The areas I've noted in BOLD show contradictions. On one hand, they acknowledge hazard areas as being exempt from development, yet they reject all appeals from our cities and counties on this, their own basis. On the maps, below, they haven't even added in the high-risk areas, as they note in small print in the legend. They use CAL FIRE maps to inform severity of hazard areas; those maps are from 2007.
ABAG's actions and the stated goals of the PBA 2050 are incongruous in these areas:
Spur Housing Production for Residents of All Income Levels
The magnitude of the Bay Area’s housing shortfall requires production strategies targeted at different segments of the affordability scale. First, allowing a greater mix of housing densities and types in Growth Geographies will make it easier to meet the future housing needs of all Bay Area residents. Under this strategy, new homes of various affordability levels would grow first and foremost into parts of towns, cities and counties that their local governments identify for growth, generally near existing job centers or frequent transit. Additionally, other areas across the region with frequent, convenient transit would be candidates for new homes, as would well-resourced areas with advantages in school quality, job access and open space. These areas may have historically rejected more housing growth. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, Plan Bay Area 2050 calls for tailoring the design and density of new homes to their local contexts. Larger-scale development would take place on vacant land or declining commercial lots, and smaller-scale housing (such as backyard accessory dwelling units or duplexes) would be built in single-family neighborhoods.
To support mixed-income, diverse communities, affordable housing would become easier to build throughout these growth areas. See the Growth Geographies section in the Introduction for more on areas that are targeted for housing growth, along with a map of these areas regionwide. To sustain the region’s wealth of natural resources and open spaces, and provide residents greater access to transportation and jobs, Plan Bay Area 2050’s housing strategies work hand-in-hand with its environment, economy and transportation strategies. Housing and environment strategies protect areas outside of urban growth boundaries from new development and bring green space into urban areas.
Areas at very high risk of wildfire or sea level rise impacts are protected from additional construction and development. Economic strategies guide job growth toward places that currently have few jobs, while housing strategies encourage housing near job centers, working in tandem to address the geographic imbalance of housing and jobs in the region. Furthermore, transportation investments that increase transit service or support walking and biking in growth areas are especially important to housing and sustainability goals.
Plan Bay Area 2050’s strategies to build a next-generation transit network and build a Complete Streets network that meets the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers, for example, would alleviate traffic congestion and transit crowding regionwide and provide safe, healthy transportation options in growing neighborhoods.
LOCAL CONTROL IN HOUSING POLICY
Generally, federal law delegates land use control to states. In the late 19th century, California further delegated authority over land use to local governments as part of the “home rule” movement.4 While Plan Bay Area 2050 proposes strategies to help the region accommodate a growing population more equitably, it does not mandate any changes to local zoning rules, general plans or processes for reviewing projects; nor does the plan create an enforceable direct or indirect cap on development locations or targets in the region.
The Bay Area’s cities, towns and counties maintain control of all decisions to adopt plans and to permit or deny development projects. Plan Bay Area 2050 helps guide, but does not directly establish, new state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers for any jurisdiction. Read more about the separate RHNA process later in this chapter.
Zoning has been a contentious contributor to the housing crisis and to racial inequity. Plan Bay Area 2050 views zoning reforms as one tool to shift the region’s housing landscape toward inclusivity by allowing for more housing of different types to be built. Zoning must always be approached from a context-specific lens that identifies opportunity sites for future growth, as well as areas where additional growth is inappropriate. Currently, two similarly located parcels can be zoned for dramatically different uses depending upon the communities in which they are located, with one permitting a wide spectrum of housing types, and another allowing only single-family homes on larger lots. Plan Bay Area 2050’s Growth Geographies identify a mix of locally identified Priority Development Areas, areas near high- quality transit and areas of high opportunity as communities poised to accommodate additional growth. Meanwhile, areas outside of the existing urban footprint or in areas that are at a very high risk of wildfire are identified as areas where additional construction should be deprioritized. 4 Article XI, Sections 4 and 5 of the California Constitution While more housing for people at every income level is needed, it is especially crucial that the Bay Area build adequate affordable housing for residents with lower or no incomes, including the unhoused, to meet the needs that market-rate developers are unable to serve. By making existing funds go further, establishing new funding sources, expanding regional coordination and introducing incentives, this strategy would ensure that the estimated 400,000 new permanently affordable units needed in the region between now and 2050 are built. To protect the communities most vulnerable to harsh market forces, the strategy would also build enough deed-restricted homes to re-house community members experiencing homelessness or living in overcrowded housing. The recently established Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA) has the authority to generate revenues to fund these measures, making it a key tool at the region’s disposal. Increasing affordable housing production in High-Resource Areas and in places where affordable housing has historically been prohibited, opposed or discouraged can increase access to opportunities like high-quality homes, schools and transportation for residents with low incomes.
