List of Questions
Plan Bay Area is an integrated long-range transportation and land-use/housing plan that will support a growing economy, provide more housing and transportation choices, and reduce transportation-related pollution in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. It is a work in progress that will be updated every four years to reflect new priorities.
By law (Senate Bill 375), all regions in California must complete these plans. The law requires California’s 18 metro areas to plan jointly for transportation, land-use and housing as part of a “Sustainable Communities Strategy,” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for cars and light-duty trucks. In the Bay Area, this involves the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).
Within the Bay Area, the law gives joint responsibility for Plan Bay Area to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). These two agencies work with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). They also partner with local communities, agencies and a wide range of stakeholders to ensure broad public input into Plan Bay Area’s preparation.
MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. MTC makes the regional transportation network function as smoothly and efficiently as possible now and for the future.
The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is the council of governments and regional planning agency for the nine counties and 101 cities and towns of the San Francisco Bay region.
The law requires MTC to update the long-range regional transportation plan for the nine-county Bay Area every four years. ABAG is required by law to update the Regional Housing Need Allocation every eight years, and to allocate specific housing targets to individual cities and counties. State law (Senate Bill 375) also requires ABAG and MTC to develop an integrated transportation and housing plan for the Bay Area.
State law requires Plan Bay Area to:
- Identify possible “areas within the region sufficient to house all the population of the region” — where people will live, including all income groups, for at least the next 25 years;
- Develop a Regional Transportation Plan that meets the needs of the region;
- Reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from cars and light trucks.
- In addition, Plan Bay Area also needs to address a host of other quality-of-life concerns.
As a long-range initiative, Plan Bay Area will have more of an impact on future generations than it will on those of us here today. This Plan looks ahead to 2040 and seeks to preserve what we love about our towns, cities and farmlands, maintain key transportation infrastructure, and offer more choices in where we will live and how we will get around.
- To improve the quality of life of our neighborhoods by providing cleaner air, improved public health, better mobility, more walkable streets, and homes closer to transit, jobs and services.
- To benefit from incentives that will be available to conforming localities — for example, Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) funding, Station Area Planning Grants, investments from the Regional Transportation Plan, and assistance in meeting the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Not at all. For decades, the Bay Area has been encouraging more focused and compact growth to revitalize older communities. We’ve developed complete communities, reduced travel time and expense, improved the existing transportation system, reduced the costs of new infrastructure, protected the land and environment, promoted affordable housing and improved the lives for all Bay Area residents. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is another reason to continue these efforts.
MTC and ABAG are scheduled to adopt Plan Bay Area in the summer of 2013. Plan Bay Area is a living document that will be updated every four years to reflect new priorities.
Plan Bay Area focuses the lion's share of investment on maintaining the existing transit and road system and boosting the system’s efficiency. The Plan also provides support for focused growth in Priority Development Areas, including the new One Bay Area Grant program.
Plan Bay Area forecasts transportation revenue totaling $289 billion over 28 years. However, most of this money will be needed just to maintain the existing transportation network. Of the total amount, $57 billion is "discretionary," or available for assignment to new projects and programs.
The Plan invests discretionary funds into six key investment strategies: (1) county investment priorities would receive $16 billion, or 29 percent of available funds; (2) system maintenance would receive $15 billion, or 26 percent; (3) programs to support focused growth are slated to garner $14 billion through the One Bay Area Grant program, or 25 percent of expected funds; (4) transit expansion projects would receive $5 billion or 9 percent; (5) freeway and transit efficiency projects would receive $4 billion, or 7 percent; and (6) $1 billion (less than 1 percent) would go toward programs to combat climate change. The plan includes a $2 billion reserve fund.
The One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) program is designed to reward jurisdictions that accept housing allocations through the Regional Housing Need Allocation process. The program commits $320 million over the next four years ($14.6 billion over the life of the Plan). The program grants local communities the flexibility to invest in transportation infrastructure that supports infill development by providing funds for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, local road repair and planning activities, while also providing funds for Safe Routes to School programs and for Priority Conservation Areas.
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. The Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) is the state-mandated process to identify the share of the state’s housing need for which each jurisdiction must plan over an 8-year period. ABAG oversees the RHNA process in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.
How does Plan Bay Area relate to the Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS), Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA)?
Plan Bay Area combines these three initiatives into a single, integrated regional plan. For example, regional transportation plans traditionally include land use projections. For Plan Bay Area, the SCS will be the land use allocation. Senate Bill 375 also stipulates that the SCS will incorporate an 8-year housing projection and allocation pursuant to RHNA. State law requires that the RHNA follow the development pattern specified in the Sustainable Communities Strategy.
