Contra Costa County's Board of Supervisors believe the draft Plan Bay Area is a good first step in setting regional goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a letter addressed to the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The plan could, however, use stronger language about local control and focus more on unincorporated areas.
Plan Bay Area is a long-range transportation and land-use/housing plan which aims to provide more housing and transportation choices, and reduce transportation-related pollution in all nine Bay Area counties. The effort grew out of the Senate Bill 375, which requires each of the state's 18 metropolitan areas to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars and light trucks.
"We very much articulated our points, being that somewhere in Plan Bay Area you need to re-articulate that you must have local control, that cities and counties have the right to determine the location, the density, the quantity of housing in their communities," said District 2 Supervisor Candace Anderson. "Sometimes you have the problem of when you're focusing on concentric growth....those ideas come in conflict with local goals. "
Local activists have been vocal in their opposition to the plan, which calls for more clustered development near transportation centers to decrease environmental impact, and several questioned the need for GHG reductions at Danville Town Council meetings. It's unlikely that walkable communities will sprout up near BART stations or freeways, Anderson noted.
"The Bay Area unquestionably faces significant challenges in reaching the targeted reductions of GHG emissions of 7 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 and 15 percent by 2035 set for the region by the California Air Resources Board," wrote Federal Glover, District 5 supervisor and board chair. "While we believe that Draft Plan Bay Area establishes a good initial framework to reduce the region's GHG emissions as mandated under SB 375, we are concerned that unless actions are taken at the state and federal levels the implementation of Plan Bay Area's jobs-housing connection strategy and transportation investment strategy will be greatly hampered."
Glover said priority development areas (PDA) highlighted in the plan will not materialize unless there is a "new, locally controlled funding tool, which replaces redevelopment, to finance affordable housing projects and infrastructure improvements." He also agreed with the plan's call to update the California Environmental Quality Act in order to streamline the environmental review process and promote development within PDAs.
Local taxes such as Measure J generate about two-thirds of the state's transportation funding, the letter continued, and action at the state level is needed to support such "self-help" countywide transportation funding measures. Glover expressed concern about the long-term financial viability of the Preferred Transportation Investment Strategy since many similar measures expire within the 30-year horizon of Plan Bay Area.
"We, therefore, agree that that lowering the voter approval threshold for such 'self-help' funding measures from the two-thirds supermajority to 55 percent would increase the likelihood of extending such funding measures that the region and state now rely upon to fund transportation improvements," Glover wrote.
The supervisors also acknowledged opposition concerns about Plan Bay Area usurping the land use authority of cities and the county. Glover and the supervisors asked that the MTC emphasize language about local control and clarify that Plan Bay Area doesn't mandate that all housing must be built in PDAs.
A map of "communities of concern" -- neighborhoods that could be considered disadvantaged or vulnerable in terms of both current conditions and potential impact of future growth -- is also missing several unincorporated communities including the town of Rodeo, Glover noted. The omission may be due to the fact that the communities sit within a larger Census tract that includes neighborhoods with higher household incomes, skewing the overall income data.
"The section on communities of concern should acknowledge unincorporated communities...and some attempt should be made to identify these unincorporated communities potentially missed from the equity analysis," the letter stated.