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Huge BART housing bill becomes law

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Transit agency directors will have broad authority to create tens of thousands of new homes

An aerial photo of a BART train at Antioch Station.
Antioch BART Station.
Photo by Rich Lonardo/Shutterstock

As part of a weekend flurry of bill signings and vetoes, Governor Jerry Brown gave final approval to AB 2923, a law that makes it easier for BART to potentially develop tens of thousands of new homes on property it owns across the Bay Area.

According to the bill:

[B]oard of directors shall adopt transit-oriented development (TOD) zoning standards by a majority vote at a duly noticed public meeting that establish minimum local zoning requirements for BART-owned land that is located on contiguous parcels larger than 0.25 acres, within one-half mile of an existing or planned BART station entrance, in areas having representation on the BART board of directors.

Analysis by groups like SPUR concludes that BART could create as many as 20,000 new units in the Bay Area, although this would represent a particularly high density at the locales.

Gov. Brown issued no statement alongside the signing. Assemblymember David Chiu of San Francisco, who wrote AB 2923 alongside East Bay Representative Tim Grayson, said via Twitter on Sunday, “This new law will allow us to simultaneously address housing affordability & traffic congestion in the Bay Area.”

Grayson called it a “common sense approach to our housing crisis.”

BART is already well into the housing game, giving the go-ahead to the development of over 500 homes next to Lake Merritt Station in September.

Photo by Guangli/Shutterstock

But the new law makes it easier for BART by requiring cities to change their zoning to accommodate BART development and clearing the way for BART to just go ahead and do it themselves at some point if cities prove uncooperative.

In the past, San Francisco endorsed the bill, while East Bay cities like Berkeley, Concord, Danville, Dublin, Fremont, Hayward, Lafayette, Livermore, Martinez, Novato, Orinda, ittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Pleasanton, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek all gave it a thumbs down.

For some reason, a few cities well outside of the BART network, like Riverside, filed objections as well.

Perhaps more importantly, three members of the BART Board of Directors—Debora Allen, Tom Blalock, and John McPartland—all stumped against the measure while it was in the state senate.

Those BART directors will soon make potentially critical housing decisions as the agency considers what to do with its new housing authority.