These are uncertain times. But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that no one decides to live in the Bay Area because it's "One Bay Area."
If anything, we’re the poster child (and the butt of endless jokes) for diversity of people, ideas and "place."
But lately, we’re inundated with guilt-giving Op-Ed pieces extolling the virtues of central planning and a dystopian vision called the One Bay Area Plan. It’s wrapped in politically correct phrases like “affordable housing” and “reducing greenhouse gases” and comprised of a truckload of contradictory laws, terms and agencies like SB375, AB32, RHNA, ABAG, MTC, TAM, BCDC, BAAQMD, PDAs, SCSs and APDs - enough to take a thousand lawyers a thousand years to comprehend.
This “nexus of nonsense” is the work of prominent politicians, backed by deep pocket development and construction interests, “ladder climbing” staff and local elected officials, and a non-stop chorus of shaming from brown-nosing, wannabe bloggers and agenda-driven, nonprofit academics, funded by anti-local control social engineers.
The only problem with this cacophony of "smart" growth advocacy is its complete lack of common sense and factual basis.
We’re told we can “build our way out of climate change” (SB 375), which, even disregarding for a moment its complete lack of scientific basis, defies even a 6th grader’s sense of logic. We’re told that “housing is the key to sustainability,” though all evidence points to the exact opposite.
Truth be told, housing has nothing to do with sustainability, economic, environmental or otherwise. Las Vegas, Denver and Atlanta all bore the worst of the housing bust because they overbuilt their real housing needs. Manhattan and San Francisco have never had enough affordable housing yet they thrive. The South Bronx and Oakland have always had an excess of affordable housing and they continue to struggle. From the Sumerians to the Mayans, the real cause of unsustainability has been resource depletion from too much growth, as will be the case with water in Marin.
And who’s to say it wouldn’t be better for the planet to build entirely new “green” towns hundreds of miles north, where a balance of development and impacts could be better achieved? I don’t know, but I do know it’s not Sacramento central planners who should decide.
But then why let facts get in the way of a good jobs program in an election year?
Still, even as ABAG pressures us to build, we’ve had the comfort of believing that as an unfunded mandate, very little development was actually going to happen. However, now comes SB 1220, brought to us by some of the same people who brought us SB 375 (Steinberg). It proposes a $75 tax on recording every document related to real estate transactions and sends its $700 million to $1 billion a year in proceeds into a bureaucratic black hole called the “Housing Opportunity Trust” in Sacramento. Decisions about how the money is spent will now be governed only by politicalcagendas and big money special interests.
SB 1220, combined with SB 375’s plan to “warehouse” the poor in high-density developments next to highways and rename open space “resource areas,” may represent the final nail in the coffin of local control of zoning and property rights. Generations of efforts to create Marin’s unique quality of life will be dismantled.
And in the end, my bet is that One Bay Area’s stillborn vision of homogenization still won’t have solved the core problem: providing quality housing choices for those most in need.
Bob Silvestri is a member of the , which was formed in response to recent housing and zoning legislation such as SB 375 and housing allocations in the One Bay Area plan.