Tag: 2019-07-nn-roundup

“Uber and Lyft admit they cause more city-center congestion than predicted”

By Ben Lovejoy, 9to5mac.com, August 6, 2019

“A report jointly commissioned by Uber and Lyft has revealed that ride-sharing companies create significantly more city-center congestion than they’d predicted.

“The study looked at the impact of what are formally known as ‘transportation network companies’ (TNCs) in six cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC. It found that their overall contribution to congestion was low on a citywide basis, ranging from 1.1% in Seattle to 2.7% in San Francisco. But CityLab notes that it was a very different picture in central areas when looking at the percentage of vehicle miles traveled (VMT)”:

  • ‘The new findings show that Uber and Lyft account for just 1%-3% of total VMT in the larger metropolitan regions surrounding the six cities. But they have a far heavier traffic impact in core urban areas […]
  • ‘In San Francisco County, Uber and Lyft make up as much as 13.4% of all vehicle-miles. In Boston, it’s 8%; in Washington, D.C., it’s 7.2%.
  • ‘These numbers suggest that ride hailing is hitting traffic harder in many cities than previously understood. For example, independent research by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority in 2017 showed that, as of fall 2016, TNCs generated about 6.5% of the county’s total VMT on weekdays, and 10% of weekends. And the agency found that the growth in ride-hailing was already a major contributor to noticeable slow-downs on San Francisco streets.
  • ‘Now, the Fehr and Peers memo indicates that TNCs accounted for nearly twice the VMT in San Francisco than the SFCTA had estimated.’

“Worse, the percentage of Uber and Lyft journeys with passengers on board ranges from 54% to 62%, meaning that a lot of those journeys are either en route to a pickup or just positioning themselves centrally in the hope of picking up rides.

“However, the ride-sharing companies point out that private car use is the biggest problem, accounting for between 87% and 99% of city center congestion. One possible solution, they suggest, is some form of congestion charge, where cities impose a fee for vehicles entering central areas. This has been implemented in cities including London, where it has proved effective in reducing car usage. It’s also coming soon to the US, after agreement was reached on applying it to parts of Manhattan.”

Mobility and Equity: Oakland gets scooter regulation right

By Diego Aguilar-Canabal, July 17, 2019

“Early in July, Oakland’s Department of Transportation issued permits to four companies renting a total of 3,500 electric scooters in the city. Those companies — Bird, Lime, Clevr, and Lyft — will be required to enforce rules against sidewalk riding and unpermitted parking, and to eventually provide alternative payment options besides just smartphones.

“Meanwhile, with just 1,250 of the devices serving a much larger population in San Francisco — not to mention an even larger commuter population — scooters are less reliable, and virtually none are available outside of denser neighborhoods close to downtown. Not surprisingly, scooter usage in the city shows little signs of expanding beyond the tech community.

“How did San Francisco get transportation equity so wrong? And what has Oakland learned from the larger city’s mistakes?

“Oakland’s permit application expressly forbids scooter companies from restricting their operations to ‘certain geographical areas of the City’ without written permission. Additionally, each permit requires that 50 percent of all scooters be allocated to ‘communities of concern’ — a regionwide measure of racial and economic disparities outlined by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

“That stands in stark contrast to San Francisco, where scooters are allowed in less than a third of the city. For instance, according to 2017 census data, the city’s Bayview and Mission Districts feature three times as many bicycle commuters as the rest of the city overall, but scooters are still not available to rent in those areas.

“Oakland’s Department of Transportation noted that its new limit of 3,500 scooters was set not in response to complaints, but to correspond to its anticipated staffing capacity for enforcing permit requirements.

“Still, equitable scooter distribution remains an uphill battle. Activists fear that current measures can’t truly ensure an equal distribution of discounted scooters in disadvantaged neighborhoods. For instance, critics say the ‘communities of concern’ measure is too broad, because 55 percent of Oakland’s total land area falls under that classification — including downtown Oakland. Oakland’s Department of Transportation hopes to refine this measure, which is intended to be ‘representative of Oakland as a whole.’ ”

Read the full article here.

