Author: Richard Davis

Sales tax to fund Caltrain will go before voters

By Bay City News Service, Mountain View Voice, August 8, 2020

“San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an eighth-cent sales tax measure for the November election to fund Caltrain during a special meeting Friday — the last day to place the measure on the county ballots.

“If ultimately approved by two-thirds of voters across San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, the tax would generate an estimated $108 million annually. The funding is desperately needed to operate the system as ridership has plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the measure’s supporters.

“Officials from all three counties have agreed to remove the governance issues from the measure and pass a new amended version that solely calls for the tax.

“The governance issues instead were presented as recommendations to the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB), which oversees Caltrain and is made up of representatives from the three counties. The recommendations, which include, among others, allowing the JPB to appoint its own executive director, special counsel and auditor, separate from SamTrans, were approved on August 6.”

Read the full article here.

Return to the September issue here.

Study: Marin to experience worst traffic delays from sea level rise

By Will Houston, Marin Independent Journal, August 7, 2020

“Marin County and the North Bay could see the worst traffic delays in the Bay Area as highways become more prone to flooding, according to a new Stanford University study.

Published August 5th in the Science Advances peer-reviewed journal, the study assessed how a combination of sea-level rise, tides and storm surges in the next 20 years would affect the Bay Area’s existing traffic jams if left unaddressed.

“While the North Bay doesn’t have the most flooding compared to other areas, the flooding occurs at critical connection points where few if any alternative routes exist, said study coauthor Jenny Suckale, an assistant geophysics professor at Stanford.

“Suckale said a common sentiment among communities that aren’t close to the coasts such as Santa Rosa did not feel they would experience as acute a traffic delay compared to areas more prone to flooding. However, the study found these areas would be some of the hardest hit by traffic delays, especially affecting workers who are already making long commutes.

“Anne Richman, executive director of the county’s traffic congestion management agency, the Transportation Authority of Marin, said that while she has not fully reviewed the Stanford study, the overall findings are not completely surprising based on past studies by the county and Caltrans.

“ ‘It’s important to keep in mind that this is a regional problem, we need regional solutions,’ Suckale said. ‘You can’t do it piece by piece.’ ”

Read the full article here.

Read Stanford’s press release summarizing the research here.

Return to the September issue here.

How do households describe where they live?

By Shawn Bucholtz, The Edge, August 6, 2020

“Although most existing federal definitions of ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ do not include a ‘suburban’ category, data from HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau (Census) confirm what researchers have long believed: most Americans live in the suburbs.

“According to data HUD and Census collected in the 2017 American Housing Survey (AHS), 52 percent of U.S. households describe their neighborhood as suburban, 27 percent describe their neighborhood as urban, and 21 percent describe their neighborhood as rural. The 2017 AHS data also show that federal definitions accurately distinguish urban neighborhoods from rural areas while underscoring the need for an official definition of suburban.

“The 2017 AHS included a question asking respondents if they would describe their neighborhood as urban, suburban, or rural. HUD wanted to replicate the results of a 2015 survey conducted by economist Jed Kolko and colleagues at the online real estate company Trulia, which asked 2,000 people the same question.

“The AHS data show that, when distinguishing urban from rural areas, definitions of urbanization from both the Census Urbanized Areas and the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas closely match respondents’ perceptions.

“At the same time, the 2017 AHS data reveal that existing definitions obscure the fact that most Americans live in suburbs.

“AHS neighborhood description data show that even central cities — which are presumed to be the most urban part of metropolitan areas — are quite suburban.

“When it comes to individual Urbanized Areas or metropolitan statistical areas — including Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and others — the data tell the same story: these areas, with few exceptions, are majority suburban. In fact, all the large metropolitan areas that the AHS surveys are majority suburban.

HUD created two products using this data: 1) Neighborhood Study Summary Tables Workbook, enabling users to compare various definitions of urban, suburban, and rural to survey respondents’ descriptions of their neighborhoods; and 2) the Urbanization Perceptions Small Area Index (UPSAI), a nationwide small area urbanization classification product based on people’s descriptions of their neighborhood.

