Contra Costa Supervisor Karen Mitchoff defends ABAG’s future development plans

  • April 20, 2013

By Richard Eber

During an exclusive interview in her Concord office at Todos Santos Square, Contra Costa District IV Supervisor Karen Mitchoff staunchly defended the Draft Bay Area Plan 2013 recently released by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and theMetropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) last month. As a member of the ABAG Executive Committee representing Contra Costa, Mitchoff disclosed why she supports ABAG’s vision of urban planning and how they intend to allocate funds during the next quarter century. This subject will be discussed at a public meeting next Monday at the Marriot in Walnut Creek.

Despite the controversy surrounding the issue of ABAG and the MTC’s role in determining the course of urban planning in the Bay Area during next phase of development, Mitchoff does not mince words in her support for infill projects near transit hubs that include a significant component of low income housing.

The locally raised Supervisor is a product of College Park High School and DVC. Mitchoff received a BA in Human Development in 2000 from Cal State East Bay while working full time fort he County. She was elected Supervisor in 2010. Prior to that Mitchoff was Mayor of Pleasant Hill and held a variety of jobs in the community including a long stint on the Planning Commission.

Are you pleased with the allocation of funds under the March 2013 report of ABAG and the MTC?
Yes.

Why is the comment period so short for the ABAG/MTC report?
45 days is a reasonable time frame. For some it will be more than enough time to review; for others it will be too short.

Is Contra Costa getting the short end of the straw with regards to the allocation of funds for transport projects?
Contra Costa is actually included in lines 2 and 4. The 1-680 HOV gap closures and 1-80 HOV improvements are among the first-funded projects in the #2 express lane network. The #4 integrated freeway performance network also applies to all our freeways. The Caldecott Tunnel has already been recently funded ahead of these other projects as have Hwy 4 East and the SR-160 ramps. The e-BART project funds have also been programmed. There will be additional projects included as the Sustainable Communities Strategy is updated next time for the 2017 Regional Transportation Plan.

Keep on mind that is just the “discretionary” Plan Bay Area funds. For a more comprehensive look at the total transportation pot, see page 64 of the full report. Of the total Plan Bay Area revenue, 80% *(232B) is committed to the existing priorities and 90% of that is committed to the Fix-it-First roads and transit maintenance program.
Of the 20% (%7B) which are discretionary funds, 26% is similarly committed to Fix-it-First. For a more detailed list of the discretionary list of projects (still over projects over 50M) see page 92 of the full report.

Do you think San Francisco, San Jose, and other communities on the 101 corridor are entitled to so much of the money being allocated from ABAG and the MTC?
Please refer to my response to your previous question.

Are you OK with Santa Clara getting the funds to construct a new BART line while taxpayers in Contra Costa have had to pay for their services for almost the last half century?
Yes, especially since they taxed themselves to pay for it. (see article on April 15th Contra Costa Times local section.)

What has been your role on the ABAG Executive Board?
My role is to represent the County of Contra Costa, along with Supervisor Gioia. Contra Costa also has two mayor representatives, which represent the cities’ perspectives.

Are there facts that you would like known that are not in the ABAG/MTC report?
I have all the information I need; If I don’t see something I wanted to know, I ask questions. Just my style.

Understood. Have you been promised funds for Contra Costa County later on if you support this report?
No.

Are you under pressure from environmentalists to not oppose their plans?
No, I never feel “pressure” to vote a certain way. I listen to all facts and then make my decision. No amount of pressure one way or another would ever make me vote a certain way.

Have you been threatened by officials from the Democratic Party if you don’t go along with the report?
I do not see any correlation between those elected to the legislature and the make up of ABAG and the MTC. What you and I talked about was that locally-elected officials hold non-partisan offices. I don’t know who is a Republican or Democrat. I know of no internal opposition, and by that I mean you are assuming staff. If you are referring instead to members of the body, any “opposition” is discussed at Public meetings.

Is the ABAG/MTC pretty much the same coalition that makes up the Democratically controlled legislature? Is there internal opposition to ABAG and the MTC within the organization?
What do you see as your role as the highest ranking office holder in Contra Costa County on the ABAG Executive Board?
As mentioned previously, Supervisor Gioia and I are selected by our Board of Supervisors to represent county interests on the ABAG Executive Board. A supervisor on the Executive Board has no more or less status, impact, prestige, or power than an elected city council representative sent by a particular Mayor’s Conference.

Aside from the April 22nd meeting, do you have any further plans to meet with constituents who will be affected by the report?
I will meet with anyone or any group who would like to meet with me on this issue.

Since the State of California did away with redevelopment in the cities and appear to want to allocate funds on a regional basis, do you think cities such as Concord and Pleasant Hill will lose their right to independent action in dealing with these matters?
As discussed last week, the demise of redevelopment has nothing to do with Plan Bay Area. No jurisdiction will lose their ability to deal with local matters on a local basis.

With the of redevelopment funds should the State still be able to pressure local communities to build low income housing?
Again, there is no corollary between the two. As I understand it, the state law requires each and every community to provide affordable housing in order to meet a number of policy issues such as providing housing close to where people work.

Does it concern you that so much decision making with ABAG and the MTC is being made by an unelected board rather than by a direct vote of the people? 
I believe this is one of the fallacies being put out there, and it’s simply not true. We are all elected officials, and then we are elected by our various agencies to represent the people of our communities, cities, districts, areas, etc… at ABAG and the MTC.

Do you think individual communities should have the right to vote directly for redevelopment plans or should this power remain with office holders and appointed experts from the state?
If you are asking if local folks should be able to vote for local projects, that is how representative works at the local level. A project in unincorporated Contra Costa comes through our planning process, and there is a public comment component to that process at various stages along the way. The same is true of cities.

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