Day: May 28, 2022

Northern News June 2022

Northern News June 2022

Northern News

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

Making great communities happen

Planning news roundup

Assembled by Richard Davis, AICP Candidate, associate editor.
We excerpted 16 articles in this roundup. Some of the original articles are behind paywalls. “Where in the world” photos follow this roundup.

How important was the single-family zoning ban in Minneapolis?

By Jake Blumgart, Governing, May 26, 2022. The effort caught national attention, but the real story is the rest of the package of land use reforms that the city council passed to open up the housing market — especially parking reform.

San Francisco lost a greater percentage of residents than any other large U.S. city

By Anna Tong, San Francisco Standard, May 26, 2022. Other Bay Area cities also saw big population declines, while many inland cities, such as Sacramento and Fresno, saw growth.

California is about to begin the nation’s largest ever dam removal project along the Klamath River

By Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle, May 21, 2022. The new terrain that will come with dam removal is expected to boost fish numbers and restore plant and animal biodiversity.

New study: Sonoma, Napa, and Marin counties facing heightened wildfire risk

From Staff and Wire Reports, Marin Independent Journal, May 17, 2022. In the Bay Area, many communities were listed as low risk, although the hills in the East Bay were considered high risk.

San Quentin site could go from gun range to teacher housing, with state support

By J. K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, May 15, 2022. The project, which developers hope to open by 2025, would be Marin County’s largest affordable housing development in half a century.

Atherton sees SB 9 applications trickling in, while neighboring towns have not

By Angela Swartz, The Almanac, May 9, 2022. According to staff estimates, SB 9 could result in about five new housing units per year in the town.

VTA approves San Jose BART extension contract despite controversial design

By Eliyahu Kamisher and Maggie Angst, Mercury News, May 6, 2022. Critics of the design say it will lead to ballooning costs while supporters say it would minimize surface-level disruptions.

Here’s how to fix the broken public hearing process for new housing

By Anika Singh Lemar, Brookings, May 4, 2022. So many decisions are made during development approvals, there is little incentive to participate in the planning process. Those who do are undermined by later participants in development approvals.

CalEPA updates Disadvantaged Communities designation

From CalEPA, May 3, 2022. The designation takes into account the latest and best available data and considers factors related to data unavailability.

Applications for new housing in San Francisco hit new low

By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, May 2, 2022. If the number of new applications coming in doesn’t jump in the coming months, San Francisco could feel the slowdown in 2025 and 2026.

Inside the DIY effort to deliver tiny homes to homeless people

By Lauren Hepler, San Francisco Chronicle, May 1, 2022. Without asking permission from cities, relatively inexpensive micro homes on wheels are built by volunteers and delivered to the homeless.

California approves bullet train link from Central Valley to Bay Area

By Lauren Hernández, Ricardo Cano, Dustin Gardiner, San Francisco Chronicle, April 29, 2022. The extension could help California balance the jobs-housing ratios between the two regions.

Rohnert Park purchases 30-acre property it plans to redevelop into future downtown

By Bay City News Foundation, Local News Matters, April 29, 2022. The decision was years in the making. Area plans and infrastructure are ready.

Here’s the U.S. state each Northern Section county is most like

By Nami Sumada, The Chronicle, April 26, 2022. The Chronicle identified the state (other than California) that best matches each California county based on residents’ demographics and voting behavior.

Why Americans are leaving downtowns in droves

By Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, April 25, 2022. The rise of remote work has snipped the tether between home and office, allowing many white-collar workers to move out of high-cost cities.

Bay Area hopes for more than 100 new park projects by 2030

By Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 2022. A coalition of 67 Bay Area nonprofits and public agencies rolled out a $700 million plan for efforts to preserve biodiversity.

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How important was the single-family zoning ban in Minneapolis?

By Jake Blumgart, Governing, May 26, 2022

“Janne Flisrand and Neighbors for More Neighbors were at the heart of [the] move to legalize triplexes and duplexes wherever single-family homes are allowed. This ‘single-family zoning ban’ captured headlines nationwide in 2018 … as a powerfully progressive piece of policymaking that other cities should emulate. 

“But the actual number of units produced … is … not impressive. In the last two years, the number of duplex, triplex, and fourplex units permitted increased from 13 in 2015 to 53 in 2021 … not enough to address the larger supply crunch.

