Those of you following the Plan Bay Area process at home will recall our disappointment regarding the October vote at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to take $20 million in funding that had been designated for grants to local governments and redirect it to go to county Congestion Management Agencies (CMAs).
Thanks to everyone who responded to our call to action and submitted letters to MTC in support of the planning grant program. Here’s what’s happened since:
On November 26, the Commission revisited this item. The good news is that 95% of the $20 million will still be dedicated to planning grants for cities. This is a win for communities that want to plan for sustainable and equitable development near transit but lack the resources to do so. The bad news is that the CMAs will now be the body administering the grant program. This is a disappointment for two reasons:
- MTC has experience administering the planning grant program and encouraging good sustainable outcomes; there’s no guarantee the CMAs – who by their own admission have little experience is land-use issues – will do as good a job.
- Funds are distributed to counties using a formula that accounts for current population and future expected growth. The result is less regional emphasis on the places that play the greatest role in accommodating growth sustainably. Counties like San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Alameda that are growing rapidly may end up with fewer planning dollars than they need. Meanwhile counties like Napa and Marin that are growing slowly might not even have a use for all their planning funds.
While it’s not all bad news, this lack of a comprehensive, regional focus undermines the intent of SB 375 and Plan Bay Area. And the shift of responsibility to the CMAs makes it all the more important for residents to pay attention to the what’s happening in their county around these funding decisions.