For more information, see the webinar, How Do Households Describe Where They Live?

Read the full message from Shawn Bucholtz, Director of PD&R’s Housing and Demographic Analysis Division, here.

Return to the September issue of Northern News here.

Nonmembers ask APA to support defunding the police

By Brentin Mock, Bloomberg CityLab, August 6, 2020

Sara Draper-Zivetz is a 2016 graduate of UC Berkeley (MCP). She was an associate director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, 2015-2019, and is currently Farmers Market Manager at Lawrenceville United in Pittsburgh, PA.

According to an article in Bloomberg CityLab by Brentin Mock, a writer and editor for CityLab in Pittsburgh, Draper-Zivetz is “one of the eight authors of a letter” and among a “group of several hundred urban planners calling for” APA “to support defunding the police.”

The July 24 letter lays out “how neighborhoods that were racially segregated by a range of planning policies have become further denigrated by police violence and harassment of Black people — and that planners have done little historically to help change this dynamic.”

“These actions have had reverberating effects,” states the letter, “including creating the preconditions for over-policing of communities of color and disinvestment in community health and safety (just as they created the conditions for safety, wellness, prosperity, and limited policing in predominantly white suburbs).”

Draper-Zivetz, who is not a member of APA, hoped “APA won’t dismiss the letter’s concerns even though the primary authors are not actually members of the organization. ‘If APA only feels accountable to their dues-paying members, then they aren’t really representing or working on behalf of our profession,’ said Draper-Zivetz. ‘If that’s an identity they are comfortable with, this would be a good moment for all of us as planners — members or not — to understand that.’ ”

“After speaking with CityLab, APA President Kurt Christiansen responded to the letter’s authors, saying, ‘We’ve been listening thoughtfully to many voices during the past month and every thought shared has enriched our understanding of the nature and scope of the challenge, and informs our evolving thinking on how we can make sustained, constructive impact as a large, complex, and diverse association of planners.’ ”

“APA CEO Joel Albizo told CityLab, ‘We’ve been doing a lot of listening, particularly those of us coming from a place of privilege, and reflecting and thinking about how we should be responding. I think you’re going to see in the coming weeks and months more coming out from us that really tries to get at some of the things that we can do to address those issues, specifically as it relates [to] planners.’ ”

Read the full text of Brentin Mock’s article here.

Return to the September issue here.

Bay Area cities reluctantly approve housing in face of state laws

By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, August 5, 2020

“From San Bruno to Castro Valley to Lafayette, a slew of major Bay Area housing approvals are the result of changing politics and new state legislation that forces cities to accept development despite residents’ protests. This includes Senate Bill 35, which streamlined housing construction in counties and cities that fail to build enough housing to meet state housing goals. Also, Senate Bill 330 cuts the time it takes to obtain building permits, limits fees, and prevents local governments from shrinking projects that abide by all city codes.

“In June, the San Bruno City Council approved the 425-unit Mills Park development. Just a year ago, the council had rejected it, prompting the threat of a lawsuit from California’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

“In July, the Lafayette Planning Commission approved a proposal for 315 apartments on 22 acres that’s been caught up in conflict since 2011, a fight that has included lawsuits and a ballot measure. Last week, the San Mateo Planning Commission unanimously approved the 961-unit Concar Passage mixed-use development, which had been in the works for three years.

“Still, the flurry of major housing approvals comes as rents in the Bay Area are plummeting and financing is nearly impossible to obtain for development.

“While market-rate developments may be on pause until the economy bounces back, affordable projects will continue to be built, according to Sam Moss, executive director of nonprofit developer Mission Housing. Moss called SB 35 and SB 330 ‘the most prolific housing legislation that has ever been passed in California. Without it, thousands of affordable units would not have been approved.’ ”

Read the full article here.

Return to the September issue here.

Sausalito confronts historic inequities, considers affordable housing on its waterfront

J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, August 5, 2020

“For 32 years, Sausalito has protected its scrappy industrial waterfront, banning both housing and offices in the 225-acre Marinship district, which stretches for about a mile north of downtown.

