Sustainable Communities Strategy - Bay Area

Why the SCS matters:

The final Plan Bay Area is our region’s first-ever plan for how to cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing driving. If implemented well, Plan Bay Area can bring more affordable, walkable communities to the Bay Area while reducing greenhouse gas pollution and meeting other equity, health, and safety targets.  Click here to download a PDF showing how well the plan meets its performance targets.

TransForm worked with allies to ensure broad community input and accurate modeling were involved in every stage of the planning process.  Together, we were able to win stronger policies for transportation choices, health, and equity that will curb climate pollution and shape our region's future for decades to come. Going forward, we'll follow the implementation of the plan to make sure it lives up to that groundbreaking potential. 

Latest updates:

  • July 2013:  MTC & ABAG approved the final Plan Bay Area with a few amendments that made the plan even stronger.  Read our blog post here about the meeting and the outcomes.

  • June 2013: MTC & ABAG staff present a report to key regional agency committees summarizing what they heard during the public comment period, including preliminary recommendations. The committees and ABAG Executive Board discussed these potential changes to the draft report in their regularly scheduled meetings and made motions generally in support of staff recommendations.

  • May 2013: TransForm submits specific comments urging MTC & ABAG for a more balanced, cost-effective, and equitable express lanes, or High-Occupancy Toll (HOT), network. TransForm also releases our hot-off-the-press white paper entitled Moving People, Not Just Cars: Ensuring Choice, Equity & Innovation in MTC’s Express Lane Network. Together with over 25 ally organizations, we submit a final version of the sign-on comment letter providing policy suggestions from the EEJ Scenario to be incorporated into the final Plan Bay Area. TransForm supporters submitted 125 individual written comments and spoke at nearly every one of the nine public meetings over the past two months. Comment letters by many partner organizations and government agencies can be seen on our blog post about our final comments.

  • April 2013: TransForm's first analysis of the draft plan shows that while the draft Plan Bay Area is headed in the right direction, there are still several critical aspects of the plan that the agencies should improve to truly meet the future needs of our region. On April 30, Transform and 20 of our regional partners from various environmental, labor, health, equity, housing, and grassroots organizations submits a letter urging MTC & ABAG to incorporate of the best elements of the Equity Environment and Jobs Scenario into the Plan Bay Area.

  • March 2013: Regional agencies release draft Plan Bay Area, draft Environmental Impact Report, Equity Analysis of draft plan, and several other related documents, and schedule workshops and public hearings to gather public input.  Public comments on all documents are due in May. 
  • February 2013: OBAG success! When some counties proposed One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) criteria that failed to include affordable housing and other key criteria, TransForm and our partners around the Bay joined together to change that. Working with Greenbelt Alliance, Urban Habitat, and other allies, our successes include getting Santa Clara County to triple the importance of a city’s record in creating jobs and homes near transit – including affordable homes, and getting Alameda County to more heavily weight the benefits of affordable homes when making grant decisions.
  • September 2012: County congestion management agencies (CMAs) began developing their criteria for distributing One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) program funds, meant to support focused growth in areas well-served by public transportation. TransForm and nearly twenty other groups sent a letter to every county agency to start a dialogue about how to make sure the county's implementation of the OBAG program follows the intent of the program.

  • July 2012: Plan Bay Area moves forward with five alternative strategies for the Environmental Impact Report.

  • June 2012: The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) begin work on a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Plan Bay Area. TransForm submits scoping recommendations.

  • May 2012: Bay Area agencies approve preferred land use scenario and Transportation Investment Strategy. Major Milestone in the Bay Area’s Sustainable Community Strategy as well as a victory for Climate Innovative Grants.

  • April 2012: TransForm submits letter to MTC Planning committee with our Transportation Investment Strategy recomendations. 

  • February 2012: based on a revised Project Performance Assessment (PPA), TransForm recommends projects to include and exclude from the RTP. MTC adopts guidelines for using the PPA that keep a focus on performance instead of politics.

  • December 2011: When agencies analyze five different transportation-land use scenarios, NONE of them meet the greenhouse gas targets! See the agencies' analysis.

  • November 2011: MTC releases a first draft of the groundbreaking Project Performance Assessment of 80 of the largest projects being considered for inclusion in the 2013 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). (see February 2012 notes for further action!)

  • July 2011: Agencies release first draft of a One Bay Area Grant program, to use transportation funds to reward cities that do the most to plan and deliver sustainable and equitable development near transit. A program like this was one of the recommendations of TransForm's Strategic Investments for a Better Bay Area platform. See our comments on the draft program.

  • April 2011: MTC adopts "committed projects" policy that will reconsider many projects that would have previously been included without any further review. The final decision on this "committed projects policy" was much better than in previous years, even though it was not as good as we had hoped (see our blog posts for some history)

  • March 2011: Agencies release "Initial Vision Scenario" as starting point for conversations with local governments and Bay Area residents about about where new development should occur and how new long-term transportation investments can serve this new growth.

  • January 2011: Agencies adopts a strong set of performance targets.

More than any other region, the Bay Area's Sustainable Communities Strategy creates a model for other regions, and eventually other states, to emulate.


The passage of SB 375 in 2008 created an unprecedented opportunity to fundamentally change the paradigm of growth away from sprawl and towards walkable communities. The law’s centerpiece is the development of a “Sustainable Communities Strategy” (SCS), a regional blueprint for transportation, housing and land use that is focused on reducing driving and associated greenhouse gas emissions. This “SCS” incorporates the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) that TransForm has influenced many times in the past. In our region, this is called "Plan Bay Area."

TransForm successfully worked with a host of partners to make sure the region will achieve at least a 15% reduction in per-capita CO2 emissions. Combined with cleaner fuels and vehicles, this will help California meet AB 32 climate targets.

The SCS is also a chance to meet other key regional goals: providing housing for people of all incomes, improving health through more physical activity, reducing the cost of transportation, and preserving open space.

While the opportunity is tremendous, there are also daunting challenges such as:

  • a $25-plus billion shortfall just to operate and maintain our existing transit system;
  • local governments that need funds to protect open space and focus growth around our existing infrastructure; and
  • transportation models that are not sensitive to many critical strategies, like making walking or cycling safer.

The SCS contains some great tools to move our region forward - now it's time to make sure the vision becomes reality.


For more information or to get involved, contact TransForm Staff:

  • For Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco counties: Joel Ramos
  • For Santa Clara and San Mateo counties: Chris Lepe
  • For region-wide issues or Marin, Sonoma, Solano, and Napa counties: Jeff Hobson