By Elijah Chiland, Curbed LA, July 23, 2019
“A Los Angeles nonprofit organization aims to bring back the bungalow court as ‘a good way to house people.’
“John Perfitt, director of Restore Neighborhoods LA, earlier this year won a $500,000 grant from Los Angeles County for its Bungalow Gardens proposal in South Los Angeles. The complex would likely be LA’s first new bungalow court in more than seven decades.
“Perfitt calls the bungalow court — at one time the most common form of multifamily housing in Southern California — a ‘functional but elegant’ form of architecture.
“Built mainly from the early 1900s to the 1930s, Los Angeles’s bungalow courts generally consist of a cluster of individual cottages arranged around a courtyard or a strip of shared open space. The courts have been impractical to build since Los Angeles officials adopted minimum parking requirements for new developments in the 1930s.
“RNLA’s project, planned between two existing court-style complexes, is set to include four studios and four one-bedrooms — spread between four buildings surrounded by shared space and sandwiched between two existing court-type complexes.
“Building this type of project is now possible because of LA’s Transit Oriented Communities program, established after voters approved an affordable housing ballot measure in 2016.
“Projects like Bungalow Gardens, which are accessible to major train or bus stops and contain affordable housing, are eligible for certain incentives — including more allowable density and fewer required parking spaces. Because all of the units in RNLA’s court will be affordable, the project isn’t required to have parking at all.
“With partial grant funding from the county secured, RNLA is now opening the project up to investors from the general public in order to raise additional funds needed to complete the project.
“Tenants will be selected through the county’s Coordinated Entry System, which connects homeless residents with available housing. Rents will be subsidized through housing vouchers provided by the county.
Elected officials have visionary responsibilities to ensure that today’s plans consider tomorrow’s needs
From The Planning Report, Los Angeles, August 14, 2019
TPR interviewed Michael Woo, a former LA City Council member (1985-93) who recently retired after 10 years as Dean of Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Environmental Design — the first urban planner to hold that position. (Woo holds a master of city planning from UC Berkeley and a B.A. in politics and urban studies from UC Santa Cruz.) The interview starts with the loaded observation that “city planning seems disrespected by all interests,” and later asks, “what should schools of planning and architecture be inculcating in their students?” and “who should planners be planning for?” Among Woo’s responses were these morsels:
“… the best graduates we produce will be more than just technicians, because the software will be constantly changing. The best graduates will be generalists whom the employer can move around to different assignments and different teams that may not be predictable at the time the graduate is originally hired. Oral and written communication skills are very important because if you can’t communicate your good idea, what good are you?
“… planners should be planning for the future.
“… in a democratic society, the elected leadership has the primary responsibility for defining a vision of the future. Of course, the leaders may need to be responsive to the senior citizens among us, or the people who are registered voters among us. But, beyond the short-term responsibility of representing the people who elect the officeholders, the elected officials and the politicians have a higher responsibility to think about the future, including people who aren’t here yet, haven’t been born yet, and who can’t vote.
“… the public sector needs to step up and define what the future is going to be about. The private sector definitely deserves to have a large voice, but it’s not the private sector that should decide. By definition, the private sector cannot define what is in the best interest of the public.”
Michael P. Cass recently joined the City of Dublin as Principal Planner. Before Dublin, Cass was principal planner of Long-Range & Sustainability Policy with the City of Concord (2016-2019) and a planner with the City of Lafayette (2004-2016). He holds a B.A. in communication from St. Mary’s College of California and a certificate in land use and environmental planning from UC Davis Extension. Cass serves as an Advisory Board Member for Sustainable Contra Costa and is Northern Section’s Treasurer.
Matt Kawashima is now Project Manager at OpenCounter, a firm that builds online permitting software that lets applicants calculate the permit requirements for their projects and apply for permits online. Over the previous eight years, Kawashima was an environmental analyst with Contra Costa County, a transportation research assistant at USF’s School of Management, a planner/assistant project manager at LSA, and an assistant planner with Denise Duffy & Associates. He holds a master of public administration from the USF School of Management and a B.S. in city and regional planning from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Kawashima is Northern Section’s Social Media Coordinator.
By James A. Castañeda, AICP
It’s the end of summer, or “How I spent my summer vacation”
As we approach Labor Day, many of us are winding down our summer (and realizing perhaps how quickly it went by). By the time you read this, I’ll have just finished my annual cross-country train trip with a group of railfan friends (organized for the past nine years by my friend Matt Johnson, who lovingly calls us #NerdTrain).
