Focused Growth Policies and Programs

Regional agencies in the Bay Area have developed a number of policies and programs that encourage growth in existing communities, promote better connections between land use and transportation, and protect the environment. These policies and programs seek to foster development of complete neighborhoods that offer a range of housing choices and allow residents increased opportunities for walking, bicycling, and transit use.

Regional Policies

Policy-Based Projections
The Association of Bay Area Governments' (ABAG) Research & Forecasting Center is the Bay Area regional agency responsible for producing population, household, jobs, labor force, and income projections for the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Other Bay Area regional agencies, such as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District), use ABAG's forecast in their regional transportation and air quality regulatory and program decisions.

The regional forecasts, or projections, are also widely used for local land use planning and by individuals and organizations examining their long-term planning and policy objectives in the Bay Area.

Population growth for the region is projected through an extensive demographic and economic modeling process. Unique to the Bay Area, however, is that since 2003 the region's projections are now "policy-based." This means that ABAG's projections include a set of policy assumptions that are based on the region's principles for growth. The projections assume that, over time, State, regional, and local policies and programs will change in a way that shifts new growth toward areas near transit and existing downtowns. These policies and programs are assumed to have an increasing effect over the thirty year forecast horizon.

Transportation & Land Use Platform
MTC included a Transportation/Land-Use Platform in its 2030 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). Developed in response to an extensive outreach effort by MTC, this platform encourages a stronger linkage between transportation and land use planning. The Transportation/Land Use Platform is designed to encourage land use policies and practices that maximize walking, bicycling, transit ridership, and other forms of high-occupancy-vehicle travel, while diminishing the need to travel long distances and reducing vehicle-related air pollution.

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Policy
In July 2005, MTC approved a Transit-Oriented Development Policy that establishes planned housing-unit thresholds that corridors slated for transit expansions or extensions will have to meet in order to qualify for regional discretionary funding. The policy also provides a funding program for station-area specific plans to assist corridors in meeting their thresholds.

Regional Programs

FOCUS is a regional incentive-based development and conservation strategy for the Bay Area. FOCUS unites the efforts of four regional agencies—ABAG, MTC, the Air District, and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC)—into a single program that encourages future growth in areas near transit and within the communities that surround the San Francisco Bay. Concentrating housing in these areas offers housing and transportation choices for all residents, while helping to reduce traffic, protect the environment, and enhance existing neighborhoods.

Regional Housing Needs
The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process is a state mandate designed to address the need for housing throughout the state. As part of RHNA, the State requires each jurisdiction to plan for its share of the region's housing need, for people of all income categories. The Bay Area's regional housing need is specified by the California State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and finalized through negotiations with ABAG. ABAG then allocates a portion of the regional need, for all income groups, to every jurisdiction in the Bay Area. The jurisdictions must then plan for that need in their local housing elements, which are eventually certified by HCD.

MTC Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) & Housing Incentives Program (HIP)
The purpose of MTC's Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) Capital and Planning Program is to support community-based transportation projects that bring new vibrancy to downtown areas, commercial cores, neighborhoods, and transit corridors by enhancing their amenities and ambiance and making them places where people want to live, work, and visit. TLC provides funding for projects that are developed through an inclusive community planning effort, provide for a range of transportation choices, and support connectivity between transportation investments and land uses.

As part of the TLC program, the Housing Incentive Program (HIP) rewards local governments that build housing near transit stops. The key objectives of this program are to:

  • Increase the housing supply in areas of the region with existing infrastructure and services in place,
  • Locate new housing where non-automotive transportation options are viable transportation choices, and
  • Establish the residential density and ridership markets necessary to support high-quality transit service.

HIP funds are intended to be used for transportation capital projects that support TLC goals. Typical capital projects include pedestrian and bicycle facilities that connect the housing project to adjacent land uses and transit; improved sidewalks and crosswalks linking the housing to a nearby community facility such as a school or a public park; or streetscape improvements that support increased pedestrian, bicycle, and transit activities and safety.

Corridors Program
ABAG has developed a "corridors program" to encourage increased coordination of land use and transportation planning along three major transportation corridors in the Bay Area: East 14th/International Boulevard, El Camino Real, and San Pablo Avenue. Since these corridors are in existing communities with transit services, they represent key areas with the potential to accommodate future growth through infill development and increased housing densities.

Achieving the regional goals of promoting a more compact development pattern and increasing connections between housing and transit services requires support from local governments and community members. The Corridors Program is focused on realizing this support and encouraging community engagement in neighborhood planning to promote land use changes that increase housing and transportation choices in local communities.