FEATURED ARTICLES: Meet a local planner — Leah Greenblat • Can a sports arena be a mixed-use, multiplex, urban park? • Reclaiming Downtown for People • WHERE IN THE WORLD • NORTHERN SECTION ANNOUNCEMENTS: Get your AICP | CM credits for Ethics and Law • Nominations for Treasurer, APA California – Northern • State, federal funds awarded to California’s smaller jurisdictions • Emeryville’s Miroo Desai elected to APA California office • Who’s where • Sign up for mentoring • CPF wants YOU • Call for Nominations, East Bay Innovation Awards • About Northern News • PLANNING NEWS ROUNDUP, six articles excerpted and linked.
Downtown Hayward Specific Plan, Code, and EIR
By Henry Pontarelli
The City of Hayward is in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area. Its once thriving Downtown has faced the loss of retailers to outlying malls and pressures from big-box stores, online shopping, vacancies, and underutilized properties, and the evolution to an auto-oriented street and neighborhood pattern.
The Downtown also integrated a Bypass Alternative (called the “Loop”) meant to alleviate regional traffic congestion, but which has brought high local traffic volumes and speeds, barriers to pedestrians and cyclists, and detracted from the community’s goals for a safe, beautiful, walkable, bikeable, and family-oriented destination.
In 2014, the City secured funding for a comprehensive planning effort in a Downtown Specific Plan, Code and EIR (alternately referred to as Plan or Project) — a comprehensive assessment of existing conditions and substantive input from the community and City staff. The Project also featured the collaboration from a team of experts in urban planning, zoning codes, transportation, community design, retail, economics, and environmental compliance led by Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc. (LWC). The final Plan was driven by the community’s vision to be a regional destination, celebrated for its distinct history, culture, and diversity; providing shopping, entertainment, employment, and housing options for residents and visitors of all ages and backgrounds; and accessible by bike, foot, public transit, and car.
The Plan showcases goals, policies, and programs to address mobility, infrastructure, and design, and identifies potential funding sources, timelines, and roles and responsibilities for implementation. At the urging of the community, the Plan turns one of the Loop’s most dangerous and least pedestrian-friendly intersections into a multi-modal gateway to the city. The Project also included updating the City’s Downtown land development code and fulfilled California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements.
After over two and a half years of hard work and determination, the Hayward City Council approved the Plan unanimously in April 2019 with support from local unions that pledged to work side-by-side with the city to build more housing, more businesses, and make Hayward stronger.
In 2014, the City of Hayward undertook a $1.12 million Downtown Specific Plan, Form-Based Code, and EIR (Plan) with the help of a generous grant from the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC). The grant funded the Specific Plan and Environmental Impact Report (EIR), with the City funding the Code update. The Plan met ACTC’s mission to “deliver a broad range of projects and programs to enhance mobility throughout Alameda County.” Focused on downtown land uses, the City established priorities for revitalizing flagging business conditions, addressing vacancies and underutilized parcels, fixing a transportation pattern best suited for moving cars through downtown at near highway speeds, and preparing the city for the onrushing future.
Through a public bidding process, the City hired San Francisco-based Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc., to write the Specific Plan, update the code, lead the community engagement, and manage a team of top-tier consultants. The team included Nelson\Nygaard and Kittleson & Associates on transportation planning and modeling, Opticos Design Inc. on community design, Sherwood Design Engineers on civil infrastructure and integrating natural features, MJB Consulting on retail strategies, and Placeworks on the EIR.
The City of Hayward lies in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite vacancies, the downtown has established businesses, and it has seen some new business activity. The Downtown’s core offers an attractive, pedestrian-friendly street grid, parks, creek, public gardens, dozens of historic properties, and proximity to one of the busiest non-urban Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations. However, like many East Bay communities, it has been difficult to catch the fire for housing demand and business growth in nearby San Francisco, Oakland, and Silicon Valley. Through a comprehensive and thoughtfully crafted scope of services, the City sought to assess and understand the forces that affect the Downtown, get a solid read on community sentiment, and develop a feasible set of policies and programs that could bring about positive change and better prepare the city for the future. By including a Code Update and EIR as part of the Specific Plan, the City assured the Plan’s implementation.
The Plan is built on a foundation of urban planning in Hayward, including:
- Downtown Design Plan and Core Area Plan (1992)
- City of Hayward Design Guidelines (1993)
- Retail Site Assessment (2009)
- Envision Downtown Hayward (2012)
- 2040 General Plan (2014) and
- Economic Development Strategic Plan (2014-2018).