Lawsuit alleges Los Altos blocked mixed-use project eligible for SB 35

By Kevin Forestieri, Mountain View Voice, July 28, 2019

“A lawsuit filed against the city of Los Altos alleges that city staff — and later the City Council — illegally blocked a housing project that complied with California’s new by-right housing law.

“The civil suit, filed on June 12 by the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA), contends that a proposed development in downtown Los Altos qualified for streamlined approval for housing projects under Senate Bill 35, legislation passed in 2017 to boost housing growth across the state. The project proposed building a mixed-use building at 40 Main St. with 15 housing units, but was shot down in April after the City Council concluded it didn’t meet the criteria to skip the normal planning process.

“CaRLA [alleges] city leaders violated SB 35 by failing to cite an ‘objective’ rationale for blocking a project they didn’t like. The suit seeks to void Los Altos’ denial of the project and compel the city to approve the application.

“This is one of the first lawsuits in California challenging denial of a project based on SB 35, the group’s lawyers say, giving it the potential for a precedent-setting judgment.

“The project has a history spanning 12 years, with the owners having been denied by the city multiple times. [A big] change came last November, when the all-office project was scrapped in favor of a mixed-use development with 15 apartments, seeking to capitalize on streamlined approval of housing projects that provide enough affordable units, with two-thirds of the development for residential uses.

“City planning staff in December swiftly rejected the idea that the proposal was subject to SB 35, arguing the application was incomplete; the project did not meet parking standards for the area; fell short of required two-thirds residential uses; and at five stories, was far too tall and dense to meet zoning standards for downtown Los Altos. At an appeal hearing on April 9, the City Council denied streamlined approval of the project.

“CaRLA attorneys believe Los Altos failed, within a 60-day window set forth under SB 35, to cite objective standards that the project proposal violated, and dug up a handful of new standards with which the project allegedly conflicted.

“Sonja Trauss, a plaintiff in the case and co-executive director of CaRLA, said the proposed project in Los Altos should be seen as an example of SB 35 working — getting the owners to convert an all-office project into a primarily residential development in the midst of a regional housing crisis.

“Trauss believes the case could be an opportunity to get a judge to say the 60-day timeline under SB 35 must be enforced. It would also signal to cities that the bevy of new state [housing] laws [will be] harder to ignore.”

Read the full article here. Also in this issue, from Next City, “What is CaRLA, and why is it suing California cities?”

ADU watch: Redwood City tightens what was a less restrictive ordinance

By Maggie Angst, The Mercury News, July 27, 2019

“Redwood City had one of the least restrictive ADU ordinances on the Peninsula — allowing units to reach 28 feet above the ground and 700 square feet of space above a garage. But the city council voted 6-1 to limit the size and height of second-story granny flats while providing incentives for construction of single-story units. The new ordinance is expected to go into effect at the end of September.

“Since the last ADU ordinance update in 2017, more than 120 ADUs have been built, including about 20 above garages. [But some] residents in older neighborhoods with single story homes [objected to] second-story units built above garages [which they said] affected their privacy and downgraded neighborhood character.

“So the council adopted measures to bar second-story decks and roof decks, require opaque windows that look out onto neighbors, and reduce the height of units atop garages to 20 feet above the ground, with exceptions for a slightly taller structure if necessary for the roofline to match that of the main house.

“Although the maximum size of an ADU in a detached garage will remain at 700 square feet, the measures restrict the portion of the unit above the garage to 576 square feet.

“[At the same time,] the council made it easier to produce single-story ADUs, allowing them to be built closer to property lines, cover more than half of a rear lot, and replace a detached garage.

“Redwood City is also setting its sights on the size of single-family homes.

