Month: December 2019

“City Dreamers,” doc film on women architects who built 20th century cities

By Anne-Marie Bissada, RFI, December 13, 2019

“Thanks to the vision and expertise of four trailblazing female architects, some of North America’s iconic cities evolved to ensure a balance between modernism and human urbanism.

“The last major push for urban planners to create new city spaces was after World War II, when towns were expanding rapidly to create a new modern era of suburban living, cars, and highways.

“Among those urban planners were four women — all architects. They are the focus of the documentary City Dreamers by Montreal-based director Joseph Hillel.

“Through rare film clips of the women and the work they did throughout the 20th century, he pieces together the legacy they left — each with her own theory, vision, or approach to urban landscaping and planning.”

Read the article and see a trailer here.

Northern News December 2019-January 2020

Northern News December 2019-January 2020

Northern News

APA-CA-logo-no-tagline

A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

Making great communities happen

December 2019-January 2020

An American planner in Canada

“Logistically, crossing the border to the north and working as a planner couldn’t have been easier. The position of urban planner is one of 25 recognized under the NAFTA (and soon USMCA) trade agreements that allow an accelerated and simplified immigration process into Canada. All I needed was a job offer letter, copies of my résumé and planning degree, and a simple application form submitted at the border.”

New state law helps kids and communities thrive, while relieving zoning headaches

SB 234 (Skinner), signed by Governor Newsom on September 5, 2019, makes every licensed large-family child care home a permitted use by right, just like small-family child care homes. Although the new law will go into effect January 1, 2020, some local planning departments are already getting a head start to support their communities. (Article by Julia Frudden and Andrew Mogensen, AICP.)

Meet a local planner – Danielle DeRuiter-Williams

Catarina Kidd, AICP, interviews Danielle DeRuiter-Williams, Co-Founder and Head of Growth and Expansion at The Justice Collective in Oakland, a women-of-color-led social impact consultancy. Ms. DeRuiter-Williams recently spoke at the two-session Chapter President’s panel, “Cultural and Implicit Bias Training for Planners,” at the APA California 2019 conference in Santa Barbara. In this interview, Ms. Kidd asks what The Justice Collective was intended to accomplish, and what challenges Danielle DeRuiter-Williams has faced and is facing.

Getting downtowns moving with convenient and sustainable access

More than 30 local residents, stakeholders, and policymakers attended and participated in a spirited discussion around the opportunities for — and constraints around — accessing busy downtowns through more sustainable modes, the role parking management plays in increasing access and mitigating congestion, and the idea that building affordable housing near job centers is a TDM measure.

A community engagement project: Toward a Vision for the Alum Rock Community of San Jose

“The goal of this graduate student ‘capstone’ project was to assist San Jose’s Alum Rock community in creating a vision for future development in the area, focusing on and incorporating community engagement. To that end, we interviewed area residents, businesses, and community leaders to help understand the assets and issues they prioritized. Our engagement with local residents included two phases: community assessment (data collection and analysis) and a collaborative community engagement event.” Illustrated.

Where in the world?

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Northern Section announcements

Databases updated for California’s protected areas

The California Protected Areas Database and the California Conservation Easement Database have just been updated and are available for free download. CPAD and CCED are California’s authoritative parks and open space databases. They cover more than 15,000 parks and other protected areas, held by 1,000 agencies and nonprofits.

Northern Section election result

In a Section-wide election held in November, Michael P. Cass was elected to continue as Northern Section’s Treasurer for a two-year term, commencing January 1, 2020. He had been appointed Treasurer in March 2019 to fill a vacancy.

Libby Tyler, FAICP, is a 2020 Dale Prize Winner

The $5,000 prize recognizes excellence in urban and regional planning. Two prizes will be awarded at Cal Poly Pomona March 5 and 6, 2020.

