Bay Area Citizens update

by Bay Area Citizens


Bay Area Citizens update

 

Dear Friends,

 

I -  2013 achievements

 

We had an extraordinary year in 2013, thanks to the support of our donors and volunteers—quite an achievement for a new grassroots citizens organization, all of us volunteers. 

 

Bay Area Citizens made a substantive and material contribution on the debate over Plan Bay Area, in part through funding top national experts in land use and transportation planning.  These experts submitted empirically-based, analytically-sound comments on the Plan and its draft EIR. These reports were funded with mostly small and mid-sized donations—and we received a lot of them, thanks to you. Many of our volunteers submitted substantive comments of considerable merit as well.  We also networked with many of the other great citizens and citizen groups throughout the Bay Area who submitted substantive comments.

 

When the agencies completely rejected all of the citizens’ comments--in many cases failing to respond entirely, in other cases dismissing the comments with perfunctory and insufficient responses--we filed suit against ABAG and MTC for their certification of Plan Bay Area’s final EIR and adoption of the Plan itself.  Our suit, filed on August 6, 2013 in Alameda County Superior Court, asks the judge to vacate the adoption of the Plan and certification of the final EIR, and require the agencies to start again.  The Plan and its EIR’s flaws are that pervasive, and that material.

 

 

II -  Bay Area Citizens v. ABAG and MTC update

 

After what we consider to have been blatant attempts at bullying from the agencies--for example, sending us a letter on August 26, 2013 notifying us that we would incur $129,863 in costs for the preparation of the administrative record--we’ve been able to resolve those issues.  We have completed preparation of the administrative record and filed it with the court, and briefing has begun.  We filed our opening brief on March 10, 2013.  The agencies’ responsive brief is due on April 11, 2014, and our hearing on the merits of our suit is June 12, 2014.

 

You can follow the progress of the suit from the perspective of our pro bono litigation counsel, Pacific Legal Foundation, on their website here.   And, for our perspective, please join our email list by becoming an associate member by making a modest donation to Bay Area Citizens here, or simply sending us an email at bayareacitizens@yahoo.com requesting to be added to our email newsletter.  Our most detailed discussions of issues are provided in our emailnewsletter (more below).

 

 

III -  2014 initiatives

 

We are committed to the programs that we have planned for 2014 as these have considerable leverage in meeting the specific purposes of Bay Area Citizens.  We seek to make a difference in critical areas in the public debate over issues of land use, local control, property rights, and the environment.  Our organization and volunteers seek to support the great work of the citizen groups and individual citizens in the Bay Area and throughout California.  We also take on essential portions of those efforts that otherwise may not get done if we do not do so. 

 

Our 2014 initiatives include:

 

{C}-       Plan Bay Area II.  Regardless of the disposition of our lawsuit against Plan Bay Area I, the planners at ABAG and MTC and the powerful political and financial interests behind them, will continue their efforts to reengineer our lives in ways that will sharply limit where and how we can live, and how we can travel—with substantial costs to the public as well.  And the comments submitted on Plan Bay Area established conclusively that these heavy handed policies will do almost nothing to achieve the Plan’s stated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

 

Notwithstanding, ABAG and MTC, and their ecosystem of nongovernmental organizations, aligned developers, and state agencies will be back soon arguing that their Plan Bay Area I has failed because it lacks sufficient resources and sufficient coercion, and ask for more resources and coercion in Plan Bay Area II scheduled for adoption in 2017.  We expect to work with individuals and citizen groups in the Bay Area to make the case, again, as to the grave flaws of this Plan and this kind of planning.

 

{C}-       Rural Counties Initiative.  During the past two years, we have traveled extensively throughout the rural areas of our great state, meeting with folks in California’s rural counties, learning about the onslaught of initiatives on the part of state and federal agencies and associated nongovernmental organizations that are dramatically impairing our rural way of life.  Bay Area Citizens is partnering with organizations and individuals with expertise in these issues, and will be supporting citizens and local citizen groups in helping them preserve their ability to live and thrive in the rural areas of California.

 

 

IV -  Contribute to Bay Area Citizens

 

While there is much we can and are doing through the work of our volunteers, there is so much more that we can do with your support financially, as we found during 2013 as we were able to fund our expert reports, the costs of our Plan Bay Area lawsuit, and certain other essential expenses related to delivering our programs. 

