Ambitious plan to ease Bay Area housing crunch draws heat, but passes

By Rachel Swan : sfchronicle – excerpt

It was supposed to be a fairly smooth sign-off on an ambitious plan to stanch the Bay Area’s housing crisis.

Instead, Wednesday’s meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission became a taut showdown. While a panel of mayors, transit officials and business leaders vigorously defended their proposal to build 35,000 homes a year, residents and leaders of smaller cities who had been balking solidified into stiff opposition, saying they’d been left out of the discussions.

After a four-hour debate, the commission voted 14-3 to authorize MTC Chairman Jake Mackenzie to sign the plan — which is advisory only, but meant to serve as a blueprint for state and local lawmakers. Commissioners call it a compact, a compromise among various groups that don’t always trust each other: developers, tech executives, politicians, tenant advocates…

Even so, MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger acknowledged that not everyone is happy about the arrangement. Tension stewed from the outset of the meeting…

CASA members also want to create an agency with taxing authority to shepherd the policies…

Heminger conceded that CASA could have done more community outreach over the year and a half that it worked to create the housing plan.

“Obviously we did not have all 101 (Bay Area) cities involved,” he said. “We’re trying to remedy that as we speak.”

Even so, he urged the commissioners to approve the plan so it could be shipped to lawmakers’ desks in Sacramento. “We’re staring a new legislative session in the face,” he said… (more)

Europe is erupting over taxes and preferential treatment for wealthy corporations that has been driven the lower and middle classes ever deeper into poverty and dispair. It will not take much more pressure on the taxpaying public in California to bring the pitchforks out here. What happens if some of the counties opt out of the regional plan by removing themselves from the MTC? What happens when citizens rebel against a new taxing agency?

Transportation power has regional land-use group in a bag

By dailyrepublic – excerpt

VALLEJO — A regional coalition of nine counties and 101 cities is trying to keep a heartbeat while being squeezed by a more powerful regional commission.

Ezra Rapport, executive director of the Association of Bay Area Governments, presented an overview of what the organization hopes to accomplish by merging with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

But the Metropolitan Transportation Commission does not have to accept anything that the Association of Bay Area Governments offers, and could essentially sign the association’s death warrant by cutting off a $3.7 million grant that represents about a third of the group’s grant funding.

“That is what’s been referred to as the hostile takeover,” Rapport told a gathering of seven representatives of Solano County and some of its cities Wednesday night at Vallejo City Hall.

Rapport anticipates a proposal in which the Association of Bay Area Governments’ land-use planners would be shifted under Metropolitan Transportation Commission administrative control. Negotiations would then begin to redefine how the commission – or at least the new land-use planning element – is constructed.

Rapport, whose own job would be at risk with the merger, sees 2018 as the deadline for the new governing format to be completed. That coincides with the commission board election.

But the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which has an 18-member board composed of elected officials appointed to the panel, has been reluctant to make any changes to its structure. Rapport is trying to convince the leadership that the proposal does not change the commission, only the land-use planning structure so the cities would continue to have a voice.

The Association of Bay Area Governments, with a 38-member board composed of elected officials appointed to the panel, will take up the proposal at its May 19 meeting. The regional transportation commission meets May 25.

A key figure in the outcome, as far as Solano County is concerned, is Supervisor Jim Spering. He sits on the transportation commission board but has not been supportive of the Association of Bay Area Governments.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission was created by the state Legislature in 1970 to oversee regional transportation planning and coordination for the nine-county Bay Area region.

It does not have any authority over land-use planning, which is constitutionally directed to the cities and counties – the volunteer members of the Association of Bay Area Governments that pay a total of $2 million in annual dues.

Those members want a voice, but do not have as much political leverage as the state-funded Metropolitan Transportation Commission. They could choose to drop out completely, and take their dues with them.

Rapport said efforts to get the governor’s office or a legislator involved have been unsuccessful.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has traditionally provided the Association of Bay Area Governments with a grant, but recently adopted a resolution that would end that funding, creating the need to merge the organizations or see the Association of Bay Area Governments dissolve.

The Association of Bay Area Governments was formed in 1961 and has membership that represents more than 7 million residents. It does not have a direct revenue source. Instead, it depends on membership dues and grants.

Rapport said a merger of the two regional organizations could be a benefit to residents because it would bring huge issues such as water, affordable housing, earthquake insurance, climate change and energy under a single planning roof.

Even if the two groups can come to some kind of compromise, there are other issues to overcome. One of those is that the Association of Bay Area Governments is a union workplace, while the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is not… (more)


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