Category: News

Google-backed affordable home site in downtown San Jose could sprout near Shark Tank

By George Avalos, San Jose Mercury News, April 7, 2021

“[In 2018, Google acquired three properties near SAP Center.] At the time, the transactions raised eyebrows because the properties were outside of the emerging footprint of the tech titan’s proposed Downtown West neighborhood. Property experts said the purchases primarily suggested that the Google transit village was expanding into new territories.

“Google intends to donate the land to the city for the development of affordable homes at that site, according to Google, city officials, and municipal documents.

“The proposed development agreement for the Downtown West neighborhood that Google filed with city officials on April 6 included plans for 4,000 homes to be developed on Google-owned lands within the transit village’s footprint.

“[…] 1,000 would be affordable, according to the development proposal Downtown West, a mixed-use village of offices, homes, shops, restaurants, hotel facilities, entertainment hubs, cultural centers, and parks where Google could employ up to 20,000 people.

“Receiving land from Google for affordable development is crucial because Google’s increasingly visible interest in the creation of a dramatic new neighborhood on the western edges of downtown San Jose near the Diridon train station and the SAP Center has also shoved real estate values higher in the vicinity.”

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

HUD report – new approach for estimating costs of homeless encampment responses

HUD also released a supplement focused on San Jose’s encampments and costs of their response

From HUD User, April 6, 2021

A new HUD funded study conducted in 2019 assessed homeless encampments and local government responses in four U.S. cities: San Jose, Chicago, Tacoma, and Houston.

“Across the four cities, the greatest expenditures related to encampment-related activity were for outreach, while efforts related to cleaning, clearance, and shelter/housing placement varied considerably based on local priorities and approaches.

The authors caution: “This study was not designed to measure the relative effectiveness of approaches to encampments. However, these findings demonstrate that permanent resolution of any given encampment (resolving homelessness for the people in the encampment and preventing formation of a new encampment at that site) requires substantial investment, both in services and housing/shelter options, but that mitigation, management, and removal efforts in isolation all come with considerable costs.

“Findings from this study – the report on costs, individual site summary reports, and the literature review – are intended to help federal, state, and local policymakers and practitioners understand the nature of encampments, strategies for responding to encampments, and the costs associated with those approaches.”

Read the report overview and access it here.

A supplementary report focused on San Jose includes: an overview of encampments in San Jose, implementation partners involved in encampment, San Jose’s encampment response, and encampment costs in San Jose. Access it here.

Return to Northern News here.

The ideology hiding in SimCity’s black box – with comment from James Castañeda, AICP

By Clayton Ashley, Polygon, April 1, 2021

“[Game designer Will Wright began creating a] game about simulating cities after he started reading more on urban planning, specifically, the book Urban Dynamics, by Jay Wright Forrester.

“This book attempted to turn the idea of a city into a computer model, and then used that model to test social policies. Despite the seemingly neutral veneer of its formulas, the book concludes that many of the social policies meant to help cities are in fact detrimental to their success.

“While Urban Dynamics was meant to be taken very seriously, SimCity was never meant to be a super realistic simulation, à la the flight simulators that are used to train pilots. When asked what he thought people could learn from SimCity, Will Wright said that ‘it’s kind of hopeless to approach simulations like that, as predictive endeavors. But we’ve kind of caricatured our systems. SimCity was always meant to be a caricature of the way a city works, not a realistic model of the way a city works.’

“[Rather than a true simulation where formulas and models can be inspected and modified,] SimCity was hiding its formulas in a ‘black box.’ This is a concept that comes from computing and engineering, where a system with inputs and outputs doesn’t reveal the internal workings of how it actually went about turning those inputs into outputs.

“How SimCity’s hidden ideology affects the people who play it is difficult to untangle. An article from 1992 quotes a player saying ‘I became a total Republican playing this game,’ and even modern versions of the game contain oddly conservative viewpoints, including a preference for regressive taxation.

SimCity’s black box may just be inside a game, but it’s important to know that it exists. Because if you don’t know what’s inside the box, then you don’t know what it’s capable of doing to you.”

