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OP-ED: Plan Bay Area — What is it, really?
July 05, 2013, 05:00 AM By Linda Koelling

The results of global climate change spawned myriad policies designed by powerful political insiders and single-issue groups to move forward with their plan that will significantly change the governance structure of the Bay Area.

Nuance buzz phrases like “sustainability,” “sustainable communities’ strategies” and “going green,” created a new level of thinking in an effort to convince us, the unsuspecting public that we are protecting the environment and resources for future generations. Now let me make it very clear that we absolutely have a responsibility to conserve and protect our resources as stewards for future generations, however, there are those who have used this opportunity to mask a dangerous trend for the major metropolitan areas in the state in the name of environment, economics and equity.

“Plan Bay Area” is carefully packaged with worthy goals and objectives but with an underlying agenda. I wonder how many residents know about it, who devised it, what are its impacts and its real purpose? These are questions for local leaders to answer. Outreach efforts by county supervisors have been an admirable attempt to educate residents about the proposed plan for the entire Bay Area inclusive of all nine counties. However, I have met too many people who are unaware of this plan to be convinced this outreach effort has been successful.

San Mateo County and its individual cities are working on sustainable community plans, to conserve and protect resources and create affordable housing, so what is the purpose, or for that matter, what is the need for a Bay Area wide plan? Who will be overseeing this elaborate plan, its cost and where will the funding come from to sustain it? More importantly, who are the real benefactors? The plan is huge and is focused on transportation opportunities, which is why the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will have so much authority and control of the funds.

Looking at state Senate Bill 375 and the proposed bills currently making their way in the state Legislature, one could presume that developers will benefit greatly, from a streamlined California Environmental Quality Act process when building near transit hubs.

This Plan Bay Area is so potentially life changing that the public should be voting on it and not allowing just the few political power brokers to serve up the “feel good” pieces of this puzzle in an effort to determine what life will be like in our area.

Over the years, the landscape around our own county has been constantly changing from a suburban atmosphere to a more urban environment but, throughout its history, the voters in each community have designed their own destiny.

The marketing efforts displaying the positive components of the plan provides a surreal picture similar to the movie “The Truman show” which depicted a pleasing and controlled environment. Let’s face it, no one would dispute having transit close to home, or the ability to walk or ride a bike to work and have more affordable housing. Public transportation, linking the Bay Area more efficiently and with some of the other parts of this plan, I will attest that the bait on the hook is tempting.

Beyond this facade is the real concern, the loss of local control. It will further distance the few in power from the citizens whose lives they will control. Aside from this plan’s expense involving all nine Bay Area counties, it will evolve into the eventual creation of a Bay Area wide governance structure to make sure all communities look and act alike.

The counties of San Mateo, Contra Costa, Marin, Alameda, Sonoma, Napa, Santa Clara, San Francisco and Solano are all unique and provide a variety of opportunities for those who choose to live there but are being forced to participate in this one-size-fits-all plan.

When power is concentrated in the hands of a few appointed individuals to act on behalf of such a large population, the people are further removed from their ability to have a voice. At that point we have relinquished all control to a few.

I have touched on the tip of the iceberg. On the surface, there are some reasonable goals but the concern lies in the underlying agenda of this vast and very expensive plan. Study the plan, read Senate Bill 375, its genesis and be better informed. There’s little transparency, yet it moves steadily forward. Call upon local political leaders to explain all the pieces to this complex puzzle and slow the momentum until everyone in the Bay Area is able to understand its full impact. I believe that Plan Bay Area is nothing more than a “Trojan Horse.”

Linda Koelling is the former mayor of Foster City.



Tags: environment, their, control, public, effort, power,

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