Earlier this month, a citizens group calling themselves “Bay Area Citizens” filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court challenging the approved Plan Bay Area which calls for up to 660,000 new housing units to be built around the Bay Area over the next thirty years, 92,480 of which would be built in San Francisco alone, double San Francisco’s current pipeline of development.

The underlying concern of the Citizens: the impact on their property values.

This past Friday, the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area literally followed suit and filed a lawsuit of their own in Superior Court, charging that Plan Bay Area “illegally locks future workers out of the Bay Area housing market and relies on hundreds of thousands more commuters driving long distances from outside the region to get to work.”

According to the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) conducted by the agencies themselves, Plan Bay Area would result in a massive increase in the number of Bay Area workers who would commute long distances by freeway. In fact, the FEIR shows that by 2040, Plan Bay Area will result in 40,000 more individual inbound trips a day (14.6 million each year) than an alternative approach also studied in the FEIR that plans for more housing in the region.

The primary contributor, the FEIR shows, was the series of decisions by regional planners at [the Association of Bay Area Governments and Metropolitan Transportation Commission] to artificially reduce the total number of new housing units provided for under Plan Bay Area—which started out at 902,000 but was ratcheted down to 660,000 in the final version.

It’s not exactly an altruistic challenge, however, as the Building Industry Association is angling for the adopted plan to be dismissed and a competing plan that provides for the construction of 770,000 new housing units be adopted instead.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    Sounds like Building Industry Association are not following “Bay Area Citizens” but are the adversary of them. The builders want to build more units above than plan; the “citizens” I assume want less.

  2. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Heh. The whole “…illegally lock[ing] future workers out of the Bay Area housing market” thing is the current neoliberal line as advocated by authors such as Matt Yglesias (The Rent Is Too Damn High), as if someone who isn’t here now has interests, economic and according to this even legal, that must be taken into account.
    I’m all for building more housing in S.F. for people who work in S.F. so that less commuting has to take place.
    I’m not a land use attorney. But I don’t think a legal theory that hinges on defending the legal rights of workers who have to be assumed into arriving here in twenty-five plus years is going to get very far. I guess if the Building Industry Association is successful, I’ll learn something.
    I’ll have to go read the text of the complaints now, I’d bet no one on either side is complaining about all the residents in the southeastern part of the city who’ll have to absorb the bulk of the new development and/or who’ll probably be inordinately displaced by it.

  3. Posted by $AN FRANCI$CO

    ABAG’s plan in ABAG of something, for sure. I’m so heartened to see strong push back against these insane repeats of the kind of master planning debacles of the 1960’s that brought us nothing but pain and dreariness.

  4. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    “Bay Area Citizens” is a right-wing fringe group founded by Peter Singleton of SarahPAC. He loved Sarah Palin so much he moved to Iowa and spent a year campaigning for her. He doesn’t represent very many Bay Area Citizens Wai.

  5. Posted by Anonandon

    The KQED Forum show on this subject is an interesting podcast. As a percentage of population, less people use public transit today to get to work than 20 years ago and Bay Areans travel the farthest distance on average of ANY large metro area in North America to get to work. ( that includes cities some posters here love to hate like Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Pheonix ). Of course guests bring up increased use of bicycles as why transit use is down, but transit ridership is down 40% in the Bay Area since 1980 according to one of the guests. I find this alarming to say the least.

  6. Posted by soccermom

    Forum episode about Plan Bay Area July 22, 2013:

  7. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    I think the “guest” make up the number about transit use is down 40%. From what I can find in wikipedia, the population of Bay Area has gone up by 38% since 1980. On the other hand, BART’s ridership has gone up 125% in the same peroid. Caltrain ridership is also at its all time high.

  8. Posted by anon

    @Anonandon – we’re going to need some stats to back up those ludicrous claims.
    “More people today eat slugs than they did three years ago.”
    See? I can make absurd claims with no basis in fact too.
    Actually believing that transit usage is down 40% from 1980 (!!!) is pretty remarkable. Would you like to buy a bridge?

