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Regional Planning Pioneers Revisit the MetroCenter for the Last Time

Farewell to the Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter
Peter Beeler

MTC Exec. Director Steve Heminger, former ABAG Exec. Director Revan Tranter, former MTC Exec. Director Larry Dahms, MTC Commissioner Jim Spering and former MTC Deputy Exec. Director Bill Hein paused to capture a historic moment at the MetroCenter

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Named after the first chair of MTC and the former president of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), the Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter has been the headquarters for Bay Area regional planning since 1984.  Bringing ABAG, BART and MTC together under one roof, the MetroCenter was where 511, Clipper, the Freeway Service Patrol, the BART extension to the San Francisco Airport, and other major improvements to Bay Area’s regional network were created. (View a list of major milestones here). This spring, MTC will begin a new chapter when MTC moves in with sister agencies ABAG and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to a new headquarters at 375 Beale in San Francisco. As staff prepare for the move, the commissioners took a moment to pause at their final meeting in the old building, to say goodbye to a trusted old friend for thirty years—the Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter.

On the Commission meeting Wednesday, March 23, 2016, MTC invited regional planning MVPs back to the MetroCenter to commemorate the accomplishments made in Oakland. Revan Tranter, ABAG’s first executive director, returned to shed light on the difficult process of acquiring the MetroCenter in 1984. When MTC was created in 1970, Tranter recalled, “MTC Chair Joe Bort and former legislator John Foran, creator of MTC, wanted to see one day a combined agency, certainly at the very least to put them into one building.” For a long time, MTC and ABAG shared a space at the old Claremont Hotel until the hotel decided to seek more profitable opportunities. Through key partnerships with the City of Oakland, financial backing from Alameda County, and BART General Manager Keith Bernard, who offered to give MTC and ABAG free-of-charge a plot of land that BART was primarily using for parking, the agencies built what is today’s regional planning headquarters.

MTC’s history also included a long-time collaboration with BART. BART Deputy General Manager Marcia deVaughn thanked MTC for being a champion of public transit by establishing a commitment to transit through the Regional Transportation Plan and providing flexible funding for BART. In 1977, MTC helped shepherd AB 1107, the half-cent sales tax for BART, and supported rail cars for new services to Dublin/Pleasanton, Antioch, SFO and the Oakland Airport. She concluded, “BART will miss you in Oakland, but we’re glad MTC is only one BART ride away.”

Former MTC Executive Director Lawrence P. Dahms offered a tongue-in-cheek apology for providing the agencies with an inadequate building to do business. After securing the building, Dahms also humorously added that he left MTC with a number of other loose ends in 1984 including the all-in-one transit card, TransLink, now known as Clipper®; the development of BART to SFO; and the new design for the East Span of the Bay Bridge, all of which have now been completed.

Reliving these accomplishments at the MetroCenter with the former directors inspired current commissioners to continue to strive to solve our regional transportation and housing issues in their new San Francisco headquarters, dubbed the Bay Area Metro Center.    

Commissioner Amy Worth commented, “The old building symbolizes the beginning of regional cooperation. The fact that ABAG, BART and MTC worked together to acquire the building is heartening.” Today’s commissioners are continuing that tradition of collaboration as they look westward to the new accomplishments that will be made at 375 Beale.  – Stella Yip

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