CASA at cross purposes with MTC & ABAG on Housing

MTC ABAG meeting room in San Francisco, CASA, Affordable Housing
MTC/ABAG commission met with their lobbyists to discuss CASA and Sacramento legislation
Written by lalahpolitico

Joint MTC/ABAG commissions of elected officials met for over four hours on Friday, March 8, 2019, in San Francisco. At that meeting, virtually all the elected officials complained that the state legislature was proposing …housing bills that not only reduced local control but actually would undo or supplant better local and REGIONAL EFFORTS of the MTC/ABAG. They also complained that the press “got it wrong” when describing their relationship with the unpopular CASA committee.

EVENT NOTICE: [Public workshops about the next MTC long-term planning project – Horizon – will be held around the Bay Area in the next couple of months. The plan impacts the 7 county SF Bay Area.]

MTC Horizon Project is an opportunity to plan long-term and tell "experts" you like more than a little local control.

Remember the “regional planning” Plan Bay Area 2030? Now we have Horizon 2040. Think about participating before local control shrivels.


Yes, some months ago, the ABAG/MTC committees of elected official did approve the formation of the ad hoc CASA committee [‘Stakeholders’ in housing efforts are reps from unions, public housing developers, public housing non-profits, social justice non-profits]. However, this spring the ABAG/MTC committees did NOT support the ten recommendations that came out of CASA deliberations. [ Lalahpolitico:  Nor did they renounce the recommendations either. BTW they singled out Marisa Kendall of the Bay Area Newsgroup as the malefactor journalist who misreported that they did not support CASA.  See “Bill could raise 1.5B a year for housing” — HABA a component of CASA. Mercury News March 8, 2019.]

MTC ABAG political consultants

The team of consultants who work for MTC/ABAG to advance Sacramento legislature bills the organization chooses to support.

Sacramento lobbying

MTC/ABAG’s political consultants reported that there were about 200 housing bills at Sacramento.  Almost all the bills are in a very preliminary stage.  There isn’t even any text at the state legislature website.  It won’t be till April till we get to see the feedback from the public, legislative committees, and the synthesis into revisions of the bills. Then the process of amendments and consolidation of similar bills may begin. In the month of September, bills either pass and become law or just go dormant till next year or forever. The MTC/ABAG political consultants will be back in April with much more detail.

Here are the bills the political consultants were following and supporting at this early stage… or were discussed at the San Francisco meeting.

SB5 Local & State Sustainability Investment Program.  In each county, the State will pull aside up to $200M a year of so-called ERAF funds into a project grants program. The grants will be for local/county projects addressing transportation, housing, and sea level rise.  Persons and organizations need to apply for their project.  Currently, ERAF helps fund schools and libraries.  The consultant said that in the case of schools, ‘missing’ ERAF funds would be pulled out of the General Fund to make them whole.  Consultants recommended supporting this bill at this time. The commissioners voted unanimously to support the bill at this time.

SB128 Enhanced Financing Districts. This would permit bond issuance WITHOUT a vote of the people. “If there is a consensus of all jurisdictional entities, a bond could be issued without an election.”  The example given was if a county wanted to initiate such a bond, all the cities in the county would have to consent.  Consultants recommended supporting this bill at this time. The commissioners voted unanimously to support the bill at this time. [Consultants said this was NOT the same as the proposal for “tax increment finance.”  That’s the proposal that 20% of the annual increase in an entity’s property tax income, go to the state for housing programs.  Lalahpolitico: I think maybe schools are not affected; otherwise how could the “tax increment finance” bill ever get any support! ]

AB 147 Burke Wayfair sales-tax. This bill codifies the Wayfair judicial decision allowing the collection of sales taxes from out of state retailers.  Basically, when an out of state retailer (online) has over $500,000 of annual(?) / of cumulative(?)  revenue in California, it becomes a “local” retailer subject to all state, county, and local sales taxes. Consultants recommended supporting this bill at this time. The commissioners voted unanimously to support the bill at this time.


Scott Haggerty, CASA, MTC, ABAG, SF Bay Area regional government

Elected official Scott Haggerty thought that if an SF Bay Area regional jurisdiction authority were to be created, it should be placed in ABAG, not some committee appointed by the Governor.

Discussed at the San Francisco meeting…

AB1487. Regional Housing Enterprise. This is one bill attempting to fashion an actual regional governance entity with AUTHORITY. It is proposed that the make-up of members would be decided by the governor who would appoint elected officials from the MTC and ABAG commissions, but also appoint some unspecified others, presumably non-elected.  [The authority situation today: MTC is a group of unelected experts – aka staff. ABAG is a BAY AREA body of over 100 City and County elected officials. All cities and counties from the 7 county area have a seat.  The 100+ elect or appoint around 12? members to form the ABAG commission and around 12? members for form the MTC commission. MTC staff (which has “merged’ in the formerly separate ABAG staff…ostensibly “report to and serve” the two commissions. There is no AUTHORITY. ] One commissioner – Scott Haggerty –  quipped that there was no need for such a governor-appointed authority.  The authority should just be given to the ABAG commission of elected officials.

