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The Desperate Need for Effective Regional Planning in Th...

The Desperate Need for Effective Regional Planning in The San Francisco Bay Area

Between 2010 and 2040, the Bay Area’s nine counties are projected to add: 1.1 million jobs and 2.1 million people and 660,000 homes. On July 18th, the Bay Area took a major step in addressing its long-term regional growth. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) adopted Plan Bay

by Rob Poole September 24, 2013 6 comments

Between 2010 and 2040, the Bay Area’s nine counties are projected to add: 1.1 million jobs and 2.1 million people and 660,000 homes. On July 18th, the Bay Area took a major step in addressing its long-term regional growth. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) adopted Plan Bay Area.

SF Bay Area

The initiative addresses transportation and land-use strategies through 2040 in a powerful attempt to meet the requirements of California’s Senate Bill 375, which requires the state’s eighteen metropolitan regions to develop plans to accommodate future growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.

The Plan comes at a time when federal aid is lacking, making its implementation that much more important. For too long, the Bay Area has been exporting its housing away from job centers while transit services have been severely lagging. Focusing on infill and transit-oriented development while improving transportation services will be key to sustainable growth.

ABAG and MTC developed Priority Development Areas (PDAs) to determine where the majority of the region’s housing needs will be met. PDAs will also be best served by transit systems, have a variety of housing options and amenities such as nearby retail and groceries. Eighty percent of the regions housing will be served in these neighborhoods.

SF Bay Area

Despite extensive public outreach, the Plan has been met with opposition. Opponents have expressed concerns over the potential for gentrification, worried low-income and minority communities will be pushed out of their homes. Others claim the approach to the Plan was authoritarian and does not reflect the input of all bodies.

At a recent panel discussion on Plan Bay Area, one attendee brought up an important point regarding public perception. She noted that many people may not understand the benefits of dense, transit-oriented development. If they were to understand that this type of urban planning would help create long-term sustainability for our communities and offspring, maybe they would be more receptive to the plan.

How is your neighborhood taking on regional planning?

Credits: Data linked to sources. Images credit of Robert Poole.

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Rob Poole graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Anthropology and a minor in City and Regional Planning. He grew up in San Diego, but now resides in San Francisco. He currently works at a non-profit organization in San Francisco that advocates f...

  • Luis

    Public participation is essential. The question would be how to bring the good things of dense, transit-oriented developments to people which are not professionals of the matter? and who actually doesn’t quite care about the whole planning and design of these type of developments.


  • I agree public participation is essential, Luis. San Francisco is a very democratic city. Everyone has to have a say in everything. But if Plan Bay Area were put up to a vote, it would take years to be implemented and it would be far less effective in the long run. I think education is really most important here. People not involved in the urban planning world need to understand why dense, transit-oriented living is so vital. There needs to be a huge marketing division, really.

  • D Jan

    The opposition in Plan Bay Area in my neighborhood has certainly made their voices heard. I see Plan Bay Area as a bold and innovative way in assuring good planning happens in the region’s 18 metropolitan centers. However, the opposition simply sees this as our government seizing property and forcing people out of their cars.

    As for public participation, it doesn’t help when a minority riles up a room full of citizens by making them believe the impending depreciation of their home values. Up here, the public is convinced that planning is a new thing and the government is imposing mandates on an “already perfect” region. There’s nothing more liberal than that, right?

    Plan Bay Area certainly has its flaws but it’s the type of planning and goals that make this area what it is and can potentially become. Also, SIGN ME UP FOR THAT MARKETING DIVISION!

  • Robert Poole

    Great point about “imposing mandates on an ‘already perfect’ region” DJ. A lot of people that have been living in the Bay for years don’t want it to change because it is perfect the way it is. They don’t understand what is taking place or the approach that must be taken in order to ensure our growth in sustainable. There must be a way of educating the public about this topic that actually makes them want to listen, so they understand the repercussions of our decisions.

  • So when i read this article, there is so many similarities to the issues facing the Calgary Region in Canada. Population growth is coming and we are expecting 1.8 million over the next 60 years. Our big issue is water where our water sources are close to being tapped out and we don’t know how will we sustain the growing population with water sources not increasing.

    We have our Metro Plan released:
    But the biggest thing we learned is the need to educate because there were a lot of misconceptions about our plan which turned into a political hot potato.

    It is interesting to note the level of your state government’s commitment to metro regions. Our provincial government is still figuring out the way forward.

  • Robert Poole

    Thanks for the insight Karl. The more I learn about growth and development in the Bay Area, the more I realize how political our culture is. Many people are opposed to the change that may come with Plan Bay Area. I agree with you that education is key. There needs to be a huge effort made towards enlightening the public on why these efforts made toward sustainable growth are essential. I think the fields of urban and transportation planning are relatively new in most people’s minds, and understandably so. They are not the most mainstream of practices.

    I’m looking forward to learning more about Calgary’s Metro Plan. I’m sure there’s a lot different regions can learn from one another through collaboration.

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