Bill promoting transit villages before governor

Bill promoting transit villages before governor

The push to help commuters avoid gridlock and greenhouse gas emissions needs to clear one more hurdle – the Governor’s desk.

Today, State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) and several BART board members held a news conference at the Glen Park BART Station to urge California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign a bill that would ultimately help communities fight traffic, pollution and increase affordable housing. "As an accountant and former San Francisco Supervisor, I know too well that local governments need additional tools and funding mechanisms to deliver local projects," Assemblywoman Ma said. "AB 1221 provides funds for Transit Oriented Development projects without raising taxes, increasing fees, or impacting school funds."

"Ironically, as transit ridership soars, state transit funding continues to be cut to the bone," BART Board Member Tom Radulovich said. "Assemblywoman Ma's bill helps local governments finance community projects that improve lighting, parks, community facilities, bike paths and pedestrian access around BART and other transit stations and even potential high speed rail stations.  Ultimately a successful transit village is the result of quality community input where people come together to create neighborhoods that have everything they need to live, work, shop and play  – all within walking distance."

AB 1221 would make it easier for communities to build transit villages, which ultimately result in less traffic and lower greenhouse gas levels.The bill makes two significant changes in the way cities and counties build transit villages. First, it allows communities to designate the boundaries of a transit village to be as much as a ½ mile radius around a transit station instead of the current ¼ mile.
"Studies show that people who live within half mile of transit use their cars 50% less than those who live more than half mile away because they’ll walk instead of drive," BART Board Member Lynette Sweet said.  Sweet represents the Glen Park Station. "By taking BART instead of driving, the average rider prevents nearly 23 lbs of pollution from spewing into the air each day.  Transportation accounts for fully half of this state’s green house gas emissions. So taking transit is the single most effective way people can help the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals.  Additionally, the bill requires 20 percent of the housing built in the village to be affordable, which means more Californians can fulfill their dreams of owning a home in a state where even the downturn in the housing market has still made home ownership unattainable."

Secondly, the bill allows communities to finance the construction of a village through Tax Increment Financing.  This type of financing arrangement helps communities improve areas, like around transit stations, where development would otherwise not occur.

"What that means is cities and counties could immediately use the proceeds from bonds issued against the value of future property tax revenues to build transit villages," BART's longest serving Board Member, James Fang said.  "Democrats and Republicans love this idea because it’s a great way to raise revenues while never increasing taxes. And by expanding the radius from the current quarter mile to half mile, we allow communities to increase the total areas they can develop."

The state legislature has already approved AB1221.  The governor has 12 days to sign or veto a piece of legislation starting from the day when the bill gets to him.  If he does nothing it will automatically become law.