 

To donate Bay Area Citizens, you can do so online via credit card here, or send your check made out to Bay Area Citizens to:

 

3527 Mt. Diablo Blvd #358

Lafayette, CA  94549

 

Your contributions to Bay Area Citizens are not tax deductible at this time.

 

 

V -  Join our email list

 

We only want to be sending our email newsletters to folks who would like to receive them.  We only sent these out occasionally thus far.  In our email newsletters, we talk in some detail about our current and future activities, and how we see things, and share information about what some of the great citizens and citizen groups in California are doing.  So please join our email list and be part of this important dialogue with us.

 

Folks can join Bay Area Citizens as an associate member by making a modest donation here—and our associate members receive our email newsletter:

 

In addition, you can also simply send an email to bayareacitizens@yahoo.com and ask to be added to the email list--please include first and last name, and city--and your state if not from CA.  While donations of any amount are always greatly appreciated as we use your contributions to support our programs, there's no requirement that you donate to be added to our newsletter list.

 

 

 


PLF files suit on behalf of Bay Area Citizens

by Bay Area Citizens


Dear Friends,

Pacific Legal Foundation filed suit this morning on behalf of Bay Area Citizens against ABAG and MTC over issues regarding Plan Bay Area.   This would not have been possible without the hundreds upon hundreds of average citizens around the Bay Area who have been raising substantive, significant concerns about the Plan and the process.  And it would not have been possible without many of you supporting Bay Area Citizens' efforts to provide thoughtful, objective reports on the Plan and its analysis from nationally respected experts in the fields of land use and transportation.  Also, many of you submitted thoughtful, carefully researched and documented comment letters of your own


The press release and (four minute) announcement video can be found here, as can a copy of the petition (the formal court filing):

http://www.pacificlegal.org/Release/Lawsuit-says-Plan-Bay-Areas-drafters-wore-blinders

And the video is here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqo0RdlH1Gg


Please let everyone you know about the suit.  This suit is really about citizens from around the Bay Area, taking a stand against unaccountable government agencies that are acting counter to the interests of the public that they ostensibly serve.


If you would like to help with the costs of the suit, you can send a check here:

Bay Area Citizens
3527 Mt. Diablo Blvd #358

Lafayette, CA  94549


or donate online here:

https://anedot.com/campaigns/cbc4fd1f521/donations/new

While Bay Area Citizens as an organization are all volunteers, and our attorneys fees will be covered by PLF, Bay Area Citizens will be responsible for the court costs, and especially the administrative record.  We estimate we will have to raise about $20,000 for the administrative record, and will need to do so in the next month or two.  Donations to Bay Area Citizens are not tax deductible at this time.

 


Plan Bay Area update

by Bay Area Citizens


Dear Friends,

Since late April, we have been communicating with folks mostly by email, phone, and meetings, and want to give you an update here on developments with Bay Area Citizens since then, especially as it relates to Plan Bay Area.

Plan adoption, July 19, 2013

Just after midnight, Friday, July 19, 2013, ABAG and MTC voted to certify Plan Bay Area’s final Environmental Impact Review (EIR), and voted to adopt the Plan itself.  Remarkably, given the apparent lack of any real deliberation during the entire process by which this Plan has been promulgated, the votes by ABAG’s Executive Committee and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission were not unanimous.  Five unnamed ABAG Executive Committee members voted “no” on the Plan’s adoption, and one MTC Commissioner voted “no” as well.

Comments submitted

During the comment period of the draft Plan and on the Plan’s draft EIR, ABAG and MTC received hundreds of comment letters from individuals, organizations, cities, and other governmental agencies.  Bay Area Citizens has read many of these, including most of the more substantive ones.  Many of the comment letters were carefully documented and well reasoned, including those submitted by individual citizens.  The vast majority of the comment letters submitted by individual citizens and by far the majority of comment letters submitted overall raised grave concerns over the substance of the Plan and the deficiencies of the Plan’s process.

The majority of the cities’ comment letters raised concerns about the Plan as well.  The only group of letters that expressed any significant measure of support for the goals and policies of the Plan were those submitted by “stakeholder” organizations that have been funded and staffed to advocate for policies like those in Plan Bay Area.

