The state of California in general and the Bay Area in particular have a housing crisis, but you wouldn’t know it from the journey AB2923 has had through the state Legislature.
This bill, which was introduced by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Tim Grayson, D-Concord, offers a simple way to add badly needed new housing where the Bay Area needs it most.
AB2923 would give the BART board the authority to override local zoning standards and approve housing development on BART property. Several East Bay BART stations are surrounded by large surface parking lots. These lots are convenient for suburban commuters, but they’re also a wasteful use of prime housing space.
Building housing, particularly multifamily housing, near mass transit is an excellent way to reduce greenhouse gases, grow the region’s housing stock, and reduce traffic congestion.
These are enormous benefits for the entire Bay Area. So it’s been deeply disheartening to watch a wide range of local officials, including state. Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, state Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon, multiple Bay Area mayors and the Berkeley City Council, stand against it.
Their major argument? The bill usurps the power of local governments to make land use decisions.
This is an old NIMBY argument, and it’s a large part of the reason why the state is in this mess.
The bill’s authors have done everything they can to ease AB2923’s passage through the state government, including adding an amendment to require a replacement-parking policy so that suburban commuters will continue having access to the stations.
But ultimately they’re relying on the state Assembly to show courage and good judgment on one of California’s defining issues. It should pass this bill and deliver it to the governor.
This commentary is from The Chronicle’s editorial board. We invite you to express your views in a letter to the editor. Please submit your letter via our online form: SFChronicle.com/letters.