James Castañeda, AICP, comments: “I like to think that most planners work off available data but with a humanized approach. I’m still an avid player of SimCity, and it’s easy to forget that the game is based on rules and algorithms. Cities are evolving, organic organisms whose officials employ algorithmic predictions to guide change in the built environment. But it’s nearly impossible to model for all aspects of a city, which is why we need observant, curious, problem-solving planners.”

Read the full article here. (~6 min.; Video version: ~13 min.).

Return to Northern News here.

New urban village development threatens to displace San Jose’s 60-year-old Berryessa flea market

By Jennifer Wadsworth, San Jose Spotlight, March 31, 2021

“For undocumented workers who might otherwise labor away for low-wage under-the-table cash, the [Berryessa flea market] offers an increasingly rare shot at upward mobility. An untold number—untold because no one has yet made the effort to track it—grew into some of East Side’s marquee brick-and-mortar businesses, including the Shoe Palace, Ramos Furniture and Calderon Tires.

“[Now, plans] 20 years in the making to bring 3,450 homes and 3.4 million square feet of commercial space to the 120-acre property are approaching an important milestone.

“[In] May, the City Council expects to vote on rezoning the flea market to pave way for a $2.5 billion development pitched as a crowning glory to San Jose’s Berryessa BART Urban Village, a blueprint for the dense, transit-centered development needed to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

“With the market at risk of being displaced out of existence, sellers are organizing.

“ ‘We do need the city or county to step up,’ said [Erik Schoennaeur, a land-use consultant representing the property owners] in a recent phone call with San Jose Inside. ‘Because the flea market can’t afford to exist on market-rate land—the rents vendors pay to operate just don’t support that.’

Berryessa flea market business owners and their representatives expect the city or some other public entity to help prevent displacement and gentrification. “[Last summer’s] professed commitment to equity by [San Jose] leaders gives the public a new standard by which to hold them accountable, [Jesus Flores, the founding president of Latino Business Foundation Silicon Valley] notes.”

Read the full article here, including profiles of Berryessa flea market vendors and the significance of the flea market in the San Jose economy. (~12 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

President Biden’s infrastructure spending plan could benefit big Bay Area transit projects

By Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, March 31, 2021

“President Biden’s infrastructure spending plan, unveiled Wednesday, was light on details but appeared likely to provide substantial amounts of money for Bay Area and California transportation projects.

“The plan is expected to include money to get BART to San Jose and Santa Clara and increasing its capacity, extending the Bay Area’s express lane network and connecting high-speed rail to the region, according to Randy Rentschler, legislative director for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

“And a section of the plan calling for reconnecting communities divided by transportation projects in the past could help Oakland’s aspirational idea to bury Interstate 980 and turn it into a boulevard lined with housing, parks and room for transit, including a connection to a second transbay rail tube.

“California’s transit agencies, struggling to recover from the pandemic, stand to benefit from increased funding as well, [Michael Pimentel, executive director of the California Transit Association] said, receiving more than double the usual amount in federal funding. The proposal includes eight times as much funding for rail projects, and could benefit Caltrain’s modernization and electrification efforts.

“California’s beleaguered high-speed rail project is also likely to be a winner. Rentschler said more rail funding might be used for the so-called ‘Valley to Valley’ connection between the San Joaquin Valley and Silicon Valley, as well as needed improvements to bring high-speed trains up the Peninsula on Caltrain tracks into the Transbay transit center in San Francisco.

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

New research: urban and transport planning linked to 2,000 premature deaths per year in Barcelona and Madrid

From Barcelona Institute for Global Health, March 30, 2021

“The new study (paywall), published in Environmental Research, estimated the impact of non-compliance with international exposure level recommendations for air pollution … as well as excess heat, traffic noise and lack of green space on residents over 20 years of age in Barcelona and Madrid, cities with different urban planning practices.

“This study is the first to estimate premature mortality impacts and the distribution by socioeconomic status of multiple environmental exposures related to urban planning and transport in the two cities.

“As for methodology, the researchers used a tool called Urban and Transport Planning Health Impact Assessment (UTOPHIA) (open access), which was developed by a team at ISGlobal. ‘We compared current exposure levels with international recommendations and estimated the fraction of preventable premature deaths that could be avoided if we were to comply with those recommendations,’ explained [Tamara Iungman, lead author of the study].

