The false promise of regional governance

Unless the elites change their ways, centralized planning is never going to work

If this is an example of regional planning, it's going to be a serious problem
If this is an example of regional planning, it’s not going to work

MAY 13 — There’s a push on by Bay Area elites to centralize the region’s governance.

When the SF Business Times recently asked Emmett Carson, the CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the nation’s largest foundation of its kind ($6.5 billion assets), what organizational goal he has yet to achieve, Carson replied:

Creating a regional conversation from south of Market Street in San Francisco to Market Street in San Jose that results in action to address our community’s growing income inequality, affordable housing crisis, transportation gridlock and the dismal reading scores of our third graders.

That reply echoes the call that’s being issued almost weekly by the editors of the Biz Times themselves. Their counterparts at the San Francisco Chronicle follow suit, regularly citing Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman and SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf on the need to address the region’s most urgent issues by consolidating the region’s fragmented public agencies into an overarching authority.

As 48 hills reported, such consolidation is a major theme of the HUD-funded Economic Prosperity Strategy that was posted last October on SPUR’s website.

In theory, a stronger regional government could be a good thing. It could correct or at least mitigate the gross imbalances between housing and jobs in San Francisco and the Peninsula tech cities; tie together the Bay Area’s myriad transit systems into a single, efficiently run and reasonably priced network; protect and provide housing that’s truly affordable to the poor and the middle class; improve working conditions in the region—above all, by making it easier to unionize; and deal forthrightly with the chastening effects of drought and sea level rise on consumption and construction. And it could do all that while cultivating an informed and engaged citizenry.

But for such a prospect to become reality, the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission would have to fundamentally change the way they do business. They’d have to abandon their insular, peremptory style of decisionmaking and start to proceed in a manner that’s accountable to the people they purport to represent—the Bay Area’s residents. Instead of blowing off challenges to their blinkered vision of endless growth and their stealth attacks on the California Environmental Quality Act and the local control of zoning, they’d have to sponsor a vigorous debate on these policies that culminated in a popular vote in every jurisdiction.

Dream on. At ABAG and MTC, it’s business as usual, and then some. That’s clear from the way the regional agencies are undertaking the update of the controversial Plan Bay Area.

SB 375, Plan Bay Area, and the festering controversy over big growth, big bucks, and local control

Plan Bay Area is mandated by SB 375, which was signed into law by then-Governor Schwarzenegger in October 2008. The legislation requires the state’s eighteen metropolitan planning organizations—in our case, that’s ABAG and MTC—to prepare a “Sustainable Communities Strategy” that knits together land use and transportation planning with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while providing housing that accommodates projected population growth at all income levels.

In pursuit of these goals, SB 375 streamlined, i.e., weakened the California Environmental Quality Act by exempting certain dense, transit-oriented projects from partial or full CEQA review — which is to say, from an Environmental Impact Report — even if they conflict with local plans. It also requires regional transportation funding decisions—in the Bay Area, that means the many millions of dollars controlled by MTC—to be consistent with the Sustainable Communities Strategy.

At the same time, the law states:

 Nothing in a sustainable communities strategy shall be interpreted as superseding the exercise of land use authority of cities and counties within the region.

The potential for controversy here is enormous.

That potential is already well on its way to being realized by fights over our nine-county region’s first Sustainable Communities Strategy, Plan Bay Area. PBA also includes the Bay Area’s 2040 Regional Transportation Plan.

What drives everything else in Plan Bay Area are the demographic “forecasts” (we’re not supposed to call them predictions):


Projected demographic changes between 2010 and 2040

  • Population: 9.3 million residents, an increase of 2.1 million or 30% (This is the source of the much-repeated claim that by 2040 San Francisco will have a million residents).
  • Employment: 1.1 million more jobs, a 33% increase
  • Housing: 660,000 more housing units, a 24% increase
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In keeping with SB 375’s anti-sprawl, smart growth priorities, Plan Bay Area directs 80% of the projected new housing units into Priority Development Areas, diverse neighborhoods of at least 100 acres that are near at least one public transit route that has minimum 20-minute headways, and that have been chosen for dense, “infill” housing construction by city councils or county boards of supervisors.

Along the same densifying lines, the plan envisions 40% of job growth happening in just three cities: San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland, and two-thirds of the 1.1 million new jobs to be in PDAs throughout the region.