Last chance to register for the May 2020 AICP EXAM

Our spring workshops are an excellent way to start studying for the May 2020 exam. Those who attend receive hundreds of multiple choice practice test questions, with answers and rationales, plus study materials such as a summary of the classic planning texts and our unique “Tips on the AICP Exam.”

Houston is calling: NPC Member-only registration through January 8

If you plan on going to Houston April 25–28, register now. Through January 8, you will have exclusive access to claim tickets for mobile workshops, orientation tours, and other popular activities.

Who’s where

In this segment, we cover three new appointments to the Northern Section Board and four job changes from the Peninsula to the North Bay: Della Acosta, AICP; Curtis Banks, AICP; Leslie Carmichael, AICP; Zachary Dahl, AICP; Veronica Flores; Gillian Hayes; and Edgar Maravilla. Congratulations all!

Northern Section Holiday Party kicks off the Season

Photos by Northern Section Webmaster Tom Holub. Some 100+ attended the Nov. 22 event at La Peña Cultural Center, a longtime Berkeley institution.

Planning news roundup

“City Dreamers,” doc film on women architects who built 20th century cities

Through rare clips, the film pieces together the legacy these four women left — each with her own theory, vision, or approach to urban landscaping and planning.

Improving road safety in Oakland with equity

“When we ride out, we ride down the middle of the-street,” one resident told OakDOT. To center equity within its work, the City of Oakland created a Department of Race and Equity in 2019 to embed racial equity practices throughout city agencies, and developed a data-driven approach to equity that can help the agency hold itself accountable.”

Special Mobile Home zoning OK’d to save affordable housing

“Advocates said they hope to prevent conversions at a time when owners could be tempted to redevelop the properties to capitalize on rising housing and land costs. Such conversions have occurred in high-cost areas elsewhere in California, where mobile home parks are one of the few remaining sources of unsubsidized affordable housing, county officials said.”

San Diego looks to scrap residential density limits, use FAR instead

“San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is opening another salvo in his administration’s efforts to address the city’s housing affordability crisis by proposing the ‘Complete Communities Housing Solutions Initiative,’ a scheme that looks beyond simply building new housing to embrace holistic urban development. The proposal [would] refocus the zoning code to incentivize the development of smaller units and allow housing developers to offer community amenities that are decoupled from auto-oriented uses.”

San Diego city council strengthens inclusionary requirements

The new law requires developers to make 10 percent of the homes they build available to low-income renters — those earning 60 percent of Area Median Income — or pay an in lieu fee of $25 per square foot to opt out of the inclusionary requirement.

Worth a look: SF’s most underrated buildings

Curbed San Francisco readers reveal the local unpraised buildings they love most.

Court: California charter cities must prioritize Affordable Housing on Public Land

“Writing for the panel, Justice Eugene Premo [wrote] … ‘We find that the state can require a charter city to prioritize surplus city-owned land for affordable housing development and subject a charter city to restrictions in the manner of disposal of that land, because the shortage of sites available for affordable housing development is a matter of statewide concern.’ ”

An American planner in Canada

An American planner in Canada

By Brian Soland, AICP

In September 2017, immediately after getting married, I convinced my new spouse to pack up and leave San Francisco for Vancouver, British Columbia. When searching for a public sector position where I could work on large important projects, I stumbled upon Vancouver as place that was motivated and committed to investing in transit, multimodal infrastructure, and transit-oriented communities.

I landed a job at TransLink, the regional transportation agency and transit provider, and currently serve as project manager for one of Metro Vancouver’s SkyTrain rail extension projects. TransLink provides rail, bus, and paratransit service for the entire region and allocates funding for walking, cycling, and regional roads. In 2019 we were awarded the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award by the American Public Transportation Association.

Here is my experience moving to Canada and working as a planner.

Getting a work visa to be a planner in Canada is a breeze

Logistically, crossing the border to the north and working as a planner couldn’t have been easier. The position of urban planner is one of 25 recognized under the NAFTA (and soon USMCA) trade agreements that allow an accelerated and simplified immigration process into Canada. All I needed was a job offer letter, copies of my résumé and planning degree, and a simple application form submitted at the border. In less than an hour, I had a three-year work visa (with the potential for unlimited renewals) and was on my way into Canada.

