Tag: 2019-06-nn-roundup

SB 50 was shelved: Here’s what you need to know

By Matt Levin and Ben Christopher, CALmatters, May 17, 2019

“Very few people can claim to have seen this coming.

“In a procedural vote, Senate Bill 50 failed to advance from the state Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Its fate dealt an unexpected setback to pro-development forces in the state Capitol and a major victory for defenders of local control over housing decisions. It also throws an obstacle into Gov. Gavin Newsom’s path as he tries to goad the state into building a lot more housing.

“Sen. Scott Wiener’s new and broader coalition was instrumental in getting the bill through two earlier committee votes, and gave proponents confidence it could be shepherded through the state Senate without significantly more pushback.

“But supporters didn’t count on Sen. Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from the La Cañada Flintridge area and the chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. Portantino’s district includes Pasadena, whose city representatives were some of the bill’s most vocal opponents.

“ ‘My preference has always fallen on the side of incentives for local governments to accomplish goals,’ Portantino said in a statement, expressing concerns about the bill’s ‘unintended consequences,’ including gentrification and discouraging public transit expansion.

“The bill was among those Portantino’s committee suffocated as it sifted through its biannual suspense file — a rapid-fire approach to legislation that allows lawmakers to quickly pass favored bills while quietly dispatching others, either by holding them in committee or redesignating them ‘two-year bills,’ effectively killing them for a year. The Senate Appropriations Committee considered 355 bills in its appropriations lightning round that day.

“The bill’s death could jeopardize a broader housing package — including tenant protections.

“With the premature demise of the signature ‘strong production’ bill of the year, the coalition that backed the bill may have a harder time sticking together in support of the tenant protection bills that remain — for example, San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu’s AB 1482, an anti ‘rent gouging’ bill opposed by the state’s landlord lobby.

“Many of the bill’s backers expressed frustration that the governor and Senate leader Toni Atkins didn’t do more to help shepherd SB 50 through the legislative process. California YIMBY asked supporters to call Sen. Atkins and ask her to ‘do everything in her power’ to bring the bill back. ‘She has the ability to go to the Rules Committee, pull the bill out of Appropriations, and send it to the floor. It’s her Senate.’

“But in a statement released the day after the bill was put on pause, Atkins said in a statement, ‘I will not circumvent the decision made by the Appropriations Committee Chair on SB 50. Short of significantly amending the bill and limiting its applications in large swaths of the state, there was no path to move forward this year.’ ”

Read the full article here.

This ‘pocket neighborhood’ has 8 houses on a lot, instead of one McMansion

By Adele Peters, Fast Company, May 14, 2019

“On an overgrown vacant lot in the small city of Clarkston, Georgia, a short drive from Atlanta, a new community of eight tiny homes will sit on a half acre that once held one single-family house. ‘There’s very little available land to build new housing,’ says Ted Terry, the city’s mayor, explaining that Clarkston was originally a farming town filled with apartment complexes as Atlanta sprawled closer over time.

“The city plans to rewrite zoning to allow for taller apartment complexes downtown. But it also began working with MicroLife Institute, the Atlanta-based nonprofit developing the project. The nonprofit promotes small-space living in walkable neighborhoods and worked to help the city change its zoning code to make a tiny home community possible. After passing the ordinance in 2017, the city approved the plans for the development this month. The homes will go up for presale this summer, and the neighborhood should be completed by the end of the year.

Image: Pattern R&D

“The houses range from around 250 to 500 square feet. Clarkston, which has a large refugee population, is more affordable than some nearby communities, but most houses in the city are still much more expensive than the new tiny homes.

“Tiny houses [are not] just for a certain demographic. ‘Our research has shown that we have everyone from 18 to 85 interested. Every race, every income class,’ said Will Johnston, executive director of the MicroLife Institute.

“The community follows the ‘pocket neighborhood’ model popularized by architect Ross Chapin in communities in the Pacific Northwest and will be the first of its kind in Georgia. Each house faces a central shared courtyard with a fire pit and room to garden. The homes have front porches, and a community garden will be split in front of different homes. All but one of the houses also have private yards in back.”

Read the full article here.

