Day: October 27, 2021

Northern News November 2021

Northern News November 2021

Northern News


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

Making great communities happen

Northern Section news, views, and announcements

Planning news roundup

Assembled by Richard Davis, AICP Candidate, associate editor

Note: Some articles to which we link may be behind paywalls. If you find yourself blocked, add before the link (before the https), and you may be able to read the article without being asked to subscribe.

Major Los Gatos project promised 270 apartments. Only 50 are happening.

By Tran Nguyen, San Jose Spotlight, October 20, 2021. The town council, mandated to rescind its rejection of the project, found approving the proposal a bitter pill to swallow.

Ljubljana, Slovenia, a small European capital, realizes a car-free city center

By Alexis Ferenczi, Vice, October 19, 2021. The once heavily-trafficked main road is now exclusively for pedestrians, cyclists, and a few electric carts.

HUD chief calls Oakland ‘transit village’ a national model for housing

By Sarah Ravani, San Francisco Chronicle, October 14, 2021. Marcia Fudge also noted that future federal resources and aid available to states will come with time limits on certain projects in order to expedite development.

New Sonoma County housing fund to lend millions in PG&E settlement money for major projects

By Ethan Varian, The Press Democrat, October 14, 2021. The fund is positioned to help Santa Rosa attract denser development after an update to its downtown plan.

Biden, Haaland approve two CA areas for offshore wind farms

By Matthew Daly, Associated Press, October 13, 2021. The two sites, off the coast of Humboldt and San Luis Obispo counties, will contribute to the Biden Administration’s nationwide offshore wind generation initiative.

CalEPA updates “national gold standard” geospatial tools for equitable environmental decision-making

From CalEPA, October 13, 2021. CalEnviroScreen 4.0 analyzes the latest data from 21 indicators of environmental, public health, and socioeconomic conditions.

Mountain View plans to ban cars, expand outdoor dining along its ‘crown jewel’

By Maggie Angst, San Jose Mercury News, October 13, 2021. Their decision comes as other cities like Palo Alto and Pleasanton have gone in the other direction.

New study: 25 years of data from Marin County reaffirms conservation protects biodiversity

By Daniel Roman, Bay Nature, October 13, 2021. Protection of riparian corridors helped populations of many bird species, but the study didn’t address how the conservation process works.

San Francisco’s Clement Street and the 15-minute city

By Soumya Karlamangla, New York Times, October 11, 2021. Few, if any, businesses on the street have permanently closed during Covid, according to the Clement Street Merchants Association.

Student loan forgiveness: public sector workers eligible in overhauled relief program

By Jessica Menton and Chris Quintana, USA Today, October 7, 2021. The government previously restricted eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to only certain types of federal student loans and specific repayment plans.

Downtown San Jose building height limits come with price tag

By Eli Wolfe, San Jose Spotlight, October 4, 2021. San Jose passed a crane fee on developers to compensate Mineta International Airport for lost revenues.

Solar energy: a new cash crop for farmers — and sheep can safely graze

By Xander Peters, The Christian Science Monitor, October 4, 2021. The transition toward renewable energy is creating a new kind of demand for rural land. Small farmers hope it can benefit the environment and their business.

Final Plan Bay Area 2050 released

From MTC-ABAG, October 1, 2021. Equity is interwoven into each of the 35 strategies encompassing housing, the economy, transportation, and the environment at the heart of Plan Bay Area 2050. But no plan can satisfy everyone.

Napa County may see a relatively high number of new housing units from SB 9

By Edward Booth, Napa Valley Register, September 29, 2021. City of Napa senior planner Michael Walker expects the roll out timeline of SB 9 units would be similar to ADUs.

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SB 9: What it says and what it doesn’t

SB 9: What it says and what it doesn’t

By Naphtali H. Knox, FAICP, editor

One- and two-family houses sit side-by-side in this pre-zoning, pre-1912 neighborhood where I was raised. Credit: Google Street View

Here’s a one-hour webinar recording you won’t want to miss. One of the great things about it is that it breaks neatly at 30 minutes (after the first presentation) so you can — as I did — break for coffee and come back for the second presenter and the Q and A.

