Author: Naphtali Knox

UBC expert: How coronavirus will impact future cities

By Lou Corpuz-Bosshart, UBC News, March 23, 2020

“We spoke to UBC professor” Patrick Condon, chair in Landscape and Livable Environments at UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the founding chair of the UBC urban design program.

What are the potential impacts of the current crisis on transit systems?

“This will be another blow to urban transit, which will be needed to solve the climate crisis. It will likely be a boost to the ride-hailing industry.

“How will it affect the way we design and build cities?

“The rich will withdraw even more behind the protection of doormen and gated communities. Sanitized cars with drivers on call.

“Our current housing inequality in the region needs to be addressed when this is over. It makes no sense to continue a trend where increasingly the rich live in Vancouver and wage earners who provide services to the city are being forced further and further east.

“How will it affect community services?

“I foresee a continued slide in our civic infrastructure and reduced taxpayer support for these functions. I suspect our concerns post-crisis will be more basic: where can I live affordably and how can I access job and services safely.”

Read the interview here.

 

“Grieving for my sick city”

By Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times, March 17, 2020

“Many thousands of people all over the world are mourning dead loved ones. I’m lucky; I’m just mourning the city.

“To live in a city like New York, where I’ve spent most of my adult life, is to trade private space for public space. It’s to depend on interdependence. I don’t have a dining room, but I’ve been able to eat in thousands of restaurants. I have no storage space, but everything I needed was at the bodega. I don’t have a home office, but I could work at coffee shops.

“The coronavirus disaster is going to devastate communities all over the country, … but it poses particular challenges for urbanites.

“Social distancing is brutal for everyone, but it’s particularly difficult for people in cities, especially those who live alone and those packed into tiny spaces.

“And where you’re isolated matters. ‘It’s going to be a fundamentally different experience if you’re able to stroll around your 10-acre farm and pick the produce you’ve been growing,’ said Steven Taylor, a University of British Columbia professor and author of The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease, than if you’re ‘living in a one-bedroom apartment with your three roommates.’

“When this emergency is over, people are likely to emerge into fundamentally changed cities, with economies in crisis, and beloved restaurants, businesses, and cultural institutions gone for good.

“I wonder if our cultural romance with urban living will recover. In recent decades, millennials, who tend to be more averse to suburbia than their parents and grandparents, have helped fuel an urban resurgence. If the shock of the coronavirus is devastating enough, that could change, as more people seek their own personal bunkers.

“Maybe when this ends, people will pour into the restaurants and bars like a war’s been won, and cities will flourish as people rush to rebuild their ruined social architecture. But for now, it’s chilling to witness an entire way of life coming to a sudden horrible halt.”

Read the full op-ed here.

As residents grapple with smog, Vietnam pushes renewable energy

By Michael Tatarski, New Naratif, March 16, 2020

Northern News presents these excerpts from a 2300-word article. You can read the full article here.

“Vietnam’s economy has … helped the country climb up the global development ladder, and it’s repeatedly been declared a winner of the US-China trade war amid major shifts in production by the world’s biggest companies.

“This growth has fueled a building boom, along with an explosion in car and motorbike ownership. Increased industrial production, widespread construction, and more vehicle emissions might be signs of a healthy economy, but at the cost of health problems for the people living among them.

“Katherine Nguyen moved to the city from San Jose, California, in 2009. ‘It wasn’t a concern at the time,’ she recalls. ‘I never even thought about it. But recently there have been spikes where the AQI turns red (unhealthy) or purple (very unhealthy) on the app.’ Nguyen’s family have responded by installing air purifiers in each living space in their apartment.

“Despite being Vietnam’s most populous city and economic engine, the air quality in Ho Chi Minh City used to be generally better than in Hanoi, the country’s capital. But while the situation has further deteriorated in Hanoi, things aren’t much better in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Ho Chi Minh City, and Vietnam as a whole, are often portrayed as lands of bountiful economic opportunities for people across classes. But when the construction and development that boosts economic growth is also generating these impacts to health and quality of life, people have to figure out how to deal with the situation according to their means.

Typical traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Naphtali Knox, FAICP

“People working outside, or without the means to afford air filters and high-quality masks, face even more health risks, as they are in the middle of dense traffic for hours at a time. They are also reticent about speaking to the press about their experience, given that the issue is often seen as rather politically sensitive.

“Meanwhile, large-scale potential solutions — mass public transit, for example — are years away from becoming reality. Ho Chi Minh City’s first metro line won’t start operating until 2021 at the earliest, with any further lines expected to take several more years of construction, while Hanoi’s first line has been 99 percent complete for nearly a year, with no opening date in sight.