Aside from taking in sights and embracing the slower pace of rail travel, it’s a time of year I look forward to as an opportunity to catch up with friends. We have great conversations. As some of us in the group are also planners, we often trade stories from “the front lines.” At one of our chats, it dawned on me that one of the more challenging elements of my time as a planner was and is public counter work.
A nod to planners at the counter, once my least favorite task
I wasn’t sure what to expect at my first planning job, fresh out of college. While I knew a job with a public agency would involve community engagement, staffing the front counter would not have been the first task to come to mind for becoming a professional planner. I felt as though my counter work got in the way of “real” planning. What I would soon realize was how important that responsibility is to our profession, and how it speaks to what we do as planners.
I’m part of a public agency that takes an “all hands-on deck” approach when it comes to taking a shift to help members of the public who come by for assistance and guidance. Regardless of our titles or years of experience at the agency, we all share. For a long time, I dreaded those days at the counter with their nonstop cold-call inquiries. I was left so drained I couldn’t take on much else that day.
In retrospect, staffing the counter has been one of the more important and rewarding parts of being a planner. It’s where I learned two indispensable traits for planners — how to listen to, and how to empathize with, residents, business owners, and tradespeople. And working the counter tangibly validates us. As planners, our work results are seldom realized quickly; they may take years to come to fruition. But over a few hours at the counter, I may take on several challenges I can resolve, while providing specific direction or offering advice for those I can’t resolve. These are small victories that add up and help you appreciate what you do and for whom.
Planning isn’t always what we expect
We planners wear many hats, and our specialties vary. In my experience (and experiences shared by others), the roles that we didn’t know would be ours — or for which we didn’t “sign up” — are often the most interesting, engaging, and rewarding tasks, and are worth our attention and nurturing. They round out our training and education and help make us better planners.
By Danae Hall and Veronica Flores
With support from the APA California Northern Section Board, the Young Planners Group has rebranded as the Emerging Planners Group (EPG). This transition allows us to continue our outreach to students and new planners alike, including entry level planners and those transitioning from another field or industry. Regardless of your tenure in the profession, our goal remains to cultivate future leadership, and strong networks of emerging professionals, through career building programs, social events, and mentoring opportunities.
The EPG has a unique structure within the APA California Northern Section, in that we operate through a Steering Committee of committed EPG members who, since 2017, have been planning events and taking on leadership roles within the EPG. Initially, our events were concentrated in the South Bay, but we have since expanded to San Francisco and the East Bay. Our goal is to provide resources for all emerging planners in the Northern Section, wherever they live or work.
The Steering Committee hosts social and professional events throughout the year to network with other planners and exchange views on how to better engage with the community. Our most recent event was a casual summer picnic at Lake Merritt, where new and old faces gathered for summer treats and played a game of “Cards Against Urbanity.” Some other past events of note include:
- A walking tour of privately-owned public open space (POPOs) in San Francisco
- A fireside chat discussing e-scooters in San Jose
- An archeological walking tour around San Francisco’s Transbay Center
- Panels with the Bay Area Planning Directors Association (BAPDA), once in Oakland and once in San Francisco, and
- A special tour of the Salesforce Tower (including the normally closed-to-the-public Tower Crown).
It may not be evident from the above, but being on the Steering Committee allows members to network “up” with the more senior planners and professionals who speak at these events. Our panels and fireside chats let Steering Committee members make valuable industry connections and gain event organization skills. Active members also to get to know each other better and build a strong network of peers in the Bay Area. Being on the Steering Committee also encourages emerging planners to attend more APA events and get more involved, since they will likely know at least one friendly face in the crowd.
Please join us
We hope you are interested joining our Steering Committee, but even if you aren’t, you still get the chance to meet other professionals simply by attending future EPG events. Upcoming in Fall 2019, EPG will be collaborating on a transportation panel, happy hours with the Mentorship Program, host volunteer opportunities, and more.
Veronica Flores, Co-director of the Emerging Planners Group, is a senior planner in the Legislative Affairs Section, San Francisco Planning Department, and played a role in creating the YPG Steering Committee in 2017. She holds a master of urban planning from San Jose State University and a B.A. in sociology from UC Berkeley.
Danae Hall, Co-director of the Emerging Planners Group, is a transportation and land use manager at Kimley-Horn and has been an active member of EPG since 2017. She holds an M.S. in environmental management from the University of San Francisco and a B.A. in environmental economics from California State University, Chico.
