Month: April 2020

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Northern News


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

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Northern Section announcements

Director’s note: What will our future look like?

By Jonathan Schuppert, AICP, April 15, 2020. When and as restrictions on travel and assembly are gradually lifted under State guidance, implementation will largely be local. Planners should continue to lead by example, learn from others, and adapt as needed.

APA names AICP Fellows for 2020

From APA, March 25, 2020. One member from APA Northern Section was inducted with this year’s class of 53.

COVID-19 planning roundup

By Richard L. Davis, associate editor, April 14, 2020. Our editors saw many articles about COVID-19’s effects on urban planning. These 10 summaries are relevant, informative, yet much shorter than those in ‘Planning news roundup.’

Who’s where

Job change write-ups for Shannon Hake, AICP; Michael Hart; Greg Holisko, AICP; Andrea Mardesich; Lisa Porras, AICP; Ralph B. McLaughlin; Destiny Preston; Kevin Riley, and Matt VanHua, AICP, were curated by associate editor Richard L. Davis.

Planning news roundup

VTA drops plan for massive S.J. BART tunnel

By Nico Savidge, The Mercury News, April 19, 2020. Bold plans for deep downtown San Jose stations raised red flags.

Approval process for Balboa Reservoir project gets underway

By Ida Mojadad, San Francisco Examiner, April 9, 2020. After six years of public hearings, the San Francisco Planning Commission has approved the initiation of a General Plan Amendment for an 1,100-unit complex. Half of the units are to be permanently affordable for those with up to 120 percent of the area median income (AMI).

Telecommuting will likely continue long after the pandemic

By Katherine Guyot and Isabel V. Sawhill, Brookings, April 6, 2020. Telecommuting has been the fastest-growing method of commuting over the last several years. The pandemic promises to accelerate this trend dramatically.

Rapid urbanization abroad threatens old buildings, traditional markets

By Rina Chandran, Thomson Reuters Foundation, April 1, 2020. Losing heritage to modernization is not inevitable, but it requires careful choices as to what should go, what should stay, and what should come in place of things that are removed.

First-ever regionwide analysis of sea level rise impacts on Bay Area

Adapting to Rising Tides (ART), a program of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), was made available as a short summary report and main report on March 31.

What now for dense housing near transit?

By Debra Kahn, Politico, March 27, 2020. Opponents of infill and transit-oriented development are blaming population density as a primary factor behind the pandemic’s spread in urban areas.

Coronavirus: Fate of Lafayette’s big housing plan postponed

By Jon Kawamoto, East Bay Times, March 26, 2020. Only four more public hearings can be scheduled before Lafayette’s planning commission must decide on the controversial, 315-unit housing plan.

Boost for BART: Economic deal could send $1.3 billion to Bay Area public transit systems

By Nico Savidge, East Bay Times, March 25, 2020. Federal funds expected to provide some relief for BART as revenue from tickets and parking fees sharply declines.

Bay Area’s largest housing development appears dead

By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, March 25, 2020. Over labor issues, Concord’s City Council declined to extend negotiations with a building group hoping to redevelop a 5,000-acre former military base. As costs have soared, the many proposed community benefits no longer appeared financially feasible to the developer.

Coronavirus: Lockdowns slow Bay Area home construction, future projects

By Louis Hansen, The Mercury News, March 23, 2020. Housing developers are concerned that the shift by local governments to virtual planning and inspection could hamper their ability to meet tight construction deadlines.

Could coronavirus collide with wildfire season? California is preparing for it

By J.D. Morris, San Francisco Chronicle, March 15, 2020. Emergency officials in Sonoma County are already planning for the potential problems of wildfires and COVID-19 occurring at the same time.

VTA drops plan for massive S.J. BART tunnel

By Nico Savidge, The Mercury News, April 19, 2020

“The Valley Transportation Authority is again changing its plans for the multimillion-dollar project to bring BART through downtown San Jose, dropping a proposal to bore the world’s largest subway tunnel for nearly five miles beneath the city and reopening the process for designing an extension that already is severely delayed.