“As of now, buses are the only form of public transportation, while huge construction projects continue to emit dirt, dust, and other particles into the air, and industrial parks expand capacity to welcome companies escaping the trade war.”

Michael Tatarski is a journalist based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He focuses on the environment, urban development, and social issues. Find him on Twitter @miketatarski.

Read the full article here

Northern News April 2020

Northern News April 2020 Featured

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Northern Section announcements

Annual Housing Progress Report to HCD is still due April 1

The April 1 due date is in statute and HCD cannot change it. Cities can submit the APR to HCD before taking it to their council, and submit a revised APR to HCD at any time.

Director’s note

By Jonathan Schuppert, AICP, March 18, 2020. As I work from home, I’m learning much about my colleagues and their families, enabling me to empathize, better understand their thought processes, and work together more effectively.

Who’s where

In this segment, curated by associate editor Sajuti Rahman, we highlight a change in the APA Northern Section Board and six job changes: Amalia Lorentz Cunningham, AICP; Delo Freitas; Brian Heaton, AICP; James Murphy; Lauren Ninkovich; and Melissa Ruhl. Congratulations all!

Governor suspends Brown and Bagley-Keene Act meeting requirements

A recent Executive Order order authorizes California’s state and local bodies to hold public meetings by teleconference and to make public meetings accessible telephonically or otherwise electronically to all members of the public seeking to attend and to address the local or state agencies.

CPF Scholarship deadline extended to Sunday, May 31

Check here for everything you need to know about applying for the 2020-21 California Planning Foundation Scholarships for outstanding planning students.

Northern Section postpones planning tour to Middle East

Given the severity of and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, our planning tour to the Middle East, originally scheduled for 2020, is postponed until 2021.

ABOUT NORTHERN NEWS

We publish 10 times each year as a forum for the exchange of planning ideas and information. Entirely the effort of volunteers, Northern News is written and produced by and for urban planners in northern California.

Planning news roundup

UBC expert: How coronavirus will impact future cities

By Lou Corpuz-Bosshart, UBC News, March 23, 2020. Regional housing inequality needs to be addressed. It makes no sense to continue a trend where increasingly the rich live in Vancouver and wage earners who provide services to the city are being forced further and further east.

Tackling transportation emissions in California — or ignoring them

By Melanie Curry, StreetsBlog Cal, March 5, 2020. Early in March, two California Senate committees held a joint hearing on reducing GHG emissions from transportation, the state’s highest-emitting sector.

“Grieving for my sick city”

By Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times, March 17, 2020. “When the Corona virus emergency is over, people are likely to emerge into fundamentally changed cities, with economies in crisis, and beloved restaurants, businesses, and cultural institutions gone for good. I wonder if our cultural romance with urban living will recover.”

As residents grapple with smog, Vietnam pushes renewable energy

By Michael Tatarski, New Naratif, March 16, 2020. Vietnam is often portrayed with bountiful economic opportunities for people across classes. But the construction and development that boosts economic growth is affecting health and quality of life, leaving people to deal with the situation according to their means.

Cities fighting climate woes hasten “green gentrification”

By Adam Rogers for Wired.com, February 23, 2020. Scholars say newly constructed flood-fighting infrastructure has promoted gentrification. In 2017, Northern News covered efforts in North Richmond to foster shoreline resilience without displacement.

Antioch, CA, ‘Last bastion of the good commute’ in the Bay Area

By Candace Jackson, The New York Times, February 25, 2020. The Times’ Real Estate section highlighted Antioch for its relatively affordable housing and BART access. We have included a response from Antioch’s Community Development Director at the end of the article.

Transportation Trends for 2020 (and what cities can do about them)

William Riggs, PhD, AICP, LEED AP, a professor of management at USF, reviews emerging trends in mobility and recommends city practices to foster positive aspects of these trends.

San Jose opens first tiny home community for formerly homeless residents

By Maggie Angst, Bay Area News Group, February 27, 2020. Forty tiny homes and supportive services dedicated for the homeless have opened near the San Jose Flea Market, about three miles north of downtown, on a site owned by the Valley Transportation Agency.

San Francisco debates when, where, and how to build affordable housing

By Sasha Perigo, San Francisco Examiner, March 8, 2020. San Francisco voters passed Proposition E, “The Balanced Development Act,” which ties the City’s cap on approved office space construction to its progress on the State’s affordable housing goals.