‘No offices at Vallco site if development plan goes down, Cupertino decides’
Excerpts from an article by Thy Vo, Mercury News, August 22, 2019
“If a current plan for redeveloping Vallco Shopping Mall gets tossed, whatever project eventually replaces it won’t feature any office space, the Cupertino City Council decided this week. The council has approved a general plan amendment that eliminates a 2-million-square-foot allocation for office space [on the site] and imposes a 60-foot height limit on buildings at the vacant shopping mall.
“Council members and residents who support the move say the 1.8 million square feet of office space that Sand Hill Property Co. plans to build at Vallco will only exacerbate the region’s housing crisis by bringing in new workers without the homes to accommodate them.
“Sand Hill Property Co., the owner and developer of Vallco, has the right under state legislation to build 2,402 apartment units — half of them below market rate — plus 1.8 million square feet of office space, 400,000 square feet of retail, and a 30-acre rooftop park.
“The legislation, SB 35, requires cities to approve housing developments as long as they include enough affordable homes and meet zoning and planning rules. Although the [new] general plan amendment doesn’t affect Sand Hill’s plan, it would dictate what can be built at the site if a [current] lawsuit succeeds in blocking the current project.
“Friends of Better Cupertino challenged the validity of Sand Hill’s project approval under SB35 and a judge is scheduled to consider the issue at a hearing in early October.
“Councilman Rod Sinks, the only one to vote against the general plan amendment, said he agrees with the principles of maximizing new housing and limiting office space, but believes some office space is needed to help projects pencil out.
“The general plan amendment maintains the existing allocation of residential units on the 50-acre site at 389 to 459 homes, [but] they would have to be contained within 13.1 acres. They would be allowed by right. If a future project qualifies for a state density bonus, a developer could build up to 620 units on the site.
“Sand Hill has shown no desire to abandon its current project. Earlier this month, the city approved additional demolition permits for the site so Sand Hill can start taking down the former Macy’s building and [other] portions of the mall.”
Excerpted from HUD USER, PD&R Edge, August 2019
“Opened in the fall of 2017, Karuk Homes 1 is a 30-unit affordable housing project of single-family homes in rural Yreka, California. The project represents the first use of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program by the Karuk Tribe Housing Authority (KTHA), and the Karuk Tribe was one of the first Native American tribes in California to obtain a tax credit award under the state’s Native American Apportionment Pilot. The houses in Karuk Homes 1 are a mix of three-, four-, and five-bedroom layouts and were designed to suit the needs of larger and multigenerational families.
“Based out of northern California’s Siskiyou and Humboldt counties, the Karuk Tribe is the second-largest federally recognized Native American tribe in in the state by population, with nearly 4,000 enrolled members. [The Yurok Tribe in Humboldt County is the largest, with almost 6,000 members.] Although the Karuk Tribe does not have its own reservation, the tribal government owns more than 1,700 acres of their aboriginal land. Most of this land is concentrated in the population centers of Happy Camp, Orleans [in Humboldt County], and Yreka, and is used for tribal housing, ceremonies, and resource management. KTHA was established in 1985 and by 2015 owned and managed a portfolio of 194 housing units. Although any local resident in need of housing may apply to live in KTHA properties, the housing agency gives preference to tribe members and their descendants, who share an urgent need for affordable housing.
“For KTHA, Karuk Homes 1 represents not only the first time that the housing agency had ever built a LIHTC development but also the first time it had ever applied for funding through the program. In 2014, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee launched the Native American Apportionment Pilot to set aside a certain number of tax credits out of the existing rural set-aside for use by federally recognized Native American tribes. KTHA staff submitted an application expecting to learn from the process but were surprised to discover that their project had been selected. ‘We really were just intending to test the waters,’ explains Sara Spence, executive director of KTHA. ‘It was a wonderful shock to actually be accepted on our first application.’
“California instituted the special set-aside because LIHTC funding in the state is in high demand, and most tribal housing agencies are too small, with budgets and housing plans too modest to be competitive. Although state officials originally planned to run the pilot for only a year, it enjoyed such success that they extended it. ‘We found the LIHTC process to be very intense but well worth it,’ says Spence. ‘Most tribes don’t have enough funding to add more than a few units per year to their housing portfolios, but it is very, very cost-effective to do many homes at once.’
“Karuk Homes 1 is fully occupied, and, as of spring 2019, KTHA had a waiting list of more than 700 households.”