California gives BART control over development at its stations
BART can draft plans to fill empty station parking lots with dense housing and shops, under a state law that Gov. Jerry Brown signed late Sunday.
The bill empowers the transit agency to zone its properties — an estimated 250 acres of blank asphalt — and limits cities’ ability to delay or obstruct development.
“We can no longer afford to say no to building housing, especially around transit hubs,” said Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco, lead author of AB2923. He and his co-sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Tim Grayson of Concord, pitched their idea as a sensible solution to two gnawing regional problems: traffic congestion and the housing crisis.
They say BART could replace surface parking spaces with compact parking structures — going vertical instead of sprawling. Supporters said the bill would add 20,000 new homes and ease pressure on jammed freeways.
But the bill ran into resistance from mayors and city councils throughout the East Bay, where most of BART’s parking lots are located. Although many of the detractors professed support for transit-oriented development, they chafed at the idea of BART having authority over land use.
BART recently committed to build out its lots by 2040, producing 20,000 units of housing and 4.5 million square feet of commercial space, including childcare and educational facilities. Supporters of AB2923 say the transit agency needs to move faster than that, to avoid being bogged down in negotiations.
Such negotiations nearly derailed a project in Millbrae, which was approved by a 3-2 City Council vote in March after 10 years of discussion. It promises to bring 400 housing units — a fifth of them affordable to low-income families — plus 150,000 square feet of office space, and 30,000 square feet of retail.