“Residents of wealthy neighborhoods are taking extreme measures to block much-needed housing and transportation projects.”
By Michael Hobbes. This is an excerpt from HuffPost, July 6, 2019.
“[L]ocals are losing their minds over issues related to housing, zoning, and transportation. Ugly public meetings are becoming increasingly common in cities across the country as residents frustrated by worsening traffic, dwindling parking, and rising homelessness take up fierce opposition.
“[Meetings] cut short after boos and jeering repeatedly interrupted speakers … are usually sparked by projects or policy changes intended to address America’s worsening housing crisis. … And yet, despite the urgency of the need and the expert consensus on solutions, individual efforts to increase density, improve transit, or alleviate homelessness can spend years bogged down by local opposition.
“Rowdy public hearings are nothing new in city politics. In the 1970s, white parents mobilized to prevent racial minorities from attending their children’s schools. In the 1990s, affluent voters organized in favor of tougher policing despite living in the neighborhoods with the lowest crime rates.
“Examples of this can be found in nearly every city experiencing job and population growth. In San Francisco, residents of a wealthy neighborhood opposed the construction of low-income senior housing, citing concerns that it was seismically unstable. Seattle homeowners sued a homeless housing project over a technicality related to its permitting. In Boise, by some measures the fastest-growing city in the country, one of the arguments employed by residents fighting the construction of new townhomes is that they will reduce pedestrian safety.
“In the short term, anti-growth activism is likely to increase urban inequality. Nearly three-quarters of the jobs created since the Great Recession were added in cities with populations over 1 million. As cities continue to swell with new workers, their inability to build dense housing and high-quality bus and train service will push low-income residents even farther away from jobs and schools.
“Cities can redesign community outreach to encourage input from groups that have traditionally been excluded. According to a 2017 study, older male homeowners are more likely to participate in town hall meetings and other public participation processes than other demographic groups. Another, published in June, found that becoming a property owner motivated individuals to participate in politics and to express their views on housing, traffic, and development to elected leaders more often. [But] it’s not clear if longer or more inclusive citizen engagement will lower the temperature of local debates over density and growth.
“ ‘The only thing that gives me hope is that the most radical voices don’t represent the will of the majority,’ said Robert Getch, a Seattle housing activist. ‘Most people want more homes and more transit and have compassion for the homeless. We just need politicians to stop listening to the people who are shouting the loudest.’ ”
“The Oregon Senate on June 30 gave final legislative approval to a bill that would effectively eliminate single-family zoning in large Oregon cities.
“House Bill 2001 passed in a 17-9 vote. It now heads to Gov. Kate Brown to be signed into law.
“It will allow duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and ‘cottage clusters’ on land previously reserved for single family houses in cities with more than 25,000 residents, as well as smaller cities in the Portland metro area. Cities with at least 10,000 residents [presumably those outside the Portland metro area] would be required to allow duplexes in single-family zones.
“The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Tina Kotek, aims to address rising housing costs by increasing the supply of smaller homes, particularly in desirable neighborhoods.
“Though the bill contains an emergency clause, only elements of the bill intended to prepare for the density mandate would take effect upon its passage. The bulk of the provisions won’t take effect until 2020, to allow city planners to revise their zoning codes.”
(According to Rachel Monahan, writing in Willamette Week, “Larger cities will have until June of 2021 to officially revise their plans for allowing diverse housing types, and smaller cities will have an extra year.”)
SGC’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program provides grants and loans for programs and capital development projects, including affordable housing development and transportation improvements that encourage walking, bicycling, and transit use and result in fewer passenger vehicle miles traveled.
AHSC Program staff received 47 proposals by a February 11, 2019, deadline, seeking $673,741,832 in grants. Twenty-five projects were awarded a total of $402,117,497. SGC announced the awards June 25th. Here is a summary of the nine awards granted in coastal northern California:
Light Tree, East Palo Alto, a project of Eden Housing, the East Palo Alto Community Alliance & Neighborhood Development Organization (EPA CAN DO), and the City of East Palo Alto Total Award: $20,000,000
Light Tree scored highest of 25 projects from 18 jurisdictions statewide.