Bay Area Citizens role

Bay Area Citizens members submitted a number of substantive comment letters, and we collaborated and communicated with dozens of other citizens who also submitted substantive and material comment letters on the Plan.

We also raised funds to commission comment letters from a number of nationally-respected experts in land use and transportation planning.  Our experts also collaborated with other nationally-respected experts who filed comment letters on their own behalf or for other organizations.   Our experts worked tirelessly and long—in some cases for little or no compensation—in order to submit analytically-sound and empirically-based assessments of the Plan and its analysis.  Citizens and cities provided the objective analysis that ABAG and MTC were required to provide to the public, but did not.

We received contributions from many people from throughout the Bay Area for this important effort to support informed decision making on the part of the public, and our largest donation was less than 7% of the total we raised for this effort.  But notwithstanding the great efforts on the part of citizens from around the Bay Area to fund and support our expert reports, and the great work of our experts themselves, the bulk of the comments submitted on the Plan and its EIR were from citizens and experts doing so on their own time and at their own expense.

What the comments establish

The overriding message of the comment letters was (1) the Plan’s high density housing mandates and additional mass transit subsidies won’t work, even to accomplish the Plan’s own stated objectives—while they are detrimental to the citizens, cities, and the Bay Area as a whole, and (2) the Plan’s analysis was irreparably flawed.

The Plan’s high density housing mandates and mass transit subsidies.

The Plan mandates that 80% of all new housing units be built in multistory, multifamily projects in crowded city centers near mass transit, and that 66% of all new jobs be located in these areas as well.  It also dramatically under funds roads and bridges in order to increase mass transit subsidies, particularly for rail systems—and proposes numerous new policy initiatives to make driving more expensive and inconvenient for Bay Area residents.  Together these represent significant and unnecessary restrictions on and how and where Bay Area residents can live and travel, and where they can work and locate their businesses. 

These policy elements also won’t work.  The Plan’s own analysis shows that the mandate that 80% of all new housing units must be built in multistory, multifamily projects in crowded city centers is not even remotely plausible, despite the massive new public subsidies that the Plan itself posits are necessary for these to be built.  ABAG and MTC also assert the Plan requires new regional redevelopment agencies with eminent domain powers that will be necessary to force existing residents and small businesses off of their existing locations in order to assemble the large parcels necessary to accomplish the planners’ plans.

The Plan’s analysis admits that forcing all these new residents to live in high density housing in crowded city centers near transit will have significant and irremediable health impacts.  Rather than to change the Plan and not force all these new residents to live this way, the Plan insists that these new housing units have air filtration, with no ground floor housing, and that housing units be placed as far away from transit as possible! 

The Plan and its analysis also offer no credible data to support their assumptions that locating housing next to jobs next to transit will lead to people giving up their cars and working at the jobs next to the housing units.  In fact, what data there is regarding policies like these shows that these outcomes won’t materialize.

The Plan also assumes that per capita transit ridership will skyrocket more than 90% over the next 30 years, notwithstanding that its mass transit policies simply continue the same types of initiatives that have been tried in the Bay Area for the last 30 years—initiatives that have led to a 10% decline in total transit ridership and a more than 30% decline in transit ridership in per capita terms.

Evidence was also offered in the comment letters showing that high density housing doesn’t decrease greenhouse gas emissions, nor does mass transit.  In fact, the comment letters showed that current generation automobiles and light trucks have a 20% advantage, on average, in energy consumption over mass transit.  Since the fuel efficiency of the passenger vehicle fleet will increase from 20 miles per gallon (MPG) in 2010 to 50 MPG in 2040 due to already on the books state and federal regulations, the energy efficiency gap between passenger vehicles and mass transit will widen substantially in the coming years.  The energy efficiency gap directly translates into a similar greenhouse gas emission advantage of current and future generations of passenger vehicles over mass transit.   Though some buses in large cities run full and hence are both energy and greenhouse gas efficient on a per passenger mile basis, this doesn’t mean that mass transit, on average, is similarly efficient—and it is not.  The Plan also does nothing to address the mobility needs of lower income Bay Area residents who are reliant on a well-functioning bus system to get to work, school, and other places.

