The Tri-Valley cities are ready to have their voices heard on state legislators' proposed solutions to the housing shortfall.
With dozens of bills across the housing spectrum working their way through the State Legislature (including the contentious Senate Bill 50, which passed out of committee this week), the cities of Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore and San Ramon and the town of Danville have joined forces on more in-depth community education and regional advocacy on the topic of housing.
Each of the five city/town councils voted over the past month to approve the Tri-Valley cities' housing and policy framework, a consensus document that details shared concerns about the Bay Area's so-called "CASA Compact" and creates a starting point to achieve common regional housing goals.
"This is the first step in a collective effort for the cities to work together in finding regional solutions to comply with new state housing mandates, as well as the nearly 100 newly proposed housing bills this legislative year," Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho said in a statement.
"We agree affordable housing policy solutions are necessary throughout the Bay Area, but what fits in San Francisco or San Jose shouldn't be mandated to fit in our suburban communities," he later told the Weekly. "This framework achieves both objectives, and we hope our state legislators will incorporate our serious policy work into their legislative process, especially since the CASA process excluded us."
Of particular concern in the Tri-Valley is the CASA Compact, a 10-point plan with recommendations and strategies to address the Bay Area's housing issues developed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission-appointed Committee to House the Bay Area (dubbed CASA) and released in December.
While the CASA Compact itself isn't a piece of legislation, it is being used by regional and state officials to guide their legislative proposals to address the housing crisis -- and none of the Tri-Valley municipalities had a seat at the table during the CASA drafting process.
The Tri-Valley housing policy framework, in part a direct response to CASA, focuses on a shared desire to impress upon state officials that any housing legislation should strike a balance among housing, infrastructure, public services and jobs, as well as avoid a one-size-fits-all approach.
The framework centers on five themes summarizing points of consensus among the five councils -- key topic areas they see as woefully and inadequately addressed by most state legislative proposals.
At the top of the list is balanced solutions, a push for equal policy consideration of housing, employment, and transportation and transit in proposed solutions to the housing crisis.
The other themes focus on provide, promote and protect affordability; context-sensitive housing in communities (avoiding one-size-fits-all approach); solutions for infrastructure and public services; and funding and resources.
And more specifically, the framework directly addresses the 10 elements in the CASA Compact, six of which were ranked as high levels of concern for the Tri-Valley.
The Tri-Valley pact also leaves the door open for each council to take its own position on individual housing topics of specific concern to its community -- such as protections for historic downtowns in Pleasanton's case -- and to advocate on specific state bills as they see fit.
One such bill, which many cities and counties statewide are watching, is San Francisco Democrat State Sen. Scott Wiener's SB 50 that advanced out of the Senate Housing Committee on a 9-1 vote Tuesday.
The proposed legislation aims to spur rapid housing development by relaxing standards for some residential projects and overriding local zoning regulations near transit corridors and hubs.
For many leaders in Pleasanton, which has two BART stops, an ACE commuter train station and Wheels Rapid bus service in their city, SB 50 is seen as a direct threat to legally established local land-use control.
To that end, the housing framework aims to ensure state officials hear Tri-Valley voices on SB 50 and other contentious housing legislation.
And at least one legislator appears to have her ears open.
"A one-size-fits-all approach to addressing our housing crisis, like CASA, is simply not workable. Here in the Bay Area we have vastly different communities and geographies that require a much more nuanced approach," first-year Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), whose district includes the Tri-Valley, told the Weekly this week.
"Additionally, I feel it is critical that local control is preserved so that individual communities have the opportunity to craft workable and sustainable plans to address our housing crisis," she said, adding:
"I am excited to work with the Tri-Valley city councils to ensure we are supporting a pathway to more affordable housing that works for our communities. It is my commitment to work directly with our cities to find lasting solutions."
The MTC may also be hearing the calls from suburban communities like those in the Tri-Valley.
Last week, the Bay Area-wide agency announced it created a new Local Government Working Group to advise MTC and its sister agency, the Association of Bay Area Government on housing-related bills pending in the State Legislature.
The Tri-Valley has no direct representative on the working group, though Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson (Berkeley) and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia (Richmond) have been appointed.
Each county has representation and cities selected span the spectrum of size and location, such as Fremont, Napa, Vacaville, Burlingame and Suisun City.
Overall, the MTC is governed by 21 elected representatives from throughout the Bay Area, and for the next two years, the Tri-Valley will have a voice at the center of the dais. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who is from Livermore, was named in February as chair of the commission.