The Light Tree collaboration will provide 128 units of affordable housing for families and individuals making between 30-50% of the area median income, with 14 units set aside for homeless or transitional age youth. The project will additionally invest in sustainable transit infrastructure, including 8.6 miles of bikeways and 3600 feet of pedestrian walkways, and will acquire three electric buses for a new limited stop bus service operated by SamTrans. The bus service project area spans 24 miles across San Mateo County, from East Palo Alto to San Bruno, with stops in Menlo Park, Redwood City, Redwood Shores, and SFO. $500,000 will provide the Light Tree community with up to 650 transit passes per year for three years. $3.75 million will create EPA’s first “Complete Green Street” on Addison Street.
Light Tree has a current wait list of more than 200 low-income families. Linda Mandolini of Eden Housing wrote on LinkedIn that, “Sometimes all the stars align and you find a way to make a dent in a waiting list. This grant not only brings with it a whole lot of air quality benefits, it allows us to build enough homes to accommodate nearly half of the 200 households on the [Light Tree] waiting list.”
According to Weijia Song, project developer for Eden Housing, construction will be phased, and current residents be accommodated in the transition from existing to new. During construction, current residents will be temporarily relocated in available onsite units or comparable offsite units. Experienced relocation consultants have been retained to assist in the process. Once construction is complete, existing Light Tree residents will have the right-of-first return to new or renovated units. Elevator service will be added to the existing 3-story buildings to better serve Light Tree’s senior residents.
Gateway at Millbrae, Site 6A, a project of Core Affordable Housing, LLC Total Award: $18,042,459
The Gateway at Millbrae will provide 80 units of affordable housing within walking distance of the Millbrae BART station in San Mateo County. This realizes a major component of the Millbrae Station Area Specific Plan, which envisions mixed-use housing adjacent to the Millbrae station — the transfer point for BART and Caltrain. Transportation elements include a BART track extension and fleet storage to allow an increase in the number of trains on the San Francisco/Millbrae to Richmond line. The project will provide more than three miles of safe bicycle paths and 3,000 feet of pedestrian improvements, including a safe pedestrian passage over the 101 freeway to the Millbrae station.
500 Turk Street, a project of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, San Francisco Total Award: $20,000,000
The project will transform an auto-oriented site, four blocks from the Civic Center/UN Plaza BART station, into a pedestrian-oriented, community-facing affordable housing development with affordable multifamily rental homes for 107 households, a multi-use community room, and 2,385 sq. ft. of neighborhood-serving retail. In addition, the project will widen sidewalks and make pedestrian safety improvements on 6th street, install dedicated bike facilities on both sides of 5th street, and construct a BART station entrance canopy at Market and Hyde Streets, and transit-only lanes and sidewalk bulbs along the Market/Van Ness segment of the Geary Bus Rapid Transit project.
San Jose Market-Almaden TOD, a project of Satellite Affordable Housing Associates Total Award: $18,908,818
The project will provide 86 units of affordable housing for artists in downtown San Jose, with artist studios, a community room, and gallery space on the ground floor. The transportation components close key bike and pedestrian gaps with a protected bikeway connecting to transit, the Convention Center, and neighborhoods to the south, and will increase the frequency on the Route 66 VTA line through the procurement of two electric buses.
Treasure Island Parcel C3.1, Ferry Terminal, and Bay Bridge Connection, San Francisco, a project of Mercy Housing California and the Treasure Island Development Authority Total Award: $20,000,000
This project is the ambitious first step in redeveloping Treasure Island into a multi-modal sustainable community of more than 8,000 households by constructing 135 units of housing, 81 of those for households making less than 50% of the area median income, and 66 units replacing supportive housing. Active transportation improvements consist of a bicycle and pedestrian connector to link Treasure Island to the Bay Trail and the Bay Bridge, a new ferry terminal for new service to San Francisco, and a new AC Transit bus line to downtown Oakland and BART. Concerns around sea level rise are addressed by raising all buildings, parking, and street entrances above current grade.
