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Op-Ed: Has ABAG Become Irrelevant?

Regional association keeps displaying signs of a disconnect with the people it is supposed to represent.

A little while ago, I attended a Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers meeting to listen to a presentation given by Ken Kirkey, ABAG Director of Planning. Kirkey gave an update on the One Bay Area plan and the latest Regional Housing Needs Allocation.

He was supposed to answer questions that councilmembers had submitted prior to the meeting but neglected to answer many of them. Residents were also given the opportunity to ask questions. In response, Kirkey oftentimes gave rote answers that had little to do with the actual questions, stated that the question(s) were outside ABAG’s purview, or simply stated that regardless of why a community would have difficulties complying with the RHNA numbers, they would have to plan for those numbers anyway. 

The presentation was another display of ABAG’s disconnect with the counties, cities and people it is supposed to represent.

The One Bay Area Plan (a state-required regional plan led by the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission) along with the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (determined by the state Housing & Community Development Agency and ABAG) use unrealistic jobs and population growth projections to mandate unsustainable housing development.

Moreover, with insufficient infrastructure and public services, Marin County and its cities cannot properly provide for the current population, much less additional population. Hence, they most definitely should not be creating housing elements, development codes and zoning that encourage additional growth and that undermine local control, long standing development standards, environmental protections and public health and safety.

Marin County Supervisors, mayors and councilmembers are finally acknowledging that the RHNA housing quotas are untenable and based on unrealistic jobs and population growth projections. Some are questioning the validity of the One Bay Area Plan. But acknowledgement is not enough. Action must be taken.

It is time for city/town council members and county supervisors to join together to truly represent Marin residents and strongly push back against the One Bay Area Plan and the RHNA numbers. The cities and county must work together to lower the total allocation to Marin, not just shift the allocation numbers from one Marin jurisdiction to another. We are all connected. It makes no sense for one city in Marin to lower its allocation number, only for another city’s number to be raised.

ABAG was created to represent the counties and cities of the Bay Area, yet it has not properly represented Marin for many years. If ABAG does not push back against the state and lower the overall RHNA for the Bay Area and subsequently, substantially lower the RHNA for Marin, then why should Marin cities and the county remain affiliated with the organization?

And if our elected Marin officials do not stand up to ABAG and the HCD and take decisive action — both politically and legally — to drive realistic local plans, that preserve and enhance Marin's environment, public health & safety, neighborhood character, and quality of life, then why should they remain in office?

Pam Drew May 10, 2012 at 01:56 PM
The MTC/ABAG regional government is being questioned in many quarters. California State Senator DeSaulnier (East Bay) just introduced a bill to have the leaders of ABAG directly elected. Legislative Council just ruled that MTC appears to have exceeded its authority in buying the huge and hugely expensive proposed new headquarters in SF. The Department of Finance just released figures and projections which show a major reduction in the population figures ABAG had been using for OneBayArea. Last but not least, the release of the federal highway and transportation audit or certification review of MTC, done at the end of January is still 'being reviewed' by other agencies. There was much information submitted about the skew of the PlanBayArea and the reported results available at that time, and, in my opinion, the feds may actually be considering the complaints instead of rubber-stamping the review. Don't hold your breath for the report, however.
Bob May 10, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Thank you. This article sounds like what has been going around in my mind since I got informed and started attending the City Council meetings and the 2 ABAG meetings that were sales pitch for the One Bay Area. At the first One Bay Area meeting they said they were gathering information from the public yet they didn't want to hear from those in attendance, they wanted to show their canned promotional program. At the second meeting, where we could break down into smaller groups for portions of the presentation and ask questions, the ABAG folks couldn't answer the questions. The whole program was a sales pitch. It was obvious that the ABAG and transportation folks did not listen to those in attendance, who took an evening of their time to participate, The audience, and not just those that came to agitate, shouted over those giving the presentation because they were not hearing us. Their canned program had nothing to do with working with the local communities and had all to do with pushing their state mandated program. I agree that our local and County officials need to unite and push back at the state level. AB 32 and SB 375 may have started out to be well meaning law but has morphed into a loss of control for local communities.
Brant May 10, 2012 at 05:54 PM
You say "ABAG was created to represent the counties and cities of the Bay Area". I disagree. ABAG is a tool of the Administrative State. Its role is to control us, not to represent us.
HistoryLover May 10, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Yes, they are out of touch. We need to 'bag' ABAG. Kick-em to the curb, Novato.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr May 11, 2012 at 05:24 AM
ABAG is far beyond "irrelevant", they are an unelected kabal of social engineers who have repeatedly demonstrated a "shove-it-down-their-throats attitude toward voters. ABAG should be abolished.
Bob Ratto May 11, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Like many government agencies, ABAG was started with what were good intentions. Again, like many government agencies, it has morphed into something completely unrecognizable from it's relatively humble origins. While they are relevant to their employees, and the consultants, and developers, they are both disingenuous and dangerous to the general public. Coupled with MTC, they are simply hell bent on re-shaping all cities, and they are going to be using funding as a lever to accomplish this. So, you are spending your tolls/taxes on someone who wants to re-shape the place you live. Creepy.

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