My spouse automatically received a work visa that allows her to work anywhere as long as my visa is valid.

Some unexpected differences

Getting into Canada was the easy part. Adjusting to living and working in a new country, even though it was so close to home, presented unexpected hurdles and several key differences regarding work.

  • Public support of government programs: The public tends to expect the government to get things done right and has more faith in planning and transportation decisions. Not to say it’s easy, but there is more public acceptance of what we planners do and why we do it.
  • Acceptability of density near transit: The focus on transit-oriented development has been robust and mostly successful. Issues surrounding affordability — both producing more and protecting existing — are top of mind for planners here.
  • Lack of ADA and equity programs: Granted, Canada’s history is much different from that of the U.S., but it’s still worth noting that there are very few programs that facilitate and support historically disadvantaged groups. Things like ADA and Title VI do not exist here.
  • Government structure: The role of city councils, mayors, and provincial governments seem very similar to California’s structure. However, provincial politics and government agencies are much more involved in local initiatives and decisions, and exercise more direct influence compared to their California state agency counterparts.

There are also some day-to-day lifestyle differences worth noting.

  • Taxes: This topic can range from simple to very complex. The United States is one of two countries in the world where taxes are tied to citizenship and not to residency (Eritrea is the other). So even if you live abroad and earn no money in the United States, you’re still required to file taxes with the IRS. However, the IRS offers foreign income exclusion if you live abroad, such that you likely won’t have to pay any U.S. taxes on your foreign income. I found that the Canadian government collects taxes equal to 20-30 percent of wages, a slightly higher percentage than in the U.S.
  • Exchange rates and savings: Things are a bit more expensive in Canada due to fluctuating exchange rates. And while many things do cost more in Canada, some things are less expensive, especially when comparing rents to the Bay Area. I’m finding that investing and saving for retirement are probably best to keep in the U.S., although IRA contributions are restricted if you do not have U.S. domestic income.
  • Bank accounts and credit: Moving to a new country, I had no credit and no bank account. While opening a bank account was easy, something as simple as getting a credit card was difficult when I first arrived.
  • Weather: While I knew Vancouver would be a colder, wetter place, I did not realize how much I value seeing the sun during the winter months. The key for me is getting into the local mountains for snow sports, and planning a vacation to a sunny locale during the winter months. It’s important to note that Vancouver more than makes up for it during the summer when it’s perfectly warm most days and the sun stays out until past 10 pm.

Canada is a welcoming and fun place to live and work

When I tell Canadians I moved here from California, they often ask, “Why leave sunny California?” To be honest, I miss California more than I expected. However, Canada has some key things going for it, including pristine public amenities, instant access to the outdoors (even better than the Bay Area), a friendly and helpful culture, and in Vancouver specifically — an amazingly livable city. Another key benefit of living in Canada is the access to good universal health care and a system that supports new families with up to 18 months of parental leave, which probably seems mind-boggling to most Americans.

If you’re thinking of moving “abroad” to Canada, feel free to reach out with questions. TransLink is always looking for talented and motivated planners to join our team. Check out the job opportunities at translink.ca/Careers.

Brian Soland, AICP, is Project Manager, Arbutus to UBC SkyTrain, with TransLink, Vancouver, Canada. Before leaving for Canada in 2017, he was a senior planner with CDM Smith, San Francisco, for seven years. He holds a master’s in city and regional planning from Cal Poly SLO and a bachelor’s degree in geography from Cal State Sacramento.

Improving road safety in Oakland with equity

By Vanessa Barrios and Carlos Mandeville, Regional Plan Association Lab, December 9, 2019.