“Hundreds of maritime workers and artists live and toil on the water, a world apart from the glass towers visible across the bay.

“But with the Black Lives Matter movement forcing cities to confront historic racial, social, and economic inequality, Sausalito officials are debating whether some land in Marinship might be appropriate for low-income or senior housing. In July, during a contentious, eight-hour meeting that focused on both racial justice and a new, 20-year general plan…the City Council voted 4-1 to erase language that barred land-based housing there.

“Sausalito resident John DiRe, a retired engineer, said that instead of relaxing the zoning to allow for residential development, the city should expand the district’s light industrial space, which generates about 41% of the city’s business taxes. He said the new general plan should seek to convert office space allowed in the 1970s and ’80s to arts and light industry.

“But the question of who is benefiting from the busy Sausalito waterfront is especially charged, given its history as a jobs center for Black World War II. More than 2,200 Black workers, mostly transplants from the South, migrated to Marin County during the war, working to pump out 92 cargo ships in about five years. But while Blacks were allowed to work alongside whites in Sausalito, they were barred from buying or renting property there, and instead were housed in Marin City, an unincorporated area a mile northwest of the shipyards.

“If some housing is allowed in the Marinship, the question of where exactly it would go is sure to be controversial. The city’s traditional hillside neighborhoods are largely built-out and the flatlands that stretch along the waterfront represent some of the only large parcels on which new housing could be constructed.”

Read the full article here.

Return to the September issue here.

Opinion: We must plan racial justice in our cities

By Dorothy Walker, Streetsblog USA, August 3, 2020

Dorothy Walker was the founding president of the APA in 1978 and former assistant vice chancellor for property development at University of California, Berkeley. She served on a variety of commissions and committees in Berkeley, where she is a long-time resident.

In her letter published in StreetsBlog, Walker identifies cities’ land-use decisions — “a process that is the foundation of the planning profession” — as an area “ripe for transformation.”

She calls attention to the contradictory actions of cities like Berkeley that celebrate liberal political values while exercising local control over land use, preventing the “development of denser communities that enable more affordable housing, ignoring the need to serve the housing needs of both new and existing residents.”

For the residents of cities like Berkeley, Walker argues that local control has become a barrier to “structural changes in their own communities that would advance the cause of racial justice.”

Therefore, local land use decisions, “must be taken out of the hands of those who benefit from stopping change, and who bear none of the consequences of centering their self-interest above the interests of the disadvantaged, the disenfranchised, and the community at large. The planning profession must play a leading role in the reformation of how land use decisions are made.”

Walker concludes: “Now is the time for planners to ask our legislators to join us in the long-overdue, deep exploration of the foundations of planning in this country — and the difficult process of redefining how, and by whom, our land use decisions are controlled.

Read the full text of Dorothy Walker’s letter here.

Related: In the Wall Street Journal, President Trump and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson reject any federal initiative for upzoning suburban single-family residential neighborhoods. They reference the opportunity zone program, which offers preferential tax treatment to certain investments in designated low-income communities, as their preferred alternative for development.

Read Trump and Carson’s August 16th op-ed “We’ll Protect America’s Suburbs” here (paywall).

Related: John J. Parman, Visiting Scholar/Architecture at UC Berkeley, argues in the planning and design journal Common Edge that local control reforms proposed by the UK’s Conservative government echo California’s current legislative package for housing production. He contends that meaningful by-right assurances at the local level, stronger processes for regional or county housing allocation, and state and federal funding mechanisms for below-market housing, offer a better path to housing production than the state’s top-down approach to upzoning.

Read Parman’s August 10th essay, “Boris Johnson’s Wake-Up Call to Housing Advocates in California,” here.

Return to the September issue here.

Revised SB 35 Guidelines near completion

William Fulton, CP&DR, August 2, 2020

“Among both litigation and confusion, the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) is almost done updating its SB 35 guidelines, as well as an updated list of jurisdictions that are required to adopt what HCD is calling the ‘Streamlined Ministerial Approval Process.’