No. The law says that neither ABAG nor MTC has any legal authority to supersede “the land use authority of cities and counties in the region.” The law does require that Plan Bay Area be consistent with the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA).
Priority Development Areas (PDAs) are areas within existing communities that have been identified and approved by local cities or counties for future growth. These areas are typically accessible to transit, jobs, shopping and other services. Over 72 local governments have voluntarily designated approximately 170 Priority Development Areas; PDAs are proposed to absorb 80 percent of new housing and 66 percent of new jobs on about three percent of the Bay Area’s land.
Plan Bay Area recognizes the diversity of communities across our region. The Plan concentrates new growth in areas nominated by local governments, with most of the growth taking place toward the center of our region in large cities like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. Most single-family neighborhoods will remain largely unchanged.
Open space generally refers to undeveloped land or water that could be either publicly or privately owned.
Land use changes very slowly and many places won’t change much at all. How much difference can Plan Bay Area really make?
Changes in land use patterns may take decades to reduce emissions from personal vehicles and are only part of the solution. Vehicle technology and transportation pricing (e.g., parking) are likely to have a greater impact, in the short and longer term. The impact of more efficient vehicles would be significantly reduced if we continue to drive more and congestion increases because of inefficient land uses. Experts agree that there is no single answer. Changes in technology as well as changes in travel behavior will be necessary to reduce emissions to healthier levels in the future.
Is Plan Bay Area consistent with Urban Growth Boundaries and similar locally adopted growth controls in many Bay Area counties?
Yes. The Draft Plan accommodates 100% of new growth within existing urban growth boundaries and urban limit lines. It also emphasizes protection for the region’s farmland and scenic and natural resource areas, including Priority Conservation Areas.
Will Plan Bay Area change the character of the region’s rural communities, small towns and suburban residential neighborhoods?
No. Overall, well over two-thirds of all regional growth by 2040 is allocated to Priority Development Areas in Plan Bay Area. As a result, small cities, single family neighborhoods, and rural areas throughout the Bay Area will take on a very small share of the region’s overall growth and are expected to retain the same scale and character. As described above, local land-use authority is retained by the region’s cities and counties. Local jurisdictions will continue to determine where future development occurs.
In 2010, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) adopted greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets for regions across California, as required by law. For the San Francisco Bay Area, this means a 7 percent per capita reduction target for the year 2020 and 15 percent per capita reduction target for 2035, based on 2005 levels.
Lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions protects public health, lowers energy consumption and reduces miles driven. In addition, other laws require Plan Bay Area to meet federal and state air quality health standards for several pollutants. Lastly, the law also requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and requires the state’s 18 metropolitan planning organizations to develop long-range transportation and land-use/housing plans that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks.
Transportation is the biggest single source of greenhouse gases in California. In the Bay Area, it accounts for 41 percent of our overall emissions, most of that comes from personal travel in on-road vehicles. The only way to reduce our contribution to global warming is to reduce travel within the region. Plan Bay Area will:
- Reduce the separation of land uses (jobs, stores, schools, and homes) and encourage more complete, mixed-use communities, so people can drive less and walk, bike or use more transit;
- Cluster more homes, jobs and other activities around transit, so people can more easily use transit rather than drive; and
- Plan land uses and transportation together, to reduce traffic congestion, improve vehicle speeds, reduce emissions from idling and other inefficiencies.
Less driving means less tailpipe emissions. Residents need not drive as much with land use plans that encourage more people to live near their jobs and other essential services, and provide better access to mass transit and other transportation choices.
If we cannot meet the greenhouse-gas reduction targets in Plan Bay Area, then we must prepare an Alternative Planning Strategy (APS) to accompany the Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS). The APS will be structured like the SCS, but it is an unconstrained plan that does not have to be as feasible or achievable as the SCS, since it would not be adopted as part of Plan Bay Area. The APS would identify the physical, economic or political conditions required to meet the regional greenhouse gas targets.
For several decades both MTC and ABAG have been developing and updating long-term regional plans for the Bay Area by using computer modeling to forecast transportation demand, economic growth, demographics and land-use changes, among others.
The Bay Area currently has about 7 million people. Data suggests that over the next 25 years the region will attract another 2 million people. The rate of growth depends on several variables, including age distribution, predicted birth and death rates, and estimated migration into the Bay Area.