“The findings showed that non-compliance with WHO’s exposure recommendations for air pollution, noise, and access to green space, along with excess heat, were associated with 1,037 premature deaths per year in Barcelona.

“For Madrid, the total number of deaths attributable to non-compliance with international recommendations was 902. Lack of green space was the exposure associated with the highest premature mortality (337 deaths per year) […]

“Co-author Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, Director of the Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative at ISGlobal, commented: ‘This analysis is in line with previous research showing that people living in more deprived neighborhoods tend to be more exposed to harmful environmental exposures compared to those living in wealthier areas, although this inequity varies according to the design characteristics and historical development of each city.’ ”

Read a summary of the study here. (~6 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

What we got wrong about Uber and Lyft

By Shira Ovide, The New York Times, March 29, 2021

“Uber and some transportation experts once predicted that getting a ride with the tap of an app would help reduce traffic and increase riders’ use of public transportation.

“Instead, the opposite happened (paywall).

“Here’s what more research is finding: In the past few years, on-demand ride services have been a major factor in increased traffic (open access) in U.S. cities, particularly in the downtowns of big cities. And most research is showing that the ride services have also been a significant reason for declining ridership of public transportation (open access), especially buses.

“[Gregory D. Erhardt, who analyzes transportation modeling systems at the University of Kentucky], and I talked over three lessons from this misjudgment. First, Uber and Lyft need to share their data so that cities can understand the services’ impact on the roads. Second, public officials need to steer transportation policy to encourage helpful behaviors and limit destructive ones. And third, new technology needs guardrails in place — and maybe those need to be established before its impact is obvious.

“[T]he effects of the ride services suggest that emerging transportation, including driverless cars, may need regulations early on to ensure that promises of a collective benefit don’t turn out to be a mirage.”

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

California may launch its own version of the Depression-era WPA

By Emily Nonko, Next City, March 25, 2021

“[Late last year, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, there were] artists [that] were part of SF Creative Corps, a pilot program that launched in November to provide work to Bay Area artists financially impacted by the pandemic. Each artist was tasked to creatively and positively spread messages of COVID-19 safety in well-trafficked public spaces throughout the city. This work may serve as a blueprint for a massive expansion: California Governor Gavin Newsom recently proposed $15 million for a statewide pilot across the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 budget cycles.

“And indeed, the Jobs and Business Recovery Taskforce’s November report to the governor recommended the state expand public-private partnerships to create programs similar to the SF Creative Corps.

“[While using art to convey a message is not new, this pilot,] however, was creating a government mechanism to support artists in this work with living wages. To do so, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development partnered with four San Francisco arts organizations, Paint the Void, San Francisco Bay Area Theater Company, Dance Mission and SF Carnaval, to employ 60 artists as “Community Health Ambassadors” over the span of seven weeks.

“Of the performers engaged as Community Health Ambassadors, it said, 85.2 percent identify as BIPOC, 55.6 percent identify as women and 18.5 percent identify as LGBTQIA+.

“‘It felt like everyone involved understands that art is something that not only communicates information, but helps human beings synthesize and act on information,’ says Aidaa Peerzada, an actor representing San Francisco Bay Area Theater Company as a Community Health Ambassador. ‘The question wasn’t how to make this message cute. The question was, how can we inspire people to be different, to act on that information?’”

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

Return to Northern News here.

Northern News May 2021

Northern News May 2021

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

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

Calif. officials announce plan to house 75% of Bay Area’s homeless population by 2024

By Jana Kadah, SFGate, April 14, 2021. The regional plan has input and organizing from the Governor’s Office, local governments, and philanthropic partners.

Millbrae blocks housing deal that would create hundreds of apartments near SFO

By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, April 14, 2021. The California Department of Housing and Community Development warned that Millbrae’s zoning change violated state law.

San Francisco Bay: Protection from costly disasters is being thrown away, scientists say

By Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News, April 13, 2021. Experts say that recovering dredged sediment costs less than seawalls and brings more benefits.

