Day: August 20, 2022

Northern News September 2022

Northern News September 2022

Northern News

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

Making great communities happen

Northern Section news and announcements

Planning news roundup

Assembled by Richard Davis, AICP Candidate, associate editor. Note: Some articles to which we link may be behind paywalls.

Bay Area churches face barriers to building affordable housing on their land

By Adhiti Bandlamundi, KQED, August 18 2022. Oakland’s Kingdom Builders Project and nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corporation are working with some East Bay churches to help them begin their development journeys.

Potential California megaflood: What the Bay Area is doing to prepare

By Marianne Favro, NBC Bay Area, August 15, 2022. Flooding on a scale unseen for over a century would severely harm underserved communities and devastate critical infrastructure.

‘California burning’: How Napa Valley contends with wildfire season

By Dave Lee, Financial Times, August 9, 2022. Local wineries are turning to private firefighters and nonprofit organizations like Napa Firewise need to fill gaps left by an overwhelmed Cal Fire.

California’s far northern cliffs are eroding faster than elsewhere in the state

By Tara Duggan, San Francisco Chronicle, August 9, 2022. In the Bay Area, some of the highest rates of clifftop erosion are found in Daly City, Pacifica, and Bodega Bay.

Gov. Newsom launches unprecedented review of San Francisco housing approval process

By J.K Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, August 9, 2022. The review will assess why the city has the state’s longest timeline for advancing housing projects and why it is the subject of the most complaints from the state’s Housing Accountability Unit.

Los Gatos residents attempt repeal of 2040 General Plan

By Hannah Kanif, Mercury News, August 9, 2022. A community group is collecting signatures for a referendum calling for reducing planned growth closer to their RHNA.

AB 2244 slashes parking requirements for all religious properties building affordable housing

By Elizabeth Hull and Michael Ervin, Best Best & Krieger LLP, August 6, 2022. Many local governments interpreted prior law on religious institutions’ parking-to-housing conversions as applying only to existing structures. This bill is a response.

UC Berkeley construction at People’s Park started, stopped

By Supriya Yelimeli, Berkeleyside, August 5, 2022. The joint student-supportive housing plan was hailed as a model for California’s housing crisis, and clearing of the park had begun. But a state appellate court halted the process.

Salinas looks to the future after Amazon walks away on 36-acre parcel

By Sara Rubin, Monterey County Now, August 4, 2022. The city is well positioned to remain a vital part of California’s agricultural economy, but it needs infrastructure upgrades.

New five-year blueprint maps future for SF Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

From MTC-ABAG, August 2, 2022. The report offers recommendations for climate adaptation in each San Francisco Bay region while underscoring the need for equity in work on the Estuary.

San Jose pours millions from federal relief into housing and wifi

By Loan-Anh Pham, San Jose Spotlight, August 2, 2022. The City’s data-driven research helped determine funding for housing, employment, and health care needs.

Brain Drain: SF sees reversal of riches as tech workers flee

By Jeff Elder, The Examiner, July 18, 2022. We complained about the entitled, clueless, disrespectful, and plentiful techies who flocked to the Bay Area from 2011-2015. Now, tech layoffs are mounting, workers are leaving SoMa, and mid-Market’s revitalization is iffy.

2020 census reveals how Berkeley was remade over the past decade

By Ally Markovich, Berkeleyside, July 17, 2022. Berkeley’s population increased and became more racially diverse overall, but the number of Black residents continues to decline.

Big cities saw historic population losses while suburban growth declined during the pandemic

By William H. Frey, Brookings, July 11, 2022. The patterns of telecommuting that have begun to take hold may make a ‘return to the city’ less inevitable than it would otherwise be.

Plan approved to convert a Daly City mall into new housing

By J.K Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, July 7, 2022. Bay Area cities are increasingly targeting sprawling shopping centers to help meet ambitious state-mandated housing goals.

New study: Bay Area hazardous sites at risk from rising seas

By Ezra David Romero, Teodros Hailye, KQED, July 5, 2022. The research highlights Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and a cluster of other hazardous sites in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood.

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Bay Area churches face barriers to building affordable housing on their land

By Adhiti Bandlamundi, KQED, August 18 2022

How Jordan Court succeeded when many others couldn’t

“Churches are one of the largest landowners in the country. … According to a 2020 study from UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, California faith institutions collectively own about 38,800 acres of undeveloped land. Almost half of that land is located in ‘resource rich’ areas, where there is better access to schools, public transportation, grocery stores, and economic opportunities.