Report: SF must build taller, expand into western neighborhoods

By Adam Brinklow, Curbed SF, March 9, 2020. San Francisco’s Planning Department released a Housing Affordability Strategy that identifies the current state of the City’s housing, and three core strategies.

Scott Weiner has another bill to build denser housing in California

By Alexei Koseff, San Francisco Chronicle, March 9, 2020. Senator Wiener’s SB 902 would allow by-right development of multi-unit housing in single-family zones statewide, while scaling the number of allowable units to city size.

San Jose’s Measure E passes; will fund homelessness services and affordable housing

By Richard Davis, associate editor. San Jose voters have likely passed Measure E, a new funding source for affordable housing and homelessness support programs funded by a property sale transaction tax.

Dozens of homeless find housing in downtown San Jose

By Marisa Kendall, East Bay Times, March 6, 2020. Villas on the Park — permanent supportive housing partially funded by the county’s $950 million affordable housing bond — has opened in downtown San Jose.

ANNUAL ETHICS/LAW TRAINING CANCELLED

Due to concerns about limiting in-person events during the coronavirus outbreak, NORTHERN SECTION is cancelling the annual ethics/law training event previously scheduled for March 21, 2020, at the Alameda County Training and Education Center in Oakland.

If you still need Ethics credits, you may view the webinar on the Ethics Cases of the Year presented earlier this year and claim your CM credits at https://www.planning.org/events/course/9195109/

We hope to reschedule the event later this year and/or to offer an online version of the Law topic.

Questions? Contact Ethics Director Libby Tyler at ethics@norcalapa.org

Marina CA shows cities can retreat from rising seas

By Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times, February 24, 2020

Ten miles north of Monterey, [Marina offers] sand dune[s and a] sandy beach that stretches for miles along the bay. Not much of the California coast feels like this anymore.

At a time when Del Mar, Pacifica, and other coastal cities are fighting to defend their homes and roads from the rising sea, Marina residents are learning how to adjust with the ocean as the water moves inland.

Sea walls are forbidden, and sand replenishment projects seem unnatural. Officials instead require real estate disclosures for sea level rise, move infrastructure away from the water, and work with the private resort in town to relocate its oceanfront property — a policy known as managed retreat.

A controversial sand mine on the beach is shutting down after a century of dredging away the coast. Residents are fighting a large water company trying to build a desalination plant.

With sea level rise, the mere suggestion of making room for the ocean and turning prime real estate into open space has upended other cities up and down the coast. But Marina is different, a [100-page, 2019] city report (212 MB) declared, and the city instead will show the state and country how to adapt to a changing planet — ‘a really powerful message to the rest of California.’

Figure 5-1 from city report. Overview of threatened areas of Marina off Reservation Road. Credit: Coastal Records Project

Much of the shoreline remains undeveloped — making decisions today a lot less complicated when it comes to planning for sea level rise. The city points developers instead to parcels downtown and farther inland. A new planned community, Sea Haven, is now advertising the benefits of “homes near the sea.”

As more than 35 coastal cities and counties in California agonize over the difficult costs and choices, Marina stands out as a community enthusiastic about choosing managed retreat.

The plan lays out a framework over the next few decades for when office buildings, a sewer pump, and an aging water treatment facility should consider moving away from the sea. Beach amenities, such as a parking lot and public restrooms, might also need to relocate.

Triggers will be identified on when these decisions should be made, based on how much time it takes to permit new construction. When the sea rises to a certain threshold or erosion gets within a certain distance, for example, park officials should begin plans to move the parking lot — rather than just cornering off sections when they collapse.

Read the full article here.

Northern News March 2020

Northern News March 2020

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

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Northern Section announcements

Call for Northern Section 2020 Award nominations

Northern Section Award winners will be fêted at a Gala, Friday, June 5. But first, they have to be nominated. (March 13 is the deadline to submit.) Click “Read more” for the awards categories and links to details, rules, and application forms.

Law and Ethics CM credits REGISTRATION is OPEN

By Libby Tyler, FAICP. Learn how California housing legislation is preempting local planning review and signaling the end of exclusive single-family zoning. Then play a popular learning game in a lively and engaging refresher of the Code of Ethics with Darcy Kremin, AICP.

Director’s note

“I challenge everyone — including myself — to find areas where we can expand our knowledge, learn new skills, take on risks, and continue to be leaders who can shape our world so future generations can thrive.” —Jonathan Schuppert, AICP, Section Director.

