CASA Ignores Cause and Effect

This article appeared in the SF Examiner on April 7, 2019


Photograph Provided by Livable California

Sacramento’s CASA approach to solving the housing crisis is all wrong. What follows shows how the state’s hastily put together program would damage the Bay Area. Prodded by eager residential builders who want free rein, the state legislators have ignored the rapacious high-tech moguls who build their empires and make their billions with nary a thought given to external adverse effects. As things stand large and powerful entities are continuing to entice high paid, hi-tech talent to flood into the Bay Area, overwhelming its housing stock and its roadways in the process. These huge corporations and their billionaire insiders should be called upon to pay for the housing and transportation agonies they are causing.

And then there are the false premises upon which CASA is being sold. Here are four:

  •  “Housing can catch up.” False: In the Bay Area the influx of new job seekers continues to far outstrip the ability to meet housing needs. To make matters worse the current plan would waste much of the available funding trying to jam large amounts of subsidized housing into areas where development costs are stratospheric. It’s a losing game.
  • “MTC Can Effectively Control the Program.” Patently False. MTC is an agency that in the last four decades has never stood up for good regional planning or dealt effectively with the region’s ever worsening transportation condition. The framers of the CASA Compact [and now Senater Chiu apparently] nevertheless deem MTC qualified to further expand its domain by taking over the region’s housing development program.
  • “A second transbay rail tube will make all this possible.” False. Given the Bay Area’s glacial rate of infrastructure development it would take at least a half a century to get a second subaqueous passenger rail system (estimated cost $25 billion) up and running. BART says its peak-period transbay carrying capacity will be reached by 2025. What happens between 2025 and 2070?!
  • “Housing near transit would materially increase transit use and ease traffic congestion.” False. The inconvenient truth is that those moving into new so-called “transit-oriented” housing would virtually all have cars, thereby making it harder to drive to and park near transit stations and stops. Most trips are non-commute trips. Based upon experience elsewhere it is expected that unless the Legislators change their current plans and build communities (in outlying, reasonably priced areas) with easily accessible stores, services and jobs, the non-commute travel of the new residents will continue to be mostly by automobile. So much for congestion relief. So much for regional planning.

Gerald Cauthen PE
President, Bay Area Transportation Working Group

This article was featured in Newsletter Issue 12. Click here to go back to the newsletter.