Latest Information on AB 2923, BART Transit-Oriented Development Bill
With the Governor signing the bill on Sept. 30, 2018, AB 2923 will become law on January 1, 2019. Thanks to the hard work of Lafayette’s citizens, Mayor Don Tatzin and Vice Mayor Cam Burks, the final form of the bill is a more reasonable way for a small city like ours to address the Bay Area’s housing crisis. You can read the final text of the bill here.
On Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, Mayor Tatzin released this statement on AB 2923 becoming law:
Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2923, the Transit-Oriented Development Bill sponsored by Assembly Members David Chiu (San Francisco) and Timothy Grayson (Concord).
The City of Lafayette opposed AB 2923 not because we wished to limit housing development, but because the Bill will likely result in reduced parking at our BART station and, more importantly, because it will remove local control over zoning and development, which we believe is unconstitutional.
The City of Lafayette – which incorporated in 1968 when residents sought to have their own say on zoning and housing development – has built or approved over 300 multifamily units since 2006. We have worked to address the housing crisis facing the Bay Area and California. Now that AB 2923 will become law, the City looks forward to working closely and collaboratively with the Bay Area Rapid Transit District on its Access Plan and transit-oriented development on land it owns adjacent to the Lafayette BART Station.
AB 2923-What Lafayette Has Done
Assembly Bill 2923, sponsored by Assembly Members David Chiu and Timothy Grayson, will remove a city’s zoning and land use authority on BART-owned land within ½ mile of a transit station and hand it over to the BART Board. The bill is now on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for him to sign or veto. The City of Lafayette has worked diligently to meet its housing obligations. In fact, since 2006, over 300 multifamily and townhouse units have been built or approved within ½ mile of the Lafayette BART station, including Town Center with a pathway to the BART station, shown above. You can find a table providing a list of downtown projects with below-market-rate housing units that Lafayette has approved since 2000 here.
Lafayette Mayor Don Tatzin, shown above with East Bay officials opposed to AB 2923, sent a letter to Gov. Brown urging him not to sign the bill into law. You can read the Mayor's Sept. 10, 2018, letter here. The East Bay officials show with Mayor Tatzin, above, held a news conference on Sept. 17, 2018. Here is media coverage of that conference:
- East Bay leaders urge veto of BART housing bill -A coalition of city leaders from Alameda and Contra Costa counties gathered at the Dublin BART station to send a loud, last-ditch message to Governor Jerry Brown. (KGO)
- BART Faces Backlash Over Bill Giving It Authority To Develop New Housing At Stations - There’s a backlash to BART plans for new housing at some of its stations around the Bay Area. Suburban communities are worried they could get “big-timed” by the transit agency. (CBS Local)
Background Information (Prior to Sept. 2018)
On August 28, 2018, AB 2923, the transit-oriented development bill that would put BART in charge of land use at transit stations,made it off the Assembly Floor 44-25. You can see the votes below. Assembly Members Baker and Frazier (and a few others outside the East Bay) spoke in opposition to the bill on the floor.
It is now up to Gov. Brown to sign or veto the bill. You can express your views on AB 2923 to the Governor by contacting him here. You can use these talking points when writing the Governor:
- AB 2923 Silences community members and locally elected officials by giving BART the power to exempt themselves from locally developed and adopted building height limitations, densities, and parking requirements.
- AB 2923 is contrary to BART’s stated mission – “Provide safe, reliable, clean transit service for riders.” BART should be laser focused on its core mission, not land development
- This measure is in search of a problem. In recent years, cities have approved thousands of housing units near BART stations, and BART hasn’t had a development application rejected in a decade.
- Establishes a dangerous precedent. While AB 2923 only pertains to BART, once the Legislature grants one special district land-use authority, every special district in the state will want the same power over their property.
