Plan Bay Area Adopted Under the Cloak of Midnight – Literally! | Libertarian Party of San Francisco

Plan Bay Area Adopted Under the Cloak of Midnight – Literally!

At their meeting of “July 18”, after several hours of listening to public comments, the joint Executive Boards of ABAG/MTC started the voting to determine adoption of Plan Bay Area -- at around 12:15 am. Although some public comments at this meeting were positive, most used terms that ranged from “unconstitutional” to “abomination.” However, the Plan was adopted, as expected.

At least one member of the public who offered a comment indicated that lawsuits were being filed against Plan Bay Area. The Post Sustainability Institute/Democrats Against UN Agenda 21 and Freedom Advocates are launching a legal challenge to Plan Bay Area, pointing to several violations of the Plan, such as those against the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution (taking of private property without just compensation), the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution (equal protection clause), the voter-approved Urban Growth Boundary ordinances (plans encouraging growth in the periphery of cities), etc. Visit the Post Sustainability Institute website for details of the lawsuit, and to pitch in to help fund the lawsuit should you agree with its premise; see link below.

Although the vote to adopt Plan Bay Area sailed through, some Commissioners expressed concern about funding for the two key features of the Plan, housing and transportation. Those concerns are well warranted! The 28-year horizon and the projected revenues of the Plan are both on the ambitious side.



The forecasts prepared by MTC, the transportation mastermind, are “used to plan investments that fit within the financially constrained envelope of revenues that are reasonably expected to be available.” Couple that constraint with the volatile times in which we live, and we might be in for some challenges. See the link below to “One Bay Area, Chapter 4, Investments.”


And how about funding for “affordable housing,” the other major component of Plan Bay Area? As one Commissioner said at the July 18 meeting with some exasperation, it is one thing to be in charge of planning and zoning but it is another thing to have funding. “California Housing Element law (Article 10.6 of the California Government Code) requires each jurisdiction to plan for housing for all income levels by ensuring that local zoning and planning support the production of a diverse range of new housing.” And the money for that comes from where? San Franciscans should expect to see displacement of low-income communities, as investment pours into the “Priority Development Areas,” which happen to be corridors where residents of modest means now live. See the link below to an interesting set of Plan Bay Area “FAQ.”


Noteworthy legislation should continue to emanate from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Mayor’s office. The Board approved “Micro-Units” last December, tiny stack & pack 220 square-feet apartments, which are estimated to rent for $1,300-$1,500. The full Board is expected to adopt in late July the Board’s Land Use & Economic Development Committee requirement that new and renovated construction provide bike racks or face a $400 fee for each spot not provided; presumably this legislation applies to senior housing? The plan to remove parking spaces from Polk Street has received enough push back from merchants to delay its implementation temporarily.


Commissioners at the July 18 meeting characterized Plan Bay Area as a work in progress. As always we Libertarians are encouraging San Franciscans to pay attention to the legislation, regulations, and tax increases in the works. Doing so will indeed make Plan Bay Area a work in progress where residents of San Francisco have a say in what progresses.


Plan Bay Area: A boon to “Affordable Housing?”


As libertarians have been saying for a while now, Plan Bay Area comes with some serious challenges, such as micromanagement of the economy and the people, and a colossal appetite for funds. Concerns most often heard are about private property and transportation preferences. Property owners located in the Plan’s “unpopular” locations outside the Priority Development Areas worry about their property’s loss of value and their community’s loss of services. Property owners located inside the desirable PDA’s owning “unpopular” single-family homes worry about unequal treatment at best and eminent domain at worst. Automobile lovers are livid over the Plan’s bike-centered, parking-space-removing strategies.


