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Regional government sells out Bay Area cities

April 15, 2016

By Zelda Bronstein : 48hills – excerpt

I’ve been covering the current power struggle between the Association of Bay Area Governments, our region’s land use planning authority, and its transportation planning counterpart, the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, since the feud burst into public last July. This is no ordinary bureaucratic turf war. The scope of MTC’s largesse alone—to take one recent and controversial example, the recently announced $260 million dollar emergency bailout of the Transit Center includes a $100 million loan from MTC—means that the outcome of this fight will profoundly affect life in the Bay Area.

And now there’s a new chapter – a meeting next week that could leave many of the smaller cities and counties in the region completely disenfranchised as what is supposedly a representative body moves to railroad through a very questionable merger deal.

So far my stories have cast MTC as the villain of the piece—for good reason:… (more)

How does this merger effect the residents of the cities that are contained in the area under “regional” government? How does this play into the Prop AA bill the voters of those same 9 counties will be required to pass in order to establish a first ever regional parcel tax on all properties within the region?

  • ABAG staff wanted to keep crucial anti-displacement language in the forthcoming update of Plan Bay Area, the state-mandated regional “blueprint” jointly produced by the two agencies; MTC staff wanted to remove it.
  • ABAG, a council of governments, was formed as a Joint Powers Authority by the Bay Area cities and is voluntarily supported by all of the region’s 101 cities; MTC, a Metropolitan Planning Organization, is a California state agency with an autocratic style.
  • ABAG, the poor relation of the duo, depends on an annual MTC grant of $3 million annual to fund its land-use planning staff; in July MTC abruptly voted to allocate only six months of that money and then to seize ABAG’s land use planners—a move that would effectively destroy ABAG.
  • In September MTC Chair and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese engineered a legislative putsch, pressuring the ABAG Administrative Committee into approving MTC Resolution 4210, which extends the $3 million grant until June 1, 2016, at which point, unless the two agencies have approved a merger plan, MTC’s hostile takeover of ABAG planning staff will go forward.
  • ABAG staff are unionized; MTC staff are not.

But I’ve also qualified my appreciation of ABAG in light of the agency’s own problems:…


  • Like MTC, ABAG has no direct accountability to any Bay Area electorate. The 38 members of the ABAG Executive Board, the organization’s official governing body, are elected officials, but they’re not elected to their regional offices. They’re city councilmembers appointed by the mayors of members cities in each county or county supervisors chosen by their respective boards of supervisors.
  • ABAG’s power entity is its ten-member Administrative Committee, chosen by the Executive Board and authorized to act between Executive Board meetings. It includes four MTC members, including MTC Chair Cortese, who operate as a fifth column that advances MTC’s expansionist designs….

ABAG’s oligarchical tendencies have become even more pronounced during the first four months of the merger planning process stipulated by Resolution 4210…

Since the deadline for approving a merger implementation plan is June 1, it would appear that on May 27 either the Joint Committee will approve an implementation plan or MTC will grab ABAG’s land use planning staffers, leaving the land use planning agency politically and financially bankrupt…

Unless the region’s cities and counties—especially the smaller and medium-sized cities, since the mayors of the big three, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, have already thrown in with MTC—show some gumption, get together, and take a stand, come June 1, they’re going allow themselves to be severely disenfranchised. The April 21 General Assembly offers a prime opportunity to start to fight back(more)

Note: If not for indefatigable videographer Ken Bukowski, I couldn’t have written this story or any of my other pieces about the ABAG-MTC fight. Ken attended and filmed them all the meetings mentioned above. His films are posted on his website, Bay Area Regional Videos ( Thank you, Ken for doing a great public service.

Concerned citizens might want to ask the state reps about this situation next time you see them at a coffee or other neighborhood get together. Talking to Supervisors is probably a waste of time on this one.



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