The opening pages of Plan Bay Area profess support for local control of land use:

Preserving Local Land Use Control

Adoption of Plan Bay Area does not mandate any changes to local zoning, general plans or project review. The region’s cities, towns and counties maintian control of all decisions to adopt plans and permit or deny development projects. (3)

And then, this cagey note:

The plan assists jurisdictions seeking to implement the plan at the local level by providing funding for PDA planning and transportation projects. Plan Bay Area also provides jurisdictions with the option of increasing the efficiency of the development process for projects consistent with the plan and other criteria included in SB 375. (3)

Translation: get with the PDA program, or forget about applying for any of the $800 million that MTC and ABAG will be doling out through the OneBayArea Grant Program between Fiscal Years 2012-13 and 2015-16.

As for “increasing efficiency of the development process:” Plan Bay Area implements SB 375’s rollback of CEQA and with “the need”—“highlighted” by “business groups” in the region—to “remove regulatory barriers to infill development.” (3)

The plan was approved by ABAG and MTC in July 2013 after a contentious, sometimes rowdy public process that brought out opponents from across the political spectrum. Advocates for equitable housing and transportation, slow growth activists, big real estate interests, and the Tea Party and its fellow travelers all assailed the draft document. The plan’s whopping demographic projections were contested by community activists and professional economic forecasters, to no avail.

After the plan’s approval, the regional agencies faced four CEQA lawsuits:


Plaintiff Basic argument
Earthjustice, Communities for a Better Environment, the Sierra Club PBA does too little reduce GHG emissions, spends too much on new roads, and will displace low-income residents and communities of color living near major transportation hubs
Building Industry Association of the Bay Area PBA’s “PDA-centric nature” violates SB 375, because it does not provide enough housing to accommodate the region’s projected population growth
Bay Area Citizens/Pacific Legal Foundation PBA failed to consider reasonable alternatives to high-density housing and transit-oriented development, which the public does not want
The Post Sustainability Institute, Rosa Koire, and Michael Shaw PBA’s focus on high-density development violates the Fourth and Fifth Amendments by depriving private property owners of the right to use their property as they choose (also claimed that PBA amounts to a taking); the plan is part of a UN scheme


The environmentalist coalition and the Building Industry Association settled out of court. The two right-wing plaintiffs—the Pacific Legal Foundation gets funding from the Koch Brothers—lost their cases.

The litigation is history, but the underlying disagreements over growth, local control, equity, and democratic process are again coming to the fore, as ABAG and MTC begin to comply with SB 375’s stipulation that each Sustainable Communities Strategy be updated every four years. That means a revised Plan Bay Area must be approved by 2017.


One process for the public, the other for the building industry and its official enablers

Launched last fall, the Plan Bay Area update is proceeding along two very different tracks.

There’s the public participation process. SB 375 requires metropolitan planning organizations to adopt “a public participation plan for development of the sustainable communities strategy” that includes at least one “workshop” in each county of a region with a population greater than 500,000, and as at least three public hearings on the draft sustainable communities strategy. The workshops are to “provide the public with the information and tools necessary to provide [sic] a clear understanding of the issues and policy choices.”

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Given Plan Bay Area’s scope and complexity, these requirements are risible. A metropolitan planning agency that was serious about public participation would do far more than what the law requires. And ABAG and MTC are doing more, but what they’re doing is problematic.

The agencies are just completing the first of three rounds of real and virtual “public open houses”—one in each county—where Bay Area residents can presumably learn about the Plan Bay Area update. The virtual event is an insult to the public’s intelligence. The live alternative is not much better. Staff stand by poster boards advertising the virtues of sustainable development à la Plan Bay Area and do their best to squelch dissent and discussion of the big, controversial issues.

There’s also the ongoing deliberation at umpteen ABAG and MTC meetings in the agencies’ headquarters across the street from the Lake Merritt BART station. Here the big, controversial issues are being broached, but so far, only by pro-growth, anti-CEQA state and regional officials and their developer chums who rail against grassroots activism and the local control of land use.

This is where regional policy is being made.

It’s a scene that’s rarely frequented by anyone who hasn’t been paid to show up. That’s partly because almost all of these meetings are held on a workday morning. It’s also because the general public doesn’t know about them, thanks to the media’s customary disregard of regional land use and transportation politics, except when there’s a scandal or an uproar (see: ABAG staffer embezzles a million dollars, MTC buys an expensive building in San Francisco for its new headquarters, Tea Party disrupts Plan Bay Area workshops).

