Advocating for a Smarter Growth Plan for California's Bay Area

The proposed plan will result in increased greenhouse gas emissions, more roads and freeways, as well as inadequate housing development. It fails to start planning now for smart growth that reduces carbon emissions.

Regional Office / Program

Case Overview

Plan Bay Area is a long-range integrated transportation and land-use/housing strategy through 2040 for the San Francisco Bay Area. Its objectives are to improve the reliability and accessibility of public transportation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while overseeing smart growth. The proposed plan fails to deliver on public transit, city planning and climate change goals.

In August 2013, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit challenging the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments’ most recent regional transportation plan in Alameda County Superior Court. The proposed plan will result in increased greenhouse gas emissions, more roads and freeways, as well as inadequate housing development. The lawsuit challenges the environmental review of the agencies’ plan under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The current plan invests a significant amount of resources into building more roads and highways; only seven percent of the Plan’s total budget is dedicated to expanding public transportation. Under the current plan, the number of daily vehicle trips is expected to increase by 22%, and the number of miles travelled during peak hours would increase by 51%. Population growth is not properly addressed, either. The plan does not account for rising housing costs, which drive people to move to areas with inadequate access to public transportation. Increased reliance on cars for daily commutes will result in the worsening of air pollution, quality of life and traffic.

The plan proposes housing developments but does not commit to investments in public transportation for those communities. The plan will also displace low-income residents and people of color from their communities. As freight movement increases in areas like West Oakland, the Plan fails to protect the communities closest to major transportation hubs, highways and ports from increased air pollution. Instead, it defers these issues for future study.

Earthjustice litigation demanded a responsible planning strategy from Plan Bay Area that reduces climate change pollution, incorporates smart public growth and increases air quality.

San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge. The current Plan Bay Area will result in more time on the roads and increased greenhouse gas emissions. (iStockphoto)

Case Updates

June 25, 2014 Article

Building a Healthy Living Plan for a Growing Bay Area

Irene's commute provides a snapshot of the economic and demographic changes affecting all the neighborhoods around the Bay Area. Can public transportation keep pace with residents' needs? Will people continue to find affordable housing near their workplaces? How will these changes shape the identities of our neighborhoods?

June 17, 2014 Press Release

Agencies Agree to Disclose Environmental Impacts of Bay Area Transportation and Housing Plan

Settlement lays groundwork for robust regional planning