People, Places, and Prosperity

In 2013, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) jointly adopted Plan Bay Area 2013—the region's long-range regional land use and transportation strategy. By emphasizing growth in Priority Development Areas (PDAs) and promoting preservation of Priority Conservation Areas (PCAs), Plan Bay Area 2013 identifies a strategy for future housing and job growth and transportation investments that will allow the region to develop an efficient transportation network, provide more housing choices, and grow in a financially and environmentally responsible way.

ABAG has produced this report to provide context for the regional dialogue that is under way as part of development of Plan Bay Area 2040—a scheduled update to the plan adopted in 2013. This report highlights the activities ABAG has undertaken in partnership with local governments, regional agencies, business groups, community organizations, and other stakeholders to advance implementation of the land use pattern in Plan Bay Area 2013. These implementation efforts have focused on supporting economic vitality, promoting "complete communities" in PDAs, fostering a more resilient region, and encouraging preservation of PCAs.

People, Places, and Prosperity provides a more comprehensive and in-depth look at the ways in which economic, housing, and environmental issues relate to one another and how they are currently affecting local communities and the region as a whole. While transportation strategies and investments will, of course, be critical to achieving the goals outlined in Plan Bay Area 2013, this report primarily focuses on the challenges and opportunities related to land uses in the region. The report consists of an introduction; four sections discussing the major issues and trends facing the Bay Area related to the economy, housing, local communities, and natural assets; and a brief conclusion. ABAG staff hopes the ideas and information in this report will contribute to the Plan Bay Area 2040 discussions about how we, as a region, prioritize the actions needed to protect and enhance our quality of life and achieve our goals for a more prosperous and sustainable region.

Photo of building at Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach, Marin County


Promote Regional Economic Vitality and Shared Prosperity

Although the Bay Area has an enviable economy, sustaining economic vitality—and expanding the number of people who experience that vitality—should be a priority for the region. To support job growth and create a more resilient economy we, as a region, need to increase housing affordability, ensure adequate space for all of the activities that are part of the regional economy, and invest in critical infrastructure systems and public transit. As the share of employment in middle-wage jobs is shrinking, one of the key questions for the Bay Area's future is how the region's rising economic tide can provide more opportunities for low- and moderate-income households.


Increase Housing Choices and Affordability

The Bay Area is facing a chronic and acute housing affordability problem that puts stress on households, threatens economic competitiveness, contributes to traffic congestion, and encourages conversion of open space and agricultural land to housing. To address this challenge, the region needs tools and funding to produce more affordable homes and preserve the ones that already exist, while also protecting people from being displaced from their current homes. The region should also consider expanding the range of housing types to prepare for evolving housing preferences as the population becomes older and more diverse. Taking steps to increase the region's resilience to natural disasters can help preserve vulnerable homes.

Photo of fountains and buildings in San Jose

San Jose


Build Healthy and Resilient Communities

The major investments in Plan Bay Area and ABAG's efforts to implement the long-range regional land use strategy are directed to PDAs to support local communities' efforts to develop complete communities. Although the specific vision for how each PDA might develop differs based on the local context and the community's needs and aspirations, the essence of the complete communities envisioned in these areas encompasses their physical and social health, which both contribute to a community's resilience. To encourage more complete and resilient communities, we should take steps to create places that foster a stronger sense of community identity, reduce the impacts of air pollution and the risks of flooding and water pollution from stormwater runoff, decrease potential disruptions caused by a natural disaster and prepare for the process of recovering and rebuilding communities afterward, and ensure sufficient water and energy to meet our existing and future demand. Neighboring communities often face the same challenges and opportunities for meeting the long-term needs of residents and businesses so collaboration is essential to ensure local decisions will maximize the potential benefits for the local community and the region as a whole.


Protect and Enhance the Region's Natural Assets

The Bay Area's identity is largely defined by its stunning parks, open spaces, farmland, trails, and natural landscapes—particularly the San Francisco Bay and Estuary. These assets are vital to the region's quality of life, robust economy, and sustainability. While the Bay Area has been remarkably successful in preserving its iconic landscapes, we should continue to look for opportunities to preserve natural assets that are under threat of development. There is a growing understanding that embracing more focused and efficient growth helps protect open spaces and agricultural lands from being converted to urban uses. The inclusion of both PCAs and PDAs in Plan Bay Area reflects the integral relationship between resource protection and more compact growth. Communities are also considering how to better integrate open spaces, trails, and parks into developed areas and how to increase access to parks and natural areas.