Removing a PDA

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1. Can the Priority Development Area for the Civic Center area be removed or rescinded and what is the process? Is it too late for San Rafael to rescind or remove the Priority Development Area status in the "Plan Bay Area?"

Response: Yes, the PDA designation can be removed/rescinded or amended. No, it is not too late for the City to rescind or remove the Civic Center PDA status. In order to remove/rescind or amend the PDA designation, the action must first be taken by the City Council in the form of a resolution. The City resolution is forwarded to ABAG/MTC for review and action.

At this time, if the City should take an action, the removal of or amendment to the PDA will not be reflected in the currently adopted Plan Bay Area. The change will be reflected in the next update of the Plan Bay Area, which will be in approximately four years.

2. If the Priority Development Area status is removed for the Civic Center area, what would be the City gain or lose? Will San Rafael lose transit dollars?

Response: The primary implication of removing the PDA status for the Civic Center area would be:

a. The loss of funds and grants that are exclusively available to PDAs for transportation and land use related projects. As a non-PDA area the Civic Center area would still be eligible for available funds and grants, but transportation projects in this area would have to compete with a greater pool of other planned transportation projects proposed throughout Marin County. As presented in Section C, question #5, the Civic Center Station Area Plan identifies a long list of recommendations (particularly those that promote connectivity in the area, pedestrian/bicycle connections to/from the SMART station) which may not be funded if they have to compete with a greater pool of projects.

b. While the PDA status may offer opportunities for streamlining required environmental (CEQA) review for development projects within a PDA, this opportunity is not necessarily an advantage. CEQA review of projects is taken very seriously in San Rafael. San Rafael is careful and comprehensive in completing environmental review on specific development projects and streamlining this review may not be appropriate because of site and area conditions, constraints and impacts.

3. If San Rafael decides to rescind or remove the Priority Development Area status would it be required to refund or return funds or grants that had been previously dispensed and used for local planning and transportation studies?

Response: Should the PDA status be removed, a refund or return of the funds secured to complete the Civic Center Station Area Plan would not be required ($140,000). In November 2012, TAM programmed the allocation of $650,000 in PLAN BAY AREA,(OBAG) funds (plus and additional $150K from other funding sources) to a County of Marin-sponsored transportation project on North Civic Center Drive ($2.5 million project connecting the Civic Center campus within the Civic Center PDA). If the PDA status is removed, this programmed grant money will likely be re-programmed to another transportation project in another PDA.  Source: David Chan, TAM; August 27, 2013

4. If the Priority Development Area designation status is removed for the Civic Center area, what would happen to the availability of funds and grants for transportation and land-use related projects?

Response: In the North Bay, PDAs receive 50% of the federal and state funds and grants that are made available for transportation projects in Marin County. The other 50% is made available for transportation projects in the non-PDA areas (essentially, the rest of the County). If the PDA status of an area is removed, the funds and grants that are made available as first priority or exclusively to PDAs, would be shifted to the other PDAs in Marin County (Downtown San Rafael and Marin County unincorporated PDAs).

If the PDA status is removed from the Civic Center area, it would still be eligible for transportation funding, but less funding and greater competition. Transportation projects proposed in non-PDA areas have to compete for funding with a greater pool of transportation projects proposed throughout the County.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) distributes federal transportation funding to the nine Bay Area counties through regional and local-share programs. In the current four year funding cycle, MTC requires that Priority Development Areas (PDAs) receive at least 50% of the transportation infrastructure funding in Marin County. Since Marin received just over $10 million of local-share transportation funding in the current 4 year funding cycle, this means that a minimum of $5 million must be spent within Priority Development Areas in Marin.

The allocations and requirements of future funding cycles are uncertain at this time. It is anticipated that Marin might receive less overall funding due to Marin County’s small population and lack of large transit infrastructure. If current policies are continued, the six years following the current four year-cycle might generate another $10 million to $20 million in transportation funding for Marin and with 50% directed to Priority Development Areas, this would generate $5 million to $10 million in funding in future cycles. Thus, projections for a ten year time horizon are that $10 million to $15 million ($5 million in the current four year cycle and $5 to $10 million in the next six year cycle) will be spent on transportation improvements within Priority Development Areas in the County.