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Occasionally you encounter a passing reference to a costly project that’s already been funded by the regional agencies.

On May 11, for example, the story on the front page of the Chronicle described Ed Lee’s scheme to tear down part of Highway 280, move the Caltrain station to “just a block or two” from the proposed Warrior’s arena, and put the train tracks underground—a scenario at odds with existing plans “to extend Caltrain and envisioned high-speed rail service from the Fourth and King station to the new Transbay Center at First and Mission.” The mayor’s alternative, wrote Matier and Ross, was “unveiled last week at a closed-door meeting with representatives of Caltrans, Caltrain, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and other transportation agencies.” Since “Lee first floated the idea two years ago….the city has been awarded $1.7 million in grants from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and others to study the idea.”

I’ll risk a little speculation and venture that, unlike the completed study, neither the city’s application for nor its reception of MTC grant got any coverage in the press, and that the same goes for the $38 million that MTC awarded San Francisco in Fiscal Years 2013/14 to 2015/16 (the city got with the program).

In a modest effort to redress this neglect, 48 hills will follow and assess both tracks of the Plan Bay Area 2017 update.

For starters: Tonight (Wednesday) evening, MTC and ABAG will hold the first San Francisco County open house on the PBA update at Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market at 8th Street, right across from Civic Center BART. You’ve been forewarned.


  • SolAlex

    It is ridiculous that what is in effect one city (the Bay Area) is artificially divided into nine counties, dozens of “cities” and a host of unincorporated areas. It also leads to extremism whether it is left-wing outposts like SF and Berkeley, or right wing enclaves like much of the north, east and south bays.

    Moreover such Balkanization leads to beggar-thy-neighbor tiffs where SF blames the burbs and the burbs blame SF when, in reality, we are all part of the same urban area.

    Other cities of similar size in the US have a unitary government structure and so should we. And it is time for SF to admit it is no longer the center of the universe of even the Bay Area. San Jose is now the biggest city, and the South Bay is the economic powerhouse.

    No doubt SF can maintain some residual role as a theme park for weirdness and a magnet for losers, to some extent. But those whose sense of self is predicated on SF exceptionalism had better get used to the idea that their best days are in the past.

    • wcw

      The South Bay is the economic what? Videlicet:

      • SolAlex

        Number of employees is not necessarily indicate of the volume and importance of the business conducted. Most of the tech powerhouses are in the south bay, and that is where most people think the economic center of gravity is these days. Indeed, when the idea was mooted last year to split California into six states, the one for the Bay Area wasn’t even called “Bay Area”. It was to be called “Silicon Valley”.

        I don’t blame you for SF exceptionalism if you live in SF. I am just pointing out how parochial that is. All of the city’s water and power, its food, even its airport, are from outside the city. SF could not survive for a day without its much larger hinterland feeding and watering it.

        We are a downtown without suburbs and without land. It’s helpful to see how helpless the city is, and how dependent we are on the areas around us that many love to hate.

        • wcw

          What metric shows that the South Bay is the region’s economic powerhouse?

          Almost every decent sized city’s water, power, food and airport are outside it. New York City could not survive for a day without its much larger hinterland feeding and watering it, nor could Chicago, nor could Philly, nor could San Jose. How does this uninformative truism speak to South Bay economic prominence?

          • chompsky

            Actually, Philly gets its water from two rivers that run right through, and next to, it. And, scrapple.

          • wcw

            Philly gets its water from the Schuylkill River watershed:

          • sffoghorn

            Taylor’s Pork Roll Sausage.

          • SolAlex

            Market cap of corporations in different cities would be a better indication of relative wealth generation.

          • wcw

            That makes no sense. How does it follow that Chevron’s $200 billion market cap indicates something about the relative economic power of San Ramon, CA, population 70,000?

          • SolAlex

            I’m talking Apple, Google, FaceBook, HP etc – the real generators of wealth

          • wcw

            Chevron’s Q1 earnings were $2.6 billion, five times Facebook’s. What makes Facebook’s earnings real, and Chevron’s not?

          • sffoghorn

            Becuz it is JUST Chevron’s corporate HQ that is sited out in San Ramon. The actual work of tech is sited in Silicon Valley, people who actually go to work and make things. There are no oil rigs, no refineries, none of the nuts and bolts of the awl bidness happening in San Ramon.

