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A Bay Area Plan for Development and Displacement

July 30, 2013

by Gen Fujiokabeyondchron – excerpt

On July 18 the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) approved a thirty-year “Smart Growth” regional plan. Most notably, the plan seeks to steer the majority of the region’s real estate development into specified locations including most of San Francisco’s eastern neighborhoods–despite projections that the strategy will displace tens of thousands and a finding by a state agency that it is in violation of state law.

Under the plan entitled ‘Plan Bay Area,’ San Francisco is expected to grow its population by over 35%, to over 1,080,000 by 2040 (by comparison, Marin’ is asked to accommodate a 13% increase). Eleventh hour amendments spearheaded by progressives may eventually mitigate or at least soften some of the negative impacts but these broadly stated amendments to the plan leave their outcomes uncertain. And even as amended, the adopted plan fails to incorporate the primary recommendations of an alternative plan proposed by environmental and social equity advocates that would have distributed regional growth more evenly and yielded environmental and social equity outcomes ranked as “superior” even by the standards set by MTC/ABAG’s own researchers.

Although it is too early to assess the full implications of Plan Bay Area it is already clear that if state regulators allow MTC/ABAG to proceed, this plan will have consequences unlike the region’s ‘vision statements’ of the past. Plan Bay Area is literally a road map for public and private investment…

How do the regional agencies rationalize how their plan will put tens of thousands of existing Bay Area residents at risk of displacement? First, in their environmental impact analysis the agencies assert that although there will be local displacement at the community/neighborhood level, their plans for overall regional housing production will offset that loss by providing another place in the Bay Area for that displaced family to land. They also reference to San Francisco’s rent control as a policy that will control for local displacement. And finally, they assert that the benefits of improving neighborhoods will outweigh the impacts of displacement.

The inadequacies of the latter two claims are obvious to San Franciscans who have witnessed the gentrification of formerly economically diverse neighborhoods throughout the City. But the slight-of-hand logic of the first claim deserves additional attention…

State law requires that all localities accommodate their ‘fair share’ of a region’s need for housing production. In June, HCD found the PDA policy violates that law and instructed ABAG to revise the policy and adjust its goals. But ABAG disregarded HCD’s instructions and approved the unrevised housing goals on July 18 along with the adoption of Plan Bay Area. HCD’s response has not yet been announced. Whatever the state’s next move, the survival of the region’s economically and ethnically diverse communities is likely to require a concerted effort to divert Plan Bay Area from its present path towards unequal development and increased displacement.

Gen Fujioka is the public policy manager at Chinatown Community Development Center. For further supporting documentation see this link(more)

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