“What remains unclear is how much this redesigned version of the project will cost, or when BART trains will finally roll into the center of the Bay Area’s largest city.

Critics had raised questions about VTA’s ability to pull off audacious plans to bore a 55-foot-wide tunnel under downtown San Jose, particularly as the agency is nearly two years late delivering the far more conventional stations in Milpitas and Berryessa.

“The tunnel design that the agency’s staff spent a year pursuing is about $4 billion more expensive than initially believed and substantially riskier than other designs, General Manager Nuria Fernandez told the agency’s board.

“The agency’s planners won’t be starting from square one with the new designs. They will work within a design framework that already has gotten environmental clearance and will keep the extension’s route.”

Read the article here. (4 min.)

Who’s where

Who’s where

Assembled by Richard L. Davis, associate editor, Northern News


Shannon Hake, AICP, is now the Livable Streets Team Leader for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Previously, she worked as supervising mobility planner with WSP and as a station access consultant and senior planner for BART. Before coming to the Bay Area in 2015, Hake was a downtown transportation planner for Washington DC’s District Department of Transportation and an urban planner for WSP in DC. While in DC, she served for six years on APA’s National Capital Chapter Board of Directors, where she was also chapter president. Since 2018, Hake has been the distance education coordinator for Northern Section. She holds both a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in urban and environmental planning from the University of Virginia.



Michael Hart, who had been a planner with Contra Costa County, is now an Assistant Planner for the City of Concord. He holds a BS in sustainable built environments with an emphasis in sustainable communities from the University of Arizona.



Greg Holisko, AICP, pre­vious­ly a senior land plan­ner with Pacific Gas and Electric Com­pa­ny, is now Ex­pert Reg­ula­tory Case Man­ager there. Be­fore com­ing to the Bay Area in 2016, Holisko was a senior technical director with AFRF, Inc., in New York City. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Holisko holds a master of urban planning from New York University and a BA in English from the University of British Columbia. He has been Northern Section’s Communications Director since September 2018.



The City of San Car­los pro­moted An­drea Mar­de­sich from sen­ior plan­ner to Prin­ci­pal Plan­ner. A con­tract city plan­ner with Neal Martin & Associates before joining San Carlos in 2014, Mardesich holds a master of business administration from Kaplan University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Santa Clara University. She is a Northern News associate editor and is completing a master of urban planning at San Jose State University. Mardesich lives in San Carlos with her husband and two children.



Ralph B. Mc­Laugh­lin has joined Haus as Chief Econ­o­mist and Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent of An­a­lyt­ics. He also is Ad­junct Assistant Professor at USC, teaching “Economics for a Productive City” in the executive master’s program in Urban Planning. McLaughlin was previously on the San Jose State University planning faculty, where he taught regional planning, private development, and urban planning from 2012 to 2014. He holds a PhD in planning, policy, and design from UC Irvine, and a BS in geography and regional development from the University of Arizona. McLaughlin is a native of Mountain View and San José.



Lisa Porras, AICP, is now the Advance Planning Manager of the City of San Carlos’ newly created Advance Planning Division, where she will lead policy planning and focus on City Council strategic objectives. Porras has 20 years’ experience in the public sector, extensively in land use and policy planning. She has been with San Carlos since 2013, initially as principal planner overseeing the Planning Division, and later as planning manager. Prior to San Carlos, Porras worked for the cities of Benicia and San Buenaventura, and the County of Santa Barbara. She holds a BA in geography from UC Santa Barbara and has completed graduate studies at the University of Washington in Seattle.



Destiny Preston is now an Associate Trans­por­ta­tion Plan­ner for Cal­trans Dis­trict 1. She had been coast­al plan­ner for the North Coast District Office of the California Coastal Commission, and before that, worked on sea level rise adaptation planning for the County of Marin. She is Northern Section’s advertising director, and treasurer for the Environmental Protection Information Center, based in Arcata. Preston has a master of urban and regional planning degree from UCLA. She also holds a BS in society and environment, a BA in peace and conflict studies (minor in music) from UC Berkeley, and a professional certificate in municipal finance from the University of Chicago.