Lafayette City officials have been active in opposing this precedent-setting bill for several weeks now. AB 2923 has been amended in important ways from the original bill, largely due to the tireless efforts of Mayor Tatzin and Vice Mayor Burks. Notably:
- No Eminent Domain. The bill no longer allows BART to use eminent domain to acquire parcels. If signed by the Governor, BART’s development powers will only apply to parcels it owned as of July 2018. In Lafayette’s case, that means this bill only applies to the parking lots on Deer Hill Road between Happy Valley Road and First Street. In other words, if passed as-is, this bill will not give BART control of any parcels in downtown Lafayette south of Highway 24.
- BART Must Now Listen to Locals. The bill as amended now orders BART to hold a public hearing to receive public comment on its plans, to conduct direct outreachto relevant local jurisdictions and to communities of concern around each station, and to meet with each jurisdiction in which the station is located to review the housing needs of the jurisdiction, how much housing has been built in the past year, and to discuss any obstacles to development of projects proposed by the district.
- Developers Must Now Consider Local Design Standards. The amended bill now also orders BART developers to use local design standards as general guidance, and requires those developers to adhere to any applicable local design standards insofar as those standards do not prohibit the height and density goals of the BART zoning standards.
- The Law Is Now Parking-Neutral. As amended, the bill now says that, “for any station where district commuter parking is reduced as a result of a TOD project on land where TOD zoning standards apply, the district shall develop and fund an access plan that maintains station access for at least the number of customers affected by the reduced number of commuter parking spaces, which shall include specific consideration for customers who live further than one-half mile from the station.”
Pro and Con Arguments
Pro and con arguments concerning AB 2923, a bill that, if passed, would give BART local control over development and zoning near its stations, were published August 4, 2018, by the Bay Area News Group. The con argument was authored by Lily Mei, Mayor of Fremont, and Lafayette Mayor Don Tatzin, and signed by a number of Bay Area mayors and public officials. You can read both arguments below:
- Pro: A bill badly needed for more Bay Area housing: It's no secret among affordable-housing advocates and experts that transit-oriented development is one of our most critical tools.
- Con: Legislation would undermine city and county control: BART could override local city or county zoning and adopt its own zoning standards.
Opposition to AB 2923
- The Contra Costa County Mayors Conference, at its meeting August 3, 2018, took an oppose position on this bill. You can read the Conference's opposition letter here.
- The Lafayette Homeowners Council, on August 5, 2018, wrote an opposition letter, which you can read here.
- The California Chapter of the American Planning Association continues to oppose AB 2923. You can find the Association’s letter here.
- Three of the nine elected BART Board Members, including Debora Allen of District 1, have written a letter in opposition to AB 2923. You can read their letter here.
- Watch a video of Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, who represents the 16th Assembly District, which includes Lafayette, voicing her opposition to AB 2923 here.
- Read an opposition letter from Lafayette School District Superintendent Richard Whitmore, dated August 13, 2018, here.
- Senator Steve Glazer, Senate District 7, wrote a letter in opposition of AB 2923. You can read it here.
More than 55 elected officials, including mayors, councilmembers and supervisors, sent a letter to the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California urging NPH to drop its endorsement of AB 2923. You can read that letter here.
AB 2923 In the News
Lafayette Mayor Don Tatzin was quoted in a August 15, 2018, San Francisco Chronicle article about AB 2923, Housing on BART land has been a third-rail issue. Will this effort be different? “Why does BART suddenly need this greater power?” asked Lafayette Mayor Don Tatzin, who, like other critics, said he has no problem with development next to a BART station — he just doesn’t want BART to control the process. You can read the entire article here.