“The 29-page draft guidelines cover a wide range of topics, including the approval process local governments must follow and which projects are eligible. (The draft guidelines can be found in a Word document downloadable from this HCD page.)

“HCD said it was adhering to the original legislative intent of SB 35. The proposed guidelines include other highlights such as:

  • A requirement that local governments have an understandable application process, with information requirements limited to that necessary to process an SB 35 project.
  • Repeated emphasis on the need for objective standards only in the SB 35 process.
  • A prohibition on using growth caps to prevent developers from achieving maximum density under the state density bonus law.
  • A prohibition on denying a project’s access to affordable housing funds simply because it is an SB 35 project.
  • Strict time frames for determinations of consistency with objective standards — 60 calendar days for projects of less than 150 units and 90 days for larger projects.
  • A requirement that the local government must provide documentation of inconsistency with objective standards. If such documentation is not forthcoming, the project will be deemed approved under SB 35.

“HCD also came out with a new list of which jurisdictions are required to accept SB 35 applications…Some 289 cities and counties must accept SB 35 applications for housing projects with at least 10% affordable units, while 221 must accept SB applications for housing projects with at least 50% affordable units.”

Read the full article here (paywall).

Return to the September issue here.

After 250 Years, Tribe regains Big Sur ancestral lands

By Kyle Edwards, Native News Online, July 29, 2020

“It’s been nearly 250 years since the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County was stripped of its land, culture, and language by Spanish missionaries.

“But on [July 27], the Esselen tribe finalized the purchase of a 1,200-acre stretch of land near the scenic Big Sur — an area lush with meadows, oak woodlands, and old-growth redwoods.

“The deal gives the tribe a piece of land that is larger than San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and will allow it to conserve old-growth redwoods and protect endangered wildlife. The Esselen tribe says it plans to use the land to revitalize culture and traditional ceremonies, as well as to educate the public about its culture and history. The tribe also will use the new acreage to build a sweat lodge and traditional village, eschewing businesses and homes from being built on the acquired land.

“ ‘It gives us space and the ability to continue our culture without further interruption,’ Tom Little Bear Nason, Tribal Chairman, Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. ‘This is forever, and in perpetuity, that we can hold on to our culture and our values.’ ”

Read the full article here.

Nason wrote more on LinkedIn:

“We are so honored to receive our indigenous sacred lands back to our Tribe!

“Thank you to all who helped us with this historic effort.

“We especially thank Western River Conservancy who secured this land of behalf of the Little Sur River, the Salmon, Steelhead, Redwoods and our people who have been oppressed by cultural genocide for over 250 years!

“A huge Thanks to the California Natural Resource Agency and all the great Staff who worked hard to help us secure the funds to buy this sacred spot in Big Sur, CA.

“This land is forever preserved and managed by the aboriginal Stewards of the region, The Esselen Tribe!”

Return to the September issue here.

Caltrans’ Low Carbon Transit Operations grants go to three North Coast jurisdictions

By Nazy Javid, KRCR News, July 29, 2020

“Caltrans recently announced it has approved $146 million in Low Carbon Transit Operations Program funding for 166 local public transportation projects across California. According to Caltrans District 1, the projects will improve the sustainability of transportation systems and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately $140 million for 158 projects will benefit disadvantaged communities most affected by climate change, Caltrans said.

“ ‘This investment will help reduce our impact on the environment and improve transit service, particularly for those facing economic barriers to mobility,’ Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin said.

“On the North Coast, the city of Arcata, Humboldt Transit Authority, and Lake Transit Authority saw $339,997 approved for three projects offering free fares to populations that include low-income residents, youth and college students.

“ ‘The Low Carbon Transit Operations Program is one of many Caltrans grant programs that support public transportation and the continuing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide transportation options to Californians,’ Caltrans District 1 Director Matt Brady said. ‘I congratulate the transit providers in Humboldt, Lake, and Mendocino Counties for their success in getting this much-needed support.’ ”

Read Caltrans’s press release about the statewide grant recipients and their projects here.

Republished from KRCR News, Redding.

Return to the September issue here.