Tackling our Housing and Transportation Problems in a Practical Manner

BATWG Strongly Opposes SB 50 and CASA.  Stoked by people and groups like Developer Michael Covarrubia, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Steve Heminger, SPUR, and the Bay Council, the Californa State Legislators are rushing ahead with thirteen separate bills, all intended to address Bay Area and other housing shortages. If the current mad scramble persists it will plunge the Bay Area and other parts of California into chaos.   SB50 is unreasonable, unfair and impractical. It is unreasonable and unfair to weaken local zoning controls and then, in the case of the Bay Area, to tap into the fund-raising powers of its 101 cities.  It is unreasonable to permit powerful regional agencies, bent on picking up the pace of housing construction by whatever means necessary, to tear apart the fabric and framework of stable residential areas.  It is impractical to disregard price when locating new housing.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, SB50 and the CASA Compact  are based firmly on the following false assumptions:


1.)  “Housing can catch up“.  False:  In regions where the influx of new job seekers continues to far outstrip the ability to meet housing needs, much of the CASA resources would be consumed in jamming subsidized housing into areas where the development costs are stratospheric.  It’s a losing game.

2.)  “MTC, an agency which has failed to deal effectively with the Region’s transportation condition, is nevertheless deemed qualified to now further expand its domain to take over all aspects of the Bay Area’s housing condition.” Patently false.

3.)  “A second subaqueous rail tube will make all this possible“.  False.  Given the Bay Area’s sluggish rate of infrastructure development it would take at least half a century to get a $25 billion new passenger rail system up and running.  BART says its peak-period transbay carrying capacity will be reached by 2025.  What happens between 2025 and 2070?!

                4.)  “Putting housing near rail stations and bus stops would materially increase transit use and ease traffic congestion.”  False.  The inconvenient truth is that those moving into transit-oriented housing will virtually all have cars, thereby adding to the difficulties of driving to and parking near transit stations and stops.  Based upon experience elsewhere it can be expected that unless our planners look at much more than just housing, most of the non-commute travel of those new residents will continue to be by automobile.  This means less ability to drive to BART stations, more population density and greater car use.  So much for congestion relief.  So much for regional planning.

As now constituted SB50 and CASA are destined to make California’s jobs/housing/transportation imbalances worse, not better. 

Is there a smarter and more practical way to go?   Yes, but it will take a whole new approach.  Instead of ultra-expensive housing packed in against train stations and bus stops, attractive, well-designed communities comprised of high density housing, extensive commercial and other support services and job centers, can be constructed at sites where land and development costs are relatively low.  These new outlying communities should have good access to transit and other important destinations.  The objective should be to both provide and maintain decent, reasonably-priced new housing and reduce the need to drive or otherwise travel long distances.  Not everyone can or should live in some of the most expensive urbanized areas on the planet.