Civil rights attorneys protest Mountain View’s proposed RV ban

By Mark Noack, Mountain View Voice, May 13, 2019

“Mountain View’s proposed ban on large vehicles has provoked a stern warning from civil rights attorneys who say it would discriminate against the city’s homeless.

“In a [nine-page, footnoted] letter to the city, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley both urged Mountain View officials not to move forward with plans to prohibit large vehicles over six feet tall from street parking.

“In March, the City Council gave initial approval to the citywide parking ban as a way to curtail the surging numbers of people living in vehicles on city streets, [saying] the city would be following other cities that have enacted similar restrictions. A formal ordinance with specific details is expected to be brought back to the City Council [in June].

“About 290 inhabited vehicles park on Mountain View streets, of [which] two-thirds are large RVs or trailers that would be impacted by an oversized vehicle ban.

[Among other reasons,] “the attorneys also argued that the proposal seemed designed to discriminate against the homeless, but almost anyone else who owns a large vehicle would get special consideration. The city’s March staff report noted that a future ordinance would carve out special exemptions for business owners, residents, government officials, and other groups to continue parking their oversized vehicles on the street.”

Read the full article here.

How Old Oakland’s historic buildings survived decay (and demolition)

By Ryan Levi, Bay Curious, KQED, May 9, 2019

“Walking along Oakland’s Broadway or Washington Street between Eighth and 10th Streets can feel a little like walking back in time: The neighborhood of Old Oakland has brick-lined sidewalks leading into grand Victorians that date back to the late 1800s.

Gladstone Building, 9th Street. Photo: Tom Holub

“Today’s Old Oakland was the heart of downtown Oakland in the 1870s. Before then, Oakland was a small town.

“But in 1869, Oakland became the western terminus of the First Transcontinental Railroad, bringing a flood of new residents. The city’s population more than tripled from 1870 to 1880, including a large number of African Americans who had recently been freed from slavery.

“To support its growing population, a thriving downtown built up along Washington Street and Broadway, in what is now Old Oakland, with residential hotels occupying the upper stories of the neighborhood’s grand Victorians.

Nicholl Block, 9th Street. Photo: Tom Holub

“After World War II, people started moving out to the suburbs. By the 1960s this area was largely Skid Row, and there weren’t very many retail businesses. But many of the original buildings from the 19th century remained. The buildings caught the eye of Glenn Storek, an architecture student from UC Berkeley, when he first visited the old downtown for one of his classes.

C.H. Ratto Co. Deli. Photo: Tom Holub

“In the mid-1970s, Storek worked with city leaders, including the head of the Oakland Redevelopment Agency, and Oakland’s first black mayor, to get the city to designate the proposed restoration as an official redevelopment project: the city would use eminent domain to purchase all of the buildings in the neighborhood and sell them to Storek for restoration. It also allowed the city to sell bonds, backed by Storek, to pay for the project.

“Several of the businesses that were being bought out pushed back against the project, and it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that all the original tenants had left and the restoration was able to begin in earnest.

“When the Loma Prieta earthquake struck on Oct. 17, 1989, none of the Old Oakland buildings restored and retrofitted by the Storeks fell.

“But a few months before the earthquake, the Storeks took out an $8.9 million loan from Citicorp, and a year later the bank foreclosed on the project.

“The bank took over and eventually sold the project to a new developer in 2001 (who sold it to another developer in 2015).

“Progress was slow, but Old Oakland is thriving now with trendy stores, hip restaurants and bars, a popular Friday farmers market, and even a Steph Curry pop-up shop. But none of that might exist if Glenn Storek hadn’t stumbled upon those forgotten Victorians more than 50 years ago.”

Benchmark Oakland restaurant, 9th and Washington. Photo: Tom Holub

This is an excerpt. You can read the full article here.

Neighboring Peninsula cities see housing actions differently

By Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly, May 7, 2019

“The city councils of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park met in a joint session in Palo Alto on May 6 for an update on and a discussion of the various housing bills going through Sacramento. Most of the council members focused on Senate Bill 50.

“The only thing they agreed on is that each community would benefit from greater collaboration and, if possible, coordination in addressing the regional housing shortage.

Unlike its prior iteration, [the bill, now in limbo] distinguishes between counties with populations that have more than 600,000 residents and those that have less.

