Search This Blog

Sunday, January 20, 2019

CASA Dialogue

I have been to several MTC presentations on CASA.  I have also talked with several CASA supporters.  Below is a dialogue with statements, questions, answers, and non-answers I have heard.

(Link to this post for sharing: )

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has sent on to the California state legislature in Sacramento a set of recommendations on housing collectively known as CASA.  "Casa" is the Spanish word for house - it is not an acronym for anything.

The elements of CASA are contained in:

MTC's web site describes their mission as seen below:
"What Is MTC?  The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, or MTC, is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area."
"...We collaborate with a network of other public agencies to help support roads.." etc., etc.

Dialogue begins:
In the following, "no answer" sometimes means exactly that - there was nothing said in reply - sometimes it means a lot of words were said but nothing directly to the point.

MTC:  "Since the Great Recession ended in 2010, the Bay Area has added 722,000 jobs but constructed only 106,000 housing units"

QUESTION:  From 2007 through 2010, housing prices in the SF Bay area and around the country were declining.  Why would anyone build housing in a declining market?

MTC: (no answer)

C.f. following chart:
From Paragon Real Estate Company Website:

QUESTION:  Doesn't the declining housing market over that 6 year period you mention indicate that there was more housing than there was demand for?

MTC: (no answer)

QUESTION:  According to the US Census Bureau the number of employed residents in the SF Bay area was lower in 2010 than in 2002.  Employment did not get back to 2002 levels until 2012 when housing prices started rising.  Why did you start your job estimate from 2010?
MTC: (no answer)

QUESTION:  You plan to increase the population density near job centers but the roads are already clogged, for buses as well as cars.  CalTrain is well over capacity.  How will you accommodate more workers commuting?

MTC: We didn't consider transit in this study.  (Audience laughter)

QUESTION: What is the T in MTC for if you didn't consider transit?

MTC: (no answer)

MTC:  Many people are commuting from further away like Contra Costa County clogging roads.

QUESTION:  If you build more housing near jobs in San Francisco and San Jose, won't those people still be commuting from Contra Costa County?  Or are you planning on tearing down the housing in Contra Costa County?

MTC: We are not planning on tearing down housing anywhere.

QUESTION:  Wouldn't it make more sense to expand the jobs to where the housing is cheaper and there is more housing than jobs rather than build more housing in expensive places where the jobs currently are?

MTC: We have no control over where jobs go.

QUESTION: As a "Transit Commission" you have nothing to do with housing either yet you are asking for extra powers from the legislature to give you power over that - why not ask for power over where jobs go through tax incentives or dis-incentives?

MTC: (no answer)

QUESTION: Some of the provisions in CASA are renter protections including (quoting from MTC document

"Compact Element #2 — Rent Cap
Establish a Bay Area-wide rent cap that limits annual increases in rent to a reasonable amount."

This requires repeal of the Costa-Hawkins prohibitions against rent control.  In 2018, the assembly bill to repeal Costa-Hawkins did not make it out of committee.  The ballot measure to repeal Costa-Hawkins lost by about 60-40.  This has no chance of being enacted.  Why is it in CASA?

MTC: (no answer)

QUESTION: Part of CASA is to take a portion of increase in tax revenues from the cities and give it to builders for housing.

Compact Element #9 — Funding and Financing the CASA Compact

The increased housing will increase the burden on schools, homeless support and public safety but the money will be less than it would have been.  How are school districts and cities to cope with increased population and proportionately fewer resources than the already small amount they currently get?

MTC: (no answer)

QUESTION:  Bridges in the SF Bay area are already at or above capacity.  With an increase in population and commuters do you plan to build a second Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge?  Fixing the Bay Bridge took 10 years and $10 billion dollars.  How much will a second Golden Gate or Bay Bridge cost?

MTC: (no answer)

QUESTION:  Is there any population and building density at which you would say the San Francisco Bay Area is "full" and further expansion would lessen the quality of life in the area?

MTC: There is certainly room for more housing such as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs = "granny units") and other in-fill.

QUESTION:  That wasn't the question.  The question was "at what density you would say the SF Bay area is full" or is it "build-build-build" forever until San Francisco looks like Hong Kong?

MTC: (no answer)

The (no answer) actually is an answer and the answer is "build-build-build forever".  The co-chair of the CASA committee was Michael Couvarrubias, CEO of TMG Partners, a large real-estate developer.  Naturally, a real estate developer will want government support to develop more real estate - including any "unused"public lands he can get his hands on.

CASA supporters know that they cannot say out loud they want to build forever and that they have no problem with San Francisco turning into Hong Kong.  If they do say it out loud,  they destroy their credibility with the vast majority of people who do not want the San Francisco Bay Area to look like Hong Kong and it's neighbors like Kowloon.  Silence is their best alternative.

Hong Kong
Kowloon - Across the Bay from Hong Kong