Who’s where

In this segment, we highlight nine job changes: Jonathan Schuppert, AICP; Emily Carroll; Florentina Craciun, AICP; Andrew Hatt; James Hinkamp, AICP; Brianne Reyes; Atisha Varshney, AICP; Rafael Velázquez; and Kara Vuicich, AICP. Congratulations all!

Northern Section Board Retreat photo

Click the ‘Read more’ button to see the crowd at Northern Section’s annual Board Retreat, held this year at Sonoma State University, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. Northern News’ associate editor Richard Davis represented the editorial staff.

Planning news roundup

Marina CA shows cities can retreat from rising seas

By Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times, February 24, 2020. Sea walls are forbidden, real estate sales must disclose sea level rise, and the city is working to move infrastructure and resort properties away from the water.

Public meetings are broken. Here’s how to fix them.

By Patrick Sisson, Curbed, February 12, 2020. The traditional public meeting can be exclusionary and does not often result in the kind of participation and experiences for citizens that encourage feedback. But the current public hearing process can be enhanced, and there are alternatives to be considered.

A plan to combine the Bay Area’s dozens of transit networks

By Adam Brinklow, Curbed, February 5, 2020. A new bill would establish a single universal bus fare across the Bay Area, create a combined transit map and departure time reference, and develop a transfer that works across every transit line.

Fighting sea level rise the natural way

In an interview by Lori Pottinger, PPIC, on February 3, 2020, Letitia Grenier speaks of the huge potential to work across jurisdictions and redesign systems to let natural processes solve some of our more complicated flooding problems.

Danville ballot measure sparks debate over open space

By Guy Marzorati, KQED, February 11, 2020. A proposed development for a 400-acre private property in Danville would accommodate 69 new residential units and leave 213 acres of publicly accessible open space. But the Danville Open Space Committee — a citizens group — gathered thousands of signatures to challenge the project on the March 3rd ballot. Stay tuned.

Height limit exemption effort starts in San Mateo

By Zachary Clark, Daily Journal, February 7, 2020. Measure P is a 2004 extension of a measure approved by voters in 1991 and is set to sunset by the end of the year. Now a group of San Mateo residents is pushing to extend Measure P’s existing building height limits while exempting areas around transit from the measure’s height and density restrictions.

Bay Area gets boost to affordable housing from unlikely source

By Emily DeRuy, Mercury News, February 6, 2020. New apartment complexes built on Caltrain land near Caltrain stations must reserve at least 30 percent of their units for low-income residents. But there’s no requirement that such sites be reserved for housing.

San Mateo may be first in state to use AB 1763 for low-income units

By Emily DeRuy, Mercury News, February 16, 2020. Without AB 1763, the density limits of 50 units per acre approved by city voters in 1991 would have limited the number of affordable homes that could be built on the city-owned site.

Best urban designs to reduce road injuries

From Mirage News (Australia), January 28, 2020. ‘If reducing the road toll is your ultimate goal, it is better to invest in safer alternative transport options than continuing to focus on car-based safety interventions,’ said lead researcher Dr. Jason Thompson. The University of Melbourne research highlights the importance of urban design and planning as key to reducing transport-related injuries across the world. Hat tip to The Overhead Wire.

“Three lessons 21st century housing policy could learn from ‘Little Women’ ”

By Jenny Schuetz, Brookings’ The Avenue, February 5, 2020. “It may just be the meticulous recreation of 19th century New England in Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ that has the most to say about American homes, even offering some bold yet sensible lessons to improve our own 21st century housing policy.”

San Mateo may be first in state to use AB 1763 for low-income units

By Emily DeRuy, Mercury News, February 16, 2020

“San Mateo may become the first [California] city to use a new state law to increase the number of affordable housing units on a new project east of downtown.”

The project is five stories and 164 units. Developer Mid-Pen Housing had asked for concessions, including an increase in FAR from 3.0 to 3.39, according to a city staff report on the project from April 2019, prior to enactment of AB 1763. The project still needs final approval from the City.

“Assembly Bill 1763 says that low-income housing projects can be denser and taller, regardless of local guidelines. Projects near major transit hubs can be up to three stories taller.

“The [office of] Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, [the bill’s author, said] the project is the first they are aware of to rely on the new law. But it won’t be the last.

“The law, said David Garcia, policy director at UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, ‘is going to be impactful for affordable housing projects, particularly in areas where zoning [doesn’t provide] the density needed to make a project pencil out.’

“Without AB 1763, [the City of] San Mateo said in a news release, height and density limits approved by city voters would have limited the number of affordable homes that could be built on the site.”