          • wcw

            Right. Similarly, none of Intel’s fabs churns out chips on the Peninsula and under 10% of its headcount is in Santa Clara.

            How does market cap indicate anything about the relative economic power of the town in which a company headquarters?

          • sffoghorn

            Are you suggesting that the lion’s share of value added at Intel does not take place in the engineering department? Some of it is up outside of Portland but a great deal remains in Santa Clara.

            The high paying jobs that drive housing prices are centered around these big firms with highly skilled labor forces that reside right here.

            Go away kid, you’re starting to bother me.

          • wcw

            There are datasets like the CPS and the ACS that measure all these things. Where is the data that supports this argument?

      • sffoghorn

        What about this:

        The San Francisco Area includes SF, Oakland to Fremont. San Francisco proper’s share of jobs is a fraction of the SF area’s.

        • wcw

          That Santa Clara County has less than one-third of Bay Area jobs and ‘could be more than a year away before it reaches [its all-time record for total jobs]’ is not a persuasive argument that the South Bay is the region’s economic powerhouse.

          • sffoghorn

            Nobody said that, I said that San Francisco held but a fraction of local jobs. We host more than our fair share but not even 15% of the region’s total jobs.

          • wcw

            SolAlex wrote, ‘the South Bay is the economic powerhouse.’

          • sffoghorn

            Are you claiming that the lion’s share of the 9 county economy is not sited in the South Bay with the tech giants of Intel, Google, Facebook and Apple? Even your St Louis Fed job distribution numbers are questionable.

          • wcw

            Fred2 is an aggregator; job numbers are from the BLS. What makes the BLS employment statistics questionable?

            The South Bay does not account for the lion’s share of regional employment. If it is the region’s economic powerhouse, then what is a sensible way to demonstrate that?

          • SolAlex

            Old-school businesses employ a large number of lower paid people. New school businesses employ a smaller number of well paid folks. Looking at numbers employed doesn’t indicate size or significance of wealth generation.

            I don’t often agree with foghorn, but he’s correct here.

          • wcw

            HP global headcount is over 300,000, Intel over 100,000, Google over 50,000 and Chevron over 60,000. To a first approximation, three of these are the same, while HP is outlying above.

            Where are the smaller numbers? How does looking at HP, Intel and Google’s headcounts differ from looking at Chevron’s?

          • SolAlex

            The standard leftist criticism of Texas’ much stronger job growth figures is that jobs at WalMart or dishing out fast food add a lot less value than a smaller number of high-value knowledge workers

          • wcw

            That’s a great example. The BEA calculates state GDPs, the BLS surveys state employment. If you don’t have GDP estimates, employment makes an excellent rough proxy:

            Number of employees is a fabulous guide to the relative volume and importance of the business conducted somewhere.

          • SolAlex

            Numbers of employees without regard to the value they add is meaningless. One high-end worker can create more wealth than a thousand low-value worker drones

          • lillipublicans

            “Low-value worker drones”

            Greg Gopman? Is that you?

          • wcw

            This is not one worker, it is two million in SF-Oakland-Fremont and one million in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara. At that scale, number of workers proxies well for GDP.

            What metric works better? Certainly, public market capitalization per population is fatally flawed.

          • sffoghorn

            The government has an interest in lower rental rates because section 8 subsidies are based on that. Similarly, government has an interest in lower inflation rates because social security COLAs are linked to that, hence steps to lower the inflation rate.

            Lies, damned lies and statistics.

    • Ragazzu

      Stand tall, SOLSam! They laughed at Charlie “Winner!” Sheen, too.

  • Bob

    1) TLDR
    2) Zelda is a tea party NIMBY. You know climate change deniers? She is the anti development analog.
    3) I’m so tired of hearing how exceptional SF is, and how none of the rules of the real world apply here because: exceptionalism
    4) Tech is a tiny portion of the job growth in SF and the Bay Area. More people commute into SF for work than commute out to tech jobs. Who is bailing out whom?
    5) why doesn’t 48 hills just give up and admit they want to turn SF into the countries largest gated community

    The constant refrain of no is boring. What solutions does Zelda bring the table? Pretend muckraking over policy decisions that most other cities treat as foregone conclusion is not a solution

    • VivaShotwell

      Pretend muckraking is the best description I’ve heard yet

      • TizLish

        Shame on you, VivaShotwell. Ms. Brownstein is one of the few journalistic truthtellers we have left in the Bay Area. Most of what passes for media these days is merely vehicles to sell adds, attract clicks. Informing the public of chicanery disguised a public service is no longer, it would seem, a priority for what passes as journalism.