“[Berkeley’s] Jordan Court is one of the few church-led affordable housing developments successfully built in the Bay Area. The process started in 2014, when Rev. Phil Brochard and the All Souls Episcopal congregation were trying to decide what to do with an apartment building the church owned next door.

“The project got some help from … SB 35[.] If a project meets certain criteria and contains fewer than 150 units, local governments must greenlight them within 60 days. Jordan Court contained 34 units and met all the criteria.

“The church [also had] many affluent congregants who volunteered their skills toward developing Jordan Court, including an architect who assisted in the design process and an attorney who helped sort through the legal red tape.

Why aren’t there more Jordan Courts?

“[Satellite Affordable Housing Associates CEO Susan] Friedland has talked with parishes who wanted to build affordable housing for their congregants, but backed out after realizing [“Under fair housing laws, affordable housing projects must be open to anyone who qualifies.”]

“Another misconception is how financially lucrative an affordable housing project could be.

“Developing affordable housing takes a lot of time and resources, which can be daunting for new developers like churches.

Making affordable housing work for more churches

“While building housing may align with a church’s mission to serve its community, it’s not always cost-effective. According to [Pastor L.J. Jennings leader of the Kingdom Builders Christian Fellowship and founder of the Kingdom Builders Project], this is because faith institutions aren’t familiar with the financing of housing developments and therefore don’t know how to negotiate with savvy housing developers.

“Since 2019, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Bay Area has worked with 20 churches in the East Bay that wanted to develop housing on their property.

“[Tia Hicks, program officer at LISC,] says faith institutions are some of the best organizations to get involved in housing because they are usually entrenched in the communities they serve and understand the specific needs.”

Read the full article here(~8 min.)

Also in Roundup: AB 2244, which reduces parking requirements for places of worship building affordable housing, was signed into law on July 19. Read that story here.

Return to Northern News here.

Potential California megaflood: What the Bay Area is doing to prepare

By Marianne Favro, NBC Bay Area, August 15, 2022

“UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain co-authored new research indicating we may see a megaflood similar to the one that turned streets into rivers in Sacramento in 1862.

“ ‘You’d see widespread mudslides and debris flows in the mountains, particularly in areas that have recently been affected by wildfires. You’d also see a lot of coastal flooding,’ [Swain said.]

“ ‘We’re looking at building setback levees, at building what we call flood walls or berms that are set back and give the creeks more area where it would be allowed to flood,’ Rechelle Blank with the Santa Clara Valley Water District said.

“Other solutions include elevating houses, directing flood water into parks, and restoring wetlands at the edge of the Bay to cope with sea level rise.

“ ‘[With our current mitigations, w]e would see enormous damage done to our airports, our freeways, our water treatment plants. Underserved communities would suffer severe flooding. We’d have a major infrastructure catastrophe,’ [said San Francisco Estuary Institute Executive Director Warner Chabot.]”

Read the full article here(~2 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

‘California burning’: How Napa Valley contends with wildfire season

By Dave Lee, Financial Times, August 9, 2022

“In California, a state with 33 million acres of forest that has been in drought for much of this century, the past two years have seen fires reach unprecedented levels, according to Cal Fire.

“There’s now an increasing realization among local businesses and private organizations like Napa Firewise that the private sector must step up [to help with wildfire mitigation projects]— from the utility companies burying cables underground, to the vineyards funding private firefighters, to the insurers and homebuilders being encouraged to work together to make more resilient communities.

“[Mike] Wilson [director of Napa Firewise] says the work Firewise does with private funding rather than grant money has an upper hand as it allows them to cut out the ‘green tape’ that can delay treatment projects by many months while environmental and archaeological approvals are sought.

“However, private funds make up only a fraction of the revenue Napa Firewise has at its disposal — about 6 percent.

“[W]hile wildfires can be started by arsonists or lightning strikes or bizarre accidents, the majority are ignited by electrical infrastructure. In the areas it protects, Cal Fire has said 74 percent of wildfires between 2018 and 2020 were caused by issues with electrical power, such as vegetation blowing onto cables due to strong winds.