Kevin Riley is now Transit Area Specific Plan (TASP) Manager for the City of Milpitas, where he manages the consultant contract and work plan for 2020 TASP, an update of the 2008 TASP. Riley had been with the City of Santa Clara for 31 years, serving as director of planning and inspection from 2005-2015 and principal planner prior to that. He holds a master of urban and regional planning from San Jose State University. Riley is an avid racing sailor and runner.



Matt (Van­Oosten) Van­Hua, AICP, is now a Prin­cipal Planner for the City of Santa Cruz, leading the Advance Planning Division. His positions over the previous eight years include senior planner, City of Mountain View; planning associate, Alta Planning + Design; and planner III, City of San Jose Department of Planning, Building & Code Enforcement, where he worked on the urban village program. VanHua holds a master of city planning from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

COVID-19 planning roundup

COVID-19 planning roundup

By Richard L. Davis, associate editor, April 14, 2020

Mobility justice and COVID-19, by Untokening Collective in collaboration with Pueblo Planning, April 8, 2020

“The most marginalized find themselves on the frontlines [as essential service providers] … It is critical to center their lives and ask how we can make their movement safer, whether on public transit or at their jobs … Those of us with the privilege to choose physical immobility must protect and uplift those in our communities who are continuing to be mobile.” Go here to read Untokening’s mobility justice statement, their advocacy principles for mobility planning staff, and perspectives from transportation planners in the Untokening network.

Time outdoors is crucial to your health, even during the coronavirus pandemic, by Jack Wang, UChicago News, April 6, 2020

Measures being taken to shut down beaches, parks, and trails underscore a widespread urban problem. “If a city lacks enough green space for the people who live there, that’s a public health issue. Nature is not an amenity — it’s a necessity to be taken seriously. The ongoing crisis only underscores the psychological benefits of nature — as well as the need for urban infrastructure and policies that maximize those benefits. Research has also highlighted nature access as an issue of environmental justice in low-income neighborhoods.” Read the full article here.

Housing development likely to crash because of COVID, by Josh Stephens, CP&DR, April 6, 2020

“ ‘There’s a demand problem: you have 15 percent unemployment; you have a supply problem: you can’t build,’ said David Shulman, senior economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast. He added that exact numbers have yet to be forecast, but he estimated that ‘single-family starts probably will be down anywhere between one-third and 50 percent.’ ” Developer advocates suggest an antidote: promote certainty in housing entitlement timelines and reassess certain restrictions in the California Environmental Quality Act. Read more here (paywall).

Coronavirus has potential to reshape government technology, by Alan Greenblatt, Governing, April 2, 2020

“Agencies long hampered by endless procurement processes have suddenly become nimble. Rules are being waived to move swiftly and buy, for example, licenses for Zoom and other teleconferencing platforms. ‘We’re in crisis and bureaucracy is suspended,’ says Meghan Cook, program director at the Center for Technology in Government (CTG) at the University at Albany [SUNY]… It’s likely that the shutdowns triggered by the novel coronavirus will mark a turning point in the way governments use technology.” Go here to read to read how shutdowns will affect management, legacy systems, remote working, and technology investments.

Development permit processing and post-approval considerations in the wake of COVID-19, by Frank Petrilli, Steve Atkinson, Shahiedah Palmer, and Matthew S. Stone, Arent Fox LLP, April 1, 2020

This article alerts developers to potentials disruptions in entitlement processing caused by the pandemic. Go here for examples of extensions for discretionary approvals in several Bay Area jurisdictions and possible actions that the State and local governments might take to grant blanket extensions to sustain various approvals through the crisis.

How will public transit survive the COVID-19 crisis?, by Larry Buhl, Capital & Main, April 1, 2020

“The $2 trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill [as] signed into law … contained the largest aid package ever for U.S. transit agencies: $25 billion… Experts say the money, which has basically no strings attached, should be more than enough to keep workers employed, at least through the year.” However, there is still uncertainty over how soon the public will return to mass transit and whether smaller transit agencies will receive the aid they need. Read more here.

