San Francisco Business Times – Power grab threatens development

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A contentious plan to confront rising sea levels in the Bay Area is creating a political storm as developers and planning officials say the proposal could delay or kill billions of dollars of local urban development projects.

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission is pushing a Bay plan amendment that sets guidelines and policies for 213,000 acres that could be vulnerable to a 55-inch sea level rise by the end of the century.

The vast majority of the land is outside the current purview of the commission, known as BCDC, which has jurisdiction within 100 feet of the Bay. But the BCDC documents are a comprehensive strategy for the entire “inundation zone,” and one that will likely become a powerful planning tool if adopted by the commission.

Opponents say the say new policies amount to a BCDC power grab that will create new avenues for foes to challenge development at a time when construction has yet to bounce back from the recession. Critics ranging from developers to planners to labor contend the BCDC planning process lacked transparency and that the agency should scrap the document and start again.

BCDC Executive Director Will Travis says he is hoping the plan will be adopted by the end of the year.

The plan is opposed by officials from San Francisco, San Jose, Redwood City, Emeryville, Richmond and other cities. San Francisco Redevelopment Agency Director Fred Blackwell called on the BCDC to “withdraw the proposed amendments and work with affected stakeholders, including the Redevelopment Agency and other City departments, to develop a climate change plan that protects public safety and enhances the vitality of our communities.”

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