The City of Danville held its 2030 Planning Commission meeting and boy was it lively. The meeting was packed, standing room only with over 250 people who came to give their input on the Draft 2030 Plan, Draft SAP (Sustainable Action Plan), and Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report). The meeting was opened to public comments, and ,any attending had submitted speaker cards to address the SAP and General Plan. But! The program chair announced that their comments would not be taken at this meeting.
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The Chair insisted that since the meeting was really just to cover the EIR for the General Plan or SAP. What? This outraged many in attendance as the meeting announcement specifically stated that the topics were the General Plan, SAP and DEIR for those plans. So how do you talk about an EIR for a specific project without talking about being allowed to talk about the project? This is crazy.
Several speakers who were allowed to start the meeting addressed this issue. Not a single speaker was in favor and later in the meeting when an informal vote was taken by a member of the public, not a single person raised their hand in favor of the plan! Former Congressman Bill Baker attended the meeting and chided the planning committee asking “Was there a separate meeting of proponents?”
The Danville 2030 Plan, SAP and EIR are flawed in so many ways I can’t begin to go into all of them, but there are several issues that jump out at me. The new plans call for the rezoning of 10 acres (8 acres at 25+ units or more and 2 acres at 20+ units) in the downtown area to accommodate high density stack and pack style housing in the future. And much of this housing would be very low and low income subsidized units by the tax payers of Danville. The reason for this is that the SDHCD (State Department of Housing and Community Development) has a statewide mandate to calculate how much “affordable” housing is needed every 7 years.
These allocations are referred to as RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation) and the next cycle is between 2014-2022, which in March it set at 660,000 new units for the Bay Area region. SDHCD assigns the total to the regional COG (Council of Government) who then divides it up among the local municipalities. Much of these housing allocations are very low and low income units that must be according to these agencies injected into our communities whether we like it or not. Or whether a city can really comply or not.
This is a huge issue with many cities that are pushing back and some are objecting to the calculations and assignments. Cities like Danville, simply cannot tolerate high densities downtown and certainly the people of Danville should have a vote as to whether they want to absorb and subsidize this type of housing and population into their communities. If a city objects to the allocation it’s up to the COG to reallocate a reasonable amount. The total never changes so when one city objects the burden shifts to Cities within the other 9 Bay Area Counties. The RHNA calculations are overestimated and flawed, yet are being forced on our local towns and the tax payers are expected to support the rezoning of their towns to accommodate this growth in population and to pay for the subsidized housing and other essentials when these units are actually built out.
These foolish plans will dramatically change the demographics of communities and there is no analysis or compensation for fiscal impacts to schools, safety, fire and other community resources that will be required to accommodate these low income subsidized populations once they are absorbed by a city. Why isn’t the public more aware of this? Why aren’t we allowed to grow our local cities the way we want to? Why are we being forced to up-zone our towns? Danville does not have to take these RHNA allocations.
We can object and fight them. We can say NO! These allocations are being forced on us and we must fight back. When we accept the allocations without contesting it, we are then required to rezone areas (10 acres in this cycle) to support that growth and the only way to support that type of growth is to build up and tight, hence the high density designations. Think what this will do to the traffic downtown. You think Danville is tough to get around now just wait until they rezone and start building these units.
Last night several people asked whether we could contest these allocations. We were told “no”. That is not true. Other cities have contested them and they have been lowered. Someone asked if we could just say no and we were told no. That is not true either. We can say no and we should. Our town councils are our advocates and as such we should not be forced to do anything that would negatively impact our town and definitely not without the consent of the people who live in Danville.
The consequence for a town that ignores their RHNA allocations and does not rezone many times is that they are sued by the social justice crowd. And the ugly truth is unelected regional bureaucracies can sue us with our own tax money! Non-profit NGOs Non-Governmental Groups like Urban Habitat and others are just waiting to pounce on a local town that refuses to comply. The threat of lawsuits from social justice groups are driving the planning for our town! The town attorney denied the city will require very low and low income in these areas when they are built out, but he then went on to say that the developers will receive incentive bonuses for providing these type of units. So there it is the old point the finger at the other guy routine. Very clever. We’re not the bad guys… We just rezoned based on a mandate that we aren’t fighting because we have no backbone, but it’s not our fault if the developer builds and designates much of it to very low and low income housing. We have no control over that.
The question was also asked who is pushing for all this high density housing? The answer is MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) and ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments).
For those of you who have never heard of ABAG and MTC let me give you a crash course. MTC is the Bay Area Regional transportation authority. It was created by statute to coordinate the funding and construction of mass transit and road maintenance throughout the Bay Area. ABAG is not a statutorily created government body. It is at best a quasi-governmental group. It calls itself “part regional planning agency and part local government service provider.” All Nine Bay Area counties and 101 cities in the region can volunteer to contract with ABAG by paying membership dues. ABAG deals with the RHNA housing allocations and is also tasked with creating a regional Sustainable Communities Strategy Plan for all 9 Bay Area Counties.
