East Bay leaders urge veto of BART housing bill

CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) -- 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.

"Governor please veto this bill!" declared Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne.

Already passed by the state legislature, Assembly Bill 2923 would give BART greater control of its own land, 250 acres systemwide, potentially expediting the construction of 20,000 new housing units by 2040.

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"There's the right way to do things and then there's the BART way of doing things," said Sen. Steve Glazer (D) Orinda.

"We're facing a region-wide affordability crisis," said BART Director Nick Josephowitz, a strong supporter of AB2923. "What we're trying to do here is build more housing that is going to be affordable to working families in the best place in the region to do that which is right up next to a BART station."

The bill would give local cities and counties two years to update their zoning restrictions or face the prospect of losing control over projects on BART land in their communities.

"This is a bill that will take away from our local communities, whose leaders are here from all across the East Bay Area, the ability to plan and develop housing, with local input and local collaboration," said CaliforniaAssembly Member Catharine Baker (R), who along with Glazer is leading the effort to persuade Brown to veto the bill.

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Under the goals set by the BART Board of Directors, 35 percent of the housing, some 7,000 units, would be affordable, that is below-market-rate.

In Walnut Creek, a mixed use transit village is already under construction, perhaps a model for other BART stations in the Bay Area, where asphalt parking lots could become largely obsolete.

"I believe local people who live here should be the ones to decide what our local community looks like," said Thorne, "not somebody in Sacramento and not somebody on a BART board."

Though individual directors have their own opinions, the BART board is officially neutral on AB2923.

Governor Brown has until September 30 to sign or veto the bill.

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