“Ryan Russo, the Director of Oakland’s Department of Transportation (OakDOT) [recently] described OakDOT’s founding Strategic Plan [which] established four goals and four values that would drive the agency’s work:

  • Jobs and Housing,
  • Holistic Community Safety,
  • Vibrant Sustainable Infrastructure, and
  • Responsive Trustworthy Government.

“According to Russo, while OakDOT’s four core values of Equity, Safety, Sustainability, and Responsiveness drive the agency’s work, Equity precedes and informs the three others.

“To center equity within its work, the City of Oakland created a Department of Race and Equity [in 2019] to embed racial equity practices throughout city agencies, and developed a data-driven approach to equity that can help the agency hold itself accountable.”

Residents painted “ScraperBike Ground” on a 90th Avenue intersection. Source: OakDOT webinar, “Putting Equity into Action,” October 18, 2019.

“Using data, the agency identified problematic intersections where there were a high number of accidents then mobilized safety improvements to make crossing the street safer. Instead of immediately applying typical traffic calming methods, they connected with community members to better understand why those intersections were problematic. They learned through conversations with the community that Lake Merritt (the City’s central park area) was an important place to expand public space for activities like barbecuing, and accessibility through street redesign and bike lane development.”

“When we ride out, we ride down the middle of the-street.” Bike lane under construction on 90th Avenue, Fall 2019. Source: OakDOT webinar, “Putting Equity into Action,” October 18, 2019.

Read more about transit equity in Oakland from Healthy Regions Planning Exchange here. And check out the OakDOT webinar, “Putting Equity into Action,” October 18, 2019, here.

Databases updated for California’s protected areas

Databases updated for California’s protected areas

By Saba Gebreamlak

GreenInfo Network has released updates to the California Protected Areas Database (CPAD, v. 2019b) and the California Conservation Easement Database (CCED, v. 2019).

CPAD and CCED are California’s authoritative parks and open space databases. They cover more than 15,000 parks and other protected areas, held by 1,000 agencies and nonprofits. The two databases are used for conservation planning, fire impact analysis, park needs assessments, and more. You can download the data and learn more at www.calands.org.

Special Mobile Home zoning OK’d to save affordable housing

By Kathleen Wilson, Ventura County Star, December 11, 2019

“Mobile home parks in the unincorporated areas of Ventura County could not be redeveloped into higher-priced types of housing under a zoning change approved Dec. 10.

“Voting unanimously, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors placed the 25 parks in a special zone where owners are essentially prohibited from converting the properties into alternate uses such as apartments and condominiums.

“Advocates said they hope to prevent conversions at a time when owners could be tempted to redevelop the properties to capitalize on rising housing and land costs. Such conversions have occurred in high-cost areas elsewhere in California, where mobile home parks are one of the few remaining sources of unsubsidized affordable housing, county officials said.”

Read more in this article here.

Mobile home park. Photo: Dr Zak [CC BY-SA 3.0] http://bit.ly/2RT9iR6
From an earlier VC Star article, Dec. 6: “Tricia Maier, long-range planning manager for the county, said she was unaware of any conversions other than a small one in the Oak View area in 2005. The primary intent of the measure is not to address any current proposal, but rather to preserve mobile home parks as affordable housing into the future, she said.

“Maier said she understands that conversions become more likely as land and housing costs increase, pointing to examples in the Bay Area and Orange County. It’s reasonable to assume the same thing could happen in Ventura County, given the rising cost of housing and land, she said.” Read more here.

Northern Section election result

Northern Section election result

In a Section-wide election held in November, Michael P. Cass was elected to continue as Northern Section’s Treasurer for a two-year term, commencing January 1, 2020. He had been appointed Treasurer in March 2019 to fill the vacancy left after Jonathan Schuppert, AICP, became Director-Elect. Cass was previously an East Bay Regional Activity Co-coordinator (RAC) for Northern Section. A public sector planner for more than 15 years, Cass is currently principal planner for the City of Dublin, California. Separately, he serves as an advisory board member for Sustainable Contra Costa. Cass holds a B.A. in communication from St. Mary’s College of California, Moraga, and a certificate in land use and environmental planning from UC Davis Extension.

