Month: February 2021

“11 Black urbanists every planner should know”

By Pete Saunders, Planning Magazine, Winter 2021

“In (roughly) chronological order, here is a selection of the many Black urbanists all planners should know:

  1. W. E. B. Dubois (1868–1963)

“His work as an activist is well-known, but he rose to prominence in 1899 with the publication of The Philadelphia Negro…This study was among the first to openly conclude that discrimination was at the heart of the problems plaguing isolated Black urban communities.

  1. Samuel J. Cullers (1918–2005)

“In multiple published essays; through leadership positions in the NAACP, the Sacramento Urban League, and APA; and over the course of a civil rights housing lawsuit, Cullers dedicated much of his career to defeating discrimination in both the planning profession and society at large.

  1. Dorothy Mae Richardson (1922–1991)

“A community activist who fought against redlining in Pittsburgh, Richardson challenged local banks to issue conventional loans for mortgages and housing rehabs in her Central North Side neighborhood. Her efforts led to the founding of Pittsburgh-based Neighborhood Housing Services, along with the national group now known as NeighborWorks America, one of the leading community development institutions.

  1. Mary Pattillo (1970–)

“A current professor of sociology and African-American Studies at Northwestern University, Pattillo has published two important works: Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril for the Black Middle Class, which documents how the Black middle class has a far more difficult time achieving “escape velocity” from the ills of the inner city, and Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City, which illustrates how a uniquely Black version of gentrification emerged in Chicago’s North Kenwood-Oakland neighborhood on the South Side.”

Read the full article here. (~5 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

What happens when SF’s largest employer goes ‘work from anywhere’

By Laura Bliss and Sarah Holder, Bloomberg CityLab, February 12, 2020

“Salesforce.com Inc. — the anchor tenant of the 61-story building’s Class A office space — has announced a permanent ‘work from anywhere’ policy that lets employees remain on remote or flexible schedules after the pandemic ends. As San Francisco’s largest private employer, the customer-management software giant is a heavy hitter on the list of companies with similar plans set to affect downtown office spaces, including Twitter, Facebook and Square, prompting tough questions about the vitality of the city’s core and overall economy.

“Salesforce’s location choice [in the downtown South of Market neighborhood] offered an example of how, in contrast with peers bunkered down in suburban Silicon Valley or clustered in Mission Bay, the tech industry could be better integrated into civic life.

“After so much baggage attached to Salesforce’s San Francisco footprint, it now faces a potentially emptier future, as does all of downtown. How much emptier isn’t clear yet: A Salesforce spokesperson said that the company plans to evaluate future real estate needs as its business priorities shift.

“Assuming that pattern holds in San Francisco, Kim-Mai Cutler, a partner at the venture capital firm Initialized, expects most workers to sprawl not into other states but into neighboring cities. That could affect San Francisco’s bottom line by reducing local tax revenue, and could complicate gross receipts tax calculations, without making much of a catastrophic dent in the region’s overall population.

“Despite the forecast for turmoil, some also hope that an exodus of commercial lease-holders — tech companies or otherwise — from downtown San Francisco could be a chance to rethink how the urban core is used.

“Perhaps vacant office space could be repurposed into much-needed housing, transforming the area into a more vibrant and affordable residential option than its pre-pandemic profile ever offered, said Molly Turner, a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley who specializes in tech’s influence on cities.”

Read the full article here. (~7 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

The Californians are coming. So is their housing crisis.

By Conor Dougherty, The New York Times, February 12, 2021

Californians, fleeing high home prices, are moving to Idaho in droves. Idaho has been one of the fastest-growing states, with the largest share of new residents coming from California. This fact can be illustrated with census data, moving vans — or resentment.

“Housing costs are relative, so anyone leaving Los Angeles or San Francisco will find almost any other city to have a bountiful selection of homes that seem unbelievably large and cheap. But for those tethered to the local economy, the influx of wealthier outsiders pushes housing costs further out of reach.

“As bad as California’s affordable housing problem is, it isn’t really a California problem. It is a national one. From rising homelessness to anti-development sentiment to frustration among middle-class workers who’ve been locked out of the housing market, the same set of housing issues has bubbled up in cities across the country [in] Boise, Nashville, Denverand Austin, Texas, and many other high-growth cities. And they will become even more widespread as remote workers move around.

“In city after city, studies have shown that homelessness has a distinct financial tipping point. As soon as the local rent burden reaches the point where renters on average spend more than a third of their income on housing, the number of people on the streets starts to rise sharply, according to researchers at Zillow and elsewhere.

