Tag: 2019-09-nn-roundup

Less disruptive passenger pick-ups and drop-offs for ride-hail apps

September 5, 2019

The final report of a University of Washington pilot study on Curb Allocation Change indicates that creating a designated space for passenger loading (PLZ) can discourage double-parking and reduce traffic conflicts. Geofencing is used to increase driver compliance by setting a GPS or RFID boundary around an area, thus triggering a response when a mobile device enters or leaves the area. Data was collected in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, an area with considerable congestion and TNC use. A second phase study has been proposed to test geofence and PLZ strategies in a high traffic, transit corridor.

Read the press release here.

SB 330 has passed the California Legislature and is on the governor’s desk

The new law will spur development of affordable housing, limit fees on affordable housing, prohibit demolition of affordable and rent-controlled units unless they’re replaced, and give existing tenants first right of return.

The votes were 67-8 in the Assembly and 30-4 in the state Senate. The bill was enrolled and presented to the Governor at 2 pm on September 17th. While Newsom had not yet signed the bill as of September 21, he publicly endorsed SB 330.

The paragraphs below explain the thrust of the new law and are excepted from an August 30 Op-Ed by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), author of the bill and the California Senate majority whip.

The successful approach of “city and county officials [in] the aftermath of the Tubbs fire to expedite the rebuilding of thousands of homes,” wrote Skinner, … inspired me to introduce Senate Bill 330

“The bill accelerates housing construction in the state during the next half-decade by slashing the time it takes for developers to get building permits, limiting fees on housing, and barring local governments from reducing the number of homes that can be built…

“SB 330 is based on the premise that much of the housing we need has already been planned for by our local communities. California cities and counties have approved zoning for 2.8 million new housing units, according to a 2019 report by UCLA’s Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies…

“Recent studies have also pointed out [that] cities and counties often levy burdensome fees that can reach $50,000 per unit on housing projects, and developers can face delays of up to four years after they submit their applications to build housing…

“SB 330 is designed to help California communities swiftly build much of the housing the state needs without altering local zoning rules. Until 2025, cities and counties [will] have to slash the time it takes to process housing applications to no more than 90 days for most market-rate housing projects and to 60 days for affordable ones after a project application is deemed complete and it complies with local zoning rules. The bill also limits the number of public hearings on a project to five. In addition, cities and counties would be barred from hiking fees after the project applicant has submitted all preliminary required information.

“For five years from the time the bill becomes law, urban areas throughout California [will] be prohibited from changing design standards for how housing should look, reducing the number of housing units allowed, establishing a cap on the number of people who can live in a community, or implementing a moratorium on new housing construction.

“The bill also includes anti-displacement measures, including a ban on the demolition of affordable and rent-controlled units unless developers replace all of them and pay to rehouse tenants and offer them first right of return at the same rent.”

You can read the text of the bill here. 

Homeless housing developer aims to bring back bungalow court

By Elijah Chiland, Curbed LA, July 23, 2019

“A Los Angeles nonprofit organization aims to bring back the bungalow court as ‘a good way to house people.’

“John Perfitt, director of Restore Neighborhoods LA, earlier this year won a $500,000 grant from Los Angeles County for its Bungalow Gardens proposal in South Los Angeles.  The complex would likely be LA’s first new bungalow court in more than seven decades.

Bungalow court proposed for South LA. The complex would include four Spanish-style duplexes arranged on a single lot. Rendering courtesy RNLA.

“Perfitt calls the bungalow court — at one time the most common form of multifamily housing in Southern California — a ‘functional but elegant’ form of architecture.

“Built mainly from the early 1900s to the 1930s, Los Angeles’s bungalow courts generally consist of a cluster of individual cottages arranged around a courtyard or a strip of shared open space. The courts have been impractical to build since Los Angeles officials adopted minimum parking requirements for new developments in the 1930s.

“RNLA’s project, planned between two existing court-style complexes, is set to include four studios and four one-bedrooms — spread between four buildings surrounded by shared space and sandwiched between two existing court-type complexes.

The project would be sandwiched between two existing court-type complexes. Rendering courtesy RNLA.

“Building this type of project is now possible because of LA’s Transit Oriented Communities program, established after voters approved an affordable housing ballot measure in 2016.