New state law helps kids and communities thrive, while relieving zoning headaches

New state law helps kids and communities thrive, while relieving zoning headaches

By Julia Frudden and Andrew Mogensen

A new law, SB 234 (Skinner), signed by Governor Newsom on September 5, 2019, makes every licensed large-family child care home a permitted use by right, just like small-family child care homes. SB 234, the Keeping Kids Close to Home Act, will apply to every local agency in California when it takes effect on January 1, 2020.

Evaluating residential child care zoning applications — especially when neighbors actively oppose them — can be a huge regulatory headache for planners. This is especially frustrating for both planners and applicants when they understand the ongoing chronic statewide shortage of child care facilities and how important family child care is to the community. While this new legislation takes away local control, it relieves planners from having to process a permit that was already very narrowly limited in scope. Under the new legislation, the Community Care Licensing Division and local fire departments will take the lead reviewing and approving family child care homes.

The American Planning Association (APA) has long supported policies to promote child care in planning and treat large family child care homes as a residential use of property. Unlike other recent State legislative trends that take local control away from controversial land uses, the APA adopted a formal policy to make home child care a permitted use back in 1997. The APA’s California Chapter reiterated this in their support of SB 234, stating “this bill will ensure that the many local successful models for these homes will apply statewide to increase the number of these homes available to serve working parents.”

A number of California cities and counties had already designated large family child care homes as a permitted use before SB 234 passed because they wanted to encourage providers to care for more children and address the child care needs of the community. These “local successful models” include Palo Alto, Grass Valley, City of Sacramento, City of San Mateo, San Francisco, Salinas, Fresno County, Mariposa County, Encinitas, City of San Diego, Orange County, and Santa Maria — to name only a few.

Currently, California only has enough licensed child care available for 23 percent of children with working parents, and the numbers keep getting worse. While families scramble to find affordable and reliable child care, especially for their babies and toddlers, one-third of family child care providers have been forced to close their doors since the recession.

This is a missed opportunity for quality care and early learning in California. It has also been a huge impediment to working families, employers, and local economies.

“Quality, licensed child care provided by a nearby neighbor is something every working parent deserves,” Skinner added. “SB 234 helps ensure that more child care homes are available to the working families who need it.”

For parents, knowing your baby is with a warm, nurturing caregiver is everything. Family child care homes are the primary source of care for babies and toddlers, offering warm, enriching care close to where families live.

Although the new law will go into effect on January 1, 2020, some local planning departments are already getting a head start to support their communities. Andy Mogensen, AICP, planning manager, City of San Leandro, says it just doesn’t make sense to wait for the new law to take effect.

“An administrative use permit for a large family home day care often takes a couple of months to process,” said Mogensen. “By the time they get an approval, the law will already be in effect. We felt that it just wasn’t fair for either staff or applicants to have to go through that. We’re already working on a zoning code update to make family home child care facilities a permitted use citywide.”

The APA states as its policy, “child care is a critical component of livable communities […] and local planning policies can play an important role in ensuring adequate child care.” By making both large and small family child care homes a residential use of property, California now joins the forward-thinking and family-friendly states of New York and Minnesota.

The new law also clarifies that licensed family child care homes (both large and small) must be allowed in any residentially zoned neighborhood, including apartment buildings, condominiums, gated communities, and other multifamily dwellings. SB 234 builds on existing legislation with new language to make that clear to everyone and to ensure that the law is applied consistently throughout the state. All families, wherever they live, need child care close to home.

“We are all working hard to provide the best for our children,” said Kim Kruckel, executive director of the Child Care Law Center, a cosponsor of SB 234. “We need child care we can rely on from providers we trust. This new law makes it clear that California values and supports quality child care close to home, in all our communities.”

