“Stack and Pack” was the overwhelming theme of the public hearing held Monday April 22nd by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). Under review was the controversial Draft Bay Area Plan 2013 that mandates urban planning priorities in the Bay Area.
This forum was the only scheduled puiblic comment event in Contra Costa County during the 45 day comment period allocated by these agencies for the public to wiegh in on the plan. Representing ABAG as members of their Executive Board were Contra Costa Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, and Clayton Mayor Julie Pierce, who is also VP of the organization. Former Orinda Mayor and current City Council member Amy Worth, the Contra Costa Chair for the MTC, was also present at the function.
Even though the infill stack and pack housing component makes up only a relatively small part of the ABAG/MTC spending plan, the majority of speakers at the meeting (who came from primarily Orinda, Danville, and Lafayette) voiced their opposition to this type of housing being constructed in their communities. Common themes in their remarks were:
1.Air pollution standards for those living in these stack and pack complex’s that would be constructed near Hwy 24, would not be in compliance with the clean air standards of ABAG and the MTC.
2. Adding significant population to local communities would adversely affect the quality of the schools, impact downtown areas, and put additional burdens on law enforcement. At the same time speakers expressed concern that infrastructure costs, that were not considered in the Draft Bay Area Plan, are not in compliance with local Enviramental Impact Reports put out by these agencies.
3. The ABAG/MTC vision for Orinda, Danville, Lafayette, and other cities in Contra Costa County runs contrary to the unspoiled rural nature of these places.
4. By creating infill developments in downtown areas near BART would result in congestion and property values falling.
5. Objections by opponents of the Draft Bay Area Plan that ABAG and the MTC are conspiring with the State of California by implementing regional planning to take over this process from local control. Along with this was the suggestion of many speakers that their cities withdraw from ABAG membership.
Rosa Kiore of the Post Sustainability Institute threatened a law suit against the regional planning organizations to stop implementation of the Draft Bay Area Plan on constitutional grounds and taking away their voice under the Bill of Rights of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
This speech any many others at the meeting were greeted by loud applause from the audience that filled the ballroom of the Walnut Creek Marriot. Despite this enthusiasm, the services of four security guards hired for this event were not required in order to control the proceedings.
Aside from the localized complaints against stack and housing projects with a significant component of low income housing, there was also opposition to the Draft Bay Area Plan on other grounds. One frequently mentioned point was questioning whether there was a great demand for these type of dwellings given the large exodus of residents of California to other states because of high taxes, lack of jobs, and expensive governmental regulations. ” Where is ABAG and the MTC getting their data” one speaker asked.
Another major consideration was the perceived notion that these regional organizations are threatening to withhold funds for road repair generated by payment of gas taxes for communities that do not comply with their development plans. Along with this line of thinking several speakers compared the activities of ABAG /MTC to “Globalists” who have tried and failed to implement central planning in the Soviet Union and with other dictatorial regimes.
There were also supporters of the One Bay Area plan sprinkled in with those who denounced the proposal. A speaker representing the Sheet Metal Union supported the construction of low income housing and the jobs building them would create. There were also advocates of the poor who favored construction of infill units to meet what they deemed a “great need in our society”
A few individuals who identified themselves as “environmentalists”, supported the ABAG/MTC plan because of its strong component of protecting urban sprawl, creating more bike paths, and land preservation in outlying parts of Contra Costa County.
The one subject that virtually everyone at the meeting was in agreement with is the need to extend the current 45 day public comment period for the One Bay Area Plan by ABAG and the MTC. Most people thought that an extension is needed so citizens can properly review the 162 page report and the 3000 plus EIR on the proposal.
With most of the dialogue at the meeting centered on the stack and pack issue, there was very little discussion on the MTC’s priorities on highway construction and public transportation where the majority of discretionary funds are being allocated under the One Bay Area Plan. Contra Costa receiving only a small percentage of these funds versus gas taxes contributed, was not discussed in depth at the meeting.
At the conclusion of the proceedings, the three politicians, who patiently listened to each speaker vent their views on the controversial report that is intended to be the blueprint for urban development and transportation in the Bay Area for the next generation, thanked those in attendance for their participation at the meeting.
Unless the 45 days comment period is extended, there will be no more events currently scheduled by ABAG and the MTC for approving their plan. However, citizens through the agency’s web site still have the opportunity to express their views via e-mail.