With regional issues, local representation is key for Clayton

If small cities are not represented at the discussion table, we will surely be on the menu.

If we are not there to fight for what’s best for our smaller communities, we get the brunt of regional decision-making. The other stakeholders around that table, particularly from large cities, don’t have the same interests that we do.

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), where I serve as the representative for the cities of Contra Costa County, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) are developing a major update to the state-mandated, every-four-year Plan Bay Area 2025 and the every-eight-year Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). It is unique for a city of Clayton’s size to have a seat at these tables.

Given the housing shortage in the state, the regional housing allocation for Bay Area’s 101 cities and nine counties is likely to be much higher than previously. The state assigns the total number for the region and must approve whatever allocation formula the region proposes to use.

Once each city receives its future housing allocation, it must zone to accommodate that number of new housing units to maintain a compliant Housing Element in its General Plan. Non-compliance can result in loss of state and regional funds. The regional bodies will decide the draft methodology and allocations in late fall, with final adoption in July 2021.

ABAG works with regional representatives to determine the factors and formula for allocating the number of state-required housing units to individual jurisdictions like Clayton. The Housing Methodology Committee holds a series of meetings over several months to make recommendations on those factors and formula to ABAG. Some of the factors include access to “high opportunity/resource” areas with good schools and good jobs, “job proximity” by auto or transit, commute lengths, natural hazard risks and “jobs-housing balance” – is there housing to match the area’s jobs and prospects for good jobs to locate in the area in the foreseeable future?

Depending on the weighting of each of the issues, city population and other factors, the assignment of housing responsibility can vary widely. If the formula is focused primarily on location of jobs, Clayton’s number will be less. Our limited access to high-quality transit and long auto commutes to good jobs drives our numbers down, while access to good schools increases our allocation. If the numbers are spread evenly, like peanut butter, the numbers for Clayton are likely to be very high.

It is invaluable to have a smaller community’s voice in the regional discussions. Clayton’s numbers would have been higher in past cycles without my participation. We must fight for what’s right for our community.

Julie Pierce is mayor of Clayton and chair of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. She is a past president of the Association of Bay Area Governments and serves on the executive committee where she represents Contra Costa cities. Reach her at Julie.p@ci.clayton.ca.us or 925-673-7320.

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