How SB 5 /SB50 could affect Palo Alto, by Embarcadero Institute

Map sent by Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning via email list to promote their free event -Seminar on SB5 SB 50 and CASA. March 17 , 4-6 pm, Lucie Stern Center, PA. Visit their web site for info.

SB 50. This is the comeback of the stalled 2018 bill to compel 45-foot  and 55-foot buildings in “transit-rich zones,” namely zones within 1/2 and 1/4 miles from major transit hubs.  This go-round the bill aims to also compel some upzoning in “jobs-rich areas.”  Many commentators say “jobs rich”  means …  identify some blocks of/some zones of single family homes or perhaps of commercial areas…and upzone them for ‘missing middle housing.’  The criteria and process for identifying such zones is vague at this stage of the bill.  These areas would be new and different from the already existing and well-known Priority Development Areas (PDAs) defined in Plan Bay Area 2040 and by California Housing and Community Development (HCD).  [In the City of Los Altos, the downtown Los Altos area and the El Camino strip and buffer are already identified by Plan Bay Area 2040 — by  MTC/ABAG and HCD   — as PDAs.]

SB4, SB5, San Mateo County, SF Bay regional government

This elected official asked why SB4 was not on the Sacramento bills tracking list. It was more considerate of local control than SB5.

SB4 – appears to be a competing bill to SB50.  At the meeting, the MTC/ABAG commissioner from San Mateo county was incensed that the political consultants were not yet tracking  SB4.  She said their assemblyman had crafted the bill to accomplish much of SB50’s goals, while preserving more local control. [Details of the bill were not discussed.] The political consultants replied that there were around 200 bills afloat, many with no published text yet. They wanted to “filter” the activity for the commissioners.  The Marin rep said she did not want any filter.


Predicting a Turbulent Politics of Housing

Several elected officials on the MTC/ABAG Commissions worried that CASA and other proposed reductions in local control will vigorously stimulate the election of a “bunch of no growth local officials” in the near future.  One ABAG  committee member says her fellow city council members in Clayton now “want to direct me,”as if CASA and state bills are “all my fault.” One member said the state bills and CASA looked like a “scorched earth” policy to the small cities. “There will be a backlash.”

One commissioner needs to be prepped to”talk to the Archie Bunkers” in her district.

One elected official wanted to track all 200 bills, not just the handful the consultants brought to the meeting.  “I don’t want any filters…my assemblyman has a more moderate, competing bill to SB 50, and it’s not on this list…I have to be ready to talk to the Archie Bunkers in my district.”

The political consultants said that MTC/ABAG was just one of many forces vying for the attention of state legislators in Sacramento.  Yes, CASA members may be lobbying Sacramento, but they saw little evidence of a persuasive impact.  Instead, when the consultants asked legislators what could move Housing Bills forward, they said, “The fact that Governor Newsom made Housing the Number 1 issue.

California Democratic Party delegates now almost dominated by progressives.

This public speaker – a delegate to the California Democratic Party Convention – said “the progressive slate swept the delegate election last month. Expect a policy shift somewhat left of Labor. “

One public speaker who said he is a delegate to the California Democratic Party convention in June said that progressives swept the slate in the party voting last month.  Paraphrasing him, “Labor is still the largest slate, but only by a little.  The Progressives are definitely a little a further to the left than my slate, Labor. The party delegates will be electing a new state chair and many other positions. I expect healthcare and housing to be pushed hard by the party.”

NEXT STEPS – MTC Staff’s Horizon Project – 3 scenarios

Also at the meeting, MTC/ABAG, staff presented their Horizon project, which follows upon their Plan Bay Area 2040 research [The Grand Boulevard – El Camino development mandate was part of that].

MTC Horizon Project slide of housing growth

MTC appears to predict the most housing growth in Santa Clara County, no matter which scenario

Horizon is three scenarios about the future of the Bay Area based on a number of assumptions.  These include either  1, 2 or 3 feet of sea level rise and an earthquake on the Hayward Fault in 2035 in all three scenarios. Horizon forecasts/models 3 levels of population, jobs, housing, income and more…by location! It attempts to explore the results of various policies.  They want public input.

MTC Horizon public input workshops partial schedule

MTC/ABAG will gather community input. Another workshop is expected to be arranged for Contra Costa County…perhaps in Walnut Creek. CASA

Definitions of the 3 Possible Horizon Futures

Horizon Project definition of the future scenarios

Brief Definitions of the 3 Horizon Project scenarios


Find out about MTC’s Horizon Public Workshops here.

I though MTC posted videos of meetings AFTER the live streaming.  So far I can’t find any. But I will inquire and post a link back here if the past video of this meeting is available.

And finally, contemplate this Horizon Project slide about future Bay Area population


Horizon Project population modeling slide

At least the working age population will exceed the seniors…now defined as 70+. Oh yeah, the social security retirement age is moving to 69?!



About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past several years.