Newspaper Articles Concerning AB 2923:
- California housing bills: Which survived the latest cut? -The bill faces strong opposition from Alameda County and cities such as Fremont, Hayward, Lafayette and Pleasant Hill. (The Mercury News)
- BART Housing Bill Goes Down to Wire - “AB 2923 is an opportunity to expand on existing, successful transit-oriented development already surrounding BART stations. (California Political Review)
- Threat to Local Control -With two BART stations, Pleasanton is targeted by AB 2923, legislation which is likely to pass soon. AB 2923 gives development authority to BART. (Livermore Independent)
- Housing on BART land has been a third-rail issue. Will this effort be different? -Assemblyman Chiu is pressing a bill that aims to fix the problem by requiring BART to zone its vacant property for housing and retail, and limiting cities’ ability to obstruct or delay that development. (San Francisco Chronicle)
- What's Berkeley Mayor Arreguin's Stand on BART Development Bill? Ten Bay Area mayors signed the No on AB 2923 op-ed in the East Bay Times. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín wasn't among them. Why not? (Berkeley Daily Planet)
- Can AB 2923 be knocked out? AB 2923 is a bill that takes zoning and permitting rights away from local government and gives them to BART—which can then build what they want. (California Political Review)
- Livable California supports BART Board Members in opposition to AB-2923-In a letter to the State Senate Appropriations Committee (below), Livable California urges a "OPPOSE AB-2923." (Blog)
- What's wrong with State Assembly Bill 2923 -If AB 2923 becomes law, its enactment is certain to prompt future legislation that grants land use authority to some of other special districts. (The Marin Post)
- Notably: Lafayette Mayor Don Tatzin and Vice Mayor Cam Burks were featured in these two stories on AB 2923: East Bay City Leaders Wary of BART Housing Bill (KPIX) and California Senate passes bill to build more housing at BART stations (East Bay Times). There was also an editorial today in the East Bay Times urging a stop to, what the paper calls “a power grab.” You can read that here.
- State Senate passes AB-2923: More housing could be built at BART stations - The State Senate passed a bill Tuesday to allow for housing to be built at BART stations throughout the Bay Area. Opponents say it would give the agency unprecedented land-use authority at a time when it should be more focused on running its trains. Supporters believe there's no time to waste as the region deals with a major housing crisis. (ABC7)
- Concern growing over bill that could let BART override zoning laws -There are concerns in the East Bay that state lawmakers may give BART too much power when it comes to building housing at transit stations. (ABC7)
Lawmakers kickstart development of BART parking lots into retail, housing -Many of them touted the virtues of transit-oriented development, but said that cities should do it on their own time and their own terms, without BART. (SFGate)
AB 2923 Overview
Assembly Bill 2923, sponsored by Assembly Members David Chiu and Timothy Grayson, will remove a city’s zoning and land use authority on BART-owned land within ½ mile of a transit station and hand it over to the BART Board. The bill, which will affect Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties, requires BART to adopt transit-oriented development (TOD) standards that establish minimum development regulations for the land that it currently owns, or may own in the future. You can read AB 2923 here. Although this is a statewide bill, it only affects three Bay Area counties. Cities in these counties would have their local zoning authority abolished on BART-owned land within a 1/2 mile buffer zone around station entrances wherein BART could develop projects under its own standards for density and height. You can see a parcel map of Lafayette with BART's proposed 1/2 mile radius here.
BART currently owns the commuter parking lots on the north side of Highway 24 in Lafayette. BART’s current TOD standards for the Lafayette station are a minimum height of five stories and a minimum density of 75 housing units per acre. You can read BART’s full TOD guidelines here. The current zoning for the BART-owned parcels in Lafayette is R-10, which permits single-family homes on ¼ acre lots. In the downtown located south of the freeway, Lafayette allows multifamily housing at a maximum density of 35 housing units an acre and a maximum height of three stories. The City Council has sent a letter to Sacramento objecting to the loss of local control over land use. You can read that letter here. The City of Lafayette would like to hear your views on Assembly Bill 2923. Should BART decide local land use and development issues or should these decisions be made by city governments through their local zoning processes? Please provide your opinion on this important matter here.
The bill has passed through committee and is now going to the full Senate for a vote. The Council asked Mayor Don Tatzin to send another letter opposing AB 2923 to Senators on the Transportation and Housing and Governance and Finance Committees, which you can read here.
It is important to make your views known to the co-authors and Lafayette’s representatives in the Legislature, Assembly Member Baker and Senator Glazer, you can email them at the following addresses: