There may not be bloodshed, but there should be fireworks in Danville Tuesday night when the Town Council considers sites to be zoned for affordable housing. The thought sends shivers through a community where the median family income hovers at $148,000 and the average home costs $900,000.

But rules are rules, even for those with his and hers Mercedes-Benzes. Every California city must comply with the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, a process that forecasts population growth and mandates planning to accommodate it.

That means sites must be identified for high-density development -- not that it must necessarily take place. But don't tell that to Danville residents, who already see densely populated dwellings sucking the charm out of their city.

They first showered officials with anger at planning commission meetings, their harshest words aimed at the Association of Bay Area Governments, the regional planning agency that stresses smart growth in assigning the regional housing numbers. Protesters say ABAG is denying them local control and forcing high-density housing where it's unwanted.

They say it's part of an insidious plot to drive residents from single-family homes, spawned by United Nations Agenda 21, a multinational platform hatched in 1992 that encourages creeping governmental control under the guise of sustainable growth.

You may want to read that again, because it's a lot to digest in one bite. Conspiracy theories usually are.


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Clayton Mayor Julie Pierce, ABAG vice president, has heard it all before. She has heard that ABAG is an evil empire run by unelected bureaucrats.

"Last November I had to work hard to get re-elected to my city council," she said, "and then my colleagues in the Contra Costa cities elected me to be their representative. So I figure I was elected twice."

What's strangest, she said, is the misunderstanding of ABAG's role, because the agency actually works to lessen the demands on smaller cities. The state projects housing figures for the Bay Area; ABAG massages them before divvying them up. San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland are assigned the biggest increases and highest-density dwellings, followed by cities along transit corridors. But the numbers aren't plucked from the air. They come from a formula.

"We look at each city's natural growth -- births over deaths -- and make them responsible for providing at least 40 percent of the housing we expect to be needed. If a city pulled out of ABAG and formed its own council of government, it would get its RHNA number directly from the state, and it would go up dramatically."

Affordable housing fears, she said, come from misunderstanding.

"A lot of people think affording housing means Section 8 or voucher housing. What it means is housing for someone who makes (no more than) 60 percent of the median income. That could be a teacher, an auto mechanic, a painter, a grocery store worker. It doesn't mean somebody who's on welfare."

The long-term goal, she said, is to guarantee enough housing for future generations in all demographics, and that it's added intelligently. As our population ages, she added, many baby boomers will leave their homes for smaller residences needing less maintenance.

So none of this is a conspiracy? What about Agenda 21?

"Until I started going to these hearings," she said, "I didn't know what Agenda 21 was."

Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.