Building for the Future

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To persuade local jurisdictions to implement the land-use, housing and transportation goals of the state and federal governments, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has created the OneBayArea Grant Program. Under the program, the MTC is to invest approximately $795 million in federal funds during the four fiscal years from 2012-2013 to 2015-2016 in transportation projects supporting AB 32 goals. It provides financial rewards for jurisdictions that approve new housing development for all incomes, preserve open space and build bike and walking trails.

Bob Glover, executive officer of the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area, helped draft Plan Bay Area. But he’s insistent that the financial burdens the plan could put on residential builders need greater attention. The loss of funding through the state’s nearly 400 redevelopment agencies, which had to spend 20 percent of their revenue to finance low-cost housing, is a major blow to development of urban-infill apartments and condos, he said. Such development is expensive given high urban land values, the compliance cost of environmental regulations and local building fees. He also believes that local jurisdictions, such as cities and counties, are the best judges of what kind of housing is needed in their communities.

Still, high-density housing is the wave of the future, he agreed. “Though I think there is still more interest in suburban-style housing today, that’s not to say it won’t change,” Glover said. “Over the lifespan of [Plan Bay Area], demographics will change and so will attitudes about housing. And builders will respond to those changes.”

ABAG’s Chion discussed the ramifications of Plan Bay Area in the year and years ahead with The Registry.

Explain the need for regional planning efforts.

Because of AB 32, we have a legal mandate to reduce polluting emissions. The basic framework we need to create is to support jobs and housing close to public transportation. Choices we made in the past created the situation we are in today, where many people end up spending far too much time driving on freeways to get to their homes and workplaces. But we are seeing a new trend where more people want to trade in their three-car garages for easy access to cafes and clubs and museums. They want to be able to walk to city amenities instead of having a big house and driving to the shopping mall.

Does adopting Plan Bay Area put ABAG and MTC in charge of local land-use planning?

No, it does not grant any land-use planning authority to the regional agencies—that is retained by people at the local level in cities and counties. People at all levels of government, from the state, regional and local levels, will be cooperating to implement our plans, but the local officials still maintain control in their own communities.

Where are the priority development areas, or PDAs, located?

There is quite a bit of variety. For example, you have the downtown areas of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose; the Lake Merritt area near downtown Oakland; the area around the [Oracle Arena and] Coliseum off I-880 in Oakland; the Shattuck Avenue corridor in Berkeley and the “Grand Boulevard,” or El Camino Real corridor in the South Bay and along the Peninsula; and the downtown districts of such cities as Livermore and Cloverdale.

Describe some of the challenges that implementation of Plan Bay Area will face?

There are still some difficulties and complications for infill-style development in the Bay Area. Depending on the location, some of those include parking requirements that are still too high and lengthy timeframes for the entitlement process to get projects approved. But I think the loss of redevelopment agencies because of budget problems is perhaps the most significant hurdle.

Will there be financial inducements for local jurisdictions to support Plan Bay Area goals?

MTC has created the OneBayArea Grant Program, with money going to congestion management agencies in individual counties. In previous years, MTC distributed funding based on population in a given area. But the OneBayArea program grants will be based on a jurisdiction’s housing plans and housing production.

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