        She’s not pretend muckraking. She is giving good information to a thirsty, sadly uninformed, citizenry.

    • RealFakeSanFranciscan

      From Zelda’s bio on her own site: “I’m on the left but often challenging the left to live up to its professed ideals … In 2012 I helped lead the successful campaign against Measure T, the local ballot measure that would have upzoned West Berkeley.”

      Well, I’ll challenge Zelda to live up to her professed ideals, and recognize the extent to which NIMBYism and locking down land use in major urban areas is contributing to income inequality:

      • ZeldaBronstein

        Here’s the full citation from my website:

        In 2012 I helped lead the successful campaign against Measure T, the local ballot measure that would have upzoned West Berkeley, inflated property values and destroyed the city’s vibrant artisanal and industrial economy.

        – See more at:

        • RealFakeSanFranciscan

          Well, you’re certainly succeeding in keeping property values reasonable over there in Berkeley, aren’t you.

          • ZeldaBronstein

            Zillow tracks residential, not industrial, property values.

          • wcw

            Don’t unaffordable rents and house prices undermine an area’s artisanal and industrial economy? Median asking rent in 94710 is around $2,500. Do artists and laborers make $90,000?

          • ZeldaBronstein

            “Don’t unaffordable rents and house prices undermine an area’s artisanal and industrial economy?”

            Yes, they do.

            What does that have to do with the campaign against Measure T?

          • wcw

            Measure T would have allowed ‘[i]ncreased residential density in Mixed Use – Residential (“MU-R”) areas‘ on a handful of sites.

            Doesn’t decreased density mean more unaffordable rents?

          • ZeldaBronstein

            Not in this case, it doesn’t.

            Industrial uses (in today’s Berkeley as in San Francisco, that means light industry and artisanal production), are inherently low density. That’s why they can’t afford the rents that high-density uses–above all offices, but also residential uses–can pay. Measure T’s major thrust was to replace most of the industrial uses in W. Berkeley with regs that permitted multi-block office parks.

            If you want to keep an industrial economy, especially in the inner Bay Area, you have to zone for it and enforce the zoning. Enforcement is a huge issue–in Berkeley and in San Francisco (see my stories for 48 hills). But if the zoning doesn’t exist in the first place, it can’t be enforced.

          • wcw

            Industrial uses tend to be low density, but artisanal ones aren’t.

            How many industrial jobs are there in West Berkeley on full-city-block properties under one owner that are under 4 acres?

          • ZeldaBronstein

            “Industrial uses tend to be low density, but artisanal ones aren’t.”

            Examples of high-density artisanal uses?

            As for industrial jobs in West Berkeley on full-city block properties under one owner that are under 4 acres: I don’t have a figure. Why don’t you ask the City of Berkeley’s Office of Economic Development?

          • wcw

            Dogpatch and Showplace Square are fine examples of relatively dense artisanal uses. It doesn’t take a four-acre foundry.

            If there aren’t any industrial jobs left in West Berkeley, it seems silly to oppose more flexible planning to develop it.

          • ZeldaBronstein

            So what are the densities in Dogpatch and Showplace Square’s industrial spaces? In the latter, we’re mostly talking about warehouses, i.e., designer showrooms.

            Whatever they are, I’ll bet it’s a whole lot less than current office densities, where, what with few private offices and mobile employees working at shared tables and workstations, occupancy densities can reach over 1 employee per 200 sf feet (Draft Central SoMa Plan, p. 33).

            And where did you get the idea that there aren’t any industrial jobs left in W. Berkeley?

          • wcw

            The Berkeley Office of Economic Development charted West Berkeley Employment. There aren’t many industrial jobs left.

          • 2500 industrial jobs in what is essentially the of the University of California’s bedroom is actually quite a lot.

          • ZeldaBronstein

            That’s true, and it’s UC’s pressure for more lab space in W. Berkeley and the readiness of both OED and Berkeley’s mayor and council majority to bend to that pressure that are among the greatest threats to retaining the city’s industrial/artisanal employment and enterprise. See: Wareham Development.