Residents currently experiencing displacement due to rising housing costs can also benefit from a concerted effort in affordable housing production. This strategy would prioritize existing or recently displaced community members to ensure that residents have an opportunity to remain within their neighborhoods. Placing affordable housing production close to transit could provide people with low incomes the opportunity to benefit from transit access while reducing climate emissions from cars on the road, serving both environmental and equity goals. For the many jobs in communities that are not located near transit, however, housing production near jobs can enable shorter commutes to reach climate goals, even if people still have to drive. In addition to building standalone affordable housing, Plan Bay Area 2050 calls for integrating affordable housing into all major housing projects to meet the needs of all residents by 2050. Numerous Bay Area cities have had inclusionary housing policies in effect for years, requiring developers to reserve a set number of homes in new buildings as affordable units. These policies promote the development of mixed- income apartment buildings without requiring a direct government subsidy. Instead, the cost of providing affordable housing is built into the developer’s financial projections. Plan Bay Area 2050 envisions a regional approach to inclusionary zoning that is context-specific, with requirements for affordable housing ranging from 10% to 20% of the total number of apartments built. The percentage would be based on factors like the strength of the housing market and proximity to amenities like transit or well-resourced schools. An exemption for buildings with five units or less would allow homeowners to affordably add backyard cottages and other accessory dwelling units.
The Bay Area’s severe housing shortage will require innovative solutions as well as time-tested methods. One novel idea is to transform aging shopping malls and office parks into vibrant, mixed-use neighborhoods incorporating open space, shops, services and housing. With department stores and other retail storefronts facing a steady decline since the takeoff of online shopping (accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic), this strategy turns an economic development challenge into an opportunity. Reimagining large, underutilized commercial spaces as housing can form an important nexus with economic development to transform the quintessential single-use sites of the 20th century into 21st century spaces that meet the needs of the future. This strategy would prioritize projects in Transit-Rich Areas and High-Resource Areas that provide high levels of affordable housing by providing technical assistance and low-interest loans. In addition to offering housing for people with a wide range of income levels, these revitalized sites could also become centers of community and learning.
Public institutions such as community colleges and university extensions could complement retail and essential service — To assist cities and counties with planning for new housing this cycle, HCD provided new state funding of $250 million in the 2019-20 State Budget; $25 million of these funds went directly to Bay Area jurisdictions, with an additional $24 million allocated to ABAG. ABAG is deploying its funds through subgrants to all 109 jurisdictions and the recently launched Regional Housing Technical Assistance (RHTA) program. RHTA includes several forms of technical assistance, such as providing jurisdiction-specific data packets that include charts and graphs that local staff can add directly into their Housing Elements and the Housing Element Site Selection tool, an interactive map that identifies opportunity sites for rezoning.6 Innovative ideas for engaging the community on housing planning, a regional consulting bench, and resources to support fair housing and resilience to hazards are also supported by these state funds.— —-
Growth Geographies Areas within the Bay Area’s nine counties where future housing and/or job growth would be focused under the plan’s strategies over the next 30 years. These geographies are identified for growth either by local jurisdictions or because of their proximity to transit or opportunities like well-resourced schools or easy access to jobs. Areas within unmitigated high hazard zones for wildfire and sea level rise cannot be designated as Growth Geographies.
The four growth geographies used in Plan Bay Area 2050 are High-Resource Areas (HRAs), Priority Development Areas (PDAs), Priority Production Areas (PPAs) and Transit-Rich Areas (TRAs). High-Resource Areas (HRAs) State-identified places (using a subset of the high-opportunity areas identified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development) with well-resourced schools and access to jobs and open space, among other advantages. This designation only includes places that meet a baseline transit service threshold of bus service with peak headways of 30 minutes or better, when located in jurisdictions that have not nominated at least 50 percent of their PDA-eligible lands. See also: Growth Geographies.
Transit-Rich Areas (TRAs) Areas near rail, ferry or frequent bus service that were not already identified as PDAs, in jurisdictions that have not nominated at least 50 percent of their PDA-eligible lands. Specifically, these are areas within 1/2 mile of either an existing rail station or ferry terminal (with bus or rail service), a bus stop with peak service frequency of 15 minutes or less, or a planned rail station or planned ferry terminal (with bus or rail service). See also: Growth Geographies.
STRATEGIES Reduce Risks From Hazards The most high-profile, and more visibly destructive, environmental events come from hazards like extreme weather, wildfires, earthquakes and sea level rise. Plan Bay Area 2050’s third suite of environmental strategies falls under the theme of reducing risks from these hazards. Even today, the impacts of extreme weather are evident. Wildfires that threaten thousands of homes are now an annual occurrence, and autumn days with extreme, fire-prone weather have more than doubled in California since the 1980s.2 Traffic is already routinely rerouted on several low-lying roads during king tide events — annual periods of very high tides that are becoming more frequent as sea levels rise, offering a preview of how flooding may alter the landscape in coming decades. The threat of a major earthquake has also always loomed large over the region, with recent notable earthquakes occurring in the Bay Area in 1989 with the Loma Prieta and in southern Napa County in 2014. Scientific forecasts estimate a roughly 75% chance that the region will experience a major earthquake over the next 30 years.3 Events like fires, floods and earthquakes will continue to shape the Bay Area over the next 30 years and beyond. Plan Bay Area 2050 takes these risks into account, discouraging growth in high-risk wildfire areas; planning to protect homes, businesses and transportation infrastructure from sea level rise; and considering avenues to minimize damage from a major earthquake.