“Projects like Bungalow Gardens, which are accessible to major train or bus stops and contain affordable housing, are eligible for certain incentives — including more allowable density and fewer required parking spaces. Because all of the units in RNLA’s court will be affordable, the project isn’t required to have parking at all.

“With partial grant funding from the county secured, RNLA is now opening the project up to investors from the general public in order to raise additional funds needed to complete the project.

“Tenants will be selected through the county’s Coordinated Entry System, which connects homeless residents with available housing. Rents will be subsidized through housing vouchers provided by the county.

Read the full article here. 

Elected officials have visionary responsibilities to ensure that today’s plans consider tomorrow’s needs

From The Planning Report, Los Angeles, August 14, 2019

TPR interviewed Michael Woo, a former LA City Council member (1985-93) who recently retired after 10 years as Dean of Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Environmental Design — the first urban planner to hold that position. (Woo holds a master of city planning from UC Berkeley and a B.A. in politics and urban studies from UC Santa Cruz.) The interview starts with the loaded observation that “city planning seems disrespected by all interests,” and later asks, “what should schools of planning and architecture be inculcating in their students?” and “who should planners be planning for?” Among Woo’s responses were these morsels:

Michael Woo. Image: Zocalo Public Square, an ASU Knowledge Enterprise

“… the best graduates we produce will be more than just technicians, because the software will be constantly changing. The best graduates will be generalists whom the employer can move around to different assignments and different teams that may not be predictable at the time the graduate is originally hired. Oral and written communication skills are very important because if you can’t communicate your good idea, what good are you?

“… planners should be planning for the future.

“… in a democratic society, the elected leadership has the primary responsibility for defining a vision of the future. Of course, the leaders may need to be responsive to the senior citizens among us, or the people who are registered voters among us. But, beyond the short-term responsibility of representing the people who elect the officeholders, the elected officials and the politicians have a higher responsibility to think about the future, including people who aren’t here yet, haven’t been born yet, and who can’t vote.

“… the public sector needs to step up and define what the future is going to be about. The private sector definitely deserves to have a large voice, but it’s not the private sector that should decide. By definition, the private sector cannot define what is in the best interest of the public.”

You can read the full interview here.

SB 35 watch: Latest in Cupertino vs Vallco redevelopment battle

‘No offices at Vallco site if development plan goes down, Cupertino decides’

Excerpts from an article by Thy Vo, Mercury News, August 22, 2019

“If a current plan for redeveloping Vallco Shopping Mall gets tossed, whatever project eventually replaces it won’t feature any office space, the Cupertino City Council decided this week. The council has approved a general plan amendment that eliminates a 2-million-square-foot allocation for office space [on the site] and imposes a 60-foot height limit on buildings at the vacant shopping mall.

“Council members and residents who support the move say the 1.8 million square feet of office space that Sand Hill Property Co. plans to build at Vallco will only exacerbate the region’s housing crisis by bringing in new workers without the homes to accommodate them.

“Sand Hill Property Co., the owner and developer of Vallco, has the right under state legislation to build 2,402 apartment units — half of them below market rate — plus 1.8 million square feet of office space, 400,000 square feet of retail, and a 30-acre rooftop park.

Approved Vallco Town Center Redevelopment, also showing parking structures on new Apple campus, top right. Image from City of Cupertino website, Approved plans for Vallco Town Center, http://bit.ly/2ZcjhFZ.

“The legislation, SB 35, requires cities to approve housing developments as long as they include enough affordable homes and meet zoning and planning rules. Although the [new] general plan amendment doesn’t affect Sand Hill’s plan, it would dictate what can be built at the site if a [current] lawsuit succeeds in blocking the current project.

“Friends of Better Cupertino challenged the validity of Sand Hill’s project approval under SB35 and a judge is scheduled to consider the issue at a hearing in early October.

“Councilman Rod Sinks, the only one to vote against the general plan amendment, said he agrees with the principles of maximizing new housing and limiting office space, but believes some office space is needed to help projects pencil out.

“The general plan amendment maintains the existing allocation of residential units on the 50-acre site at 389 to 459 homes, [but] they would have to be contained within 13.1 acres. They would be allowed by right. If a future project qualifies for a state density bonus, a developer could build up to 620 units on the site.

