers were young, and talked about how they and their peers are giving up cars. They said they want a Bay Area that’s full of opportunities to bike, walk, and take public transit.

In some places, growth is already trending toward creating transit-oriented development. Oakland has Fruitvale Village, and Walnut Creek has the Contra Costa Centre. And just north of San Jose, the city of Milpitas has plans for a community that will center on its new BART station.

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