California’s Department of Housing and Community Development, the Department of Finance, and ABAG all agree that economic trends need to be addressed in Plan Bay Area. ABAG's 2.1 million population growth projection is directly tied to employment growth. The Department of Finance’s 2013 projections do not take into account the high rate of growth in jobs, population and migration into the region. The Department of Finance population projections depict only one possible course of future population change, i.e., the one reflecting assumed trends in fertility, mortality, and migration. The model does not consider employment, which is a major driver of migration. Thus, it is not a forecast of the most likely outcome.
Local officials, as well as environmental, social justice, faith-based, public-health and business leaders, are engaging in Plan Bay Area through a Regional Advisory Working Group that provides input on planning and policy issues. The agencies also get input from several other interest groups through MTC’s Policy Advisory Council and ABAG’s Regional Planning Committee.
Yes. MTC and ABAG have been working with business leaders from throughout the region, especially at key points during development of the Plan.
Absolutely. Oral and written comments from workshops, telephone survey results, a web survey and focus groups, were all analyzed and summarized in 2012. The Draft Plan and its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) were released March 22 and April 2 respectively for public review and comment. The final approval will occur in mid-2013.
The law requires substantial public involvement in the region’s Sustainable Communities Strategy. MTC’s 2012-13 budget for Plan Bay Area public outreach and involvement is $400,000. This includes public meetings throughout the nine-county region and web-based activities, public events, workshops and briefings, meeting facilitation, recording and review of public comments, facility rentals, language translations, publication design and printing, web material development, etc.
Public engagement is essential to the success of all the regional planning efforts. Plan Bay Area needs the input of all stakeholders — especially the people who live and work in Bay Area communities — to build a plan that meets their vision, goals and aspirations for a prosperous future.
There are many ways to get involved. A great way to start is by getting engaged in the development of Plan Bay Area. You can go to our Get Involved page to sign up for alerts about meetings and other opportunities to have your voice heard. We also encourage you to visit our Public Process page, which explains the nuts and bolts of what can be an admittedly complicated multi-year planning process.
Finally, if you’re on Facebook or Twitter, please visit our One Bay Area social media pages for more updates and conversation. Over time, we hope these sites will become an online hub of activity for a whole community of engaged Bay Area citizens. We need you to be our partners!
Environmental justice stems from a Presidential Executive Order to fairly distribute benefits and burdens for disadvantaged communities and to include minority and low-income communities in decision-making. The federal government oversees regional planning. As a recipient of federal funds, MTC is required to incorporate environmental justice principles in all its planning efforts, including Plan Bay Area.
Social equity is the idea that all persons should have fair and equal access to opportunity. Plan Bay Area is designed to find housing for all persons at all income levels in the region, improve air quality in impacted areas and to make housing and transportation more affordable for lower-income households. For more information, visit the One Bay Area web page on equity.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) are considering how to improve the region’s land use pattern and placement of public infrastructure, including transportation. To reduce air pollution (smog, particulate matter and airborne toxins), the Air District is considering how to address the air quality impacts of transportation and other sources associated with land development. BCDC is preparing for rising sea-levels and storm surges affecting areas on and near the Bay shoreline. Sea levels will have implications for the location of development and transportation infrastructure.
No. Plan Bay Area is mandated by California Senate Bill 375. For more information, read the American Planning Association fact sheet “Agenda 21: Myths and Facts” (PDF).
- Ken Kirkey, MTC
- Miriam Chion, ABAG
- Henry Hilken, BAAQMD
- Joe LaClair, BCDC
One Bay Area is a joint initiative that is comprised of four of the San Francisco Bay Area’s regional government agencies – the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). On Earth Day 2010 the agencies launched One Bay Area at an historic summit and pledged to work together on regional programs and projects to protect our economy, environment, and the health and well-being of Bay Area citizens. A joint web site — www.onebayarea.org — serves as a clearinghouse for information and updates for these multi-agency efforts.
One Bay Area takes a collaborative approach to many of the challenges we face together. For example, natural resources like the air we breathe and the San Francisco Bay are shared by all of us. Likewise, many people commute across county borders and depend upon an efficient transportation system to travel to and from their jobs. Finally, there needs to be sufficient affordable housing for employers to hire and retain the workers that contribute both to their individual bottom lines and to the economic strength of our region as a whole. Most importantly, One Bay Area works in partnership with cities, counties, business groups, community-based organizations and other stakeholders to coordinate efforts and promote innovative solutions.