“On Aug. 26, the city council will discuss limiting the size of single-family home projects to 40 percent of the lot area or a maximum house size of 2,500 square feet — whichever is greater.

“The proposed measure is intended to serve as a short-term solution that would be repealed within two years or in conjunction with the adoption of new residential design guidelines.”

Read the full article here.

Bakersfield is booming, as are many other inland California cities

By Scott Wilson, The Washington Post, July 22, 2019

“Many Californians often dismiss inland cities such as Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced, and other drive-through towns that seldom made the state’s tourism maps, languishing behind the allure of the coast. But there’s a transformation happening in the Central Valley. These second-tier cities, once known primarily as the core of the nation’s agricultural engine, are drawing new businesses and young people away from cosmopolitan enclaves, where the high cost of living has priced them out.

“In recent years, California’s traditional north-south rivalry has given way to an east-west divide over government policy and resources. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Bay Area liberal, pledged during last year’s campaign to make closing that gap a priority.

“Soon after taking office, Newsom placed the coastal leg of the state’s proposed high-speed rail system on hold. At the same time, he affirmed that the 119-mile stretch linking Bakersfield and the Central Valley city of Merced will be the first to proceed. The project will cost $20.4 billion and take at least seven years to complete.

“ ‘We can’t have two Californias,’ said Lenny Mendonca, Newsom’s chief economic and business adviser, who was raised in Turlock, just up Highway 99 from Bakersfield. ‘We have to have more housing development on the coast where the jobs are arriving, and we need more job production in parts of the state where the population is growing.’

California’s population grew 0.47 percent last year, the lowest rate in state history. But in Bakersfield, the growth rate was more than double that, making the city of nearly 400,000 the second-fastest-growing of the state’s large metro areas. Sacramento was first.

“Many of those arriving — and staying — are young people. The median age of Bakersfield residents is just over 30.

There are challenges to Bakersfield’s new appeal. The weather is wood-oven hot in the summer, the air quality often abysmal with oil-field pollution caught between the Sierra and coastal ranges. The goal is to broaden an economy still largely reliant on the volatile agriculture and oil industries, appealing in part to a tech sector that is finding its political stock falling in many coastal communities. Bakersfield’s oil fields — and those of surrounding Kern County — account for more than half of California’s oil production.

“San Diego, along with the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro areas, posted the highest inflation rates of any cities in the country during the past year. Housing prices, in particular, are driving the increases. The median home price in Bakersfield is $237,000; in San Francisco, it’s $1.2 million.”

Read the full article here. 

To reduce homelessness, San Francisco aims to find and fill vacant housing units

By Kate Wolffe, KQED News, July 26, 2019

Roughly 50 San Francisco corporations and organizations, including Airbnb, Google, and the San Francisco Giants, announced their involvement in an ambitious new effort to alleviate the city’s intractable homeless crisis.

The ‘All In’ campaign, which officially launched July 25th during a rally at Duboce Park, aims to mobilize a broad coalition of community members to develop immediate housing solutions for the city’s chronically homeless population.

The primary objective is to secure a total of 1,100 housing units in all 11 supervisorial districts of the city for homeless people to move into.

Unlike a number of other recent efforts in the city to house the homeless, this initiative seeks to identify and fill existing apartments in large buildings that are currently vacant, or to turn space in underused publicly owned buildings and churches into housing.

It’s not entirely clear, though, what exactly the group is planning to do. Some partners may contribute money to subsidize rents and fund additional services. At least one nonprofit service provider has pledged to help identify vacant units and access government housing vouchers for veterans and people with disabilities.

Read the full article here.

The future of the city doesn’t have to be childless

On July 21, Northern News re-posted an article from The Atlantic headlined ‘The future of the city is childless.’ In the article, Derek Thompson wrote that, “In high-density cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., no group is growing faster than rich college-educated whites without children [and in fact] families with children older than 6 are in outright decline in these places.”