  9. Posted by Jake

    This is hilarious as it’s a essentially a 30 year forecast that literally requires nothing, AND will be updated every 4 years (which makes sense as a 30 year forecast is akin to crystal ball gazing).

  10. Posted by anon

    I’ll bite. The transit planning gentlemen on KQED was very careful in his lower transit usage statistics that were not disputed by any of the other guests. He said “As a percentage of overall region population, transit usage is way down”. He is not talking about San Francisco, BART or MUNI, but instead showing the regional problem of a lack of transit available for the majority of people who live far away from San Francisco and Oakland. Even as a percentage of population in San Francisco, I may be mistaken but I believe he said city ridership was down 8% when one considers the additional 100,000 population since 1980.
    Thanks to Soccermom for providing link to show.

  11. Posted by anon

    ^I’m still not sure where he could possibly be getting that. My guess is that he’s not comparing apples-to-apples. Muni began measuring linked trips vs unlinked trips sometime in the 80s, which would make ridership appear down, even though they measure entirely different things.
    And every other agency in the Bay Area is up WAAAAAY more as a percentage than population growth, so my guess is that he’s just smoking a bit too much.

  12. Posted by Anon

    The speaker (Mr Rubin) on KQED with transit statistics is a long term advocate of major fare reductions as a way to increase public transit use vs The Central Subway construction. He makes a strong case for how to increase ridership through economic choice. “Make it cheaper” is the Dutch model and it works.

  13. Posted by suburbanoid

    Basic supply and demand economics indicate that housing prices are as high as they are because of restrictions on supply. Allowing people to protect property values by squelching new development is not merely inconvenient. Because of the central role played by the San Francisco Bay Area in technology research and development this could be catastrophic for all humankind.

  14. Posted by Toady

    Sorry NVJ – most of the peninsula residents are against the ABAG plan, and they are decidedly not Republicans.
    Nice try at trying to make this a Democrat vs. Republican debate.
    The ABAG plan is based on nonsensical population growth predictions anyway. The problem is that it forces policy changes based on what amounts to pulling something out of their ass.
    On the other hand, the reason why transit doesn’t work (and I’ll repeat myself again) is that we don’t have enough density. Even San Francisco doesn’t have enough density which is why MUNI sucks. Yeah yeah, North Beach is as dense as Manhattan, but you want to tell me that the Sunset is too?
    As for transit usage down for MUNI, maybe all those Google/Facebook/Apple shuttles are taking workers down to where the real jobs are.
    SF, the bedroom community for Silicon Valley.

  15. Posted by Zig

    “I’m so heartened to see strong push back against these insane repeats of the kind of master planning debacles of the 1960’s that brought us nothing but pain and dreariness.”
    We either need master planning (the past failure is not relevant to the present necessarily) or we need much less planning and much less zoning.
    I would prefer the latter but someone I doubt you would (I am sure you are a baby boomer who got his). The status quo land use planning is pure corruption and a form of socialism

  16. Posted by Zig

    Sorry NVJ – most of the peninsula residents are against the ABAG plan, and they are decidedly not Republicans.”
    Of course. Most people, when given the opportunity, will exclude others and preserve and enhance their property values and interests. Very logical.
    Why we build them billion dollar BART stations is kind of part of the problem though. At least with Marin my understanding is they pay for most of their meager transit with bridge tolls

  17. Posted by Zig

    “SF, the bedroom community for Silicon Valley among people I socialize with”

  18. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    most of the peninsula residents are against the ABAG plan
    What is your basis for making this claim? Has someone done polling that I am unaware of?

  19. Posted by anon

    “Like many cities up and down the Peninsula, Palo Alto is struggling to find the best strategy for standing up to the unreasonable targets for new housing construction imposed by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).”

