Living and working in Silicon Valley has become increasingly challenging over the past few years, with skyrocketing home and rent costs, and overburdened transportation systems. This fall, Santa Clara County voters can approve two ballot measures that can help take on these challenges.
TransForm recommends a YES vote on both measures:
- YES on Measure A, the Santa Clara County affordable housing bond
- YES on Measure B, the Santa Clara County transportation sales tax
Read on for the details of each measure, and why we support them.
Measure A is a critical investment in addressing the affordability crisis and combating homelessness in Santa Clara County. Between 2010 and 2014, San Jose rents increased 60%, with the median rent for a 2-bedroom topping $2800. More than 6,500 people are homeless on any given night in Santa Clara County. The median home price in San Jose was $900,000 as of May 2015. Cities are not building enough housing to accommodate the growing workforce. Much of the affordable housing funding cities relied on disappeared a few years ago with the dissolution of redevelopment agencies in California.
With so much development planned around current and future transit stations, Measure A will help ensure more of these homes are affordable for low income residents. Our research also shows that affordable homes near transit reduce traffic, air pollution, and carbon emissions, providing benefits for all people in Santa Clara County.
From now until November, TransForm will campaign for the passage of Measure A. We hope you will join the campaign in canvassing, phone banking, and helping to spread the word about this critical measure!
For over two years, TransForm worked to help shape Measure B, the proposed half-cent 30-year transportation sales tax for Santa Clara County that will be on this November’s ballot. With our allies, TransForm helped organize community workshops attended by hundreds of diverse residents, submitted transportation project proposals to the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), developed position papers and informative analyses, and met with decision-makers and staff.
TransForm worked with the budding Silicon Valley Climate Action Alliance to try to limit roadway projects that would increase driving and greenhouse gas emissions. We also collaborated with the Transportation Justice Alliance (TJA) to secure $1 billion in funding focused on the needs of people who rely on public transportation, and $1 billion for affordable housing near transit out of the $6.3 billion measure. TransForm and our allies were able to obtain some, but not all, of what we wanted in the measure. After reviewing the tradeoffs and consulting with our diverse community partners, we decided to support Measure B.
Here’s why we are endorsing Measure B and what we think should be improved moving forward:
Equitable and climate-friendly investments: TransForm would have wanted a stronger set of improvements in Measure B to advance equity and climate protection; however, Measure B does provide considerable funding ($500 million) for transportation for seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income people. This includes more local bus service, a permanent low-income transit pass program, robust senior mobility solutions, and bus stop improvements. In addition, $250 million is proposed for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, with another $250 million likely if a strong Complete Streets requirement for road spending is adopted by VTA over the coming months.
It will be important that these funds are prioritized in areas that benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities. These areas generally have the highest combined rates of transit use, walking and bicycling, and the most traffic injuries and deaths.
Bicycle and pedestrian improvements and better bus service are beneficial for promoting affordability and social equity, but they are also among the most important transportation strategies for taking cars off the road and combating climate change. Other potentially climate-friendly transportation investments in the measure include the BART extension, Caltrain capacity improvements, and the yet-to-be-fully-determined Highway 85 transportation project. Part of the promise of these projects is that they will function as magnets for transit-oriented development, providing even more people with the opportunity to commute by greener transportation options.
While affordable, transit-oriented development was not included in Measure B (as polling showed the combined measure would not pass), advocacy groups and elected officials were able to craft a separate affordable housing measure, with $950 million for affordable housing, now known as Measure A. If both Measure A and Measure B pass, we will see more homes affordable to people of every income, in walkable communities and near affordable transportation. The potential for synergistic benefits if both measures pass was a major factor in our decision to support both Measures A and B.
Other transportation benefits: Measure B includes $700 million for railroad grade separations (overpasses and underpasses) that will reduce congestion and safety for all users, particularly as service is expanded with electrification and high-speed rail. The funding package also includes over a billion dollars for maintaining the local road network and fixing potholes. These funds will be subject to Complete Streets provisions, ensuring benefits to all road users - including people who ride bicycles, take the bus, or drive.
Our biggest remaining area of concern and opportunity for future advocacy: $750 million in the measure is designated for highway interchanges and another $750 million for expressways, totaling roughly a quarter of the measure’s spending. Funding for the highway interchanges are mostly to update antiquated interchanges and will include some safety upgrades for bicycle and pedestrians. The expressway projects are the biggest red flag for us given that, as currently proposed, they will stimulate more driving, especially if they promote more auto-oriented development.
As highlighted in a recent Mercury News article, California is on track to meet the goals of our state’s current climate goals under AB 32. But under a new law, SB 32, we will need to cut carbon emissions another 40 percent by 2030. It is unlikely that Measure B will set us on a path for sufficient emissions reductions, but there are a number of variables that can improve the climate impact of this spending.
For example, some of the funding for highway and expressway projects could be designated for strategies that reduce driving, such as bicycle and pedestrian improvements, trip reduction programs for employment and residential areas, as well as ramp metering or other operational investments. Additionally, there are a growing number of rules (such as those that are being promulgated under SB 743) that should lead to mitigations for projects that may increase driving.
With so much potential for innovation and the dire need to move away from auto-centric development, Santa Clara County should be a model in the state for advancing a carbon-light transportation network and meeting the goals of policies like SB 32 and SB 743. TransForm is committed to working with our environmental and transportation allies to ensure VTA and the County mitigate the impacts of any projects that may increase climate emissions.
Unfinished business: TransForm is supporting Measure B; however, there are improvements we think should be made moving forward. We call on our supporters, partners, and elected officials to help pass this measure and:
- Work with us to reform road spending and help meet the emissions reduction goals of SB 32 by minimizing vehicle travel. The first step will be a strong Complete Streets policy that applies to this measure, which is supported by several VTA board members.
- Ensure that discretionary funding in the measure prioritizes climate-friendly transportation and low-income communities of color. Funding for new transit service and bicycle infrastructure should be prioritized to start reaping climate benefits as soon as possible. Funding for transit operations should prioritize the core bus network and disadvantaged communities that rely on it most.
- Identify additional funding sources to expand sustainable, healthy, safe, and equitable transportation options. TransForm intends to play an instrumental role in future efforts to pass a possible regional gas or carbon tax.
This post is part of our 2016 Election Guide.