Now Brookings Senior Research Analyst Hanna Love and Senior Fellow Jennifer S. Vey write, “The article is spot on when it comes to diagnosing the problems but falls short on what to do next. It somewhat halfheartedly raises the need for more affordable housing to help keep families put, but ultimately reaches a more deterministic conclusion that ‘America’s rich cities specialize in the young, rich, and childless; America’s suburbs specialize in parents. The childless city may be inescapable.’

Love and Vey believe the childless city is not inescapable, “But avoiding such a fate requires a lot more than convincing new millennial parents to stick around post-preschool. Rather, it demands deep, intentional efforts to grow inclusive cities that provide all families, including those at the margins, an opportunity to raise their children in a safe, affordable, and amenity-rich neighborhood.”

Their conclusion? “We must look to innovative, place-based strategies aimed at creating cities where families of all means not only can afford to live, but where they can thrive.”

You can read their list of recommendations here.

‘The future of the city is childless’

“America’s urban rebirth is missing something key — actual births.”

By Derek Thompson, excerpted from The Atlantic, July 18, 2019

“Last year, for the first time in four decades, something strange happened in New York City. In a non-recession year, it shrank.

“We are supposedly living in the golden age of the American metropolis, with the same story playing out across the country. Dirty and violent downtowns typified by the ‘mean streets’ of the 1970s became clean and safe in the 1990s. Young college graduates flocked to brunchable neighborhoods in the 2000s, and rich companies followed them with downtown offices.

“As the city attracted more wealth, housing prices soared alongside the skyscrapers, and young families found staying put with school-age children more difficult. Since 2011, the number of babies born in New York has declined 9 percent in the five boroughs and 15 percent in Manhattan. (At this rate, Manhattan’s infant population will halve in 30 years.) In that same period, the net number of New York residents leaving the city has more than doubled. There are many reasons New York might be shrinking, but most of them come down to the same unavoidable fact: Raising a family in the city is just too hard. And the same could be said of pretty much every other dense and expensive urban area in the country.

“In high-density cities like San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., no group is growing faster than rich college-educated whites without children, according to Census analysis by the economist Jed Kolko. By contrast, families with children older than 6 are in outright decline in these places. In the biggest picture, it turns out that America’s urban rebirth is missing a key element: births.“It’s a coast-to-coast trend: In Washington, D.C., the overall population has grown more than 20 percent this century, but the number of children under the age of 18 has declined.  Meanwhile, San Francisco has the lowest share of children of any of the largest 100 cities in the U.S.

“But if big cities are shedding people, they’re growing in other ways — specifically, in wealth and workism. The richest 25 metro areas now account for more than half of the U.S. economy, according to an Axios analysis of government data. Rich cities particularly specialize in the new tech economy: Just five counties account for about half of the nation’s internet and web-portal jobs. Toiling to build this metropolitan wealth are young college graduates, many of them childless or without school-age children; that is, workers who are sufficiently unattached to family life that they can pour their lives into their careers.

“Perhaps parents are clustering in suburbs today for the same reason that companies cluster in rich cities: Doing so is more efficient. Suburbs have more ‘schools, parks, stroller-friendly areas, restaurants with high chairs, babysitters, [and] large parking spaces for SUV’s,’ wrote Conor Sen, an investor and columnist for Bloomberg. It’s akin to a division of labor: America’s rich cities specialize in the young, rich, and childless; America’s suburbs specialize in parents. The childless city may be inescapable.”

You can read the full article here.

Huge land deals: 30,000 acres in Solano County purchased; 50,000 available straddling Alameda and Santa Clara counties

By Nick Sestanovich, Mercury News, July 8, 2019.

“The purchase of up to 30,000 acres of agricultural land between Suisun City and Rio Vista has taken many by surprise. The purchased land stretches from outside Suisun City’s Walmart on Walters Road alongside Highway 12 to Rio Vista, with some parcels bordering Travis Air Force Base.”

