The not-so-innocuous PDA

We in the Strawberry community have been told we don’t understand what a PDA is – that it’s not a land-use designation, it’s just a funding tool to let us get long-needed money to our community, no strings attached.

This half-truth creates a perception that the PDA designation is an innocuous way to get obligation-free funding for projects that won’t cause undesired growth and change to our community.

The PDA comes with expectations.  While Plan Bay Area doesn’t tie specific projects to specific funding, it couldn’t be more clear in the assumption that most of the growth in the Bay Area (80%) in the next 25 years will be in PDAs.  The PDA application form says “the area has plans for a significant increase in housing units.” The city council and mayor of San Rafael cited this expectation when rejecting the Civic Center PDA.

The PDA is an invitation.  At least for developers, who are going to conferences where “how to make money with high density housing in PDAs” is being pitched, with the explicit corollary that “these are communities who are volunteering, who WANT high density housing built.”

How will we explain to developers that we don’t really want high-density housing, we just wanted the money.  Will we have to do that in the courts, or when the PDA is portrayed as implicit community acceptance of high density projects?

The PDA comes with developer financial incentives of loans and grants.  There are millions of dollars of PDA-only funds for developers to use for construction, pre-development, even acquisition of land.  Loans from the MTC TOAH fund have been issued so far for residential and mixed-use projects ranging from 64 to 172 units.

The PDA also comes with CEQA streamlining.  Supervisors don’t HAVE to take advantage of CEQA streamlining, but it will be available to these supervisors, or whoever replaces them (maybe even this year), if desired.

The PDA is new and unknown.   A PDA doesn’t mean what it did when the original designations were made 7 years ago in 2007.  Who knows what it will mean 7 years from now?  All we can be sure of is that it’s volunteering for priority development.

We understand what a PDA designation is as well as PDA advocates, planners and the Board of Supervisors.  If we choose to interpret the grey areas cautiously, well, we’re the ones who will live with the consequences.

Please respect the concerns of the Strawberry community and vote to remove the PDA designation – in its ENTIRETY – from Strawberry.