Even if the Plan’s high density housing and mass transit subsidies work as ABAG and MTC claim they will, those draconian policy initiatives will only lead to a 1.2% difference in greenhouse gas emissions in 2040 over doing nothing at all.  Draft EIR Table 3.1-28, p. 3.1-59.

The Plan’s analysis was irreparably flawed.

The number of facially wrong assumptions and models employed by ABAG and MTC to justify and analyze their Plan is breathtaking and deeply disturbing.  Just a few examples—of too many to mention—should suffice to illustrate just how improper ABAG and MTC’s analysis was.

The draft EIR at p. 2.5-24 claims that it will take “a 25 to 35 percent reduction from current emission levels” to reach the statutorily required 1990 levels for greenhouse gas emissions.  ABAG and MTC are fully aware, and have been aware all along during their analysis, that this assumption is completely and totally inaccurate.  In fact, ABAG and MTC know that current models for greenhouse gas emissions for both California and the US show that we are at or about 1990 levels now, and on a continuing path downward.  These are declines that cannot be attributed to slow economic growth alone, and do not take into account the vast reductions that will occur in coming years due to new state and federal MPG regulations.

ABAG and MTC also completely ignored the impact of California MPG regulations on greenhouse gas emissions when they purportedly decided between their selected alternatives.  However, they know the impact of those MPG regulations will dwarf by orders of magnitude (14-20 times or more) the paltry differences that ABAG and MTC claim will result from their draconian policy initiatives versus not doing those policy initiatives at all.  ABAG and MTC argue that the governing statute requires them to ignore those MPG regulations, despite the plain text of the statute requiring them to do otherwise.  And, when it is convenient for them do so, as when considering the adverse health effects of the Plan’s high density housing mandates, ABAG and MTC cheerfully claim credit for the pollutant reductions due to those same MPG regulations that they ignore when they are selecting their high density housing mass transit heavy Plan. 

Shockingly, ABAG and MTC ignore most of the impacts of those California MPG regulations on the Plan’s budget as well.  The most important part of the budget is the funds that come from gas tax revenues, as those are the funds that MTC has the most discretionary control over.  Gas tax revenues are a function of the amount of gallons of gasoline used, as well as the retail price of gas (assuming gas tax rates are kept constant). 

ABAG and MTC’s own internal models require the conclusion that by 2035 that 32% fewer gallons of gasoline will used by passenger vehicles in the Bay Area than were used in 2010, even after adjusting for additional miles driven by new residents—just from the impact of the first set of California MPG regulations.  And, simple, undisputable calculations based on the second set of California MPG regulations, also on the books and final during the analysis of the Plan, indicates that gallons of gasoline used by passenger vehicles will be approximately 50% less in 2035 or 2040 over what they were in 2010.

So, do ABAG and MTC report a 50% decline in gas tax revenues in their budget for 2035 or 2040?  Of course not.  They “mitigate” these inevitable declines by ignoring most of the declines, then assuming that the retail price of gas will increase over the next 30 years by vastly higher rates than the Plan’s assumed rate of inflation.  As a result, the problem of 50% fewer gallons of gas used by passenger vehicles in the later years of the Plan is “solved,” and the Plan reports continuing increases in gas tax revenues, in defiance of reality, and in utter disregard for proper budgeting and forecasting practices. 

MTC and ABAG’s lack of response

Needless to say, none of what the comments establish above was addressed or considered by ABAG and MTC.  No changes in the analysis were offered, and no modifications to the Plan were considered.

ABAG and MTC staff, for their part, simply ignored the comments that questioned the Plan in their reports to the public and to the ABAG Executive Board and the MTC commissioners.  Their “Summary of Public Comments” submitted orally and in writing on June 14, 2013, spent much of its time discussing a public opinion survey where the agencies asked residents whether they would be in favor of a Plan that helped the economy and the environment, and made housing more affordable, then spent most of the rest of the time discussing comments submitted by other government agencies.  Their “Summary of Public Comments” only touched briefly on the substantive concerns raised in the overwhelming majority of the comment letters by discussing what they characterized as “information or statements” made by the public about the Plan that required “correction” or “clarification.”