            By the way, that figure is only for manufacturing, not for warehousing/wholesaling or artisanal jobs, or for recycling/materials re-use, which is a significant presence in WB.

          • wcw

            The very smallest size classifications represent primarily artisans and craftspeople and, on the whole, this category has remained fairly stable. However, there is a notable decline in the number of manufacturers in the employment size range from 10 to 249 employees.

            Artisanal employment seems fine.

            Given rents, perhaps Berkeley is right to prefer increased residential density on a handful of sites.

          • Sorry, wcw, you are also disregarding that years of false promise of eventual upzoning has led West Berkeley landlords to pre-emptively discourage light industrial and artisnal expansion. Meanwhile, for all the reduction in employment there, the light industrial component (excluding Bayer) still includes some of our larger employers with some of the better jobs in town.

            > “right to prefer increased residential density on a handful of sites.”

            This is simply not what is at stake. Those who would spoil the area for its historic and successful use show no inclination to limit themselves to a “handful of sites”. This is a pure, real estate feeding frenzy and a symptom of global economic stagnation at a time of very high yet largely unspent corporate profits. You want to spoil a town’s built environment because that way a few people can profit of a global economic disaster? Nice.

      • TizLish

        Did you hear about the fraud conducted by Wall Street, bankers and greedy rich whow ant to get richer in 2008? Well, the fraud peaked in 2008. The housing market was manipulated by rich investors much in the way our larger-scale development has been manipulated. The rich pay lobbyists to get our “public servants” to racketeer laws that depress real estate, then the rich buy it up and build luxury investment vehicles so the already rich get richer. And none of these faults give’s one damm about the displacement of entire communities. As long as the rich overlords make money and funnel some of that money to their lobbyist whores. . . the overlords and whores are happy.

        What kind of city do you imagine SF will be when only celebrity artists, which are not enough to make the whole city vibrant, and ethnic diversities that aren’t rich and racial diversity has all moved up to cheaper housing near oil refineries in the north bay?

        Are fancy bars and restaurants, and stealing public park space from the kids who will increasingly NOT be growing up in SF — they’ll be growing up in very remote towns on the outer fringes, generating pollution as they drive to work. . .

        The baloney doesn’t come from good people like Ms. Brownstein. It is carefully and professionally calibrated deception funded by the already very rich who have insatiable appeties for more wealth. And these rich don’t give a damn about who they hurt as long as they get rich.

        This article by Ms. Brownstein shows me that the wolves have already raped our democacy and now their underservants, our ‘public servants’ are getting their evilly wrought and relatively puny, compared to the elite investors, reward.

        Ms. Brownstein is no tea partier. She’s a good old fashioned liberal. I wish she were a public servant and, in her writing, she is.

        She once ran for mayor in Berkeley. How I wish she had defeated the corrupt and, imo, sliding-into-dementia mayor Bates.

    • TizLish

      Absolutely nothing about Ms. Brownstein’s writing or opinions suggests ‘tea party’.

      If anyone read this article with good reading comprehension skills, they know that our government agency not only no longer serve the common good but they ignore our common good, and our commons, with a complete disregard for the appearance of impropriety.

      It is shameless, even wicked, the way our putative public servants sell out to rich predators looking to make money off the culture and creativity of ordinary, non-elitely-rich citizens. That’s not tea party thought. The teaparty seems to believe democracy still exists.

  • VivaShotwell

    One reason why it is so expensive to build new housing (affordable or market-rate) and new infrastructure and new anything in SF is because we’ve gummed up the planning process with so much micro local oversight and input.

    More democracy and more transparency is better in theory, but after 30 years of the current system, it’s well documented that all this participation just creates a lot of additional cost and a lot of delay to getting anything done. It’s time for reform. But gumming up the works is just about the only thing progressives are good at anymore, so expect more of the same from this crowd.

    • SolAlex

      High property values correlate near perfectly with the rigidity and strictness of land use regulations

    • Ragazzu

      Yep, it’s that damned democracy and transparency again. The nerve of We the People!

      • RealFakeSanFranciscan

        Democracy says the people of Mountain View can vote to invite in all the office parks and jobs they want and leave it to neighboring towns to build housing.

        • SolAlex

          Exactly what SF has been doing for decades, and suddenly that is bad?