This webinar from September 20, 2021, was developed by Joshua Abrams and Kristy Wang of Baird + Driskell Community Planning for the Association of Bay Area Governments, Regional Technical Assistance Program (RHTA). The webinar does not constitute legal advice.

The two presenters (20 minutes each) are Barbara Kautz, FAICP, attorney with Goldfarb & Lipman, followed by David Garcia, policy director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley. Kautz developed her presentation from an initial SB 9 analysis by Nazanin Salehi, also an attorney at Goldfarb.

Kautz is a well-known and highly regarded practitioner in the areas of land use (especially housing-related land use). Before becoming an attorney, she worked for 30 years as a planner and planning director, concluding her career as Community Development Director and Assistant City Manager for the City of San Mateo. Garcia leads the Terner Center’s engagement in local, state, and federal housing policy.

Ms. Kautz takes us through the content of SB 9, informing us where there are ambiguities in the legislation. The session explains ministerial two-unit developments and ministerial lot splits. It covers which projects qualify; the criteria that cannot, must be, or may be used by cities and counties; how SB 9 intersects with other laws — all addressed by Kautz. She cautions we can anticipate, “as with all new bills, some shakeout about what some of these provisions mean.” Mr. Garcia covers the projected impacts in jurisdictions across the state. As with the state’s ADU legislation, he notes, “We’re probably in for a couple more rounds of cleanup legislation.”

Be aware that the webinar is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice or opinions regarding specific facts. For more information about SB 9, please contact your own legal counsel.

Video recording. Note: You can save yourself two minutes as Mr. Abrams and Ms. Wang set up the slides: just skip from 3:45 on the recording to 5:45.

Legislative Presentation (23 graphics)

Terner Center Presentation (seven graphics)

Terner Center full analysis.

Wait, there’s more.

As a followup, ABAG’s RHTA is hosting three Question-and-Answer sessions with staff from Goldfarb & Lipman LLP to discuss SB 9 and other new housing legislation. Jurisdictions are welcome to join one or more of the sessions to get answers to your questions — or just to listen in to and learn from other jurisdictions:

Return to Northern News here.

Does your city allow buildings of 10 or fewer DUs in non-single family zones? Read SB 478.

Does your city allow buildings of 10 or fewer DUs in non-single family zones? Read SB 478.

By Naphtali H. Knox, FAICP, editor

In California planning circles, it seems everyone is focused on how the recently enacted SB 9 (Atkins) and SB 10 (Wiener) might change single-family neighborhoods by allowing lot splits and duplexes on single lots. But SB 9, which applies only to single-family areas, is likely to affect only about 5.4 percent of the state’s 7,500,000 single-family parcels, according to an analysis by The Terner Center. A one-hour webinar on SB 9 is available. See “SB 9: What it says and what it doesn’t” in this issue.

SB 478, authored by State Senator Scott Wiener, has gotten less attention but could have a greater and more immediate impact in some cities. Palo Alto, where I live — and where I served as director of planning and community environment for nine years — is one of those cities, as are neighboring Menlo Park in San Mateo County; Cupertino, Campbell, Monte Sereno, and Los Gatos in Santa Clara County; and Santa Rosa in Sonoma County.

Under SB 478, according to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, cities and counties may not impose on a “project [to] be located in a multifamily residential zone or a mixed-use zone […] a floor area ratio standard that is less than 1.0 on a housing development project that consists of 3 to 7 units, or less than 1.25 on a housing development project that consists of 8 to 10 units.” Floor area ratio, or FAR, is the measure of a building’s floor area in relation to the square footage of its site.

By January 1, 2022, cities that use these standards must modify their FARs and scrap any minimum lot-size requirements that may have been applied to residential developments of two to 10 units in multifamily or mixed-use zones. Note that “two to 10 units” is a descriptor of “Missing Middle” housing.

An October 15 article in the Palo Alto Weekly states, “Because many of these zones in Palo Alto currently allow a floor area ratio of 0.4 or 0.6, SB 478 would effectively double the density on many lots. [SB 478] impacts most of Palo Alto’s existing mixed-use development standards in commercial districts, according to planning staff. [Principal Planner Sheldon Ah Sing] said that the law is one of several that will require the city to make changes to the local zoning code to ensure compliance. After the council [deals with an] urgency ordinance [making the needed] zoning changes in early December, it anticipates approving permanent ordinances in spring 2022.”