Housing reform bigger than one rule change

“For Flisrand … the triplex rule … is part of a larger story of housing reform in Minneapolis. Even in 2018, Neighbors for More Neighbors noted that it would not radically transform the housing supply (that was actually the argument of their opponents). Zoning changes may be necessary for more substantial changes … [and] allows for more possibilities, but doesn’t guarantee them and certainly does not produce [housing units] quickly.

“The triplex rule was just one of a package of reforms in the 2040 comprehensive plan and, Flisrand argues, not the most effective one. Enacted around the same time … was an inclusionary zoning law [that] requires some new developments to include affordable housing. Transit corridors were upzoned, and minimum height limits set downtown and in other already dense areas.

“Maximum dwelling occupancy caps were scrapped, which legalized group houses, while accessory dwelling unit rules were tweaked to make granny flats and backyard apartments more feasible. Single-room occupancy apartments were legalized, homeless shelter rules changed to allow them across the city, and mandatory parking minimums eliminated.

“In Flisrand’s opinion, it’s that last one that made the biggest difference. Parking is hugely expensive to build, and mandating its construction results in projects with more space for cars than necessary and fewer units of housing. Developers usually still provide parking, but are better able to target the amount to the market and location instead of being forced to overbuild.”

Read the full article here. (~7 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

San Francisco lost a greater percentage of residents than any other large U.S. city

By Anna Tong, San Francisco Standard, May 26, 2022

“Nearly every large U.S. city lost residents during Covid, but nowhere was that trend felt more acutely than San Francisco.

“The city lost 6.3 percent of its residents from July 2020 to July 2021, the biggest percentage decline among all 800-some cities with more than 50,000 residents, according to data released by the Census Bureau today. That represents a loss of 54,813 individuals.

“While San Francisco came in first on the nationwide list, other Bay Area cities also saw big population declines. San Jose, San Mateo, Redwood City, San Leandro, Palo Alto, Union City, and Alameda all lost about 3 percent of their residents in the same time period. Pleasanton, Sunnyvale, Berkeley, Livermore, Fremont, and Milpitas recorded smaller losses during the same period, around 2 percent.

“Nationwide, cities with the biggest population growth were in Arizona, Texas, Florida, and Idaho. Georgetown, Texas, a booming suburb north of Austin, registered the largest percentage growth, increasing its population by 10.5 percent. Among cities with over 1 million residents, Phoenix, Arizona, grew the most, at 0.8 percent. In California, many inland cities experienced population growth — in particular Sacramento, Riverside, Merced, Modesto, and Fresno.

“Many of San Francisco’s residents are office workers who were able to work remotely during Covid, said Stanford economics professor Nick Bloom, who studies working from home. The population decline is bad for the city’s government due to lost tax revenue, but it may not be a bad thing for residents, he said.”

Read the full article here(~2 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

California is about to begin the nation’s largest ever dam removal project along the Klamath River

By Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle, May 21, 2022

“After decades of negotiation, the largest dam-removal project in U.S. history is expected to begin in California’s far north next year.

“The nearly half-billion dollars needed for the joint state, tribal, and corporate undertaking has been secured. The demolition plans are drafted. The contractor is in place. Final approval could come by December.

“While the decision to remove [four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River between California and Oregon] was financial, it was urged — and enabled — by those hoping to see a revival of plants and animals in the Klamath Basin.

“ ‘At its heart, this is really a fish-restoration project,’ said Mike Belchik, senior fisheries biologist for the Yurok Tribe, which has long lamented the decline of salmon on its ancestral territory in the basin.

“At stake is nothing less than the future of the cherished chinook salmon run. The fish once numbered in the hundreds of thousands in the Klamath River, making its migration the third-largest salmon run on the West Coast.

“While the four dams no longer generate significant power, according to [former owners] PacifiCorp, some residents along the California-Oregon border have opposed the demolition because of a reluctance to surrender any power source, the pending loss of waterfront property on the reservoirs, and less water available for fighting wildfires.

“The dams are not used for irrigation, municipal water, or flood control.

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has final say over the dam removal, released a draft environmental impact statement in February, suggesting that the benefits of the venture outweigh the concerns.

“[“Texas-based ecological restoration company Res, which has been contracted to help return the river to its natural state”] is planning to revegetate 2,200 acres of land that will resurface once the dams are torn down and the reservoirs are drained.