Roosevelt Park Apartments, a project of First Community Housing and the City of San Jose Total Award: $12,637,770
Roosevelt Park Apartments will provide 80 units of mixed-income housing in Downtown San Jose, with 40 units designated as Rapid Rehousing for homeless households and 20 units set aside for Transition Age Youth (TAY) and the Developmentally Disabled. The remaining 20 units will be workforce housing. All units will be restricted to households earning 30-80% of area median income.
The project makes robust active transportation improvements — including protected bike lanes on a high traffic corridor — to identified safety and connectivity gaps in the neighborhood.
Transit improvements will include the addition of two new electrical buses connecting the Eastridge Transit Center and the future Berryessa BART Station. Every resident of the housing development ages five and up will get free passes to use VTA buses and light rail throughout Santa Clara County.
Manzanita Family Apartments, a project of Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, Napa Total Award: $8,150,000
The Manzanita Family Apartments will provide 51 affordable homes for households in the city of Napa. The development is a significant distance from the city’s Wildland Urban Interface Fire Hazard Area and will include fire resilient design measures. The project will install beacon systems at five uncontrolled crossings along 3.2 miles of the Vine Trail bikeway, and will make pedestrian improvements at two key intersections. The Napa Valley Transportation Authority will purchase two electric buses for express routes to connect the community to job hubs as far north as Calistoga and as far south as Vallejo, and will also add and improve bus shelters along the routes.
2012 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, a project of BRIDGE Housing Corporation, Berkeley Food and Housing project, and the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District Total Award: $19,591,610
The project comprises two developments that in total provide 141 affordable housing units in Berkeley, with 53 set aside for supportive housing. The project will implement specific elements of the city’s Bicycle Plan, as well as projects identified in the Transportation Element of the General Plan including upgraded bike lanes, pedestrian improvements and lighting along Milvia St., bike lanes and street lighting along Addison St., a two-way cycle track at the North Berkeley BART Station, and the addition of a new bus to AC Transit’s fleet for the Transbay Tomorrow F Line. Secured bicycle parking will be provided at the North Berkeley BART Station, and bus stop safety and comfort will be improved.
Isaacson’s Multifamily Housing HRI and STI, a project of Danco Communities and the City of Arcata Total Award: $4,460,700
The Isaacson’s Multifamily Housing Housing-Related Infrastructure (HRI) and Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure (STI) project will fund a 43-unit multifamily housing development in Arcata — the first AHSC award in the North Coast region. In addition to providing much-needed affordable housing, the AHSC award will fund new bike lanes to help implement the Humboldt Regional Bicycle Plan adopted in 2018. Emphasizing a need for safer pedestrian accessibility, new sidewalks will connect project residents to transit, paired with pedestrian safety improvements. A new car and bike share program will be located in the housing development. Each unit will receive two free bus passes. The project will procure an electric bus for use on a new route to connect area residents to key destinations in Arcata.
On June 20, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) announced it had “awarded $179 million to developers of affordable supportive housing in 37 communities across California from the No Place Like Home Program funded by the voter-approved 2018 Proposition 2. The awards mark the first funding from the program that has gone directly to developers.
“Along with funding released in March to the counties of Santa Clara, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, which are administering their own competitive funding programs, some $508 million has been committed to achieving the No Place Like Home Program’s goals.
The round of awards granted June 19th will enable projects in 37 communities to move toward construction, allowing approximately 2,100 households the long-term support and stability they require to permanently exit homelessness.”
Awards went to projects in these Northern Section communities:
Alameda, Berkeley (2), Eureka, Fairfield, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Napa, Oakland (3), and Santa Rosa.
A table listing all of the June 19, 2019, award winners can be found here.
“The California Dream is a global brand. For more than a century the state has been a magnet for migrants from around the world, and now has the largest foreign-born population of any state in the country.
“As part of the California Dream collaboration, journalists from CALmatters and public radio stations across California are reporting a series of stories on immigrant communities throughout the state. Here are five maps and charts illustrating the past and present of who’s moving in and, lately, moving out.”
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.
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.
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.’ ”
“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.’
“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.
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.