• Contra Costa Okays Transportation Tax Plan

  • The Contra Costa County Transportation Authority has unanimously approved a $2.87 billion spending plan for a 1/2-cent, 30-year transportation sales tax measure intended to go before voters in November 2016. During the past year, BIA|Bay Area successfully thwarted a lengthy and concerted effort to place within the spending blueprint significant new burdens on residential development by tying the funds to mandatory compliance with new growth controls. BIA representatives made it clear that the association would actively oppose a measure that made it more difficult or expensive to build much-needed housing inside the Urban Limit Line. The proposed measure is now headed to the county's 19 cities, where it must receive approval from a majority of the city councils that represent a majority of the county's population. The measure’s last stop is at the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, where a majority of the board must agree to place the measure on the ballot. Read below for details on specific growth-related issues. Click here to view the agenda and supporting documents for the CCTA’s special transportation expenditure plan public hearing held on May 18, 2016. Contact BIA East Bay Governmental Affairs Director Lisa Vorderbrueggen with questions or comments at lvorderbrueggen@biabayarea.org or 925-348-1956.

    Background He is a rundown of the growth-related issues that arose during the spending plan negotiations and the outcome:

    ISSUE: Environmentalists demanded that all jurisdictions adopt -- in order to be eligible to receive measure dollars -- formal ordinances with specified new mandates in the areas of hillside development, blue-line creeks, wildlife corridors and ridgeline protections.
    OUTCOME: Local jurisdictions will be required to develop much less formal policies in these areas, if they don't already have them, but their contents are entirely up to the cities and the county. In addition, we successfully added language specifying that jurisdictions participating in the East Contra Costa Habitat Conservation Plan will be considered in compliance with the wildlife and creek policies requirements. (We opposed the policies, too, but the cities and the county caved.)

    ISSUE: Environmentalists demanded that jurisdictions with agricultural lands -- broadly defined to include grazing and other non-irrigated lands -- anywhere within their boundaries adopt stringent agricultural preservation ordinances with specific mitigation ratios.
    OUTCOME: We successfully limited the policy to target only high quality irrigated farmland and only on land outside the Urban Limit Line. As a result only local jurisdictions with Prime Farmland or Farmland of Statewide Importance (as defined by the California Department of Conservation and mapped by FMMP) within their planning areas but outside their Urban Limit Lines will be required to adopt an agricultural impact policy. The policy requires jurisdictions to identify and disclose -- but not mitigate -- the potential impacts of converting Prime Farmland or Farmland of Statewide Importance to other uses.

    ISSUE: Environmentalists demanded that all future voter-approved adjustments to the Urban Limit Line come with mandatory permanent protection of agricultural lands through specific mitigation ratios.
    OUTCOME: It was rejected. (This was a non-starter for BIA.)

    ISSUE: Environmentalists demanded the elimination of the 30-acre minor adjustment provision for the Urban Limit Line, which allows a city council or the county Board of Supervisors to make small changes to the boundary without going to a public vote.
    OUTCOME: The exemption remains intact. However, the local jurisdiction must make an additional finding that the adjustment is for a broadly defined public benefit and the project must include permanent environmental protections or enhancements such as the permanent protection of agricultural lands, open space or permanent conservation easements. (This is the only area within the expenditure plan that contains an additional burden on development. However, it comes into play only through the minor adjustment process and poses little threat as the Urban Limit Line exemption has been used only once in the past 10 years.)

    ISSUE: Modeled after a similar program in San Diego, environmentalists demanded the authority set aside 6 percent of the measure, or $172 million, for environmental mitigation costs associated with the specific transportation projects. They also wanted to funnel some of the funds into local land trusts for permanent protection of agricultural lands.
    OUTCOME: Both requests were rejected. San Diego's measure contained a significantly higher percentage of highway projects, many of which are located in marsh and other sensitive environmental areas. The authority staff is still assessing the mitigation costs for Contra Costa's transportation projects and will later recommend a specific percentage based on that analysis. Agricultural preservation is an ineligible expense unless such mitigation is identified through CEQA. We also successfully included recognition of the East Contra Costa Habitat Conservation Plan. In addition, whether or not Contra Costa County will implement an advanced mitigation program is contingent upon federal and state legislative and regulatory agreements.