Tag: 2019-07-nn-roundup

SB 50 is risen from the dead as SB 592

By Naphtali H. Knox, FAICP, June 15, 2019.

SB 592, formerly “State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology: licensee information,” is now “The Housing Accountability Act.”

On June 13, State Senator Scott Wiener gutted and amended his SB 592 by inserting (so far) some of the text from SB 50: Specifically, the amendments to Section 65589.5 of the Government Code are largely the same in both bills, but SB 592 adds several important clarifications.

SB 50 went on to add Sections 65913.5, 65913.6, and 65918.5 to the Government Code to cover, for example, allowable housing types and height limits in employment rich areas and near transit. Those additions are currently absent from SB 592.

Cartoon by John Atkinson, Wrong Hands, via gocomics.com/wrong-hands

SB 592 will be heard by the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development on July 3.

You can read the text of SB 592 here.

Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay fined $1.6 million; failed to give public beach access

Coastal Commission says luxury hotel violated coastal laws for years

By Paul Rogers, Bay Area News Group, June 14, 2019.

One of Northern California’s most exclusive hotels, the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, where rooms rent for $1,000 a night and Silicon Valley companies regularly hold posh retreats, agreed Thursday to pay $1.6 million in penalties to the California Coastal Commission to settle years of violations of state coastal laws.

The penalties, the second-largest of their kind in the commission’s history, were approved at a monthly commission meeting in San Diego.

The 261-room luxury oceanfront hotel, golf course and spa was built in 2001 after years of battles with environmentalists and local residents in San Mateo County who said it would block public access to two sandy beaches.

To address those concerns, when the Coastal Commission first issued the project a permit in the 1990s, the agency required the Ritz to build a free public parking lot with 15 spaces overlooking Cañada Verde Beach, a scenic beach just south of the hotel. The commission also gave the hotel the option of building a second public beach parking lot a mile north at Redondo Beach or allowing the public to park for free in the hotel’s parking garage. The hotel owners chose to set aside 25 public spaces in its garage for beachgoers.

But over the years, hotel valets parked the cars of hotel guests and golfers in the public spots or told members of the public they couldn’t park there, despite multiple warnings and fines from the commission. The hotel also failed to put up signs telling the public the beaches are open and free to anyone, not just hotel guests or golfers.

After being hit with a $50,000 penalty by the commission in 2004, the hotel promised changes but did not deliver. It was issued violations and paid additional penalties again in 2007 and 2011.

Rather than face years in court, the hotel owners negotiated a settlement agreement with the Coastal Commission staff in which they agreed to pay $1.6 million, $600,000 of which will go to the Peninsula Open Space Trust, a Palo Alto land conservation group, to help purchase an adjacent 27-acre property north of the hotel with additional public beach access. The other $1 million will go into a Coastal Commission fund that provides signs, trails, staircases and other amenities to help the public use beaches around the state.

Read the full article here.

Former Concord Naval Weapons Station may be site of new CSU campus

By Don Ford, CBS SF KPIX 5, June 11, 2019.

For years, state and local leaders have dreamed about how best to develop the now-closed Concord Naval Weapons Station. One of those dreams included turning the former base into a four-year college — a dream that now may be a little closer to reality.

In a joint announcement June 11, state officials confirmed that Concord is one of five locations in California that will be studied for a new California State University campus. The location is close to BART, freeways, and bus lines.

The university would be built on the northeast corner of the former base. “We’ve established 120 acres of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station for some kind of public institution of higher learning or research facility,” said Concord Mayor Carlyn Oberinger.

The study will cost $2 million and it’s unknown how long it will take to complete. Concord is competing with San Mateo, Stockton, Chula Vista, and Palm Desert.

“It’s a political conversation and we’re thankful we have an assemblymember who’s been able to get us two million dollars for the feasibility study,” said Oberinger.

The site selection study won’t get the green light until the state budget is formally approved.

Read the full article or watch the news clip here.

Scott Wiener, in enemy territory, makes case for SB 50

By Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly, June 7, 2019.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, went before an audience of 200 in Palo Alto on June 7 to “push back against the common narrative that the bill represents an attack on local control and assure residents that, despite a recent setback, the bill remains on track for passage.

“SB 50 hit a stumbling block last month, when the chairman of the state senate Appropriation Committee announced that the Legislature will not be taking up the bill until early 2020, at the earliest.

“Despite this decision by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, Wiener told the crowd he is confident that the bill will ultimately win passage after the legislature takes it up again early next year.

“ ‘The bill is alive and well,’ Wiener said, ‘and the leadership has made it crystal clear that the bill is going to move forward.’

“The bill, he said, largely defers to local height limits, though it waives local height limits below 45 feet within half a mile of transit hubs. The legislation also defers to local demolition, design, and historic standards. Wiener, who was a San Francisco supervisor before going to Sacramento, also said that as a former local official, he agrees with those who say local decision-making usually leads to better outcomes. But local control ‘is not biblical,’ Wiener said. It’s ‘a good thing when it leads to good results, and I would say our system of pure local control on housing has not led to good results. What we’re trying to do is a rebalancing, not to eliminate local control,’ Wiener said.

