Tag: 2019-09-nn-roundup

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“The proposed measure is intended to serve as a short-term solution that would be repealed within two years or in conjunction with the adoption of new residential design guidelines.”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