Skip to Content
Streetsblog San Francisco home
Streetsblog San Francisco home
Log In
Housing Crisis

Metropolitan Transportation Commission Still Punting Housing Requirements

Don't cross this line or else! Okay, well don't cross this line! Wait, don't cross THIS line?

9:29 AM PST on December 15, 2023

New housing, near BART, in Oakland. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

"Speak softly and carry a big stick." ... a West African proverb often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt.

"Speak loudly but carry a wet noodle." ...the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Housing advocates are irked that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is poised to back off yet another transit-oriented development requirement to be eligible to compete for almost $200 million in grants.

The fund is for some great stuff, such as bicycle and pedestrian improvements, including Safe Routes to School, and transit expansions. And any project that would increase roadway capacity for cars is ineligible.

A list of cities up for the grant. Source: MTC

However, MTC policy states that for a city to be eligible for these funds, it has to comply with state mandates to plan and build housing--also known as the state "housing element." Unfortunately, roughly half the cities in MTC's jurisdiction are not on track to comply. But rather than stick to its proverbial guns and exclude cities that aren't building housing (and affordable housing near transit), the MTC board will vote on and likely approve a one-year grace period at its regular meeting on Wednesday.

By any measure, say housing advocates, that's grossly unfair to cities that have worked hard on fulfilling their housing requirements.

"Cities such as Oakland that are doing their job shouldn't have to compete with cities that aren't," housing advocate Jane Natoli told Streetsblog. "Cities are going to learn that they can just not deliver the housing they need to qualify for their transportation funding."

"It's a fair point," said MTC spokesperson John Goodwin in an interview with Streetsblog. "Not saying I necessarily agree, but I get where they're coming from."

This follows a pattern Streetsblog has written about before. In October, MTC reneged on a decision to withhold funds from VTA and BART if their extension plans didn't include housing and development that encourages transit use. Instead of holding fast on that requirement, MTC is disbursing those funds even though planned extensions violate its own "transit oriented communities" policy. Meanwhile, many BART extensions have stations surrounded by a giant parking crater and a car-centered landscape with little or no housing in walking distance.

So MTC, with these grace periods, is just assuring more of the same. Maybe the "Housing Incentive Pool" should be renamed the "Housing if it's Not Too Much Trouble" pool?

"I appreciate that putting together a certified housing element is a challenge and can take time. But we are in a housing emergency. Almost a million households in our region are cost-burdened, according to the US Census Bureau," wrote SPUR's Nick Josefowitz in an email to Streetsblog.

“When it comes to building enough housing in our communities, we’re sadly at the point where many Bay Area municipalities need sticks, not carrots," wrote Natoli. "MTC should not give cities and counties a pass for bad behavior, even temporarily — that approach allows bad actors to skirt responsibility for our housing shortage.”

The MTC commission will consider this extension during its next regular meeting Wednesday, December 20, at 9:35 a.m., Yerba Buena Conference Room - 1st Floor, Bay Area Metro Center, 375 Beale Street, S.F.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog San Francisco

BART Grant is Good News for Oakland, Alameda, and Other Cities

Latest round of 'Safe Routes to BART' program includes $16 million for bike and ped improvements leading to and from BART stations

March 1, 2024

Advocates Hammer City College Trustees’ Climate Hypocrisy on Frida Kahlo Way

City College talks a good game about supporting bike lanes and better transit, until it comes to losing a few parking spaces

March 1, 2024
See all posts