6 Wins Network “Mic Checks” MTC, ABAG on Flawed Bay Area Plan

By Marcy Rein and Parisa Fatehi-WeeksTJ Action

At the end of a 4 ½-hour meeting on May 17 at Oakland’s Marriott Hotel that lasted until nearly midnight, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) acknowledged that more steps needed to be taken toward fairer housing distribution across the region.

But earlier in the meeting, the full MTC and ABAG’s Executive Board unanimously voted to move forward with a deeply flawed draft of the “One Bay Area” plan.

The plan will invest around $277 billion in transportation and plan housing in the nine-county Bay Area over the next 30 years, and must help the region meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets set out in California’s SB 375. But the proposals that will now enter the environmental review process do not reflect the changes demanded by the 6 Wins Network when it issued its interim “report card” on the plan a week earlier—leading the group to make its interim grade of “D” final.

The approved plan gets a "D" for failing to incorporate the 6 Wins recommendations to:

  • Restore lost transit service
  • Protect people from displacement because of gentrification and high rents
  • Require cities with good jobs and transit to build new affordable housing for people who work there
  • Protect communities at highest risk from diesel truck and car pollution

Network members turned out in force for the meeting. More than 50 people representing ACCE, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, ATU Local 192, Bay Localize, Breakthrough Communities, BOSS, Disability Action Network, Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative, East Bay Housing Organizations, Genesis, New Voices Are Rising, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, Public Advocates, Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP), Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry, and Urban Habitat came to express their deep disappointment and anger at the plan, which they called a disaster for the low-income and working families of the region that will destroy our future.

High school students with the New Voices Are Rising project rocked the room with their heartfelt, on-point testimonies.

“My family in West Oakland lost our apartment,” Pamela Tapia said. “My mom was supporting three people on a minimum-wage job. She and my sister moved to Stockton but I had to choose between going with them and dropping out of school or staying here. The explosion of luxury homes has pushed out low-income people. As a homeless teen, I want to tell you to stop the displacement,” Tapia said.

Students across the region need better transportation, Brenda Barron told the meeting. “Our bus lines have been cut and changed and the bus stops have moved. We have longer waits and sometimes don’t know where the new routes go,” Barron said. “BART is good but it’s too expensive. We’re students and we can’t afford it. We need more buses and affordable BART,” she said.

A few dozen Tea Party-goers trekked in from the suburbs for the meeting, providing a sometimes-raucous counterpoint to 6 Wins. They denounced regional planning as “unconstitutional” and “totalitarian,” groaned loud skepticism at mentions of climate change, and conjured up specters of East German-style concrete-block high rise apartments looming over the Bay. But they also criticized the MTC and ABAG for failure to take public input seriously, as 6 Wins did. At this session and at last week’s committee meeting, the agencies limited public comment to one minute.

“This plan doesn’t incorporate health, and you don’t respect the public,” Azibuike Akaba of RAMP told the MTC and ABAG. “One-minute public comment is like speed-dating, but we have substantial comments to make.”

A few minutes later, 6 Wins underscored the point with a mic check, all together shouting their anger at the process that shut down the public’s voices and disregarded the plan’s impact on their lives. Nathaniel Arnold of Genesis and ATU 192 led off the chant:

Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!

Whose Bay Area? Our Bay Area! Whose Bay Area? Our Bay Area!

We are here to stand up! We are here to stand up! We are here to speak out! We are here to speak out!

We have sat at the table! We have sat at the table! For one and a half years! for one and a half years.

You need to remember! You need to remember. . . This is our Table! This is OUR table!

Whose Bay Area!? Our Bay Area!

People should live near their jobs!! People should live near their jobs!

All cities All Cities Should build a fair share Should build a fair share Of affordable housing!

Of affordable housing! Prevent displacement! Prevent Displacement! Bring back our buses!

Bring back our buses!

Whose Bay Area? Our Bay Area! Whose Bay Area? Our Bay Area!

After an hour of deliberations on the first agenda item—mostly over minutiae—the MTC and ABAG voted to approve the draft One Bay Area plan. It must now go through the Environmental Impact review required by California state law. The law requires study of alternatives as well as the proposal itself.

Supervisor John Gioia (Contra Costa County) and Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (Oakland) tried to get the agencies to commit to using the “Equity, Environment and Jobs” scenario proposed by 6 Wins as one of the alternatives. After Gioia’s motion and Kaplan’s second, however, ABAG President Mark Luce quashed the motion as “unrelated to the agenda item.” Staff then assured MTC and ABAG officials that they would take Gioia’s and Kaplan’s motion as direction for the environmental review process.

Mayor Mark Green (Union City) also made a motion to advance the 6 Wins Network’s proposal for an MTC study of an adequate baseline of transit service. His motion, too, was overruled as out of order.

On the second agenda item, the One Bay Area Grant program, Mayor Bates (Berkeley) and Councilmember Sam Liccardo (San Jose) both expressed sentiments reflecting 6 Wins concerns that the program should go further to spell out guidelines on local affordable housing and anti-displacement policies for eligibility for the next cycle of funding. No motion of this nature was made or voted on, however.

At the very end of the meeting, ABAG members did consider a proposal by the 6 Wins Network to re-examine the method for determining the “Regional Housing Needs Allocation.” Supervisor Eric Mar (San Francisco) made the motion, seconded by Councilmember Kaplan, to more equitably distribute affordable housing throughout the region, including affluent cities.

Several ABAG members expressed support for the proposal but said that they would need more information in order to make the change. The motion failed but Supervisor Barbara Kondylis (Solano County) directed staff to address the proposal in the next draft of the RHNA methodology, which would be coming back to the Board in June and July.

“The highway construction that began in 1956 allowed people to abandon the cities and created worse segregation than before. It also brought the greenhouse gas emissions problem,” said Urban Habitat and Breakthrough Communities co-founder  Carl Anthony. “Now we have a chance to undo the damage to the community and the environment and to bring people together,” Anthony said.