OP-ED: Daniel Borenstein, CONTRA COSTA TIMES
Now the hard work begins.
Leaders of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on Wednesday temporarily halted their ham-handed bid for a hostile takeover of the Association of Bay Area Governments. Instead, the two regional planning agencies have promised to work cooperatively toward a needed and long-overdue merger.
There’s much at stake. The Bay Area must better align housing, jobs and public transit. We spend too much time stuck in traffic. It will only get worse if we fail to build densely near transit centers and continue to approve sprawl along highway corridors already filled to capacity.
Unfortunately, for decades we’ve had two regional planning agencies — one for transportation, the other for housing — that have been engaged in passive-aggressive and sometimes open warfare.
Read more at: Daniel Borenstein: Much at stake for Bay Area in regional planning merger talks – ContraCostaTimes.com
For more on the MTC/ABAG power struggle: “A pricey palace, huge losses in risky investments, a busted bridge – and now the agency responsible wants more power.”
Zelda Bronstein, MARIN POST
Last week the power struggle between the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments intensified, as the Sierra Club and the Six Wins for Equity Network entered the fray. Meanwhile, the agencies’ joint ad hoc committee resumed its secret deliberations on consolidating the planning functions of the two agencies.
Routinely ignored by the media, MTC and ABAG operate in obscurity at their MetroCenter headquarters in Oakland. That’s unfortunate, given their huge impact on where Bay Area residents live and work (or not), and how we get around. MTC oversees the region’s transportation planning; ABAG manages its planning for land use and housing. Together they prepared the region’s first, state-mandated Sustainable Communities Strategy, Plan Bay Area 2040, approved in July 2013. Under the aegis of that “blueprint,” as they call it, the two groups expect to hand out $292 billion in public funds.
Their current dispute involves money. Finance-wise, the two partners are highly unequal. MTC has an annual budget of more than $900 million; ABAG’s budget is $23.6 million. More to the point, ABAG depends on MTC for crucial funding. The first public sign of trouble appeared in late June, when MTC voted to fund ABAG’s planning and research staff for only six months ($1.9 million) instead of the customary full fiscal year.
The timing of the MTC vote was not coincidental. At the end of December the two agencies are scheduled to move into their plush new headquarters in San Francisco. If major administrative changes are in the offing, MTC officials want to make them before the relocation.
But what’s really at stake is not efficiency; it’s who will call the shots, and in what direction they will aim. In particular, will social justice count in Plan Bay Area 2.0?
Read more at: The Marin Post
SIERRA CLUB YODELER
Today the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments reached an agreement with environmental and social justice groups on litigation relating to their latest regional transportation and development plan, Plan Bay Area.
Plan Bay Area’s stated purpose was to reduce climate change pollution by planning for transportation, smart housing development and land management in the nine counties surrounding the San Francisco Bay.
In August 2013, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and Sierra Club sued the agencies for failing to adopt a plan that would meaningfully achieve these goals. Earthjustice, which represented the groups and was co-counseled by CBE, challenged the agencies for failing to provide information about the viability of communities targeted for development, for ignoring the public health effects of increased freight shipments through vulnerable communities such as East Oakland, and for taking credit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions which actually resulted from other greenhouse gas abatement measures unrelated to Plan (such as California’s low-carbon fuel standards).
Today’s settlement provides concrete benefits to all residents of the region. The settlement requires the agencies to:
via Agencies agree to disclose environmental impacts of Bay Area Transportation and Housing Plan—Settlement lays groundwork for robust regional planning.