“Some in Palo Alto, including the mayor, had argued that area employers should be asked to do more to fix the housing shortage. But when asked whether the state should require tech companies to build more housing, Wiener pushed back: Even if lawmakers required tech giants like Facebook and Google to build housing (which, he noted, isn’t their area of expertise), that wouldn’t change the fact that existing zoning would make approval and construction of these units a slow and difficult process.

“ ‘I personally think we all caused this problem,’ Wiener said. ‘Tech didn’t create the land use rules, tech didn’t ban apartment buildings in 75 percent of California, tech didn’t say it should take five to 10 years to approve a project. Tech didn’t do any of those things. We did those things.’

“Los Altos resident Wesley Hemholtz argued that ‘one-size-fits-all’ is an unfair way to describe SB 50 and agreed with Wiener’s main point about the failures of local control. The existing system has left most families unable to afford housing, he said.

“ ‘It’s really not one-size-fits-all. It’s one-size-fits-the-appropriate situation,’ said Hemholz. ‘Near transit, these are the rules; near jobs, these are the rules. If you’re not near transit and not near jobs, you will not have [those] requirements imposed on you. But the current system of local control is sort of a one-size-fits-all statewide. And it hasn’t worked for 40 years.’ ”

The above is an excerpt. Read the full article here.

World’s largest co-housing building coming to San Jose

By Sarah Holder, Citylab, June 7, 2019

“An 800-unit, 18-story ‘dorm for adults’ will help affordably house Silicon Valley’s booming workforce.

“The co-housing start-up Starcity is working to fill America’s housing-strapped cities with co-housing compounds. Since launching in 2016, the company has broken ground on seven developments in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In most Starcity buildings, renters get a furnished 130- to 220-square-foot bedroom, share a communal kitchen and living space, and get a range of Millennial-friendly amenities. Rents range from $1,400 to $2,400 a month.

“The company got the green light to start work on its biggest project — an 18-story building with 803 units in the heart of downtown San Jose. Just as industrial cities looked to SROs and flophouses to shelter their booming young urban workforce, Starcity is making buildings that can accommodate the live-work-play demands of a new labor class. As Curbed SF reported: ‘95 percent of the usable square footage in an SRO is renters’ rooms, with the remaining five percent mostly hallways. By comparison, a Starcity building is about 65 percent bedrooms, and 20 percent of the building is dedicated to communal spaces and kitchens.’

The San Jose Starcity mega-project will be neighbors with Google’s new buildings, and the Diridon Transit Center. (Starcity via CityLab)

“High-density co-housing buildings aren’t hotels, and they’re not traditional multifamily apartments. Starcity had to work with the city to change local zoning codes, and the city agreed to create a new use category entirely for the project. After approval of the rezoning by the city council in February, ‘co-living’ became its own distinct land-use classification in April.

“Once slated to host a 300-unit multi-family complex, the land is now cleared to hold almost triple that occupancy.

“‘We struggle so greatly just to get a shovel in the ground to get housing in the city, because construction costs are so high right now,’ says San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. ‘The fact that the developer had an approach that could get housing built was a good enough signal to me that we should get any obstacles out of the way.’

“Besides creating a bespoke zoning category, San Jose swept away other barriers, including parking requirements (800 Millennials don’t need 800 parking spaces); and an inclusionary housing ordinance holds developers to building 15 percent affordable units or paying a per-unit fee.

“But ‘the units are not really affordable,’ reads a statement from SV@Home, a local affordable housing policy group. ‘They are not rent-restricted, and often charge rents well beyond the reach of lower-income households.’

“Bay Area renters seeking something more affordable could look to another Starcity development in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, whose permit was also approved last week. Rents at this 270-room, 16-story building will start as low as $800 a month —’no easy feat in San Francisco.’ Half the units will be affordable for renters who make 80 percent of area median income or lower. This qualifies it for California’s SB35 program, which offers an expedited building timeline for these more affordable buildings.

“The San Jose mega-building will feature ‘vertical neighborhoods,’ where residential floors are linked not just by horizontal hallways but by two-story communal spaces, and terraces whose stairs interconnect. ‘This way, a broad array [of] residents from multiple floors can interact and engage with one another socially within the building’s various communal spaces.’

“Construction is set to start in the fall, with a late 2021 opening.

“‘If you look at successful cities across America, the best thing is if you’re going to create a tower or a tall building, make sure it has more than one use and that multiple types of people can enjoy and interact with that building,’ say Alex Shoor, co-founder of San Jose housing advocacy group CatalyzeSV. The closed corporate campuses that line Silicon Valley’s Highway 101 corridor are a mistake, he says: They separate employees from the cities they live in, stuff them with free snacks, and at the of the day send them back in cars to distant apartments.

Future iterations of Starcity’s co-living model will make room for babies, joining family-friendly co-living start-ups like Kin, which feature shared playrooms and family kitchens in its developments.”

The above is an excerpt. Read the full article, with images, here.

A national shout-out to Alameda!

Amanda Kolson Hurley tweets, “How did I miss a new ranking of ‘The Coolest Suburbs in America’? Discussion of methodology is surprisingly careful and good (but people will still bellyache).” Read about Alameda here.

What the neighbors say:

“I love living here because it has the amenities of an urban environment (good food, retail, coffee shops), but with a small-town vibe, with its walkable streets, independent businesses and coffee shops, and many parks. There’s a strong sense of community that makes this the place we wanted to raise our kids.” —Margaret Lee, 15-year resident, designer.