“Sand Hill has shown no desire to abandon its current project. Earlier this month, the city approved additional demolition permits for the site so Sand Hill can start taking down the former Macy’s building and [other] portions of the mall.”

Read the full article here. 

Northern California’s Karuk Tribe builds its first LIHTC project

Excerpted from HUD USER, PD&R Edge, August 2019

“Opened in the fall of 2017, Karuk Homes 1 is a 30-unit affordable housing project of single-family homes in rural Yreka, California. The project represents the first use of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program by the Karuk Tribe Housing Authority (KTHA), and the Karuk Tribe was one of the first Native American tribes in California to obtain a tax credit award under the state’s Native American Apportionment Pilot. The houses in Karuk Homes 1 are a mix of three-, four-, and five-bedroom layouts and were designed to suit the needs of larger and multigenerational families.

Karuk Homes 1, a 30-unit single-family affordable housing development in Yreka, was the first project of the Karuk Tribe Housing Authority to be financed through the use of Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Credit: Karuk Tribe Housing Authority

“Based out of northern California’s Siskiyou and Humboldt counties, the Karuk Tribe is the second-largest federally recognized Native American tribe in in the state by population, with nearly 4,000 enrolled members. [The Yurok Tribe in Humboldt County is the largest, with almost 6,000 members.] Although the Karuk Tribe does not have its own reservation, the tribal government owns more than 1,700 acres of their aboriginal land. Most of this land is concentrated in the population centers of Happy Camp, Orleans [in Humboldt County], and Yreka, and is used for tribal housing, ceremonies, and resource management. KTHA was established in 1985 and by 2015 owned and managed a portfolio of 194 housing units. Although any local resident in need of housing may apply to live in KTHA properties, the housing agency gives preference to tribe members and their descendants, who share an urgent need for affordable housing.

“For KTHA, Karuk Homes 1 represents not only the first time that the housing agency had ever built a LIHTC development but also the first time it had ever applied for funding through the program. In 2014, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee launched the Native American Apportionment Pilot to set aside a certain number of tax credits out of the existing rural set-aside for use by federally recognized Native American tribes. KTHA staff submitted an application expecting to learn from the process but were surprised to discover that their project had been selected. ‘We really were just intending to test the waters,’ explains Sara Spence, executive director of KTHA. ‘It was a wonderful shock to actually be accepted on our first application.’

“California instituted the special set-aside because LIHTC funding in the state is in high demand, and most tribal housing agencies are too small, with budgets and housing plans too modest to be competitive. Although state officials originally planned to run the pilot for only a year, it enjoyed such success that they extended it. ‘We found the LIHTC process to be very intense but well worth it,’ says Spence. ‘Most tribes don’t have enough funding to add more than a few units per year to their housing portfolios, but it is very, very cost-effective to do many homes at once.’

“Karuk Homes 1 is fully occupied, and, as of spring 2019, KTHA had a waiting list of more than 700 households.”

Read the full article from HUD USER here. 

‘The state is now targeting cities over housing. It’s about time’

By San Francisco Business Times, August 16, 2019

“If cities that aren’t taking California’s housing crisis seriously begin to feel the heat, will they finally see the light?

“At least a few encouraging signs are gathering to suggest that they might — signs that mean the state needs to keep up the pressure on communities, mainly suburban, that continue to deny, derail, or downsize housing projects within their borders. Communities can now face fines of up to $600,000 for flouting state affordable housing targets.

“That $600,000 is plenty high enough to give smaller communities incentive to change a longstanding equation that keeps too many of them from getting anywhere near their assigned housing goals: Approving housing at scale can carry electoral consequence from constituents, whereas thumbing one’s nose at the state has traditionally carried none. This has allowed much of Bay Area suburban officialdom to take the attitude that the housing crisis is somebody else’s problem, to be solved elsewhere.

“It’s not, and won’t be. In fact, the problem just keeps getting worse. Housing permits across the state totaled barely 100,000 in 2018, half what’s needed simply to keep pace. The shortfall adds to a cumulative California deficit estimated at 3.5 million homes.

“Given the scale of the problem and its downward trajectory, there’s a short answer to which communities should face state pressure if they are not actually making housing happen: pretty much all of them.”

Read the complete Business Times editorial here. 

“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?”