Bay Area leaders adopt regional plan for future growth | July 26, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - July 26, 2013

Bay Area leaders adopt regional plan for future growth

Mayor Thorne votes against Plan Bay Area

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

A coalition of Bay Area leaders approved a long-term regional plan July 18 meant to accommodate population growth over the next few decades, although Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne voted against it.

"I was one of five ABAG votes not to approve it," said Thorne, who represents the mayors of Alameda County with the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Plan Bay Area, which works to meet state mandates for cutting air pollution and improving access to public transportation, was OK'd during a marathon joint meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and ABAG at the Oakland Marriott.

The two groups are made up of 21 Bay Area county supervisors, mayors and other local leaders.

"It's basically for me a local control issue," Thorne explained. "ABAG tells us know how many houses we have to build, and the Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers tell us how many houses we have to build and what income ranges we can afford. Now MTC comes along and says, 'You're not going to get your transportation dollars unless you build them where we tell you to build them.'"

Several hundred people, many who boarded buses from Marin and Santa Clara counties, packed a Marriott ballroom to protest the plan, voicing concerns that it will bring overcrowded housing developments and will bypass local control over development.

Hundreds of attendees from groups such as Discontent with Plan Bay Area said they believe such a plan should be subject to a public vote and toted signs and chanted "Let us vote!" or "MTC, don't speak for me!"

"A lot of people not elected by anybody were making those decisions," Thorne noted.

According to the MTC, the plan is a "work in progress" that continues earlier efforts to "develop an efficient transportation network and grow in a financially and environmentally responsible way."

Created by several agencies including MTC and ABAG, Plan Bay Area comes up with blueprints for the region's nine counties to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by the year 2040, as required under state Senate Bill 375. The plan also focuses on providing housing for all residents of all income levels near transportation hubs, according to MTC and ABAG officials.

"There are no easy solutions in this plan but ... this plan creates a way for the residents of the Bay Area to discuss our future openly," said ABAG Executive Director Ezra Rapport.

Some speakers praised the plan as it was originally presented, expressing hope that it will provide a wider variety of alternatives to congested Bay Area roadways and prevent the displacement of low-income residents as rents throughout the region soar.

Thorne said there were better alternatives to passing Plan Bay Area to achieve the same goals, for instance, through incentive-based programs.

"There's definitely a need in Pleasanton for additional workforce housing -- it just hasn't kept up with the number of jobs available," Thorne said. "But the people who live in the communities should have more of a say in what happens."

Thursday night's vote came at the end of a three-year planning process involving the MTC, ABAG, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and local communities and agencies.

A meeting in Dublin in January 2012 drew about 20 vociferous protesters, who carried signs demanding "local control" and "social justice."

--Bay Area News Service contributed to this report.


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