Bay Area planners approve shoot-for-the-moon plan to solve housing woes

Report calls for 30 years and $1.4 trillion to solve housing, transport, the environment and the economy

San Francisco /
Oct.October 22, 2021 07:30 AM
Iconic San Francisco (iStock)

Civic leaders from across the Bay Area have decided that the region’s housing, transit and environmental woes can be solved in the next three decades. The price tag: $1.4 trillion.

Officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments this week approved Plan Bay Area 2050, a work in progress since 2018. It’s stuffed with measures meant to boost the area’s quality of life by addressing housing, transportation, the environment and the economy.

“This is the first step in what’s going to be a long road,” Therese McMillan, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We don’t want it to be a thinking plan. We want it to be an action plan.”

The proposal is a bit vague about how to pay for it. In many cases “specific sources of new revenue have yet to be determined,” according to the plan. Protecting existing affordable housing in perpetuity alone may cost $237 million.

The plan also assumes some conditions that don’t exist today. Even if the Bay Area had the $205 billion called for in the plan to “improve economic mobility” by providing a $500 monthly check to all regional households, that’s a strategy tested only through a few pilot programs and would need a legislative change to allow it to move forward at the state level.

Other big ifs: statewide rent control and local zoning changes to allow for more housing to be built in the region.

Even with funding and legislative questions, Bay Area officials said the plan is needed to point the region in the right direction by the year 2051.

Unlike earlier versions, in 2013 and 2017, it focuses on “equity first and foremost,” according to the report. That means confronting the generational repercussions of racist housing policies such as redlining, when banks have refused to grant mortgages to those living in predominantly Black or Latino neighborhoods.

“Society — both public and private institutions — has failed to adequately serve these groups over decades,” according to the plan. “Governments and the private sector must work harder to ensure that they thrive.”

[SF Chronicle] — Emily Landes


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