“The new terrain that will come with dam removal is expected to not only boost fish numbers, but also increase biodiversity. This can harden the fish to the challenges of drought, warming water temperatures, and other hardships likely to come with the changing climate.”

Read the full article here(~6 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

New study: Sonoma, Napa, and Marin counties facing heightened wildfire risk

From Staff and Wire Reports, Marin Independent Journal, May 17, 2022

“Nearly 80 million properties across the country are at risk from wildfires, according to a first-of-its-kind study that tries to calculate how widespread the threat has become as climate change stokes the danger.

“[The study] places Marin among the top three counties that face the largest increase in wildfire risk to homes. Sonoma County ranked No. 1, followed by Napa County.

“[T]he nonprofit First Street Foundation released the nationwide wildfire risk assessment— a massive trove of data that will be integrated into Realtor.com, so that prospective buyers can see what the fire risk is for any given property.

“In the Bay Area, many communities were listed as low risk, although the hills in the East Bay, particularly around areas such as Dublin, San Ramon, Blackhawk, Livermore, and Walnut Creek, were considered high risk, along with parts of Solano County, like Fairfield and Vacaville.

“Despite the drumbeat of headlines about wildfires from Colorado to New Mexico to California, the First Street study found the state with the most addresses at risk now was Florida. But California will vault into the lead over the next 30 years, the study said.

“Craig Clements, director of San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Lab, said he was surprised that Santa Rosa, which has been devastated by wildfires in recent years, was listed as low risk, as were forests around the northern edges of Lake Tahoe and most of the Santa Cruz Mountains.”

Read the full article here(~4 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

San Quentin site could go from gun range to teacher housing, with state support

By J. K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, May 15, 2022

“On a former San Quentin gun range overlooking the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, a team of nonprofits is planning to build … Marin County’s largest affordable housing development in half a century.

“The project is on state-owned land and not subject to the approvals of local Marin County officials, who are notorious for delaying and killing proposed housing.

“While 17 [government-owned properties] are in the planning stages of [housing] development statewide, perhaps none are as spectacular as the 8-acre hillside property on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Larkspur, a city where homes average $2.3 million.

“The project is undergoing environmental review and the developers hope to open by 2025.

“A total of 135 units of the 250 units [in the proposed project] would be available to low to moderate income educators at rents that would be … about $2,100 in the current market. The remaining 115 units would be available to extremely low to low income households

“Robin Pendoley, who works on education equity issues for the Marin Promises Partnership, said the dearth of affordable places to live has exacerbated the difficulty of creating a diverse workforce. Students of color make up 43 percent of the total Marin student body but only 11 percent of teachers are educators of color. Creating affordable housing ‘is an important component of competing for and retaining educators of color,’ he said.

“[Larkspur resident David Herr said,] ‘There was no open and transparent process to determine what makes sense there in terms of zoning [for 250 housing units]. The ‘mandate’ from the state was created by the developer’s winning RFP proposal — it’s zoning by RFP.’ ”

Read the full article here(~4 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Atherton sees SB 9 applications trickling in, while neighboring towns have not

By Angela Swartz, The Almanac, May 9, 2022

“With California’s new lot-split law (SB 9) in effect, Atherton has received four applications to subdivide properties and build new homes since late February. And the town expects more to come.

“Owners can already add accessory dwelling units (ADUs) or junior ADUs to their properties, but SB 9 allows an owner to create a new lot.

“Owners must sign an affidavit that states they will live in one of the units as their primary residence for at least three consecutive years, a requirement added to the law to reduce investor speculation.

“SB 9 could result in about five new housing units per year in town, according to a February staff presentation. This would result in about 40 new units that would go toward the town’s 2023-31 Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers. Atherton is required by the state to plan for the development of 348 new housing units compared to just 93 during the prior eight-year cycle.

“SB 9 projects are more likely to take place on properties with an older residence, staff noted.

“So far, the neighboring towns of Woodside and Portola Valley have not received any SB 9 applications.

“Both towns have stricter limits on building SB 9 projects.”

Read the full article here(~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

VTA approves San Jose BART extension contract despite controversial design

By Eliyahu Kamisher and Maggie Angst, Mercury News, May 6, 2022

“Marking a key milestone in the long-delayed effort to bring BART trains to downtown San Jose, the Valley Transportation Authority board awarded a major contract billed as the project’s ‘foundational backbone’ on [May 5] while also approving an independent review of the project’s controversial design in an effort to assuage critics.

