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Op-Ed: Has ABAG Become Irrelevant?

Regional association keeps displaying signs of a disconnect with the people it is supposed to represent.

I recently attended a Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers (MCCMC) meeting to given by Ken Kirkey, the director of planning to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). Kirkey gave an update on the One Bay Area plan and the latest Regional Housing Needs Allocation.

He was supposed to answer questions that councilmembers had submitted prior to the meeting but neglected to answer many of them. Residents were also given the opportunity to ask questions. In response, Kirkey oftentimes gave rote answers that had little to do with the actual questions, stated that the question(s) were outside ABAG’s purview, or simply stated that regardless of why a community would have difficulties complying with the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers, they would have to plan for those numbers anyway. 

The presentation was another display of ABAG’s disconnect with the counties, cities and people it is supposed to represent.

The One Bay Area Plan (a state-required regional plan led by the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission) along with the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (determined by the state Housing & Community Development Agency and ABAG) use unrealistic jobs and population growth projections to mandate unsustainable housing development. Indeed, One Bay Area’s entire premise, that new development of high-density housing near transit will lower the area’s carbon footprint, is unfounded. Construction is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases.

Moreover, with insufficient infrastructure and public services, Marin County and its cities cannot properly provide for the current population, much less additional population. Hence, they most definitely should not be creating housing elements, development codes and zoning that encourage additional growth and that undermine local control, long standing development standards, environmental protections and public health and safety.

Marin County Supervisors, mayors and councilmembers are finally acknowledging that the RHNA housing quotas are untenable and based on unrealistic jobs and population growth projections. Some are questioning the validity of the One Bay Area Plan. But acknowledgement is not enough. Action must be taken.

It is time for city/town council members and county supervisors to join together to truly represent Marin residents and strongly push back against the One Bay Area Plan and the RHNA numbers. The cities and county must work together to lower the total allocation to Marin, not just shift the allocation numbers from one Marin jurisdiction to another. We are all connected. It makes no sense for one city in Marin to lower its allocation number, only for another city’s number to be raised.

ABAG was created to represent the counties and cities of the Bay Area, yet it has not properly represented Marin for many years. If ABAG does not push back against the state and lower the overall RHNA for the Bay Area and subsequently, substantially lower the RHNA for Marin, then why should Marin cities and the county remain affiliated with the organization?

And if our elected Marin officials do not stand up to ABAG and the HCD and take decisive action — both politically and legally — to drive realistic local plans, that preserve and enhance Marin's environment, public health & safety, neighborhood character, and quality of life, then why should they remain in office?

Veit May 11, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Ricardo, As someone who used to commute to Silicon Valley from Marin, I know there are two situations which would have got me to quit doing it (BTW: these two work best in tandem): 1. Increase the cost of energy to reflect its true cost, including emissions. Add $1 in taxes per gallon of gas every year until gas hits $10/gallon. Help the poorer people with vouchers to make that shift more gradual for them. Use the money to improve public transportation. Then, while the 3bd rental in Sonoma might the same price as the 2bd rental here, cost of commuting would make it much more desirable to live closer to where you work. 2. Make access to big cities harder for cars. Ever been to Zurich? Imagine San Francisco being similar to Zurich - 2 lanes of the Golden Gate bridge reserved for trains, 2 for buses and only one lane going in and out for cars. Public transit having the right of way everywhere. Parking highly restricted in downtown Zurich. That would get people out of their cars and into public transit very quickly. It's faster to park your car at a Park&Ride outside of Zurich and take public transportation than driving in. Of course, I also understand that this scenario is politically undesirable here and thus will not happen. At least, ABAG would have to rethink its faulty approach...
Bob Silvestri May 11, 2012 at 11:30 PM
I always find this "get rid of cars" approach very strange. The logic is that cars are somehow an immutable thing that are a given, whereas in fact they're just another machine no different than our homes (which produce a lot of GHGs) or appliances and gadgets (which use lots of energy that's mostly not green), etc. The logic presents us only two choices, what we have now or a complete remaking of society (at a cost of hundreds of billions), a complete reengineering of human nature (to want to have a family and live in a home not an apartment), and to turn all this over to bigger and bigger government. Why not just force vehicle manufacturers to start producing 100% recyclable, 100% GHG free vehicles? The technology exists. Of course that would mean ending the centi-billion dollar annual subsidy to oil production, a sea change in politics and business cronyism as usual. Is turning the SF Bay Area into Zurich really the best solution available to us?
Bob Silvestri May 12, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Worth reading: http://www.newgeography.com/content/002818-the-export-business-california-people-and-jobs?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Newgeography+%28Newgeography.com+-+Economic%2C+demographic%2C+and+political+commentary+about+places%29
Linda Rames May 12, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Linda Rames It is clearly time for Marin County to opt out of ABAG. This organization is not only irrelevant, it is obsolete. Things are not the same as they were in 1961; yet, ABAG would have us believe a big brother, top down approach to workforce housing is the best way to solve a problem which actually doesn't exist in Marin. Why would we, the citizens of Marin County, agree to build housing for job holders when the jobs don't exist? Current studies and the 2010 census show that Marin has grown 2.1% in 10 years and has actually lost businesses which would employ low earning employees. So ABAG wants to build high density apartment complexes to house people who don't have jobs in Marin. Who benefits from this idiocy? Certainly, it is not the residents of Marin County. So, it is time to opt out of ABAG.
Dave Coury October 09, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Opt out? Do you understand the consequences? Marin would no longer have a voice at the table when regional planning issues are discussed. Marin would not be able to particpate in or influence decisions which would effect us; however, it would not negate Marin's responsibilities under State law.

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