State Senate passes AB-2923: More housing could be built at BART stations

CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) -- The State Senate passed a bill Thursday 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.

Assembly Bill 2923 would give BART total zoning control over BART-owned land and essentially allow the agency to override local city and/or county zoning standards to help fast-track development.

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Under the proposal co-authored by Assemblyman Tim Grayson, D-Concord and Assembly David Chiu, D-San Francisco, surface parking lots at BART stations would be replaced with housing. However, critics say cities and counties, not BART, should oversee residential development planning and approval.

"We are responsible for the general plan, and have the staffing and the overall insight to look at not just the planning of the housing for that site, but the infrastructure and other pieces of it, that are important for us in the planning for budget, the planning for public safety," said Fremont Mayor Lily Mei, who opposes the bill.

Mei says AB-2923 also ignores the success of recent transit-oriented development such as the thousands of housing units slated to come online near the Warm Springs/South Fremont BART station in the coming years.

Some BART riders had also expressed concerns about parking spaces possibly being eliminated at a time when lots are already packed. But a last-minute change was made to the proposal requiring a replacement-parking policy to ensure that people could still park, specifically at suburban stations.

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Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino calls the proposal a no-brainer and says it's about planning for the future.

"Our biggest challenges to our quality of life, to our communities, to our economic health, is the crisis we have around affordable homes and traffic congestion," said Guardino. "The cost of homes have spun out of control not only in the Bay Area, but across California. This is a way to provide homes near transit."

The amended bill now returns to the State Assembly for a vote. Assuming it passes, the proposal would then go to Governor Brown for final approval.

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