Plan Bay Area Update Calls for 30 Percent More Housing by 2040

By Kevin Truong

The Bay Area is going to need housing to accommodate more than 800,000 additional households in the 30 years to 2040, says the latest update to Plan Bay Area, the controversial regional forecasting document that is used to assign housing targets to cities and counties.

The draft update was approved by a joint committee of the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission Thursday, sketching out the blueprint for transportation and housing growth in the Bay Area over the next quarter century.

The proposed plan calls for 3.4 million households in the region by 2040, representing about a 30 percent jump from 2010 numbers which translates to approximately 820,000 new households. It also represents a 100,000 increase from Plan Bay Area’s 2013 projections.

The plan centers a large portion of the housing growth — around 46 percent — in the Big 3 Bay Area Cities: San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.

Oakland especially, is expected to see major housing growth, with 241,500 households by 2040, a 57 percent increase from 2010 levels. According to the proposed plan, San Francisco is expected to see 483,700 households by that year, an increase of about 138,000 households.

The majority of new housing, 77 percent, is expected to come in so-called “Priority-Development Areas,” adjacent to transit and job centers.

Major employment growth is also projected in the region, with the number of jobs expected to rise to 4.7 million by 2040 — a 300,000 increase from the 2013 forecast.

Various suburbs in Marin County and the East Bay have chafed at the housing targets assigned to them under Plan Bay Area. They say decisions on how much housing to build should be controlled at a local level in each city, not assigned based on regional needs.

Supporters of the plan admitted its shortfalls when it comes to solving the issue of affordable housing availability.

“Housing affordability has been a major point of conversation and the plan bends the curve away from business as usual,” Matt Vander Sluis with the Greenbelt Alliance said.

“But the region remains far less affordable than what anyone would like. The plan that gets adopted in 2017 needs to have some strong commitments for MTC and ABAG to take to make the region more sustainable and more affordable.”

Even the staff members behind Play Bay Area expressed frustration about the limited policy resources at hand to ensure local development.

“With all the resources available and all the tools available, the plan doesn’t move in the right direction, in fact it moves in the wrong direction,” MTC Planning Director Ken Kirkey said.

“We’re not getting to where we need to be as a region and our analysis shows that if we continue this pattern in future booms, for future years, in future generations, things are going to be much worse.”

The draft plan was given the go-ahead for environmental review and a requirement that an action plan be initiated that includes measurement and monitoring components and actual policy prescriptions to meet housing goals when Plan Bay Area 2040 it is scheduled to be officially adopted next summer.

Possible policy measures to incentive local development that were floated at the meeting included tying discretionary transportation funding to housing goals and introducing a fee on large commercial developments far away from transit as a funding source for affordable housing.

Along with housing growth goals, the plan also proposes allocations for the projected $303 billion in transportation funding that the region will receive by 2040, with $74 billion qualified as discretionary.

The vast majority of the funding, around 90 percent, will be directed to operate, maintain and modernize transit and transportation systems and 10 percent will be investing in expanding existing systems.

These expansion ideas include extending Caltrain to downtown San Francisco, extending BART to Silicon Valley and increasing Ferry Service around the Bay.

“It’s really about getting people from home to work and back again and using some of the discretionary funds to do that,” Kirkey said.

Even as the plan was approved by the vast majority of board members, some expressed frustration at the futility of regional planning in the face of local constituency resistance.

“I’m pretty cynical, this is an esoteric exercise, we need jobs and those are driven by the economy,” ABAG board member Karen Mitchoff said. “We’re gonna come up with a plan, we’re gonna adopt it, we can have all the action plans in the world, but it’s at the local level where you have people who do not want to do it.”

Other members of the board pushed back and framed as a problem with education, rather than selfishness from local communities.

“This is about our children, our grandchildren and their future. I mean we’re talking about housing and jobs and transportation as if these are abstract things,” ABAG President Julie Pierce said.

“Everybody can do more than they’re doing and what we have to do is educate voters out there that this is what they want and need.”

This article was originally published in the San Francisco Business Times.

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