Competitors in the Bay Area's perennial tug of war over where and how to grow will square off Thursday night in Oakland when regional leaders choose how best to cut air pollution by redirecting new housing, shops and jobs into transit corridors.

Called the Bay Area Plan, the process is inciting suspicion among suburbanites who fear the initiative will usurp local control and force dense, urban-style development into their communities. A cadre of Marin County residents are particularly dissatisfied.

In other camps, advocates for the poor want guarantees that affluent suburbs will accommodate denser and more affordable housing.

The homebuilding industry says the plan is predicated on a false and unsubstantiated premise that the 2.1 million new people projected to call the Bay Area home in the next 25 years want to live in a transit village.

And environmentalists seek greater public investment into transit and other alternatives to solo driving.

"I've come to understand that the issues surrounding this plan are very focused around peoples' unique perspectives," said Metropolitan Transportation Commission Vice Chairwoman Amy Worth, also an Orinda councilwoman. "In the end, the plan will reflect the collective knitting together of what the cities and counties and their residents want for their own communities."


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The 19-member Metropolitan Transportation Commission board and the 38-member executive board of the Association of Bay Area Governments are scheduled to jointly adopt a preferred plan Thursday, which will be subject to environmental review and final approval next spring.

The first ever formal Bay Area-wide jobs-housing plan is mandated under the landmark Senate Bill 375 that tied receipt of $277 billion in transportation money to the passage of an air pollution reduction plan.

Adherence to the Bay Area Plan's tenets among its nine counties and 101 cities is voluntary, but those who flout them are ineligible for hundreds of millions of dollars in road and transit money under MTC's control.

In Contra Costa, the plan calls for placing two-thirds of the projected 88,000 new households into 29 neighborhoods called "priority development areas." Those areas are tracts of land identified by its host city or the county as a place where it makes sense to build such as near BART stations or along major highways.

If the draft plan were followed to the letter throughout the Bay Area, the agencies project the region would cut per capita carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent by 2035.

But not everyone agrees. The pollution reductions are based on erroneous assumptions with no financial feasibility analysis to back them up, said California Building Industry Association General Counsel Paul Campos.

It concentrates the vast majority of the growth expected in the next 25 years at higher densities than residents will tolerate or cities can afford with the recent loss of redevelopment money, he said.

Even for cities that want transit-oriented development, homebuilders argue that the plan must include incentives for local agencies to lift fees and remove costly regulations that drive up the price of infill projects.

"The vision, by its own admission, represents a fundamental vertical shift in the development patterns of the Bay Area, not only historically but even the more recent trend toward higher density and transit-oriented development," Campos said. "Yet, the agencies have not vetted these shifts from a market and economic feasibility standard."

By definition, the regional plan is a set of broad goals subject to local decisions, countered Worth, whose affluent community has erupted over its share of land-use disputes in recent years.

The fact that every city won't fall into line with every goal -- an unattainable objective, in any case -- is no reason to abandon the effort, she added.

"We plan because we want to have vital communities for our children and our grandchildren to live," Worth said. "If we didn't plan in Contra Costa, for example, we wouldn't be getting a fourth bore in the Caldecott Tunnel."

Contact Lisa Vorder-brueggen at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com, www.ibabuzz.com/politics.

or at Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.

if you go
Public hearing on the selection of a plan for how to concentrate homes, shops and businesses near transportation hubs in the Bay Area in order to achieve the legally mandated greenhouse gas emission reductions:
  • Who: Joint meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments' executive committee
  • Time and place: Thursday, 7 p.m., Oakland Marriott, junior ballroom, 1001 Broadway, Oakland
    Online resources: Visit www.onebayarea.org to view the "Bay Area Plan: Jobs-Housing Connection Strategy" with detailed maps of the proposal for each of the nine counties.