Eber: Can AB 2923 be knocked out?

Bad legislation in California gets passed in the dead of night at the end of session.  Close to 1,000 bills will be heard in the next three weeks.  Many will be amended, with no hearings on the amendment and no chance for the public to respond to the concerns raised by the newly amended bills.  AB 2923 is a bill that takes zoning and permitting rights away from local government and gives them to BART—which can then build what they want within half a mile of any BART station!

“Outside of property within station boundaries that the transit agency owns, they will be able to purchase land and use the power of eminent domain to procure building sites to construct what is expected to be stack and pack housing.

In this scenario BART would not be required to follow local zoning ordinances including providing parking spaces for residents that live in their dwellings.  They also are to be exempt from mitigating traffic congestion, providing law enforcement services, building new schools, taking care of recreational needs, provide areas for shopping, or take care of numerous tasks undertaken by local government.

Since most BART directors advocate discouraging car travel, they don’t mind taking parking spaces away from current commuters who depend on them.  Besides, building large apartment complexes brings in a lot more revenue than street parking provides the transit agency.”

AB 2943, if passed and signed into law will create a new category of government and development.  While this bill is about BART, every other government transportation system will demand the same ability to own development within a half mile of a “stop”—oh, why not one mile?

Photo courtesy of skew-t, flickr

Can AB 2923 be knocked out? By Richard Eber

Richard Eber, California Political News and Views  8/10/18

 

Next Monday in a obscure Sacramento meeting room, an important event is set to transpire that affects the course of California politics for years to come.  The Senate Appropriations Committee will determine if AB 2923, which has already been passed by the Assembly, is to be sent to the floor for a vote.

The  legislation co-sponsored by Assemblymen Tim Grayson (D) Concord  and David Chiu (D-San Francisco, is expected to be approved in the Senate  If the vote is affirmative and Governor Brown signs the bill,  local government’s authority to determine what is to be constructed within a half mile of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART )stations will be obliterated.

Outside of property within station boundaries that the transit agency owns, they will be able to purchase land and use the power of eminent domain to procure building sites to construct what is expected to be stack and pack housing.

In this scenario BART would not be required to follow local zoning ordinances including providing parking spaces for residents that live in their dwellings.  They also are to be exempt from mitigating traffic congestion, providing law enforcement services, building new schools, taking care of recreational needs, provide areas for shopping, or take care of numerous tasks undertaken by local government.

Since most BART directors advocate discouraging car travel, they don’t mind taking parking spaces away from current commuters who depend on them.  Besides, building large apartment complexes brings in a lot more revenue than street parking provides the transit agency.

This is but the tip of the ice berg. Under AB 2923, BART would be exempted from architectural review and not worry if the massive buildings they construct fit in with existing neighborhoods.  If local property values diminish, they would not be required to pony up the difference for those adversely affected.

In the suburbs where most of the construction is to take place, approximately 20,000 units are planned to be built. As might be expected, opposition is fierce.  Last week the Mayors of Contra Costa County unanimously passed a resolution opposing AB 2923. Such a negative reaction did not resonate with the proponents of the bill which is a loose coalition of developers, labor unions, and low income housing advocates.

In an article this group wrote on the editorial page of the East Bay Times last Sunday authored by Michael Lane of The Housing Association of California, he stated

“The bill would require the elected BART Board of Directors to establish guidelines for transit-oriented development for BART-owned land at or around a BART station. Cities would then update their local zoning to be consistent with these standards while retaining control over community design standards and final permitting authority.”

Baloney!

From reading this it does not appear that communities where BART wants to build would have much of a choice in determining zoning options near or around where the transit agency puts up their so called affordable housing.  How existing neighborhoods would be changed does not seem to be even a minor consideration of theirs.

Of course Lane did not take into account what would transpire if local communities did not want to go along with BART’s plans.  In his mind the need for affordable housing along with the interests of developers, and their crony capitalist pals in crafts unions, who would do all the work under Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), is all that matters.

Taking this argument even one step further the advocates of AB 2923 believe that the BART Board,  which is controlled by Urban  areas in population  centers near Oakland and San Francisco,  provides adequate  representation for residents who would be most affected by Stack and Pack being built in close proximity to where they live.

It apparently matters not that BART has no experience as a developer.  In reality the transit agency is eager to receive revenue generated by leasing lands to large developers to offset deficits in their operating budgets and pension liabilities.  With such objectives, how could they possibly care about their negative impacts on life in suburbia?

We can also talk about a myriad of other issues about BART’s history of never bringing construction of new track or train equipment to meet estimated budget allocations.  Or why they have by allowing their labor unions to strike, BART has historically had among the highest per worker labor cost of any transit agency in the United States.

And there’s the safety issues on BART with their lenient policies to the homeless allowing them to linger around their stations jump the fair gates and pan handle passengers.  Recent incidents of murder and other violent acts occurring at their stations have resulted in BART planning to spend 28 million dollars to improve security on the system.

Even a small step installing digital cameras in their stations will take more than six months. Is this the type of organization that should be increasing their responsibilities to overrule democratically elected local representatives where new construction of residential housing is planned?

If the answer is “no” then the Senate Appropriations Committee should do the right thing and kill AB 2923 before this political cancer spreads to Southern California.  Sources indicate that officials in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) are closely following the passage of the BART bill in Sacramento.

If it goes into law the MTA can be expected to introduce a bill tailored to its plans and find a way to overrule local decision making in passing their own version AB 2923.

This entire Draconian scenario goes on with no end in sight.  When can we expect the real will of the people to persist?

One such person is BART Director Debora Allen, who represents nearby residents of planned Stack and Pack projects in Concord.  She and a couple of her colleagues wrote a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee which goes into more detail of why AB 2923 is such a horrible idea.

If after reading this brilliantly composed argument any sane person who would even contemplate passing this bill, should be ordered to receive psychological counseling and sent to a half way house for treatment. But then again as we all know being “progressive” is indeed a mental disorder.

Good luck next week in killing AB 2923. Below is the link to Debora Allen’s correspondence.

 

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.