Primed for deliveries, by Lisa Nisenson, APA Planning Magazine, April 2020

Nisenson, vice president for new mobility and connected communities at design firm WGI, describes the potential impact of COVID-19 on retail trends and e-commerce in an interview with APA Planning Magazine. The article details 12 key technologies and trends in e-commerce poised to transform package delivery in cities, suburbs, universities, and rural areas.

Database documents cities that are repurposing car space during the pandemic, by Steven Vance, StreetsBlog Chicago, March 29 2020

“Dr. Tabitha Combs, a transportation researcher at the University of North Carolina, has started a crowdsourced database of what cities are doing to create safer, people-friendly streets during the ‘shelter at home’ era.” Go here to read about the ways that street space has been repurposed in cities around the world. The ‘database’ is a shared Google Spreadsheet, so anyone can contribute what their city is doing.

Why infrastructure is the only way to fight a COVID-19 recession in the US, by Shai Kivity, World Economic Forum, March 27, 2020

“When monetary policy isn’t enough, a country must turn towards fiscal policy. Right now, reviving the lagging US infrastructure sector may be the best approach: infrastructure creates economic growth, 5G cellular infrastructure will allow for faster data rates, a better electric grid allows us to drive electric cars, and new roads reduce congestion and commute times.” Read more here.

What can the coronavirus teach us about healthy cities? An Interview with Billie Giles-Corti, Foreground Magazine, March 24, 2020

Professor Billie Giles-Corey of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) argues that dense cities are “where there are shops, businesses and services nearby, where people can get around, they can walk and cycle” and “regional cities of villages, where there’s amenity nearby” provide the most in public health and disaster-resilience benefits.

Approval process for Balboa Reservoir project gets underway

By Ida Mojadad, San Francisco Examiner, April 9, 2020

“The Balboa Reservoir project received the first approval needed to rezone 17 acres of public land into housing.

“At its first-ever virtual public meeting on April 9, the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved the initiation of a General Plan Amendment for the 1,100-unit Balboa Reservoir project in Ingleside.

“The project, which the City began looking at in 2014, would turn a parking lot owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission … into an estimated 1,100 units. Half of those units would be permanently affordable to those with up to 120 percent of the area median income … about $143,000 for a household of four, as set by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

Base Plan. Image source: Balboa Reservoir, CAC presentation, April 9, 2018

“About 150 below-market rate units will be reserved for City College faculty. But City College advocates, like instructor Wynd Kaufmyn and faculty union AFT 2121 President Jenny Worley, maintain the project needs to be 100 percent affordable housing and accessible to the community.

“Planning Commissioner Theresa Imperial also raised concerns over securing the public funding promised to keep 17 percent (sic) of all units affordable. But several speakers were in favor of the project moving forward after six years of community outreach.

“Planning commissioners sought more details from Planning Department staff on mitigating traffic and environmental sustainability, like boosting electric vehicle charging stations, but largely praised the 50 percent of units dedicated to affordable housing.

“ ‘I think it’s a very mature, forward-looking project,’ said Commissioner Katherine Moore.”

Read the full article here. (1 minute)

Go here to read about a SPUR panel discussion on this project from the July-August 2018 Planning news roundup. (less than a minute)

APA names AICP Fellows for 2020

APA names AICP Fellows for 2020

From APA, March 25, 2020

APA is “looking into ways to celebrate the 2020 College of Fellows inductees in lieu of the FAICP induction ceremony and reception” that was to have been held at NPC20.

“Even with the current state of uncertainty in our lives and our profession, we would be remiss not to celebrate the career achievements of 53 AICP-certified members who were inducted into the College of Fellows as the Class of 2020. Please join us in celebrating these individuals who demonstrate excellence in professional practice, teaching and mentoring, research, and community service and leadership.”

One member from APA Northern Section was inducted with this year’s class: David C. Early, FAICP. Early founded Design, Community & Environment in Berkeley in 1995. The consulting firm later merged with PlaceWorks, where he is now Senior Advisor.

Early is the author of “The General Plan in California,” Solano Press Books, 2015.