“[Q]uestions remain over who will oversee the review and how much impact, if any, it would have on the design as [the] contract award lays the groundwork for the mega project’s single-bore tunnel.

“Critics say VTA’s plan to mine one of the world’s largest subway tunnels with a single-bore instead of a more conventional dual-bore design could compromise the rider experience and lead to ballooning costs.

“Supporters of the single-bore design say it would avoid chaos on Santa Clara Street by minimizing surface-level disruptions, while shallower dual-bore construction would require tearing up swaths of the street. They also say switching to a dual-bore would require new environmental clearances, tacking years more of delays onto the project.

“The VTA board vote comes as the six-mile, four-station BART extension through downtown San Jose faces criticism over a federal analysis that pegged the expected cost at $9.1 billion — a $2.25 billion increase over the current budget.

“ ‘I believe what we have in front of us now is the right decision,’ VTA’s Takis Salpeas, the agency’s lead on the project, said in an interview earlier this week, adding that engineers are looking to improve riders’ station access while maintaining the current tunnel-mining technology.”

Read the full article here(~4 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Here’s how to fix the broken public hearing process for new housing

By Anika Singh Lemar, Brookings, May 4, 2022

“[A]s-of-right approvals and public participation are not mutually exclusive. [They] co-exist quite comfortably in many areas of administrative law. This piece offers suggestions for a more equitable and effective approach to public participation in the zoning sphere.

“The public participation process tied to zoning approvals has three major shortfalls: 1) it discounts the value of objective information and technical expertise in favor of subjective opinions; 2) it prioritizes speakers who are unrepresentative of the whole community; and 3) it has few mechanisms for addressing misinformation. A better land development process should seek to address all three of these problems.

“[Because] local officials routinely ascribe legitimacy to wealth and its proxies — longtime residency and homeownership — [t]he resulting process prioritizes the voices of self-interested neighbors and ignores both experts and those who do not benefit from the inflated housing prices that come with constrained supply. It is destined, if not designed, to perpetuate the current housing shortage and affordability crisis.

“Public participation ought to inform generally applicable zoning regulations, as is the case for the child care licensing process. … [and] not play a role in applying those rules to individual development proposals.

“Skeptics might point out that individual proposals attract more participation than planning processes do. That is a problem created by the current system: because so many decisions are made at the development approvals stage, there is little incentive to participate in the planning process. Consequently, fewer people participate in planning. Those who do are undermined by later participants in the development approvals process.

“Fixing broken public participation processes is a small but essential piece of fixing our broken zoning laws.”

Anika Singh Lemar is a Clinical Professor of Law at Yale Law School, where she teaches the Community and Economic Development clinic. She is editor-in-chief of the American Bar Association’s Journal of Affordable Housing & Community Development Law. Lemar holds a JD from New York University School of Law and a BA in ethics, politics, and economics from Yale University.

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

Return to Northern News here.

CalEPA updates Disadvantaged Communities designation

From CalEPA, May 3, 2022

“In 2012, Senate Bill 535 (De León, Chapter 830, Statutes of 2012) established initial requirements for minimum funding levels to ‘Disadvantaged Communities’ (DACs). 

“After receiving public input at workshops and in written comments, in May 2022, CalEPA released its updated Designation of Disadvantaged Communities for the purpose of SB 535. In this designation, CalEPA formally designated four categories of geographic areas as disadvantaged:

  1. “Census tracts receiving the highest 25 percent of overall scores in CalEnviroScreen 4.0.
  2. “Census tracts lacking overall scores in CalEnviroScreen 4.0 due to data gaps, but receiving the highest 5 percent of CalEnviroScreen 4.0 cumulative pollution burden scores.
  3. “Census tracts identified in the 2017 DAC designation, regardless of their scores in CalEnviroScreen 4.0.
  4. “Lands under the control of federally recognized Tribes.

“The funds for the DACs come from California Climate Investments. These are proceeds of the State’s Cap-and-Trade Program in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and appropriated by the Legislature specifically targeted for investment in disadvantaged communities in California.

“The designation takes into account the latest and best available data and considers factors related to data unavailability. This designation will go into effect on July 1, 2022, at which point programs funded through California Climate Investments will use the designation in making funding decisions.”

Read the full announcement from CalEPA here(~3 min.) The linked page also contains CalEPA’s current spatial data on California’s disadvantaged communities.

Return to Northern News here.