Senator Steven Glazer remarks on Senate Floor regarding Assembly Bill 2923

Senator Glazer spoke on the Senate floor regarding Assembly Bill 2923 on August 23, 2018. This is a full transcript of those remarks.

STEVEN GLAZER, Senator from the 7th Senate District: Members earlier, earlier this year I went with my County on the homeless counts in Contra Costa County. And on that early morning hour we stopped at a park in Martinez and there I met Dina and John who were living in their car. And I talked to them about their circumstances and they explained to me that their rent had been raised almost 80% in the past year and they couldn't afford it and they had no choice but to leave their apartment and to live in their car with their cat. And they were there at that park in Martinez that very cold winter morning to get some hot coffee and some cereal and some juice that was being provided by a Good Samaritan who would provide that a couple days a week along with a prayer.

Later that morning we, we traveled to an underpass in Walnut Creek and I met Robert, who had a little fire going because he was cold, didn't have a sleeping bag, anything to sleep with. And I talked to Robert to ask about his circumstance and Robert said that he was married and living in Moraga, very affluent community, and unfortunately he got a divorce and he ran into health problems and so he lost everything. And there he was in the cold with the little fire with his dog under an overpass in Walnut Creek. And I know that this story of Dina and John and Robert is not unique to our communities, our neighborhoods, our state. It's a problem that I think we acutely feel in the Senate about the problems of, of housing, affordable housing and homelessness. So when we talk about an issue like this what can we do to make our state better, more affordable housing available, I know we all think about the Dinas and the Johns out there and whether this is a good thing to do.

And when we're presented with a bill such as this you know the first question that I ask is okay what's the problem that we're trying to solve? With this piece of legislation, why is this the right pathway to doing the things that we know are important to us? And in examining that question it became very apparent to me that there were there was a problem here and really not identifying a problem.

 In my Senate District I have ten BART stations comprising seven towns and I asked all of the mayors of those towns and all the city managers can you tell me what you have done to stop BART from developing on their parking lots in your community? Have you turned down BART applications? And why? And so I went to each of those cities to ask that question to justify this bill and in every case they said to me Steve in the last ten years we have not turned down a BART housing project on their parking lot, none, zero. And I said okay but hold on a second I'm sure you must have some applications pending from BART so could you tell me where those are in the process and why you're holding them up? And in every case they said Steve we don't have an application from BART to build on their parking lot, there's no applications here. And I said well they're claiming that they can't build affordable housing on their parking lots so why is there a problem here? And each city would then detail to me what they had done to build affordable housing in and around BART, and it was I have to tell you a very impressive list.

 I want to share some of them with you. In the city of Concord they've entitled over 2,500 housing units within a half-mile radius of downtown Concord BART. 2,500 units almost 4,400 within a mile and if you know Concord, Concord in the next 10 years is going to be building more housing than any city of its size anywhere in the state because of the donation of the Naval ship yard to the city and their plans for thousands and thousands of units. But somehow Concord now is part of the problem.

 I asked the city mayor of Antioch what are you doing to build housing around transit? You have a new BART stop there. And they said our specific plan that we've approved provides 2,500 high-density transit oriented development units around our BART station and we've totally collaborated with BART.
 I went to the city of Pittsburg that has two BART stations and I said hey guys so BART hasn't come to you to build? No. BART has no applications to build? No. So what are you doing to build affordable housing? And here's what the city mayor said to me: passed a master plan in 2011 allowing 1,100 residential units including 252 high density around the BART station. BART has land there but it’s never developed it. Never put forward a plan to develop it. And in the last 20 years private developers who developed 1,250 units around the BART station. They have a second station in Pittsburg. Once again passed a specific plan for allowing 1,845 additional units, 1,600 within a half mile of BART. BART hasn't participated in this process whatsoever.

There was some testimony in committee earlier this year that criticized the city of Dublin for turning down 200 units on BART property. So I talked to the folks in Dublin and they told me many things I already knew. Which is that they've zoned for development in the BART area in the hundreds and thousands of units. That Dublin is known as the fastest growing city in California for the last five years because they have produced thousands of units of housing in Dublin. And then I got the news that the reason this bill was necessary was because towns like Dublin couldn't do anymore because they had a member of the City Council under recall because they voted for high density housing. So now I see that you want courage from council members, there's a recall against one of them and that's a reason why you can't trust Dublin to do their part on affordable housing.