The body of his work, in its excellence and clarity, has done much to help the public understand planning, its purpose, and its value, from evaluating current conditions, to setting goals, to implementing action programs.

Telecommuting will likely continue long after the pandemic

By Katherine Guyot and Isabel V. Sawhill, Brookings, April 6, 2020

“The COVID-19 pandemic is, among other things, a massive experiment in telecommuting. Up to half of American workers are currently working from home, more than double the fraction who worked from home (at least occasionally) in 2017-18.

“Until now, telecommuting has been slower to take hold than many predicted when remote work technology first emerged. This inertia probably reflects sticky work cultures as well as a lack of interest from employers in investing in the technology and management practices necessary to operate a tele-workforce.

“But the pandemic is forcing these investments in industries where telework is possible, with more people learning how to use remote technology. As a result, we may see a more permanent shift toward telecommuting. As the economist Susan Athey recently told the Washington Post, ‘People will change their habits, some of these habits will stick …, and this will accelerate that.’

“There are pros and cons to more telecommuting. On the plus side, workers tend to prefer working from home, it reduces emissions and office costs, and it helps people (especially women) balance work and family roles. It may even make us more productive. The downsides: managing a telecommuting staff can be difficult, professional isolation can have negative effects on well-being and career development, and the effects on productivity over the long run and in a scaled-up system are uncertain. …

“Overall, about half of employed adults are currently working from home, though a recent paper estimates that only a third of jobs can be done entirely from home. Either way, this is a massive shift. Between 2005 and 2015, the fraction of workers who regularly worked from home increased by only about 2 to 3 percentage points, according to Mas and Pallais (2020). Even at that growth rate, telecommuting has been the fastest-growing method of commuting over the last several years. If our new telecommuting culture sticks, the pandemic will have accelerated this trend dramatically. Already, nearly one in five chief financial officers surveyed [at the end of March] said they planned to keep at least 20 percent of their workforce working remotely to cut costs. …

“Technological limitations could be a barrier to the development of an American tele-workforce. … If there is one piece of critical infrastructure that will provide jobs to those in left-behind places, it is high-speed broadband.”

Read the full article here (8 min., two graphs).

Rapid urbanization abroad threatens old buildings, traditional markets

Cities rush to build office blocks and rail networks

By Rina Chandran, Thomson Reuters Foundation, April 1, 2020

“ ‘Delhi was established as the capital of the Indian empire in 1911, when the colonial British rulers moved the capital from the eastern city of Calcutta, now called Kolkata.

“A two-mile stretch in Delhi featuring some of India’s most iconic landmarks is to be redeveloped, angering historians and conservationists who say the move will rob the country of its heritage and valuable public space.

“Federal authorities last month said they would change the land use for the 86-acre (35-hectare) area that includes Parliament House, the presidential palace, and the India Gate war memorial to ‘government use’ from recreation and public facilities.

“Conservationists fear that the Central Vista redevelopment project will obliterate the history and character of the area, which also has among the biggest public spaces in a city of more than 20 million.

“ ‘The Central Vista is significant for historical, lived, and architectural heritage. Equally importantly, it is a public-use area for tourists and residents, and a green area,’ said Kanchi Kohli, a senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Research.

“In India, as in many countries, rapid urbanization is putting greater pressure on governments to build office blocks and rail networks, which has led to the razing of old buildings and traditional markets.

“Shashi Tharoor, a member of the opposition Congress party, said in a recent tweet that the money earmarked for the project must instead be used to deal with the pandemic, which has devastated the country’s poor communities.”

Read the article here. (5 min)

Director’s note: What will our future look like?
Facebook (left of the rail line, to the left of the engine cowling) has made its mark on this small city of 34,000.

Director’s note: What will our future look like?

By Jonathan Schuppert, AICP

Things are getting better; keep doing what you’re doing

As we’ve all started to find our groove with a new normal, we’ve also seen positive results from our collective response to flatten the curve. Traffic is down; air quality has dramatically improved. Our ability to work, learn, and connect with friends and family has been tested, and we’ve learned to collaborate remotely across various platforms.

