Friday, October 05, 2018

BART, parking, and housing

Photo: John Storey

Last weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2923, which gives BART the authority to ignore local zoning rules and build high-density housing on its own land in the Bay Area. This bill faced fierce opposition from mayors and city councils in Contra Costa County, but was supported by affordable housing advocates.

Ignoring the debate over density at the moment, what makes anyone think that BART, which can’t even effectively run a transit system, can suddenly become an expert housing developer? BART estimates that, with passage of this bill, it will be able to build 20,000 units of housing, about a third of which will be “affordable” (which in the Bay Area can mean affordable to people who earn $115,000 a year or less). 

While the region could use 20,000 housing units, there is no reason to think that BART can build them affordably or that high-density housing can even be affordable.

BART is well known for the cost overruns, maintenance problems, and crime problems on its transit system. It will be interesting to see how it applies these skills to housing. It’s hard to imagine the results will be very desirable.

While it isn’t specifically BART’s problem, San Francisco is also in the news for finding cracks in the beams supporting its brand-new $2.2-billion transit center. This transit center is where riders on California’s unlikely-to-be-completed high-speed rail line were supposed to connect with local transit lines. 

The 1.5-million-square-foot transit center cost almost $1,500 per square foot to build; just think how affordable housing would be if it were built by the same people!

As the Antiplanner has noted before, mid-rise and high-rise high-density housing costs 50 to 68 percent more per square foot than low-rise housing. Add in the cost of government inefficiency and poor design and the A.B. 2923 is more likely to produce boondoggles than affordable housing.

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At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just what we need, high rises filled with gentrified techies and gangbanger thugs; all enjoying luxury accommodations preying on quiet neighborhoods.

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sensitive neighborhoods filled with vulnerable small houses like North Berkeley, RockRidge and Orinda, where houses are still affordable (under $2 million) are now at risk of gentrification from these luxury apartment buildings.

At 8:14 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, the idea of affordability is delusional when demand like this distorts the market.


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