“The president of the neighborhood association where the project is to be built, [who is also] a member of San Mateans for Responsive Government, urged the council to push back against the larger project. San Mateans for Responsive Government said it supports affordable housing but the new design does not include enough parking, and the city is rushing the process without adequately hearing or considering the needs of the surrounding community.

“In addition to providing the land for the project, San Mateo is set to contribute $12.5 million toward the $182 million project, which includes a standalone parking garage for residents and downtown visitors.

“San Mateo Mayor Joe Goethals said in a statement, ‘We have over 2,000 units in the development pipeline and with the housing community that Mid-Pen is building, along with the increase to our below-market-rate program, we’re providing opportunities for every income level.’ ”

Read the full article here.

Best urban designs to reduce road injuries

From Mirage News (Australia), January 28, 2020. Hat tip to “The Overhead Wire”

“City design that combines more public transport and rail networks with smaller, low speed blocks were the best to reduce road transport injuries, according to a new study, A global analysis of urban design types and road transport injury: an image processing study.

“Published in The Lancet Planetary Health, the research identified the best and worst performing city designs with respect to road injuries.

“Researchers from Australia, Spain, and the United States compared maps of almost 1700 cities across the world with injury data to understand urban design factors that contribute to the most road injuries.

“Cities were categorized into nine unique design types ranging from locations with highly organized road and rail network (‘High Transit’, ‘Motor City,’ and ‘Intense’) to areas with almost no public transport and sparse urban design.

Figure 4. Global distribution of identified city types. Source: A global analysis of urban design types and road transport injury: an image processing study, Lancet Planet Health 2020; 4: page e37

“Lead researcher Dr. Jason Thompson said the research aims to highlight the importance of urban design and planning as a key factor in reducing transport related injuries across the world.

“The study found ‘High Transit’ cities with strong rail networks like Barcelona, Durban, Jerusalem, and Toronto had the lowest rates of road injuries compared to ‘Informal’ type cities across India, China, and Africa, where poor urban design contributed to twice the injury rates.

“ ‘If reducing the road toll is your ultimate goal, it is better to invest in safer alternative transport options rather than continuing to focus on car-based safety interventions,’ Dr. Thompson said.

“The study also found that the income of a country did not necessarily relate to road injury rates. High-income countries like Saudi Arabia, the United States, and United Arab Emirates were experiencing high road injury rates as a result of city designs that encourage motor vehicle use.”

Read the full article here.

Download the full report, “A global analysis of urban design types and road transport injury: an image processing study,” Lancet Planet Health 2020; 4: e32–42, from the Northern Section website here. (PDF, 5.1 MB)

“Three lessons 21st century housing policy could learn from ‘Little Women’ ”

By Jenny Schuetz, Brookings’ The Avenue, February 5, 2020

“It may just be the meticulous recreation of 19th century New England in Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” that has the most to say about American homes, even offering some bold yet sensible lessons to improve our own 21st century housing policy.

“1: Middle-class homes do not drag down property values of nearby mansions

“A primary goal of modern zoning codes is to maintain homogeneous residential neighborhoods: New homes must be the same size, architectural style, and price as their neighbors [etc.]. …

“If 19th century Concord, Mass., had such limitations, the main characters in ‘Little Women’ might never have found true love. … The budding romance … depends on the adjacency of their homes, despite clear differences in their economic and social status.

“2: Waiving quality standards allows low-income families to live in expensive communities

“Houses today must meet minimum quality standards, detailed in building codes … [which] also raise the cost of constructing new housing.

“The house occupied by the March family’s impoverished neighbors, the Hummels, does not appear to satisfy minimum quality standards. … There is no separate kitchen, no running water, and only a single fireplace for heat and cooking.

“Today, these sorts of standards — even if well-intentioned — effectively bar poor families from living in high-opportunity communities.

“3: Bring back the urban boarding house!

“When Jo March decides to follow her literary ambitions to New York City, she lives where most urban singletons of the 19th century did: a boarding house.

“Most importantly, boarding houses were inexpensive. Boarders paid fees for a private bedroom, with access to some shared common space (parlor, bathroom) rather than a fully equipped apartment.

“Second, because of the communal aspects, boarding houses offered some introductory social life to newly arrived migrants.

“The concept behind boarding houses … is making something of a comeback under the new brand of ‘co-living.’ But these new purpose-built facilities are substantially more expensive than their progenitors.

Less zoning equals more social equity — and more romance

“Can we imagine a return to communities where mansions, middle-class homes, boarding houses, and low-income housing can co-exist without legal restrictions or social prejudice?”

Read the complete, delightful, and short article here.