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Bay Area Commission Explores Limiting Office Space In Cities Which Lack Housing

(KPIX 5) -- The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is thinking about ways to reduce the traffic and housing crunch in its Plan Bay Area 2050.

One of the concepts the MTC is looking at is putting a cap on office space in cities that have more jobs than houses. The idea is to push businesses to set up shop in places that have more housing, thereby reducing commutes.

"The goal of the strategy is to see where jobs would choose to relocate if limitations would put in place in job-rich areas," according to an MTC report.

The MTC would try out the office space cap on the 11 Bay Area cities that have more than two jobs for every housing unit. Cities affected by this strategy include: Colma, Brisbane, Menlo Park, South San Francisco, and Burlingame in San Mateo County; Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Mountain View, Milpitas, and Cupertino in Santa Clara County; and Emeryville in Alameda County, according to the report.

"Setting down restrictions on a city here and a city there really isn't going to accomplish the goal of limiting jobs," Burlingame mayor Donna Colson said. "Feels like a little bit of NIMBYism, sort of I have my job and now we're going to restrict building of office and you can't have your job. We want you to go somewhere else."

Business owners say the choice of where to set up shop isn't haphazard.

"We did a very formal site selection process and there are very few locations like Rollins road in Burlingame or Industrial Road in San Carlos where your can start a company ... that has to develop, test, validate physical product," said Ryan Popple, the CEO of Proterra, a company that designs and builds zero-emissions public transit buses.

The Peninsula is rich in engineering expertise that he couldn't tap if he weren't able to set up shop here, Popple said.

But the MTC insists Colson and Popple have nothing to worry about. The MTC has no land use authority and couldn't implement the cap, even if it wanted to, spokesperson John Goodwin said.

The whole point of the exercise is to collect the data and try to discern what would happen if a cap were ever put into place.

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