According to “a person who lives on the property, the land was purchased by a Flannery Associates, a limited liability company that has filed for foreign status to do business in California. That application listed Flannery Associates as an agriculture business, but Fairfield City Councilwoman Catherine Moy said it is unclear what the land would be used for. ‘We want to make sure that it’s not anything that could hurt the base and that it’s not a foreign investor,’ she said. ‘Travis brings $1.5 billion to this area [and is] part of the city of Fairfield. It’s my responsibility to take care of that.’

“Moy suggested the Assessor/Recorder’s office flag for the public when large amounts of farm land are purchased so they could be more aware of such projects.”

Base map from Google Maps

Meanwhile, 70 miles to the south, a massive East Bay ranch is for sale for $72 million

By Ted Anderson, San Francisco Business Times, July 8, 2019.

A piece of original California, “The N3 Cattle Company ranch, 80 square miles of undeveloped land” northeast of San Jose and southeast of Livermore, “is currently the largest land offering for sale in California.”

“The [50,500 acre] ranch cuts across Alameda and Santa Clara counties, as well as San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties to the east.

“Even though the land is zoned for agricultural use, the listing agent sees the property as perfect for a wealthy conservationist, ‘someone who wants to preserve the land.’

“One family has owned the property as a working ranch for 85 years. The parents passed away about 20 years ago and the daughters have continued running it as a cattle operation but are now ready to move on.”

See a slideshow (a map and 29 photos) of the N3 Ranch, or watch a 4:34 video with a Western tang here.

‘Deconstruction’ ordinance will require reuse, recycling of construction materials

By Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly, July 9, 2019

“Palo Alto is preparing to effectively ban contractors from demolishing entire buildings starting in July 2020.

“Instead, workers will now be required to systematically disassemble structures, with the goal of reusing or recycling the bulk of the material on the site. Based on experiences in Portland, Oregon, which has a similar law in place, staff believes that up to 95 percent of the construction debris can be salvaged — either reused or recycled — through ‘deconstruction.’

“The newly adopted ‘deconstruction’ ordinance aims to help the city meet its goal of diverting 95 percent of local waste from landfills by 2030.

“Construction and demolition materials — about 19,000 tons of waste annually — represent more than 40% of Palo Alto debris that gets disposed in landfills. Under the old method, excavators smash and knock down the structure, reducing its materials into rubble that gets placed in containers and shipped to a waste-sorting facility. The operation takes a few days and a crew of two to three, and costs between $8 and $12 per square foot to complete.

“The new model calls for buildings to be systematically disassembled, typically in the reverse order in which they were constructed. Based on two recent pilot projects, deconstruction would take about 10 to 15 days to complete and require a crew of four to eight people, with the cost ranging from $22 to $34 per square foot.

“City staff estimates that the deconstruction-collection program will cost the city $243,000 in one-time expenses and $567,000 in annual ongoing expenses. In addition, the city plans to spend about $118,000 for consulting services related to outreach and education.

“Even so, city staff believes the environmental benefits outweigh the rising costs. Public Works staff pointed to Portland, where up to 25 percent of materials in residential buildings were deemed reusable and up to 70 percent recyclable, for a total recovery rate of 95 percent. Mixed construction-and-demolition debris, by contrast, typically nets recovery rates between 71 Percent and 80 Palo Alto adopts ‘deconstruction’ ordinance.

“The city will initially apply the ordinance for total demolitions of commercial and residential projects starting on July 1, 2020. The ordinance is expected to affect about 114 projects, according to staff.

“The ordinance will attain a broader reach in January 2022, when it becomes applicable to all projects valued at $100,000 or more, and in January 2023, when the threshold is lowered to $50,000.

“Councilwoman Alison Cormack acknowledged that the ordinance comes with ‘significant costs,’ both to the city and to the residents and businesses undertaking deconstruction. Even so, she said the new requirement is ‘absolutely worth doing.’ ”

Read the full article here.