By Erica Madison
On April 23, 2012, Planning Manager Andrew Thomas revealed a flaw in California’s new green plan for the Bay Area.
In an effort to reduce greenhouse gases, California passed the Sustainable Communities Strategy—Senate Bill 375(SCS). The bill’s author, which was passed in 2009, believes building homes closer to core job cities such as San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose will reduce travel time, which will in turn reduce greenhouses gasses. The goal is to reduce reliance on automobile transportation over a 30-year period.
The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has put together a strategy called Plan Bay Area. These two groups have been in charge of implementing the strategy of the SCS for the Bay Area. Their goal is to encourage Bay Area cities to amend their land use plans to allow for the construction of more housing and transportation for people working in the San Francisco and Oakland areas.
Although Senate Bill 375 doesn’t require any city to participate, they are dangling financial incentives such as money for housing and transportation. However, the Alameda Planning board isn’t too confident this plan will work.
The first problem with the plan is that more housing doesn’t equal shorter commutes.
“We need more factual information. Building a bunch of houses together doesn’t mean people will move closer to where they work. I’m a skeptic,” Planning Board President Lorre Zuppan said.
The second part of the bill promises to bring more jobs to the area. They predict 12,069 jobs will be added in Alameda. However, over the last twenty years, Alameda has only been losing jobs. According to the Planning Board staff, Alameda is “Housing Rich and Job poor”.
“This strategy won’t create jobs for Alameda, but it will increase the ratio of jobs to housing,” Planning Manager Andrew Thomas said.
If Alameda amends its land use plan they will be amending plans for the North Waterfront, Alameda Landing, and Alameda Point. But before this can happen, Alameda needs to know where the funding is coming from. Planning Board Manager Andrew Thomas pointed out Alameda’s redevelopment funds are dwindling.
Since San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose have been identified as the key job producing areas, most of the money the state is promising for housing and transportation will go to these areas.
“Alameda can accommodate some the regional growth, but the state needs to step up. Housing won’t happen without additional funding,” Thomas said.
Alameda Planning Staff has worked with ABAG and MTC to make amendments to their Plan Bay Area proposal that would better reflect Alameda, but they are still unhappy with the progress that has been made over the last year. In a recent letter the staff wrote: “Alameda staff has and continues to argue that Alameda’s ability to accommodate new housing largely depends on the ability of the region (MTC) and the State of California’s ability to fund major improvements to the transportation system.”
Since May 2011 the Planning Board says they still have not received a commitment to fund transportation at the North Waterfront, Alameda Landing, and Alameda Point.
“All these sites require major investment. We can zone for housing if we can provide transportation structure and financing for building the houses and money for storm drains and sewers,” Thomas said.
Alameda will have to wait and see if it is feasible to be a part of the Sustainable Communities Strategy.