“Cities are built around jobs, and … over the past four decades the U.S. economy has bifurcated into high-paying jobs in fields like tech and finance and low-paying jobs in retail and personal services.

“Some work has to be done in person — and unless companies leaving California expect to do without the services of janitors and security guards — the underlying problem will persist in every next city that has the misfortune of becoming desirable.

“The only way to solve the housing crisis is to address it in every city it visits. Otherwise, we’re just spreading it around.”

Read the full article here. (~ 5 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

New proposed bill sets ambitious offshore wind farm target

By Paul Rogers, The Mercury News, February 11, 2021

“From Scotland to Norway, China to Rhode Island, thousands of giant turbines generate clean energy in oceans around the world. But none is off California’s coast.

“On [February 11], a coalition of labor, industry and environmental groups came together to change that, endorsing a new bill (Chiu, D-San Francisco) that would require California to set a target of constructing 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030, enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes, and 10,000 megawatts by 2040.

“The three most likely locations for the first big farms are off San Luis Obispo County, off Morro Bay and the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which will be decommissioned in 2025, and off Humboldt County.

“Labor unions have already endorsed the bill.

“But [offshore wind] technology in California faces major challenges. Although there are a handful of farms with floating turbines in Scotland and other areas, none has been built on the scale that California is considering. And while wind energy costs are coming down, the costs of projects off California’s coast are not yet fully understood.

“One group, Environment California, endorsed the bill Thursday, citing last year’s record wildfires, heat waves and blackouts.

“Most other environmental groups, however, are still wary.”

Read the full article here. (~4 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Analysis: Strategies to lower cost and speed permanent supportive housing production

From UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, February 9, 2021

A new analysis that finds that the 833 Bryant Street project, a housing development for individuals experiencing homelessness in San Francisco, offers a model for building needed housing quicker and at lower cost.

“The development was funded and planned through a collaboration between Tipping Point Community, a Bay Area philanthropic organization, and the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), a public-private partnership that produces and preserves affordable housing in San Francisco, with Mercy Housing acting as the developer.

The analysis finds that the combination of the following four factors have put the 833 Bryant Street development on track to achieve these projected time and cost savings:

  • Up front commitment to time and cost savings by funders and developers.
  • Flexible, unrestricted funding through private capital in the pre-construction phase.
  • Streamlined approvals under SB 35.
  • Modular construction. Vallejo-based Factory_OS constructed the units off-site, reducing development times.

Read the full press release here. (~2min.) Access the report here (PDF).

Roundup previously included coverage of construction union disputes over Factory_OS’s business model.

Return to Northern News here.

YIMBYs sue for even more housing via RHNA

By Benjamin Schneider, SF Weekly, February 4, 2021

“YIMBY groups say that the Bay Area’s housing allocation from the state for the 2023-31 RHNA cycle does not adequately account for jobs/housing balance — the ratio between the number of new jobs added and new homes built over a given time period — leading to an artificially low number.

“The YIMBY groups are basing their suit on a study by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Studies, which found that Housing and Community Development (HCD) undershot the Bay Area’s housing allocation by as many as 245,000 homes. The lawsuit specifically highlights the jobs/housing imbalance, which the study calculates could amount to a deficit of about 138,000 homes. In other words, the Bay Area’s housing allocation should be closer to 579,000, not 441,000, according to the suit.

“The Bay Area’s housing allocation increased about 230 percent in the latest RHNA cycle, while Southern California’s allocation increased by more than 300 percent.

“Jennifer Hernandez, a San Francisco-based land use attorney and YIMBY Law advisory board board member, feels this discrepancy is ‘politically influenced.’ The Bay Area has ‘more supporters of the current administration and donors of the current administration than Southern California,’ Hernandez says, in reference to Governor Gavin Newsom. ‘It’s a pretty clear double standard.’

“As cities begin sending their housing plans to the state for adoption, major questions remain in terms of how HCD will interpret two of the statutory requirements in state housing law: whether plans affirmatively further fair housing, and the likelihood that the new zoning will actually result in new housing production. Those factors could force cities to zone for considerably more housing than their RHNA allocation, and in the fancier, more racially and economically segregated parts of town, said Chris Elmendorf, a law professor at UC Davis and one of the authors of the Lewis Center study.

Read the full article here. (~6 min.).

In CP&DR, Chris Elmendorf wrote an editorial discussing the complexity of the YIMBY suit.

Return to Northern News here.