Man, woman, and baby at child careTo help planners and other groups impacted by this new legislation understand this new law, the Child Care Law Center and Public Counsel have published Frequently Asked Questions about SB 234. The FAQ is available in English, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish.

If you have any questions about SB 234, you can:

  • Call the Child Care Law Center at (415) 558-8005 or Public Counsel at (213) 385-2977, extension 300.
  • Fill out the Child Care Law Center’s online form with your question.

Julia Frudden is Director of Community Advocacy at the Child Care Law Center. She is also on the board of BANANAS, Inc., a nonprofit child care resource and referral agency serving the diverse families in Northern Alameda County. Frudden’s background includes four years as a first grade teacher. She holds a B.A. in political science from Pepperdine University.

Andy Mogensen, AICP, in his San Leandro office

Andrew Mogensen, AICP, is Planning Manager for the City of San Leandro. He previously was principal planner for the city of Concord. He holds an M.A. in geography (planning program) from Western Illinois University and a B.A. in geography from Valparaiso University.

Meet a local planner – Danielle DeRuiter-Williams

Meet a local planner – Danielle DeRuiter-Williams

Catarina Kidd, AICP, interviewer

Danielle DeRuiter-Williams is Co-Founder and Head of Growth and Expansion at The Justice Collective in Oakland, a women-of-color-led social impact consultancy. She recently spoke at the two-session Chapter President’s panel, “Cultural and Implicit Bias Training for Planners,” at the APA California 2019 conference in Santa Barbara. Among her several degrees are a master of urban and regional planning and master in Afro-American studies from UCLA and an MBA from Mills College.

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Tell us about your path to the work that you are doing now.

My path into planning was not a direct one. I initially went to grad school in the African American Studies program at UCLA and spent the first year exploring many of the historic contexts in which people of color find themselves. At the time, the language wasn’t around equity, but prosperity and equality. It was theory and history. I also took a planning course called “community economic development” that was game-changing for me. It lifted up tools to address those barriers I was learning about. I fell in love with planning as a multi-subject discipline with its critical concepts, frameworks, and skills that would become important to planning and would create impact.

Where did you go from there?

My first professional roles were working for food justice, public advocacy, and social impact through the nonprofit sector. Although I never envisioned working in city government, I moved into a job with the City of San Francisco Planning Department, joining a brand new community development team. But this wasn’t a typical planner position. It was relationship oriented and allowed for a level of entrepreneurial spirit. There was an initiative to transform long-term relationships with the community. The deliverable was connectivity with communities of color and tackling displacement issues.

When did you initiate The Justice Collective?

I co-founded TJC within a couple of weeks of starting with SF Planning. TJC was initially intended as a learning community for people of color working in nonprofits experiencing the inability to move up in organizations and how that affects experience and retention of staff of color. My team sought to create an alternative to that, to change the experiences we were all having of feeling stuck.

How did you grow TJC and shape what it would become?

This formation of a consulting practice grew from a need we saw to address organizational culture more broadly. In my two years in SF initiating racial equity work inside and outside the planning department, the priority was building capacity inside planning for more equitable practices.

It was challenging to be a black woman inside an institution. Being new and young posed a lot of risk no matter which path I chose. The calling to what I started at TJC became louder and would continue. So I finished the MBA program I started, took the leap into TJC full time, and landed a big contract.

Who do you really admire — whose example or advice has helped you develop professionally?

I’m an older millennial, and it can be challenging to find mentorship. There can be a generational difference in how we approach our professions and careers. I find many of us are less willing to accept the golden handcuffs or a limited view for our professional trajectory. As an example, I could have stayed in SF Planning for the perceived stability but I would not have been fulfilled.

So, I found peer mentors. We support each other to move through challenges. With a network, you have folks who believe in your ability to carry out your vision. They are your mentors.

A key skill all planners must develop regardless of age and point in career?

Adopting an abundance mindset — seeing the possibilities rather than the limits — is the key to professional growth.