Other cities will also have to deal with SB 478. California YIMBY notes on its website that the “city of Del Mar restricts floor area ratio to 0.35, meaning the building’s total floor [area cannot now exceed] 35 percent of the total lot” area. So “a 2,000 square foot lot would only be allowed to have a duplex that is 700 square feet total — 350 square feet per home.” In Costa Mesa, in areas zoned for two or more units, the minimum lot size is 12,000 sq. ft., while in Loma Linda, a lot zoned for multifamily residential must be 3,600 sq. ft. per dwelling unit, meaning a fourplex would need a 14,400 sq. ft. lot.

On his website, Senator Wiener compares the lifting of FAR and lot size restrictions to allow Missing Middle housing as more permissive than the manner in which “current state law already preempts local FAR regulations from hindering the production of ADUs.” Namely, “when building an ADU, local FAR standards are void.” By contrast, “SB 478 would simply require an FAR of 1.0 on lots zoned for 3-7 units, and an FAR of 1.25 on 8-10 units, rather than completely nullify them, as is the case with ADUs.” Further, SB 478 only applies “in urbanized areas, in multi-family residential or mixed-use zones.”

Return to Northern News here.

Acknowledging we live, work and play on indigenous lands

Acknowledging we live, work and play on indigenous lands

In a letter of October 19, APA California President Ashley Atkinson, AICP, and Miroo Desai, Chapter Vice President for Diversity and Equity, conveyed the following message to the board members in all eight Sections of the California chapter:

“At its October meeting, APA California’s Board of Directors adopted a land acknowledgment policy by which Native American tribes are recognized as traditional stewards of the land in which our members live and practice our profession. California has the second-highest indigenous population and is home to about 200 tribes.”

“As an organization that fundamentally centers land and the use of land in its practice, APA California encourages planners to think about what it means to be living and working on occupied land. A land acknowledgment recognizes and respects indigenous people as stewards and the enduring relationship that exists between them and their traditional lands. It also provides a learning opportunity for those who may have never heard the names of the tribes that continue to live on the land we all are standing on.”

“Land acknowledgments are not about placing blame but are a first step toward building a more inclusive future so that indigenous peoples’ voices, lives, and histories are not erased. APA California will seek to continuously educate our leadership and membership in a thoughtful and responsible way on how indigenous communities are impacted or ignored in our planning practices.

“As an example, our annual conference will now feature at least one by-right session on issues directly impacting indigenous peoples related to indigenous populations. In doing so, APA California will affirm our responsibility to amplify indigenous voices and promote better understanding and public consciousness of Native sovereignty, history, and land-use struggles in our planning practice.”

The Atkinson-Desai letter attached a “step-by-step guide” on how to implement the policy, which is now in effect for all APA events in California. Events initiated or sponsored by the Chapter or by any of its Sections must now “begin with a statement that acknowledges the stewardship of the tribes where the activities are being held.”

Questions? Please contact Miroo Desai, AICP, at

Return to Northern News here.

Updated databases for Protected Areas and Conservation Easements

Updated databases for Protected Areas and Conservation Easements

By Saba Gebreamlak, October 1, 2021

GreenInfo Network has released updates to the California Protected Areas Database (v2021a) and the California Conservation Easement Database (v2021a).

CPAD and CCED are California’s authoritative parks and open space databases, covering more than 12,000 easements and over 15,800 parks and other protected areas, held by more than 1,500 agencies and nonprofits. CPAD and CCED are used for conservation planning, fire impact analysis, park needs assessments, and more.

In response to steady requests and in anticipation of the 30×30 Campaign for Nature to conserve 30 percent of California’s land and waters by 2030, we have taken steps to include GAP status codes — measures of management intent to conserve biodiversity — in this release.

We’ve added over 65,000 acres and 300 new units as well as substantial new easement lands totaling more than 60,000 acres.

Download the data and learn more at You can also sign up for our newsletter and contribute data and corrections through MapCollaborator.

Saba Gebreamlak is Geospatial Analyst with GreenInfo Network, Oakland.

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