The current General Plan allows a certain level of development in this area which is anticipated to occur regardless of the PDA designation. The loss of the PDA designation will reduce the funding available for critical pedestrian, bicycle and traffic improvements that are needed to prepare for the operation of SMART. New development will be required to construct pedestrian amenities and traffic improvements for the development and to pay traffic mitigation, school fees and other fees to address the impact of the development. However, these fees will generally not be available to address pedestrian, bike and traffic issues in existing developments.

5. Aside from removing/rescinding the Civic Center PDA, are there other "place type" options that might be suitable?

Response: Possibly. As discussed in Section A, response to question #8, there are many different types of PDAs, which are referred to as "place types." MTC has published a guide (Station Area Planning Manual, October 18, 2007) that provides a description of seven PDA "place types," each presenting varying conditions, characteristics, settings and development types for a given geographic area. This guide was published to assist local agencies in determining the appropriate type of place for planning the PDA. The PDA place types range from very urban (e.g. "Regional Center" place type typical of Downtown San Francisco and Oakland) to suburban/semi-rural (e.g., "Transit Neighborhood"). The Civic Center PDA has been designated in the place type of "Transit Town Center." The guide presents the following characteristics and conditions for this place type:

The Civic Center PDA place type could be changed to another place type that is less urban and less dense. Staff has reviewed the Station Area Planning Manual and has found that the "Transit Neighborhood" place type, which is less urban that the "Transit Town Center" might be a suitable alternative for the Civic Center PDA. A comparison of the Station Area Planning Manual characteristics and conditions for these two place types is presented in the following table:

Transit Town Center

Transit Neighborhood

Place Type Description

Local serving centers of economic and community activity; a mix of origin and destination trips focusing primarily on commuter service; residential density includes a mix of single- and multi-family, along with retail, smaller-scale employment and civic uses.

Neighborhood of primarily residential served by rail service or multiple bus lines that connect at one location; residential densities are low- to moderate densities, but not enough to support a large amount of local- serving retail, but can be served by nodes of retail activity.

Housing Mix for New Development

Mid-rise, low-rise, townhomes, small lot residential

Low-rise, townhomes, some mid-rise and small single-family lots

Station Area Total Unit Target



Net Project Density

20-75 du/acre (net)

20-50 du/acre (net)

Station Area Total Jobs Target



Minimum floor area ratio (commercial)



Characteristics of area

Local center of economic and community activity

Local focus on economic and community activity without a distinct “center”

Transit mode in station area

Commuter rail, local/regional bus hub, ferry, potentially BART

Streetcar, commuter rail, local bus, ferry

Major planning and development challenges

Increasing densities while retaining scale and improving transit access.

Integrate moderate-density housing and local-serving retail

The “Transit Neighborhood” is not a perfect fit for the Civic Center PDA. There are some characteristics of this area that are more suitable to retain the “Transit Town Center” place type. For example, the Transit Neighborhood is not an area with substantial employment. The Civic Center area has a large employment base (County of Marin, Autodesk, Sutter Health and Northgate Mall).

City staff has consulted with ABAG staff on the option of changing the “place type” category for the Civic Center PDA. First, ABAG staff reported that the PDA place type can be changed, but would require: a) a formal action by the City Council (e.g., via the adoption of a resolution); and b) the submittal of this formal action to ABAG for staff review and approval. A similar request and action was taken by the City of Napa last year. Second, ABAG staff reported that if a PDA place type is changed, the 2040 jobs and housing growth projections for this PDA could be adjusted; however, the extent of this adjustment is uncertain at this time. While such an adjustment would not be reflected in the currently-adopted Plan Bay Area, the growth adjustment would be reflected in the next update of the Plan Bay Area in four years. Lastly, ABAG staff confirmed that a change in the PDA place type would not change or impact the extent of funds or grant dollars that would be available for this area.