“[M]itigation work is also being undertaken by Pacific Gas and Electric, the largest utility provider in the state.

“[P]rogress on [Governor] Newsom’s pledge of having 1 million acres treated [for wildfire mitigation] each year [is uncertain]. An investigation carried out by a coalition of public service broadcasters in California determined that Cal Fire has been unable to track precisely how much work has been completed.

“[Cyril Chappellet, president and chief executive of his family’s prestigious winery] says private firefighters must be allowed to supplement the work of the state authorities… . ‘[Cal Fire goes to] places that have the most lives threatened and protects those places first. But it’s really important that we have private firefighting companies to come protect us because the resources for the state and CalFire are minimalistic.’

“[Two fellows at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, where they have studied wildfire mitigation] are calling for insurance companies, using input from government and climate scientists, to better assess risk over future years; and then … offer financial incentives to encourage stronger homebuilding in return for lower premiums in the long run.”

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

Return to Northern News here.

California’s far northern cliffs are eroding faster than elsewhere in the state

By Tara Duggan, San Francisco Chronicle, August 9, 2022

“In the Bay Area, locations with some of the highest rates of clifftop erosion include Daly City, Pacifica, and Bodega Bay, according to a study published this month by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. The highest erosion rates were found near Humboldt Bay and in a few remote locations in Del Norte County.

“Far Northern California may have the worst erosion because it has more rainfall and larger waves, but more surveys will be needed to demonstrate a direct relationship, said Zuzanna M. Swirad, one of the authors.

“Cliffs next to sandy beaches also showed the highest rates of erosion.

“ ‘This finding is counterintuitive, because wide beaches can protect cliffs from wave action. However, waves can also use beach sand as an abrasive to erode the lower cliff,’ read the study, which was published in the journal Geomorphology.

“The results of the study … are presented in an interactive map.

“The researchers say it is the first study to use high-resolution data to analyze cliff erosion all along the coast.

“The time period the study looked at — when the relatively new [high-resolution data] became available — may not be representative of the overall picture of erosion on the coast, said Gary Griggs, professor of earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz, who was not involved in the study.”

Read the full article here(~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Gov. Newsom launches unprecedented review of San Francisco housing approval process

By J.K Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, August 9, 2022

“After a year of escalating warnings, Gov. Gavin Newsom is launching an unprecedented review of San Francisco’s notoriously lengthy and difficult housing approval and permitting process, aimed at identifying and removing barriers to construction of new residential development in the city.

“The California Department of Housing and Community Development said Tuesday that it would focus on San Francisco for its first-ever ‘housing policy and practice review,’ a process that will dissect why the city has the state’s longest timeline for advancing housing projects and is the subject of the most complaints from Newsom’s Housing Accountability Unit.

“San Francisco Planning Director Rich Hillis said his department is already working closely with HCD on the housing element and that the additional scrutiny is welcome… . San Francisco’s housing element must show how the city plans to accommodate 82,069 units between 2023 and 2030.

“ ‘They are elevating this issue and wanting to shine more of a light on it, and we get it,’ said Hillis. ‘We recognize that our process is not geared toward getting housing built quickly and with certainty.’

“Mayor London Breed said she supports the state stepping in.

“Critics of the state’s efforts to force local cities to step up housing production, however, say the state’s focus on eliminating community process — and politics — from the development approval procedures will not help working families. Charlie Sciammas, policy director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, said that the state’s singular focus on removing barriers to development would lead overwhelmingly to market-rate units out of the reach of average city dwellers, leading to more displacement and homelessness.”

Read the full article here(~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Los Gatos residents attempt repeal of 2040 General Plan

By Hannah Kanif, Mercury News, August 9, 2022

“The Los Gatos Community Alliance filed a referendum in July against the town’s recently approved 2040 General Plan … saying it calls for an unnecessarily high number of housing units and needs specific incentives for affordable housing and a fiscal impact analysis.

“The 2040 General Plan concentrates the majority of new housing growth in mixed-use and higher-density developments, like apartments with shops on the ground floor. It keeps the town’s low-density neighborhoods and allows more housing types in high-density residential like small, multi-unit housing.

“ ‘If [the resident group collects enough valid signatures], then the land use and community design elements are suspended per the referendum, because they are only referending those two sections of the General Plan,’ town manager Laurel Prevetti said.

