Plan Bay Area: Sued From the Right, Now the Left

Plan Bay Area must be doing something right as it seems to be antagonizing those on both ends of the planning spectrum. First, a libertarian group sues because of "densification", and now environmentalists sue because not enough funds go for transit.

In this 4-minute audio news report, KQED news reporter Stephanie Martin speaks with Irene Gutierrez, an attorney with Earthjustice, about the lawsuit they filed on August 19 with Communities for a Better Environment and the Sierra Club against the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments for approving a regional plan for "focusing too much on building new highways and not enough on public transportation."

The regional plan, called Plan Bay Area, was approved by the two regional agencies on July 18 as we wrote here. Required under state law SB 375, the "Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008", the "sustainable communities strategy" must meet greenhouse gas reduction targets approved by the California Air Resources Board. In fact, the plan (see page 7 of PDF) surpasses the targets initially approved by CARB: it would achieve 10 percent in 2020, 16 percent in 2035.

In response to Martin's question about why they sued and what they hope to get out of it, Gutierrez point to two major reasons:  The transportation plan doesn't place enough emphasis on improving public transportation and not enough protection for impacted communities from increased freight transportation in the East Bay ports areas, i.e. environmental justice.

Martin pointed out that Plan Bay Area does attempt to influence transportation and land use patterns through its "Priority Development Areas" (and though she doesn't say it, it was a major reason for Plan Bay Area's first law suit by Pacific Legal Foundation).  While Gutierrez was supportive of those efforts, she pointed to the flaw in the plan that Jason Henderson had revealed in the San Francisco Bay Guardian (and reposted here on July 26): failure to reduce vehicle trips by 2040.

From the Earthjustice press release:

  • Under the current Plan, people will be spending more time in their cars and more time on the roads. Through 2040 (the life-span of the current plan), the number of daily vehicle trips is expected to increase by 22%, and the number of miles travelled during peak travel times is expected to increase by 51%.

This is not the first time a region's sustainable community strategy (i.e. regional plan required under SB 375) has been sued by environmentalists "for not going far enough", as we noted on Feb. 24, 2012: "San Diego Regional Transportation Plan Faces a Legal Battle From Environmentalists". The environmentalists won that case, forcing the regional planning agency for the San Diego area, San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), to redo their plan.

Full Story: Environmentalist Coalition Files Lawsuit Against Plan Bay Area Agencies

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