And the kicker on this story of what cities are doing or not doing was the city of Pleasanton. The city of Pleasanton because not only has the city of Pleasanton zoned and constructed thousands of units of housing around their BART station but this past year on a piece of BART property that had been zoned for multifamily housing Bart came to them and said hey we've changed our minds we need you to take that parcel for multi-family housing and we need you to rezone it for commercial property, we've made this 99-year deal with Workday and we'd like to take off the books the multifamily and turn it into commercial housing. So when I look around my district for where the problem is it's not very apparent to me and certainly BART has not been very apparent in any of their desires to build on their so-called parking lots. And what I have seen in place of these cities that have taken very courageous action because it's not easy to do to zone, approve, construct thousands and thousands of homes around BART stations.

If you look in the analysis today on this bill it has a section about land use and it's very poignant. It's on page 8. And it points out that the California Constitution specifically grants cities and counties the exclusive ability, the exclusive ability among local governments to exercise police power which form the basis of local regulation of land use. As California has developed a complex system of planning based on the premise that cities and counties are the agencies with this authority. And it points out that this bill before us today bends this system by taking land-use decisions out of the hands of cities and counties and giving it to another local government by telling cities and counties they have to adopt BART's standards. And it says that granting land use authority to a local government sets a significant precedent. And they are absolutely right: the Constitution set these parameters about how development happens and it's certainly clear to me that if this legislation passes today that we're going to have a constitutional challenge, we're going to have public agencies spending millions of dollars fighting other public agencies for the right to implement the bill that's before us today. Now there is a significant precedent being set by this, hundreds of special districts in California, none of them have been given the power that this bill suggests, none of them. And there are many that would love to have this power, take it away from cities and counties.

If BART was to build out what's allowed under this bill, the units over the next 20 years it would add up to less than a fraction of what's required in California, a fraction. So you say on one hand well it's something, on the other hand folks that's the precedent that's been set. If you have a Metro rail or a Metrolink stop in your district, if you have transit locations that are in high use well then welcome to the club because this legislation can come your way as well, give those transportation authorities the same right that's being proposed in this legislation. It sets a very, very dangerous precedent.

 Now one of the things that this bill establishes is that the land-use choices are no longer made in your town. So your City Council members that leave their home each day and interact with their residents at the grocery store, at the coffee shop, at the gas station, when they want to come and testify about their concerns before you usually in the evening you're accessible and it's available to you. Under this legislation if BART wants to develop in Pittsburgh what is that city resident do in Pittsburgh? Well they probably have to get on a BART train or get in their car and drive a half an hour to the BART headquarters in Oakland, go up to a high-rise to testify when they're going to decide the quality of your community with the project that they're proposing.

I asked the leader in Pittsburg to share his thoughts with me and he said this, he said Pittsburg is a blue-collar working-class community, the majority of our residents are minorities. Pittsburg has on its own approved the development of a thousand affordable housing units in the past 15 years and many of our residents fall into income categories that qualifies them for affordable housing and had been vocal during the project entitlement process. This bill forces Pittsburg residents to go to BART headquarters in Oakland to express their concerns about this bill. In its guidelines as a result this bill creates a significant inconvenience if not an injustice to our community and others like it.

And in Richmond, the mayor of Richmond says this about the bill: AB 2923 is not what cities need to tackle the housing shortage in the Bay Area. Richmond is already up-zoned all of our areas adjacent to BART, all of our areas and thanks to support from the state we're breaking ground on more affordable housing for our residents.

Making a transit agency responsible for housing development is not the answer. The way to build more housing is by working collaboratively with local jurisdictions and AB 2923 runs counter to that effort. And that's, that's right my friends, the communities that need affordable housing the most are the ones that get stepped on by this legislation, the Pittsburgs,the Antiochs, the Concords in this unprecedented power shift and believe me this legislation is all about power.