“At that point council would have three options: put the question on the November 2024 ballot, hold a special election in 2023, or rescind the elements in question and start … over.

“The alliance called for reducing planned growth to account for the current RHNA cycle plus a 20 percent buffer, resulting in 2,392 new units. The town’s General Plan calls for 3,196 housing units to be developed over the next 20 years.

“ ‘The state of California plans new housing in eight-year cycles. The General Plan should reflect this eight-year planning cycle (i.e., 2023-2031) and be amended every eight years when new information and future RHNA allocations become known,’ reads a statement from the alliance. ‘This thoughtful approach assumes that incremental change is best and is made only when new information is available.’”

Read the full article here(~4 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

AB 2244 slashes parking requirements for all religious properties building affordable housing

By Elizabeth Hull and Michael Ervin, Best Best & Krieger LLP, August 6, 2022

AB 2244, signed by Gov. Newsom [on July 19], builds off of previous efforts to reduce parking requirements on a place of worship if it planned to construct an affordable housing project on its property.

“AB 2244 continues the regulatory path charted by AB 1851, which was passed in 2020 and was the first bill to reduce parking requirements for affordable housing on religious properties… . Many local governments interpreted the reduced parking to apply only to existing religious institutions, and did not extend AB 1851 to new or proposed developments.

“In response to local government interpretation, AB 2244 expands the definition of ‘religious-use parking spaces’ to include both existing and new places of worship. Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, any proposed affordable housing development located on a religious property is eligible for up to a 50 percent reduction in the number of required religious-use parking spaces.”

Read the full article here(~2 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

UC Berkeley construction at People’s Park started, stopped

By Supriya Yelimeli, Berkeleyside, August 5, 2022

“Two eventful days after UC Berkeley attempted to begin construction on a controversial student housing project at People’s Park, a state appellate court approved a stay order halting all construction and changes until October.

“Judge Teri Jackson signed the stay order [August 5] to allow the court to review an appeal petition by Make UC a Good Neighbor and the People’s Park Historic Advocacy Group on their original California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit.

“It’s another development in a court case by the plaintiffs, who appealed the case (again) after an Alameda County judge shot down their argument on July 29.” [See below]

Judge: UC Berkeley can clear People’s Park for housing

By Jessica Garrison and Stuart Leavenworth, LA Times, July 29, 2022

“Alameda County Judge Judge Frank Roesch … ruled that UC Berkeley can begin clearing the historic park and starting site work because the university’s plan does not violate the California Environmental Quality Act.

“UC Berkeley and the city of Berkeley proposed redeveloping the park in 2018, calling it a first-in-the-nation plan to build long-term supportive housing for homeless people on university land. The university would also build 1,100 units of … student housing and retain some of the park[.]

“But two organizations — the People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group and Make UC a Good Neighbor — jointly filed a lawsuit, arguing, among other things, that the university… had not adequately studied [alternative projects], as required by state law. 

“City and university officials have hailed the plan as a model for other universities and a landmark solution to both California’s homeless crisis and the housing shortage at UC Berkeley and other UC campuses.

“But no one familiar with the park or its history thinks change will come easily.”

Read the Berkeleyside article here(~4 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Salinas looks to the future after Amazon walks away on 36-acre parcel

By Sara Rubin, Monterey County Now, August 4, 2022

Salinas’s Growers Ice, an industrial agriculture cooler, sought since 2010 to build a state-of-the-art facility on a 36-acre parcel a mile from its current headquarters.

“[But first, infrastructure needed to be upgraded]: There are no roads, sewer lines, or water lines. The city’s [agriculture] industrial wastewater treatment plant needs to be expanded.

“While all of those costly improvements stalled, along came a proposal in 2021 for a project that has nothing to do with agriculture: A 2.9-million-square-foot warehouse with 50 loading docks for Amazon.

“Facing rising construction costs, Amazon walked away. Growers Ice still hopes to close on its [new campus]—and if the deal goes through, it will kickstart development here in the right direction, the direction as envisioned 12 years ago when the plan was approved [by Salinas City Council].

“It’s a top priority for Megan Hunter, director of community development. ‘Salinas is well-situated to continue to do very well in ag,’ she says. ‘We really need the ag industrial center.’

“It’s likely public-private partnership will be the key [to fund the infrastructure], and also help qualify the city for grant funds.”

Read the full article here(~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.