Plan Bay Area will fundamentally transform the 101 cities and nine counties into urbanized, transit-oriented, high-rise developments. It is a draconian, top-down, 25-year plan conceived by unelected bureaucrats supposedly in response to a problem (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) that will already be solved (per California Air Resources Board) due to transportation technologies such as more fuel-efficient cars, electric cars and telecommuting.

The most unsettling parts of the plan deal with imposition of unfunded mandates on cities and counties. It subverts local control of land use and zoning decisions. It requires:

  • Cities must set aside priority development areas (PDAs) for mixed-use development (stores on first floor with housing above). Most development over the next 25 years is supposed to be in these highly restricted areas.

  • Cities must bear the unfunded costs that the additional populations will force on services such as schools, fire, police, etc.

  • The unique characters of most small towns will be destroyed. Towns such as Saratoga, Los Gatos, Dixon, Marinwood must all follow the same template of a downtown center with mid- to high-rise development near mass transit.

  • Transportation funds will go to projects such as light rail and commuter rail, which are the least cost-effective options for transportation choices.

  • Road repair and expansion will be neglected because the point of this plan is to get people out of their cars by purposely causing congestion and restricting parking.

    The plan presents an unrealistic and nave vision where people live close to where they work and play. The objective is that people should bicycle, walk or take mass transit. Portland is a classic example of the disastrous results of such planning. The Cascade Institute submitted a paper against the plan, saying

    " ... The draft Plan mimics the Portland strategy in most respects. ... (there are some differences) but the fundamental approach is the same: funnel most future development into a limited number of centers served by transit; spend most transportation dollars on maintenance of the existing system with capacity expansions focused on transit, not highways; and assume that transit use will increase substantially, resulting in improved air quality and reduced GHGs. However, before Bay Area officials adopt such a plan, they should consider the results from the Portland regional experience. Virtually every assumption about changing travel behavior has proven to be wrong."

    The plan allows a handful of bureaucrats to make major lifestyle decisions for 7 million people in the Bay Area. This plan has been flying under the radar for two years with stakeholders (those who will benefit from the plan) providing the bulk of the input, while taxpayers, who will be footing the bill, are largely ignored or marginalized.

    This plan is an attack on free choice, on free markets, on suburban communities and on automobiles. If people really understood the true implications of this plan, they would not want it except in a few urbanized areas such as Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.

    It is small wonder that the planners have tried to keep this largely under the radar. Media coverage has been sparse to nonexistent.

    It is unfortunate when a supposed "journalist" takes a critical issue like this plan and trivializes it by demonizing the opposition. Journalists are supposed to provide facts, not snarky comments, to inform the citizens so that they can make reasoned decisions. Watch the video of the only debate that was held in the Bay Area (www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOE7Hyd5B40) and decide for yourself.

    Mimi Steel is the president of San Francisco Bay Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR). Contact her at sfinfo@proprights.org.