The proposal’s regulatory overreach will have detrimental consequences for Bay Area residents and the metropolitan economy. The proposed Plan Bay Area would allow little or no new development beyond the urban fringe, where cities have grown naturally since the beginning of time. Similar, though less draconian constraints on urban fringe development have been employed for 40 years in the Bay Area. The result has been to more than double house prices relative to incomes, making home ownership affordable only to the affluent. Even after playing musical chairs with the lives of seven million current residents and a million additional residents who could move here by 2040, Plan Bay Area says that people will drive cars just about as much as they do now. But its critical to note that much of this traffic would be concentrated around the priority development areas, which would intensify traffic congestion and air pollution and its relative health impacts.
None of this is necessary
The U.S. Department of Energy forecasts that automobile fuel efficiency will improve materially by 2040. The improved fuel economy would reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions 49 percent by 2040, more than 2.5 times the 15 percent required by 2035, after adjustment to include the 2035-2040 period. Improving technologies provide California and its planning agencies an important opportunity to turn their backs on the policy overreach that has already produced an extraordinarily high cost of living and some of the nation’s worst traffic congestion. San Francisco Bay officials should instead focus on facilitating the aspirations of present and future residents.