ABAG and MTC’s responses to comments in the Final EIR were similarly deficient.  They lost fifteen letters entirely, and it wasn’t until Bay Area Citizens repeatedly urged the agencies to look through their records to find missing comment letters that they found those missing letters.  The responses to the issues raised in individual comment letters provided by ABAG and MTC were astonishingly dismissive in many cases.  This lack of responsiveness by the agencies was a fitting, though sad, end to a several year process where citizen concerns, citizen input, and the substantive issues citizens raised, were completely ignored. 

What’s next for Bay Area Citizens

Given the importance of the substantive issues raised by citizens about this Plan which were completely ignored, and the grave and irreversible impact of the Plan’s policies on all Bay Area residents, Bay Area Citizens is carefully evaluating what we can and should do going forward, including the possibility of filing suit against ABAG and MTC on behalf of our members and in the public interest. 

 


Plan Bay Area public hearings

by Bay Area Citizens


Dear Friends,

Bay Area Citizens strongly recommends that you consider attending one of the remaining public hearings on the draft Plan Bay Area and share your views about the Plan, regardless of whether you are for or against the Plan.  The remaining hearings are in Foster City and San Rafael Monday, April 29, and in San Jose and Fremont on Wednesday, May 1:  

http://onebayarea.org/regional-initiatives/plan-bay-area/meetings-events/Public-Workshops-Public-Hearings.html

Even though the planners are only allowing 2 minutes per person for public comment at the hearings, the commenters have tended to have a lot to say.  This is our chance to have our voices heard in a public setting.

This past Monday night's hearing in Walnut Creek was well attended.  Steve Kemp, who has, as a volunteer, videotaped many of the Plan Bay Area hearings, appears to have put in many long hours of time to provide the video of the hearing on Youtube so that citizens who were not able to attend can nonetheless view the hearing.  Watching the video will give you a sense of the public feedback that ABAG and MTC have been getting about the Plan:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkqWvlabnpc

As has been the case at all of these meetings both last year and this year, the vast majority of public commenters expressed opposition to the Plan.  One thing that is a bit regrettable about this past Monday night's Walnut Creek hearing is a number of the folks who spoke in favor of the Plan appear to have been affiliated with Greenbelt Alliance, a non-governmental organization that is closely aligned with ABAG and MTC--but they did not disclose that affiliation.  Even the Board President, and apparent leader of this group of six or so folks who came and left together and spoke in favor of the Plan, didn't identify himself other than by name.   

But again, all of the citizens commenting had a lot to say, as you will see by watching the video, and we recommend that you do watch the video.   

We also recommend that you consider submitting a comment in writing.  To comment on the draft Plan itself, send an email to info@OneBayArea.org, or to comment on the draft EIR, eircomments@mtc.ca.gov.  

Alternatively, send your comment by mail or hand delivering it to:

MTC-ABAG

Plan Bay Area Public Comment

101 8th Street

Oakland, California  94607

re:  Public Comment on Draft Bay Area Plan and Draft Bay Area Plan Draft Environmental Impact Report

Your written comment is due by 4:00PM, Thursday, May 16, 2013.


Plan Bay Area hearings

by Bay Area Citizens


Dear Friends,

ABAG and MTC are holding nine Open House / Public Hearings on the draft Plan Bay Area between this coming Monday night, April 8, and Wednesday, May 1.  The details of each of these sessions, one for each county, can be found here:

http://onebayarea.org/regional-initiatives/plan-bay-area/meetings-events/Public-Workshops-Public-Hearings.html

Bay Area Citizens strongly recommends that you attend one of these hearings, both to learn, and also let your views be known--and, we recommend you attend and share your views regardless whether you support or oppose the Plan, or simply don't have an opinion at this point.

This coming week, there will be sessions in Napa and Sonoma counties on Monday evening, April 8, and one in San Francisco Thursday evening, April 12, and, again, details can be found above.

Regrettably, there will only be three hearings on the draft EIR, and two of those will be held during the day, when most citizens are at work.  These will be held in Oakland and San Rafael on Tuesday, April 16, and San Jose on Wednesday, April 17.  Bay Area Citizens strongly recommends that folks of all points of view attend one of these hearings on the draft EIR, if you are able to.  Details regarding the hearings on the draft EIR can also be found at the above link.