“East Palo Alto Councilman Larry Moody challenged cities that oppose the proposed legislation to offer their own plans to address the humanitarian crisis, as evidenced by people living in RVs and sleeping under bridges and highways. The scope of the problem, he argued, creates an imperative for city leaders to take strong action.

“ ‘If they’re not going to be supporting SB 50, tell us what you’re doing. What’s the plan in Menlo Park? What’s the plan in Burlingame? What’s the plan in San Carlos?’ Moody asked. ‘East Palo Alto can’t be the dormitory of the tech industry and for the job growth taking place. We can’t and we shouldn’t have to be the only city that has an active strategy around affordable housing.’

“Both East Palo Alto Vice Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones and East Palo Alto Councilman Ruben Abrica urged opponents of SB 50 to propose alternative solutions. Rather than fight the state, Abrica said, cities should make suggestions to the Legislature to address the problem.

“ ‘Housing will continue to be a top issue in our state,’ Abrica said. ‘Why? Millions of people … cannot afford a place to live. It’s just an undeniable fact.’

“Menlo Park remains by and large agnostic. Vice Mayor Cecilia Taylor said the council will be discussing SB 50 independently and that the council does not have a unified voice on the legislation. ‘I believe SB 50 exists because we didn’t take care of our own city,’ Taylor said.”

Read the full article here.

Perth councillors support 27-storey affordable housing tower despite planners’ objections

By Editorial Desk, Architecture AU, May 6, 2019

“Perth, Western Australia, councillors have voted in support of a 27-storey mixed-use development containing 30 percent social and affordable housing, despite a recommendation that the proposal be rejected due to an excessive plot ratio, [and with the] additional floor space (bulk and scale) benefiting the development without providing sufficient community benefits or facilities.

“The proposed building will contain 184 apartments, a café or restaurant, and a community shared space. The landowner and project developer is the state government’s Department of Communities.

195 Pier Street, Perth. Design and image by Klopper and Davis Architects.

“[City of Perth] Commissioner Andrew Hammond, moving that council support the development, argued that the provision of social housing met the ‘community benefits’ benchmark, [as] 15 percent of the apartments would be for social housing and another 15 percent for affordable housing. More than 142,500 Australians are on the waiting list for social housing.

“ ‘Australia and WA have a significant problem in meeting social and affordable housing needs,’ he said. ‘The city is currently experiencing many challenges with homelessness and rough sleeping, and while social housing is definitely not a quick fix for this difficult and pressing issue, it sits at both ends of the homelessness continuum.’

“The Western Australian Planning Commission is the body responsible for the final approval.”

Read the full article here. 

On Amazon’s decision to move to New York City, then cancel

By J. David Goodman, The New York Times, May 1, 2019

Goodman is a metro reporter covering New York.

“People who don’t live in New York City sometimes fail to appreciate how big it really is. Even some who live here don’t realize how easy it is for the city to absorb change. Take Google: It moved into Chelsea without many people there even noticing.

“Technology companies locating here are not always obvious or easily separated from fashion, advertising, or finance, especially when you’re talking about Chelsea and Lower Manhattan. Are new coffee shops sprouting up because of new tech companies? How much can we blame them for skyrocketing rents? Hard to say.

“Amazon would have been different because it was going to an area that is not a tech hub, [and] 25,000 Amazon workers would have been more obvious — and the changes that followed more easily ascribed to them.

“But those changes are happening anyway. Multiple residential towers have sprouted only blocks away from where Amazon was going to build.

“And Amazon already has a few thousand employees scattered around other areas of New York, including 34th Street in Midtown. Most people who pass by have no idea the company is even there.

Midtown, looking north from the World Trade Center, May 2017. Photo: Naphtali H. Knox, FAICP

“Q. Many venture capitalists like to think of New York as the next Silicon Valley. Is it getting there?

“Yes, but the cultures are not the same. You saw that dramatically with Amazon’s flat-footed rollout. The company thought it would be welcomed because it was bringing so many jobs. [But] the Amazon team was surprised by the onslaught of questions from reporters. Many New Yorkers were equally baffled that the company could be so naïve and so unprepared.

“Amazon’s decision to cancel struck fear in a lot of business and political leaders that other tech companies would decide New York City is not where they want to be. But nothing like that has happened. Google is expanding in New York, as is Facebook.”

Read the full article here.