New law aims to fix Bay Area housing crisis with BART's help

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- A new law signed by Governor Jerry Brown over the weekend could radically alter the suburban landscape around BART stations.

The Bay Area is known for its housing crisis and traffic congestion, and a new law signed by Governor Brown aims to address both issues.

RELATED: California Gov. Jerry Brown signs BART housing bill into law

Assembly Bill 2923 gives BART the authority to override local zoning laws to build housing and shops at empty station parking lots.

"We need to build more housing that's affordable to working families in the immediate vicinity of the BART stations," said Nick Josefowitz, BART board of directors.

Thirty thousand new homes would go in 250 acres of surface parking lots around 26 BART stations.

"It will be up to BART to decide exactly the mix of units, but at least 20 percent of all units need to be affordable at every individual site," said Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), the bills' co-author.

Supporters say this would elevate the quality of life for many Bay Area residents, who would be able to afford to live near a BART station and use public transit to get to and from work.

"There will be housing that will accommodate that loft, all the way to the entire family," said co-author Assemblyman Timothy Grayson (D-Concord).

RELATED: BART seeks to construct massive new mixed-use complex at Lake Merritt station

The law lets the transit agency zone its property and limits a city's ability to interfere. Opponents say housing decisions should be left up to cities.

"This isn't whether to build housing, it's who are the best entities to do that and take the lead," said Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon), who voted against the bill. "I would say BART already has enough problems and now we're giving them housing. It's going to be a challenge."

Baker said cities like Dublin have done a great job at adding housing units near transit hubs without letting BART take the lead.

The consensus now is that BART must work collaboratively with cities to fast-track development and alleviate the housing crisis.

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