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California Senate passes huge BART housing bill

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BART could develop tens of thousands of homes on property it owns near stations if AB 2923 passes in full

On Thursday the California State Senate passed AB 2923 on a 26-13 vote, potentially setting up BART to develop thousands or even tens of thousands of new homes on property it owns near stations within the next few years.

However, among the dissenting voices on the bill are several BART board members themselves.

The bill, introduced in February by Assemblymember David Chiu of San Francisco and East Bay rep Tim Grayson, would give the BART Board of Directors authority to create housing on land currently being used as BART parking:

Notwithstanding any other law, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) board 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.

An amendment to the bill requires that BART replace any parking spaces eliminated with parking options elsewhere.

Ahead of Thursday’s vote, California Senate records indicate that the City and County of San Francisco endorsed the bill, as did groups like the housing non-profit SFHAC, YIMBY Action, and Habitat For Humanity.

Photo by Sheila Fitzgerald

On the other hand, Alameda County came out against the bill, as did the cities of Berkeley, Brentwood, Concord, Danville, Dublin, Fremont, Hayward, Lafayette, Livermore, Martinez, Novato, Orinda, Palmdale, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Pleasanton, Riverside, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek.

Perhaps most telling, three members of the BART Board of Directors—Tom Blalock, Debora Allen, and John McPartland—also urged Senators to vote the measure down. The Senate does not record either support or opposition from other board members.

[Correction: BART Director Nick Josefowitz has boosted the bill several times on social media.]

State Senator Steve Glazer, who represents part of the East Bay, was the only Bay Area lawmaker to vote no on Thursday.

AB 2923 previously passed in the State Assembly on a 42-32 vote in May, but the lower house will now have to consider the Senate’s amended version separately.