Race and Regionalism: How MTC is Failing the Bay Area

The Bay Area continues to feel the impact of historically discriminatory policies. From racially restrictive covenants to redlining, urban renewal to exclusionary zoning, predatory lending to transit-oriented development, the region has inherited a legacy that marginalizes low-income communities of color. The challenges of affordable housing, climate change, and the absence of quality jobs reveal a pattern that regional planning is complicit in facilitating.
Regionalism is an analysis that connects the Bay Area across political jurisdictions, intersecting issues, and shared institutions. These institutions include the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) – the Bay Area’s transportation, housing, and land use planning agencies – which are made up of representatives who have access to more than $300 billion linked to Plan Bay Area 2040, a blueprint for regional development over the next 25 years. These regional governing bodies set the parameters for local priorities.
Displacement is a regional problem, yet MTC has failed to meaningfully address the forced relocation of low-income communities from rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. This is why the 6 Wins for Social Equity Network, a coalition of community, labor, and policy organizations which Urban Habitat co-convenes, issued an interim report card giving MTC and ABAG a “D” for their work on Plan Bay Area 2040.
MTC recently used more than $250 million in public funds to move its headquarters from Oakland to San Francisco, and voted to bail out the Transbay Transit Center Project by providing a loan of $100 million. In the midst of an unprecedented housing affordability crisis, resident leaders and community advocates have urged MTC to condition this same amount – $350 million – to an innovative fund that rewards cities with effective anti-displacement policies through the agency’s One Bay Area Grant Program (OBAG).
Across the Bay Area, a rising tide toward housing justice is growing. We see it through the Santa Rosa City Council voting to implement rent control and just cause eviction policies, organizations advancing an affordable housing bond at the county level, and activists fighting for the right to remain on public land. We know that leading with equity results in better outcomes for everyone. We envision a Bay Area where residents are part of the decision-making process and where the costs and benefits of development lead to shared prosperity. MTC has an opportunity to improve its grade when it comes time to vote on OBAG this summer. We challenge MTC and ABAG to join us in creating a just and inclusive Bay Area to begin undoing the damage of inequitable planning.

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