A Sunnyvale Toyota dealership is turning its car lot into apartments

By Nate Berg, Fast Company, February 3, 2021

“Like many car dealerships around the country, Toyota Sunnyvale, a seller of preowned Toyota models, is almost entirely an asphalt parking lot.

“[The dealership owner] is now in the process of redeveloping the dealership into housing, a much-needed resource in the heart of the bustling tech industry. But the dealership isn’t going anywhere. Instead, the two uses are being combined, with the car dealership housed at ground level and an 88-unit apartment building slated to sit above it.

“John Thatch, Dahlin Group Architecture Planning’s director of design, says this is one of several car dealership conversion projects the firm is working on, and that as cities densify, more dealerships and other types of retail will likely begin to think about similar conversions.

“‘I think it’s an interesting concept to really create housing, another way to do mixed-use, another way to bring people and energy to an area. Around the world there are examples of this, but it’s sort of hitting the suburbs that are starting to densify.’ Thatch said.”

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

How the federal government could help kill highways

By Max Reyes, Bloomberg CityLab, February 1, 2021

“The Economic Justice Act, a spending package worth over $435 billion, includes a $10 billion pilot program that would provide funds for communities to examine transit infrastructure that has divided them along racial and economic lines and potentially alter or remove them. It would also help pay for plans to redevelop reclaimed land.

“‘It’s the first time that we’ve seen this in terms of highway removal, this sort of prioritization of people first and the [impacts] and outcomes on their lives,’ says Ben Crowther, a program manager at the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). His organization helped to write the text of the bill’s highway program.

“The current national focus on racial equity and climate change topics, taken with the fact that many urban highways built in the 1960s are now reaching the end of their life cycles, make this moment a crucial one for a conversation around transportation equity and highway removal, according to Sara Zewde, an assistant professor at Harvard University and principal of design firm Studio Zewde.

“To make a federal highway-conversion program effective, California-based urban planner Destiny Thomas says a variety of ‘safety net supports’ would be necessary, including the involvement of social workers, mental health experts, and housing advocates. She emphasized that the bill, if passed, would be only the first step in addressing inequity within transportation and transportation infrastructure, and could even be an early component of a reparations package.”

Read the full article here. (~5 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Berkeley overhauls off-street parking

By Emilie Raguso, Berkeleyside, January 27, 2021

“A unanimous vote by Berkeley City Council eliminated the city’s age-old parking parking requirements which, in many areas of town, required the creation of one-off street parking spots for each new housing unit.

“Most new housing projects in Berkeley will no longer have to build off-street parking.

“The city did put limits in place about how much parking developers can build in transit-rich areas without requesting special permission from the city.

“A recent staff analysis found that nearly 50 percent of the existing off-street parking spots in housing projects around the city sit empty, meaning that much more parking has been built in Berkeley than the city actually needs.

“Officials, staff and members of the public alike spoke strongly in support of the reform package, which also puts new requirements in place for transit-related amenities (PDF), such as transit passes and off-street bike parking.

“With 60 percent of Berkeley’s greenhouse gases resulting from transportation, staff and elected officials said, the city must embrace bold policies designed to change behavior and city infrastructure if it hopes to see real change.”

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Mill Valley resolution would oppose state housing mandates

By Lorenzo Morotti, Marin Independent Journal, January 27, 2021

“Mill Valley officials [were] considering a resolution that would oppose Senate Bill 35 and other possible statewide housing laws that remove local control.

“The council did not approve the resolution. Instead, it directed staff to include language requesting funding from the state to build low-income housing and bring it back to the council for future adoption.

“The council also agreed to include members of the Diversity Inclusion Equity Task Force in the working group after many called in to oppose the resolution. They argued it would be a barrier to increasing diversity in the predominantly White and wealthy city.

“Councilman Urban Carmel said the city has been working to solve its housing issue through accessory dwelling units. However, he admitted that promoting affordable or low-income housing has not been a consistent goal for the city over the decades. He said the last 100% affordable housing complex built was Pickleweed Apartments in 1983.

“The resolution also takes a stand against incoming housing mandates imposed by the Association of Bay Area Governments. Mill Valley met its 129-home quota for affordable housing in the last cycle, 2015-23. But according to the new Regional Housing Needs Assessment methodology, it must add 830 homes to meet its goal for the 2023-2031 cycle.

“About 33% of the city is in a ‘very high’ fire hazard zone, according to a city staff report. Carmel said the state is wrong in assuming that all cities are equally suited to handle such a density boom.”

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.