Plan Bay Are also comes with a lot of promises -- clean air, plentiful jobs, mass transportation, beautification, and affordable housing. Environmentalists are delighted and pushing for more regulation, developers are salivating over the thought of homes for an additional 280,000 people to be crammed into San Francisco's PDA’s. Students seem to be particularly pleased with the prospect of an economical, maybe even free, way to get to school. However, the magic word, the ace in the hole, is “affordable housing.” Young workers, students, families of modest means are hopeful that Plan Bay Area will bring relief to the ever-increasing housing costs. Especially in San Francisco, is this hopeful expectation warranted? We offer a few thoughts to ponder on this subject.


A. Upward Market Pressure: Plan Bay Area’s Equity Analysis Report speaks of vulnerable neighborhoods that “may face” upward market pressure. We learn in Economics 101 that upward market pressure, or to use another term for the same phenomenon, cost of living increase, is inevitable when investment and population pours into any area. [Pg 17]


B. Land vs. number of dwellings: As a rule, increased supply of any item for consumption will reduce its cost. However, in the case of real property we need to consider both number of dwellings (to increase under Plan Bay Area) and availability of desirable land (to decrease under Plan Bay Area). In Evaluation of Plan Bay Area, Wendell Cox indicates the following:

There is considerable evidence that urban containment policies drive up the price of land for residential development, especially by rationing land. This is consistent with the economic principle that rationing of a good or service tends to lead to higher prices. Urban containment policies are in wide use in the Bay Area, especially urban growth boundaries, while house prices have escalated far out of proportion with the increase in household income…

Brookings Institution economist Anthony Down attributes such residential land cost increase to the failure to maintain a competitive market for land. The difference between house prices in the Bay Area and those in liberally (traditionally) regulated markets are principally the cost of land.

As it affects San Francisco, a relatively small land area, the restrictive land policies inherent in Plan Bay Area will have magnified effects. Land prices will skyrocket, raising the price of property (regardless of supply of dwellings), and displacing low-income communities. Try as it may, Plan Bay Area cannot escape the laws of economics – no more than it can escape the laws of gravity.


C. “Issue 4: Facilitate Permanently Affordable Housing”:   In all fairness to San Francisco planners, it is important that this section, be included in any analysis of displacement of low-income communities under Plan Bay Area.   Planners intend to make concerted efforts to find financing for development of affordable housing, advocate for affordable housing, find financing for maintenance of subsidized housing, implement land subsidy trusts, implement “zoning accommodations,” etc.   Sounds like an all-consuming effort that threatens to impact low-income households who depend on other publicly-financed programs, such as public schools and health departments. Displacement of those who can afford to leave potentially deteriorating school districts, for example, would be a blessing in comparison to the fate of those who cannot afford to leave.


D. Unequal “Equal Protection”: Plan Bay Area’s Equity Report indicates that focused growth increases displacement potential by approximately two-thirds, but the effect is not disproportionately high for communities of concern when compared to the reminder of the region (Pg 4-20). This “equal protection” view is hardly comforting, since vulnerable communities do not have the resiliency to withstand increases in costs of living nor the easy mobility of other communities.


E. Removal of rent-controlled housing. Libertarians are no fan of rent control as means to provide affordable housing; however, transparency calls for mentioning Plan Bay Area’s potential for leaving a lot of low-income families without it. If planners want to cram 280,000 more people in San Francisco obviously building new housing will not be sufficient. Existing single-family housing will need to be replaced with multi-family housing. The first salvo in San Francisco is The Parkmerced Mixed Use Program Development or “Parkmerced Vision” in San Francisco’s Parkmerced residential community. This plan calls for the demolition of 1,583 existing single-family units and the building of multi-family units that would house an equal number of residents. The 2010-2011 Civil Grand Jury issued a report on this plan entitled “The Parkmerced Vision: Government-By-Developer.” The report's Conclusion states, “The Parkmerced Mixed Use Program Development Agreement, for all its complexity, fails to mitigate the most significant risk it creates: the direct loss of statutory rights by Parkmerced tenants.” The same surely holds true of Plan Bay Area -- on a scale larger than “Parkmerced Vision” by magnitudes! [pg 11]