Tell us about a favorite project.

The racial and social equity initiative I started in the SF planning department. Even though I left before it was adopted, it had a domino effect in other city agencies. I hear from my colleagues in planning that when they reach milestones, it was my leadership that made it possible. Had I not pushed, we wouldn’t be where we are now. I truly appreciate what I was able to do there in a short time. Planners should consider their impact wherever they are.

What are the “things no one wants to say”?

Among other institutional causes, housing — and planning, as a profession — have decimated communities of color. The practice of planning is deeply rooted in white supremacy culture and messages.

Give an example of this statement.

It can be in the basic concepts we take for granted — building setbacks, for example. In many communities, the front yard setback is not much, but the required backyard setback is much more generous. Convening at the porch is common in some black communities, while white culture often values the backyard as a symbol of ownership and status. The setback may seem like an innocuous design guideline, but it is rooted in culture that is so pervasive, yet did not originate from the members of the community who are subjected to it. It’s the water we’re swimming in and we don’t think about it.

How do you start that conversation?

Think about the conventions of our profession. Where do they come from, and do they represent the communities that live there? Change is grounded in the way our policies are structured, by the people creating them. The entry point is meeting people who understand their experience with the built environment and the resulting implications.

What does it mean when whole communities have been structured without access to basic amenities? What is the implication of never growing up around those different from you? Make the connection between your personal outlook and the work you do, because we express the personal in our work. Create opportunities for people to examine those policies and not just accept those policies as the natural state of things.

How can those who missed your APA conference sessions on implicit bias catch up?

We’ve been invited to repeat the session at APA National Conference in April 2020 in Houston, and the session will be recorded.

Interviewer’s note: Additional materials from the APA state conference in Santa Barbara may also be circulated by APA California Northern’s Planning Diversity Directors in the near future.

Do you have any “must reads” for developing literacy with the equity conversation?

White Fragility, by Robin De Angelo.

Must watch?

“Thirteen” on Netflix.

Anything I did not ask that you want to share?

I want to impress on folks that the stakes are higher now. We face more social challenges than ever before. The responsibility is on everyone to proactively dismantle oppression and make that central to our work. The question for planners is not what is possible. Rather, ask what is necessary to go beyond what the current state of affairs is requiring of us. When you ask that question, you will start doing what is necessary: You will provide the attention, people, and resources that you uniquely bring to the table. Don’t constrain what is necessary for demystifying the current condition.

Interviewer Catarina Kidd, AICP, is senior development manager at FivePoint and a guest writer for Northern News. All interviews are edited.

San Diego looks to scrap residential density limits, use FAR instead

By Antonio Pacheco, Archinect, December 9, 2019

“San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is opening another salvo in his administration’s efforts to address the city’s housing affordability crisis by proposing the ‘Complete Communities Housing Solutions Initiative,’ a scheme that looks beyond simply building new housing to embrace holistic urban development.

“The proposal [would] refocus certain elements of the zoning code to incentivize the development of smaller units, including one-bedroom and studio homes, and by allowing housing developers to offer community amenities that are decoupled from auto-oriented uses.

“Under current metrics, for example, housing projects are measured according to ‘dwelling-units-per-acre’ that dictates an upper limit on the number of homes that can be built on a given parcel relative to a prescribed density level that sometimes conflicts with the size, height, and bulk that might be otherwise allowed by-right on a given site. This approach, according to the city’s staff, generally pushes developers to build larger (and fewer) units.

“Under the new rules, developers would be allowed to switch to ‘floor area ratio,’ a metric that instead places a limit on the amount of area built by a project overall, scrapping the residential density limits [units per acre] in their entirely in specific areas. This means that instead of seeing parcels maxed out at 20 or 100 units per acre, for example, a site will instead be limited by being built to a certain maximum size, say 50,000 or 200,000 square feet. The arrangement will allow developers to be more inventive with the number and types of units within their projects.”

Read the full article here.