SB50 is Fatally Flawed

Updated Excerpts from BATWG Letter sent to the BART Board on May 8 2019:

Unfortunately, no matter how many times the mantra is repeated, there are no credible metrics to support the notion that building housing near a rail or bus stop would materially affect either traffic flow or transit ridership.

To those who claim otherwise, ask them for backup statistics. Ask them how many of today’s Bay Area commute trips are transit trips (actually about 15%). Ask about the 75% of trips that are NOT commute trips, much less transit commute trips. Ask how many of the thousands of families slated to crowd into transit-oriented housing are expected to give up their automobiles. Ask for statistics showing how many non-commuters taking their kids to preschool or to a distant soccer match, or buying groceries, or running errands, or rushing a sick relative to a hospital, or heading to the gym or the hair stylist, etc., are expected to spend the 3 to 5 hours and make the 4 to 10 transfers required to make these trips by train and bus.

To solve the Region’s housing and transportation problems the State Legislators need to create complete and well-designed transit villages around the housing instead of the “stuck-on” handful of characterless retail outlets now in vogue.  If the current frenzy of heavy-handed State legislative bill-writing is not soon replaced by something more sophisticated and practical, the effect on the housing shortage is likely to be disappointing and the effect on transportation little or none.

Updated excerpts from BATWG’s April 28, 2019 article in SF Chronicle

The Association of Bay Area Governments projects that in the next 15 years the number of Bay Area households will increase by 375,000, therefore great increasing the Bay Area’s need for more housing. Should this be ignored? No. Does that mean that we should return to gobbling up open land by more creating more destructive sprawl? Of course not.  So what to do?

In a clumsy attempt to catch up with the housing deficit and prepare for additional growth, the California Legislature is currently contemplating a plethora of “one-size-fits-all” housing bills. Senator Weiner, author of SB50, is fixated on making certain that each town and each county bears “its fair share” of the new units, he wants to build, often in places where development costs are sky high.

A better and more practical approach would be to work with private industry to create clusters of well designed “transit villages” in places where development costs are modest. The savings could be used to create more units, with easy access to retail outlets, job centers, needed services such as schools and medical facilities, and transit. In other words, instead of more sprawl or more high cost “stack and pack” units, there would be well designed, relatively high-density auto-free zones surrounded by not only housing but many or most of the activities needed to create self-contained communities as well.  The advent of bicycles and electric scooters would greatly facilitate this more enlightened way of addressing the Region’s housing and transportation needs.

Instead of taking over the long-held functions of local governments in order to impose high-density housing on established neighborhoods, the Legislature should look to the companies and the agencies that have caused the crisis. Instead of squandering public funds by jamming housing units into high-cost established neighborhoods it should look to areas where complete and self-contained communities can be created at moderate cost.

This article was featured in Newsletter Issue 13. Click here to go back to the newsletter.