An opponent of Plan Bay Area speaks before the joint meeting of regional government bodies in charge of implementing the 30-year planning initiative approved Thursday night in Oakland.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares

PLAN BAY AREA | After years of discussion and fiery dissent from Bay Area conservatives, a regional housing and transportation project, both massive in scope and funding, was passed Thursday night in a marathon meeting lasting into the early morning hours.

The Plan Bay Area project hopes to transform cities in its nine counties over the next 30 years into a more environmentally-friendly, transit-oriented region featuring high-density housing closer to urban center. Opponents of the plan have consistently argued the regional government bodies in charge of implementing the initiative—the Association of bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)—have attempted to limit dissent and presented a one-sided version of the plans benefits and shortcomings.

Another opponent who earlier serenaded officials
with an anti-government song again registers her
protest of Plan Bay Area. PHOTO/Steven Tavares

In the East Bay, only Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne, both who represent the Tri Valley, voted against Plan Bay Area. Thorne was elected last year primarily on his vociferous opposition to the plan, while Haggerty has advocated putting the issue to voters.

Thursday night’s meeting in downtown Oakland featured nearly 200 public speakers who packed the large ballroom at the Oakland Convention Center. Many jeered public officials for their support of the plan. Former congressional candidate Chris Pareja and others organized caravans from different points of the Bay Area Thursday to speak out against Plan Bay Area.

Roberta Allen, one of those who bused in highlighted a common refrain by some conservative speakers who believe Plan Bay Area will infringe on their right to live in single-family dwellings and commute however and whenever they please. “We chose to live in certain areas for certain reasons,” she said. “I don’t want to live in stack-and-pack housing. I want my garden and my car.”

Ezra Rapport, the executive director of ABAG, and others, says the plan does none of those things and denies it amounts to some type of grand social experiment in the Bay Area, as some contend. “The plan is not radical. It is incremental,” Rapport said Thursday, while admitting he hopes to achieve greater consensus on the plan as it evolves in the future.

Housing and transportation advocates in the Greater Bay Area, however, laud the plan for attempting to limit sprawl and getting residents out of their cars and onto public transportation.

Stephanie Reyes told ABAG/MTC commissioners she recently moved into new high-density housing at the former Bay Meadows Racetrack in San Mateo and looks forward to riding the train to work. David Pepper, who described himself as a public health advocate in Alameda County said residents need to eschew cars and fight the growing problem of obesity. “We’re fat. We’re lazy and we are suffering the ravages,” he said to guffaws from opponents in the audience.

The final resolution adopted Thursday night includes goals for improving the region’s transportation systems and locating areas to increase housing densities to accommodate the Bay Area’s growing population by 2040. It hopes to lower greenhouse emissions 7 percent by 2020 and 15 percent by 2035. Most importantly, it will center 80 percent of the region’s new housing be located in centrally-located transportation hubs and two-thirds of job growth through 2040.

Some commissioners from outlying and more conservative areas of the Bay Area had received pressure from constituents to clearly define the plan not supersede local general plans and land use policies. Those concerns were included in the final legislation. An amendment offered by San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener and minutely discussed and approved as the clock passed midnight will also allocate 80 percent of the state’s potential proceeds from cap-and-trade into the plan.

Although many opponents of Plan Bay Area were not optimistic the plan would be rejected Thursday, a nascent, but unfunded drive to potentially file a lawsuit against Plan Bay Area is still being quietly planned.