In 2006 the legislature passed AB32 the Global Warming Act which created a state level agency CARB (California Air Resource Board) to inventory GHG (Green House Gas) emissions statewide and come up with a plan to reduce GHGs to 1990 levels by 2020. In 2008 the SB375 (SCS) Sustainable Communities Strategy bill passed which links transportation to land use. The SCS plan for the Bay Area is referred to as “Plan Bay Area” or “One Bay Area”.
This plan has been sold to the public as a way to save the planet from GHGs and global warming by transforming our single family residential neighborhoods and suburban towns into high density stack and pack housing next to transit. This plan also advocates for a less cars, higher fees for parking, gas, bridge tolls as well as environmental and social justice. There are $277 billion dollars in our tax and gas funds that are being handed to ABAG by our federal government to ensure that this plan gets adopted by the local municipalities.
If local cities and counties do not adopt these plans ABAG will withhold much of their transportation funds. So our tax dollars are being used to coerce our councils into adopting this otherwise voluntary plan. You see, any town that wants their portion of the $277 billion dollar transportation pie must agree to designate an area within their town as a PDA (Priority Development Area). SB375 page 32 defines PDA development projects or TPPs Transit Priority Projects as an area that is within ½ mile of a major transportation hub or is along a major transportation line and Danville is nowhere near a transit hub with a minimum density of 20+ units per acre.
For the past 2 years I’ve attended ABAG meetings and we were told that we must give up our single family homes, reduce car use and focusing all future development into areas where mass transit ridership will be increased therefore lowering GHGs. But Danville is not a transit hub so people will still rely on their cars so cars will be concentrated into an even smaller area which will increase the GHGs. And to boot all these developments will get CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) waivers (referred to as streamlining). This means they will not have to do ANY impact analysis on emissions from light trucks and cars (See CEQA exemption details page 3 and 38 of SB375 http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/sen/sb_0351-0400/sb_375_bill_20080930_chaptered.pdf).
I’m not even going to get into whether or not anthropologic global warming is real or not. To me, this plan has nothing to do with decreasing GHGs; it has everything to do with control and money. When towns like Danville are forced to build urban high density housing where there is no viable transit and the developers will get CEQA waivers the environmental argument is completely lost.
So other than including a housing element like RHNA, this plan is NOT mandatory and does not have to be adopted by our council or included into our general plan. In fact our general plan does not even have to be consistent with it (see page 2 of the SB375 bill http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/sen/sb_0351-0400/sb_375_bill_20080930_chaptered.pdf).
Also in this June article, http://sfpublicpress.org/node/1363, Ken Moy, legal counsel for the Association of Bay Area Governments, admits that cities are not obliged to act in accordance with the plan. “No,” he said, “the state won’t come after you.” In fact the One Bay Area plan hasn’t even been adopted by ABAG and won’t be until June of 2013! So why is the town of Danville Planning Commission incorporating an incomplete regional plan into our General Plan that will affect our town for the next 20 years? I asked them that question. Chirp…. Chirp….
It’s interesting to note that this meeting took place after city council elections.
I imagine some of those running for office would not have been elected if the public knew they were supporting this type of transformational plan. I myself am not opposed to development as long as it is done responsibly, with private money, and market driven. However, everything in this plan is about government regulation and control.
Many of us moved to Danville to get away from the stresses of urban living to raise our families. We like the suburban lifestyle in Danville and the small town feel. We enjoy our homes with backyards where our kids can play and we can watch them from the kitchen. We like our privacy and independence and we want Danville to stay that way.
Danville is NOT a major transit hub and never has been. People who live in Danville do not move here because of jobs they move here for the small town family atmosphere where you can raise your kids. When you look at the new general plan it is clear that BIG development changes will be heading our way unless we the people of Danville do something to stop it!
So tell your friends and neighbors what is going on….. Not just in Danville but in ALL 9 Bay Area Counties and tell them to get down to their planning and council meeting and demand that their city; contests the RHNA allocations, does not adopt One/Plan Bay Area and drops out of ABAG.
All we have to do is stop paying dues to this unelected unaccountable regional body! Abolish ABAG NOW! Corte Madera dropped out and others are thinking about it too. If we stand up and protest this we can stop this regional body from taking over control of our towns. We are organizing task forces in every city to fight back. If you want to host a town hall in your town to inform folks about the One Bay Area Plan let me know. I have powerpoint and will travel!
The end of the Draft EIR public comment period is Dec. 5th. If you could not attend the meeting last night and want to have your objections to the plan included you need to contact Kevin Gailey, Chief or Planning at (925) 314-3305 or email him at email@example.com.
Please mark your calendars:
The Next Danville Planning meeting will be December 11th. At that meeting they will discuss the Draft 2030 Plan and the Draft SAP. We need Danville residents to show up and speak out!