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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.

A little while ago, I attended a Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers meeting to listen to a presentation given by Ken Kirkey, ABAG Director of Planning. 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 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, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Control along with the RHNA (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?

David Edmondson May 10, 2012 at 04:24 AM
The level of Wrong in this is... yeah. Unexpected. 1) Plan Bay Area draft preliminary projections are NOT (not not not) RHNA allocations. ABAG will use the projections to inform their future RHNA allocations. 2) Construction adds greenhouse gases, but the goal is to reduce per capita production. How? Creating places where people can walk or bike to work, and where transit is a viable option. 3) Nobody wants to undermine local control, environmental standards, or health and safety. Why would they? How would they? SB 375 is built around the premise that walking and biking is healthy, that those things and transit are better for the environment than cars and parking lots. And how would safety be undermined when fewer cars are on the road, speeds are lowered, and fewer casualties result from drivers hitting each other and pedestrians? 4) The growth numbers are less than half what actually happens in Marin! The pressure's off! How is this not a win for Marin? ABAG has an abysmal communications department, if they have one at all, for letting such blatant falsehoods run wild around Marin without any challenge. One ought to talk to someone with some semblance of neutrality before perpetuating such hyped-up "facts".

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