        • sffoghorn

          And democracy says that we can make it difficult for employees of these firms to live in San Francisco.

      • VivaShotwell

        Transparency is good. We the People were founded on the principle of representative democracy, and there’s still plenty of wisdom in that.

    • sffoghorn

      You’d have been much happier in East Germany, no?

      • VivaShotwell

        Godwin’s Law much? Besides, China is the more relevant example of what no democracy and high levels of development looks like. I think that model sucks. But our model sucks in the opposite way too. There is a LOT of middle ground here.

        • RealFakeSanFranciscan

          The biggest problem is that we don’t demand regional democracy; we demand highly localized consensus, and there’s always someone to effectively block a particular plan for development, no matter who it serves.

        • sffoghorn

          The main reason why neighbors are up in arms is that they tend to be excluded from the planning process at the front end and are left to appeal the shit out of the projects that Planning invariably recommends approval for. Include people up-front and give them say over what’s in the plan and there will be fewer appeals.

          • SolAlex

            Except that neighborhoods are not “up in arms”

            People are involved in the planning process. The commission is appointed by those we elect. If you do not like them, vote differenty

          • sffoghorn

            Keep telling you that. Everything is fine. Nothing but smiles here on Fantasy Island! De plen, de plen!

  • sffoghorn

    There are no good answers to this. Regional governance is SPUR’s wet dream because as we saw with Plan Bay Area, as we see with the MTC and as we see with BART, the urban centers are outnumbered by the suburbanites and are made to take all of the negatives while the positives accrue to the suburbs.

    This is similar to how local planning works, where the less influential (read: white, established and wealthier) areas such as Hayes Valley and Bernal manage to get gold plated at the expense of over development in adjacent less influential areas such as the Mission or Market Street.

    Regional versus local planning will not solve this until there is parity and equity for all communities irrespective of their demographic or economic clout.

    • SolAlex

      A broader jurisdiction would remove the extremism that we see in some very small districts. We would have a more moderate government which aligns better with most people in the Bay Area.

      And issues like transport and housing quite simply cannot be solved with each jurisdiction playing beggar-thy-neighbor games. The Twitter extortion would not have been possible if we were one large unitary jurisdiction. Nor would race-based moratoria make any sense if we were all pulling together rather than trying to export our problems to neighboring areas

      • sffoghorn

        Or it would further empower the NIMBYs in the suburbs and first ring cities to shunt growth into the poorer urban areas. There is no free lunch. The only backyard you want housing in is the Mission’s.

        • SolAlex

          No, it would simply allow more appropriate planning. The city does that now in deciding where housing should go. Better that that be done on a BayArea-wide basis precisely to prevent the problem that you cite.

          Development often happens in poorer areas because they are typically flat, transit-rich and relatively under-developed. I’d expect a considerable upzoning of West Oakland, for instance.

          Poorer areas typically need inward investment the most

          • Sam! What happened? Take some psychedelics? Are you a socialist now?

          • sffoghorn

            When it is time to regulate in favor of developers, libertarians are suddenly all for guvmint regulation. Capitalism needs regulation like a junkie needs junk.

        • RealFakeSanFranciscan

          I want more housing in _everyone’s_ backyard, including the Mission – although some neighborhoods have more room to expand than others. Every neighborhood in the entire Bay Area, if left to its own traditional political mechanisms, would never build another home for another human being to live in, anywhere, for the next several decades. It’s time to end the race to the bottom.

          • sffoghorn

            You racing our neighborhood to the bottom with luxury condos and we oppose that. See you at the ballot box.

      • Sam! Is that you?

  • Ms. Bronstein obviously hit a home run – at least according to all the whining from the #paidwingnuttrolls.

    Keep up the good work!

    • CleanuptheHaight

      Stop saying wingnut you freak

      • Mike K

        That is his favorite word. I would love to hit him with a left hook at the 3rd Street boxing gym. We could donate the proceeds to charity. We each put up 1000.00.
        what do you say.? Lame ass with a Simpson character? Let’s do it.

  • Excellent article.

    “The environmentalist coalition and the Building Industry Association settled out of court.” And there you have it…..

  • Armand Domalewski

    I’m honestly confused as to what her criticism is. It’s one thing to say “Don’t build in SF, we hate density”—it’s another to say “don’t build in the Bay at all, we hate density.”

    Where does she propose people live instead? Sincere question.

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