From the Mayor's Desk: Plan Bay Area 2040 fails; let's not make the same mistake

For many residents, traffic starts before 3 p.m., while our teachers and service workers struggle with prolonged and extensive commutes. People can’t get around anymore –forget about public transit. The cost of living is through the roof, state/regional legislatures favor the interests of developers as well as tech companies and income inequality has never been worse. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.

Plan Bay Area is continuing to make the same mistakes by relying on flawed projections instead of planning based on what’s better for the future. Trapped in a negative feedback loop of enacting bad policy, Plan Bay Area is in need of bold, structural change; it’s time for residents to be truly involved in the process.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) prepare and adopt a long-range regional plan for the Bay Area called Plan Bay Area. The plan is required under state and federal law. Within it, the two agencies develop a long-range, regional housing and transportation plan that is an essential element in every Bay Area city’s general or comprehensive planning process. The current plan covering the period from 2010 to 2040 has been a disaster.

MTC and ABAG utilize a process that starts with an aggressive jobs-based forecast for the area and then projects population and housing numbers for each community out to the year 2050. Plan Bay Area’s goal is to spread priority development areas through the urban regions of the nine counties, but the plan called for job growth in Oakland and other urban areas to total approximately 25% less than that in the West Bay cities (cities from San Francisco to Santa Clara and Cupertino west of Highway 280).

In the first seven years of the plan, the West Bay cities accounted for six times the number of jobs that Oakland and San Jose added. In fact, the number of jobs in the West Bay was two and a half times greater than those in the rest of the entire Bay Area. Businesses that find value in co-location have concentrated growth in a single spot – the West Bay.

The imbalance of excessive job growth in the West Bay has created critical issues that are overwhelming the Bay Area; land and housing costs are now the highest in the country, regional transit systems are overloaded, congestion is reaching a breaking point, workers commute longer distances than ever before, household income inequality is spiraling out of control and local democracy is under threat.

MTC and the ABAG Executive Board want to continue with Plan Bay Area’s ineffective model. The data coming from Plan Bay Area are based not on a proactive plan for the future, but on past projections around an aggressive job-growth priority development model. The results? An affordability crisis.

MTC and ABAG need to adopt a requirement that the process will include a range of more moderate and balanced projections of jobs and housing that explore a greater geographical dispersion of jobs and eliminate their model assumption that it be driven by an aggressive job-growth in priority development areas.

MTC and ABAG must approve their methodology for the Plan Bay Area 2050 update by September. They have a current public comment period on their methodology from now until Monday. This is a limited opportunity to have an input on how this process will move along before MTC and ABAG staff prepare in-house their new jobs and population projections.

MTC and ABAG must let the public participate fully in the discussion of a plan that would affect the jobs and housing balance in the Bay Area. Plan Bay Area 2050 will impact each city’s character as well as each individual’s quality of life. People should email the ABAG Executive Board at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and reach out to their local city council before Monday.

Lynette Lee Eng is mayor of Los Altos.

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