Lawsuit against "Plan Bay Area"

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May 2016: California Court of Appeal will hear argument over the legality of Plan Bay Area — the plan to restrict future development in all but a tiny fraction of the already incredibly expensive Bay Area

Plan Bay Area Truths

Bay Area Citizens members submitted a number of substantive comments. (  )

 Nationally-respected experts in land use and transportation planning provided an objective analysis:

  1.  the Plan’s high density housing mandates and additional mass transit subsidies won’t work, even to accomplish the Plan’s own stated objectives—while they are detrimental to the citizens, cities, and the Bay Area as a whole, and

  2.  the Plan’s analysis was irreparably flawed.

1. The Plan’s high density housing mandates and mass transit subsidies.

  • underfunds roads and bridges in order to increase mass transit subsidies, particularly for rail systems

  •   The Plan’s own analysis shows that 80% of all new housing must be built in multistory, multifamily projects in crowded city centers is not, remotely, plausible. 

  •  will have significant and irremediable health impacts. 

  •  offer no credible data to support  that locating housing next to jobs next to transit will lead to people giving up their cars and working at the jobs next to the housing units. 

  • The Plan also assumes that per capita transit ridership will skyrocket more than 90% over the next 30 years, notwithstanding that its mass transit policies simply continue the same types of initiatives that have been tried in the Bay Area for the last 30 years—initiatives that have led to a 10% decline in total transit ridership and a more than 30% decline in transit ridership per capita.

  • Since the fuel efficiency of the passenger vehicle fleet will increase from 20 miles per gallon (MPG) in 2010 to 50 MPG in 2040 due to state and federal regulations, the energy efficiency gap gives a greenhouse gas emission advantage of passenger vehicles over mass transit.   Though some buses in large cities run full and hence are both energy and greenhouse gas efficient on a per passenger mile basis, this doesn’t mean that mass transit, on average, is similarly efficient—and it is not. 

  • The Plan also does nothing to address the mobility needs of lower income Bay Area residents who are reliant on a well-functioning bus system to get to work, school, and other places.

  • Even if the Plan’s high density housing and mass transit subsidies work as ABAG and MTC claim they will, those draconian policy initiatives will only lead to a 1.2% difference in greenhouse gas emissions in 2040 over doing nothing at all.  Draft EIR Table 3.1-28, p. 3.1-59.

2. The Plan’s analysis was irreparably flawed.

  •  claims that it will take “a 25 to 35 percent reduction from current emission levels” to reach the statutorily required 1990 levels for greenhouse gas emissions.  ABAG and MTC have been aware all along, that this assumption is totally inaccurate.  They know that current models for greenhouse gas emissions for both California and the US show that we are at or about 1990 levels now, and on a continuing path downward due to new state and federal MPG regulations.

  • They know the impact of those MPG regulations will dwarf  (14-20 times or more) the paltry differences that they claim will result from their draconian policy initiatives versus  doing NOTHING

  • They argue that the governing statute requires them to ignore those MPG regulations, despite the plain text of the statute requiring them to do otherwise. 

  • And, when it is convenient for them do so, as when considering the adverse health effects of the Plan’s high density housing mandates, ABAG and MTC cheerfully claim credit for the pollutant reductions due to those same MPG regulations that they ignore when they are selecting their high density housing mass transit heavy Plan. 

  • Their budget is the funds that come from gas tax revenues.  Their  own internal models require that by 2035  32% fewer gallons of gasoline will be used by passenger vehicles in the Bay Area than were used in 2010, but it will be approximately 50% less in 2035  over what they were in 2010.

  • So, do ABAG and MTC report a 50% decline in gas tax revenues in their budget for 2035 or 2040?  Of course not.  They “mitigate” these inevitable declines by ignoring most of the declines, then assuming that the retail price of gas will increase over the next 30 years by vastly higher rates than the Plan’s assumed rate of inflation.  As a result, the problem of 50% fewer gallons of gas used by passenger vehicles in the later years of the Plan is “solved,” and the Plan reports continuing increases in gas tax revenues, in defiance of reality, and in utter disregard for proper budgeting and forecasting practices. 

3. MTC and ABAG’s lack of response

  • Needless to say, none of what the comments establish above was addressed or considered by ABAG and MTC.  No changes in the analysis were offered, and no modifications to the Plan were considered.

  • ABAG and MTC staff, for their part, simply ignored the comments that questioned the Plan in their reports to the public and to the ABAG Executive Board and the MTC commissioners.  Their “Summary of Public Comments” submitted orally and in writing on June 14, 2013, spent much of its time discussing a public opinion survey where the agencies asked residents whether they would be in favor of a Plan that helped the economy and the environment, and made housing more affordable, then spent most of the rest of the time discussing comments submitted by other government agencies.  Their “Summary of Public Comments” only touched briefly on the substantive concerns raised in the overwhelming majority of the comment letters by discussing what they characterized as “information or statements” made by the public about the Plan that required “correction” or “clarification.”

  • ABAG and MTC’s responses to comments in the Final EIR were similarly deficient.  They lost fifteen letters entirely, and it wasn’t until Bay Area Citizens repeatedly urged the agencies to look through their records to find missing comment letters that they found those missing letters.  The responses to the issues raised in individual comment letters provided by ABAG and MTC were astonishingly dismissive in many cases.  This lack of responsiveness by the agencies was a fitting, though sad, end to a several year process where citizen concerns, citizen input, and the substantive issues citizens raised, were completely ignored.