And recently, we’ve seen the curve start to bend. This is great news, and proof that our actions (and sacrifices) are paying off. But don’t start celebrating quite yet. New COVID-19 cases are still being reported, we don’t have a vaccine, and many people are without work or have had their pay reduced, with no immediate signs of improvement.

While the shelter-in-place and related restrictions seemed like a switch had been flipped, lifting these restrictions will be more like adjusting a dimmer switch. And even though some restrictions will be lifted, depending on indicators that Governor Newsom recently announced, life won’t resume to pre-COVID-19 standards for some time.

We’ll have guidance from the State, but implementation will largely be at the local level. This emphasizes the need for local leaders in government, public health and safety, planning, and other fields to plan and collaborate on measured steps to get through this pandemic. We planners should continue to lead by example, learn from others, and adapt as needed.

When will this be over, and what will the future look like?

We might not know the answers yet, but neither did our predecessors as they grappled with the sustainability of various city designs, emerging technologies, and philosophies. We know that the next phase (“safe mode,” I like to call it) will not look like the recent past, nor will it look exactly like it does today. Our physical spaces will change, our social norms will be modified, and our thoughtful and coordinated planning efforts will be even more critical.

Workplaces, schools, parks, public transportation, restaurants — nearly every place where we interact — might see reduced capacities for people, reduced intensities. We might still be wearing masks in public spaces and be subject to temperature checks before entering enclosed spaces.

Implementing change won’t be easy, just as it wasn’t easy to transition to remote operations and to outfit employees and students with the technology and resources they needed to continue working and learning.

“Furlough Friday” was instituted during the Great Recession to help reduce financial burdens, yet still maintain operations. It became common afterward for many offices to close (or be closed to the public) on all or alternate Fridays. Will our current way of life have similar fallout? Will planning counters continue to have a virtual component? Will there be continued or greater flexibility for people to work from home? Will commuters return to public transit?

And what might your life look like? What can you do to help plan, lead, and implement the coming changes? What professional skills and life lessons can you apply?

I urge all of us to think inwardly, but to work collaboratively as we plan for and experience the coming social reintegration. Be flexible, be there for each other, and be creative. And please continue to wash your hands, practice physical distancing, and wear a smile behind your fashionable mask.

First-ever regionwide analysis of sea level rise impacts on Bay Area

March 31, 2020 – In an official press release, Caltrans, MTC/ABAG, the Bay Area Regional Collaborative, and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) announced the release of “Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) Bay Area”:

“ART Bay Area is a product of a multi-agency collaboration, illuminating shared vulnerability to sea level rise across regional systems that Bay Area residents depend on to live and thrive.

“Rising sea level will fundamentally change our relationships with the Bay, including threatening our public access to the shoreline and enjoying of shoreline recreation.  And our natural habitats are truly at risk.

“But these impacts do not have to happen — some local planning is underway, and we need more, faster, and more coordinated planning to face the full magnitude of impacts. Planning how to adapt is an opportunity to address current issues and future threats.

“To support the region-wide analysis, 32 local deep-dive studies were done to understand how these impacts could play out within a community. These systems and locations were analyzed at a total of 10 flood levels ranging from 12 inches to 108 inches to show a wide range of impacts over time.

“Nearly 600 community members, nonprofit organizations, city and county planners, business representatives, elected officials, and state and federal staff were also engaged in developing this study over the past three years.”

BCDC’s Dana Brechwald, the ART Resilience and Climate Adaptation Manager, writes on LinkedIn: “This report provides a better understanding of where we are vulnerable and lays out a pathway to plan for the future. This project has been over three years in the making and involved hundreds of wonderful people whose contributions have ranged from thousands of hours of staff work to participating in meetings around the region. I am so proud of the ART staff — current and past — for making it to the finish line!”

Adapting to Rising Tides is a program of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). According to the Commission’s “About” page, “BCDC is the State agency responsible for leading the Bay Area’s preparedness for, and resilience to, rising sea level, tides, and storm surge due to climate change.”

Go here for the press release and here for the “short” and “main” reports, as well as additional details about the findings.

For a March 31 San Francisco Chronicle article on this report, go here (4 minutes, paywall).