  20. Posted by Tom Rubin

    The Bay Area transit ridership change below is from the data that the Bay Area transit operators report to MTC and the Federal Transit Admistration, expressed in the industry standard form, “unlinked passenger trips” (UPT). (If you take a bus from your home to get on a train to get to your job, that is one linked and two unlinked trips; the transit industry can’t really measure linked trips).
    From 1980 (the first year with good Federal data) through 2011 (the latest year with data), Bay Area UPT is down 9% and UPT/capita is down 35% — while spending is up 95% (inflation-adjusted).
    The Plan projects spending increasing “only” 39% over the 2010-2040 period, while UPT will go up 93% and UPT/capita up 52% — with far less expansion of service than took place over the last three decades. (Well, one way is to assume that each BART car through the tude in the morning rush hour will have 42% more riders.)
    Hard to understand how doing what hasn’t worked yet, but less of it, will produce a complete reversal of the historical trend. If they can actually do that, and bottle it, they could sell one hell of a lot of that to the private sector — which could perhaps cover some of huge fiscal shortfalls in the Plan.

  21. Posted by Anonandon

    We get the KQED guest who was the transit analyst on the program to post on this site and show how he arrived at his statistics of a reduction in Bay Area transit usage and all of the unbelievers somehow fall silent?
    I’m surprised the editor has not highlighted Tom Rubin’s post.

  22. Posted by Anon

    @tom – are you including the transit operators that don’t report stats to the FTA?

  23. Posted by Frankie

    Hm, looking only at number of trips seems a VERY odd way of measuring the increase or decrease over a period of time. Especially a period of time where the VAST majority of growth was happening in suburban less dense areas that require longer transit trips.
    Wouldn’t it seem odd for a retailer to say: “We’re doing terrible. Our number of individual sales are down 40% even though the average sale is up 150%. Really wish we could get that volume back.”
    Now, don’t take this to mean that I think we’ve done a good job with Bay Area transit – just take it to mean that the issue is land development, not transit per se. When you develop land in a transit-hostile way but still decide to build transit, of course the return on that transit will be less efficient. However, that doesn’t mean that transit output has gone down. It just means that it’s being used in very inefficient ways. In other words, BART to Dublin, BART to Millbrae, BART to Antioch, VTA light rail on eight lane roads in SJ, adventures in expensive rail transit everywhere – EXCEPT high capacity routes like Geary or Van Ness or places in Oakland that could use them.

  24. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    Tom says that trips per capita is down 35% but during that same period population growth increased about the same, so overall transit use is down only 9%.

  25. Posted by Frankie

    ^Not transit use, transit trips. The two ideas are very different.
    Tom is treating a 50 mile ride on BART from Pittsburg to SF the same as a 1/2 mile ride on Muni. It is a shame that we’ve spent the last 35+ years building transit out to the exurbs instead of beefing up our core infrastructure, but that’s the primary reason that our trips our down even while transit expenses are WAY up. We’re hauling folks much, much farther for an average trip.

  26. Posted by Anonandon

    “It is a shame that we’ve spent the last 35+ years building transit out to the exurbs instead of beefing up our core infrastructure, but that’s the primary reason that our trips are down even while transit expenses are WAY up. We’re hauling folks much, much farther for an average trip.”
    And this is why Tom warns “Hard to understand how doing what hasn’t worked yet, but less of it, will produce a complete reversal of the historical trend.”
    “Note that the San Francisco metro has both the longest average travel time and average distance.”

  27. Posted by Frankie

    ^Um, the point is that the plan is primarily about housing changes, which has been the problem of the last 35+ years. We haven’t built housing nearly at the level of density needed to support the building of good transit. We need to do that before continuing to plow more money into BART lines to cow fields.
    We’re not “doing less” of what we’re doing now – we haven’t been building densely much at all over the last 35+ years. Everyone is hung up on the transit aspect, but land use matters a TON more than transit ever will.

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