Stocky modular buildings are popping up in East Bay – developers share their experience

By John King, San Francisco Chronicle, April 10, 2021. Sometimes the potential savings meet expectations; often, they don’t.

Google-backed affordable home site in downtown San Jose could sprout near Shark Tank

By George Avalos, San Jose Mercury News, April 7, 2021. Google intends to donate the land to the city for the development of affordable homes.

HUD report – new approach for estimating costs of homeless encampment responses

From HUD User, April 6, 2021. San Jose’s experience, along with three other U.S. cities, informed a framework that can be applied to many kinds of communities.

The ideology hiding in SimCity’s black box – with comment from James Castañeda, AICP

By Clayton Ashley, Polygon, April 1, 2021. The game was inspired by a book suggesting that social policies meant to help cities are in fact detrimental to their success.

New urban village development threatens to displace San Jose’s 60-year-old Berryessa flea market

By Jennifer Wadsworth, San Jose Spotlight, March 31, 2021. Berryessa flea market business owners and their representatives expect the city or some other public entity to help prevent displacement and gentrification.

President Biden’s infrastructure spending plan could benefit big Bay Area transit projects

By Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, March 31, 2021. The plan is expected to benefit California’s transit agencies and high-speed rail project.

New research: urban and transport planning linked to 2,000 premature deaths per year in Barcelona and Madrid

From Barcelona Institute for Global Health, March 30, 2021. This study is the first to estimate premature mortality impacts and the distribution by socioeconomic status of multiple environmental exposures related to urban planning and transport in the two cities.

What we got wrong about Uber and Lyft

By Shira Ovide, The New York Times, March 29, 2021. A growing body of evidence suggests that on-demand ride services have negatively impacted traffic in major urban downtowns.

California may launch its own version of the Depression-era WPA

By Emily Nonko, Next City, March 25, 2021. The proposal, modeled on SF Creative Corps, would support artists and performers serving as public communicators.

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Letters and suggestions are always welcome. We’d like to hear what you think is good about Northern News or what needs improvement or is missing.

Northern News April 2021

Northern News April 2021

Northern News

APA-CA-logo-no-tagline

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

Making great communities happen

Planning news roundup

11 women whose work can inspire post-pandemic planning

By Lindsay Neiman, Planning Magazine, Winter 2021. This roundup selects just four of the eleven described in the article.

In some cities, the pandemic’s economic pain may continue for a decade

By Mark Muro and Yang You, Brookings, March 11, 2021. New forecasts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offer a useful caution.

Proposed legislation would give cities fewer excuses for blocking housing

By Josh Stephens, CP&DR, March 8, 2021. Hundreds of proposed bills would provide tools for the state and cities to increase housing production.

Study finds wildfire smoke more harmful to humans than pollution from cars

By Nathan Rott, NPR, March 5, 2021. Mitigation for exposure relies on people and households and communities knowing when to avoid smoke exposure.

Bay Area’s migration is real, but Postal Service data shows California exodus isn’t

By Roland Li, Susie Nielson, San Francisco Chronicle, March 2, 2021. Housing costs are often cited as the main reason to move.

Petaluma becomes first in the US to ban new gas stations

By Andrew Chamings, SFGate, March 2, 2021. Existing gas stations will only be allowed to add infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Where the ‘15-minute city’ falls short

By Feargus O’Sullivan, Bloomberg CityLab, March 2, 2021. Toronto-based urban designer and thinker Jay Pitter argues it risks entrenching social divisions.

Will ending single-family zoning create more housing?

By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, February 28, 2021. Developers, architects, and housing advocates provide their perspective on the question.

Berkeley begins process to end single-family zoning

By Supriya Yelimeli, Berkeleyside, February 24, 2021. Berkeley was the first city in the United States to enact single-family zoning in 1916.

Cities aren’t shrinking because everyone’s moving out, but because no one’s moving in

By Henry Grabar, Slate, February 22, 2021. If the populations of the nation’s largest cities are truly plummeting, they are in big trouble.

Where in the world?

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We’ll be happy to receive, read, and publish your articles and views.

Northern News is written for you, by you and your colleagues. Letters, suggestions, and articles are always welcome. Write an article. Tell us what you like about Northern News. Tell us what needs improvement.