From the outset, the City emphasized substantive outreach, and reliance on the community for an insider’s perspective that led to the Vision Statement, which in turn set the course for the Project and the foundation for policies and programs. The community’s high-profile role generated a sense of ownership and support for the Plan. Engagement events were noticed via the City website, Facebook, Twitter, local newspapers, flyers, email invitations to a list of interested parties and individuals established early in the Project, and word of mouth as City staff canvased Downtown businesses to spread the word. Those efforts included:
- Personal interviews with City Staff, civic leaders, elected officials, special interest groups
- 2 Planning Commission and City Council Work Sessions
- 2 Council Infrastructure Committee Meetings
- 3 Public workshops
- 5-day Charette with all consultants that attracted 100 people
- 6 Hayward Downtown Specific Plan Task Force Meetings
- 4 Public Hearings
- Online survey, and
- Project webpage.
Vision Statement: Downtown Hayward is a regional destination, celebrated for its distinct history, culture, and diversity; providing shopping, entertainment, employment, and housing options for residents and visitors of all ages and backgrounds; that is accessible by bike, foot, public transit, and car.
Challenges in Downtown Hayward are not unique: a street grid that has evolved to better accommodate cars than pedestrians and cyclists; rushing people through the area. The downtown is also challenged by the rise of online shopping: Over the years it has seen the loss of retailers, drawn away to malls, as well as the loss of key anchors like Mervyn’s headquarters. Many of these shifts have left vacant properties, invited squatting and graffiti-based vandalism, and left negative impacts on Downtown Hayward’s image.
One of the unique features of Downtown Hayward is the “Loop” — a Bypass Alternative routed directly through Downtown Hayward to ease congestion on State Route 238. The “Loop” comprises five- to seven-lane one-way streets that direct commuters north and south precisely through the middle of Downtown Hayward. It was completed in 2013 after decades of planning and negotiations. What was seen as a possible solution to regional traffic problems has led to a “local” disruption of traffic patterns, and has become a major pedestrian barrier and a source of high speeds where the community envisions a destination for all ages.
With a history of sound urban planning and community development, Hayward has been effective at addressing issues head on. Examples are a Mural Art Program that engages artists, schools, property owners, and police to increase public art and significantly reduce graffiti-based vandalism to approving catalytic redevelopment; housing and mixed-use projects; and attracting investment for anchor projects like Hayward’s 21st Century Library and Heritage Plaza.
The Downtown Specific Plan, Code, and EIR represent a major investment and a strategic step for the City. The Project is meant to enable and solidify recent advances and set a path for a more resilient city.
Downtown Specific Plan: The Plan and is presented in three chapters: Community Design; Mobility; and Infrastructure and Services. With an eye on implementation and coordination of funding, the Implementation Program includes goals, policies, and programs for each major topic, which are sorted by short term (up to five years), medium (five to 10 years) and long-term (11 to 15 years) timeframe for completion.
The policies and programs aim at implementing the community vision of a downtown that offers a beautiful and safe pedestrian-oriented environment for all ages to enjoy day or night, with sufficient and attractive lighting, sidewalk amenities, landscaping, and inviting ground floor frontages. The implementation program goes further to identify a wide variety of housing types to meet the economic and physical needs of a diverse population and capitalize on its location and existing amenities to capture more retail sales tax revenue and become a national model for the revitalization of mid-size cities. Community design strategies stress context-appropriate design standards, enhancement and integration of natural features into new and existing development, preservation of arts and history, leveraging public spaces and public transit, and improving connectivity through better signage and integrated design.
The policies, programs, and performance criteria in the Plan are aimed at street modifications and enhancements to make the Downtown more of a destination by better integration with public transit (local and regional bus service and BART), protected bike lanes, bulb outs and median refuges, reduced crossing widths, integration of green infrastructure (tree wells, planting strips), and smarter, “unbundled” strategies for parking. The implementation program also features transitioning the “Loop” into two-way, slower speed, more pedestrian-oriented roadways with significant improvements at Mission and Foothill Boulevards, converting the 5-point intersection into a gateway to the city.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND SERVICES
These policies, programs and performance criteria aim to assure the City has access to sufficient potable water, sewage transmission and treatment capacity, stormwater drainage, and power to meet the demands of the buildout established in the Plan, as well as encouraging on-site water retention, filtration, and recycling. The infrastructure and services section also addresses schools, and approaches to meet the City’s standards for access to parks and open space. This section also looks at current capacity of, and ongoing needs for, fire, police, hospital, emergency, homeless services, and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) — more eyes on the street, better lighting, and landscaping that deters untoward activity.
What makes a Specific Plan a particularly effective tool is the requirement to include implementation and financing measures to carry out policies and programs. The Hayward Downtown Specific Plan sets seven goals, proposes 48 policies, and recommends 129 programs. Each Implementation Program identifies the responsible party, time frame, and potential funding source for each program. Each program is assigned a responsible party to help ensure continued commitment by City staff, elected officials, and other partners. In addition, to help establish priorities, the Plan includes anticipated timeframes for implementation. Short-term programs are anticipated to be implemented within the first four years of Plan adoption, mid-term programs would be accomplished within five to 10 years, and long-term programs in 11 years or more.
The Implementation section also lists existing and potential funding sources. The Plan acknowledges that fund availability and sources will change over time, and that achieving the Plan’s vision relies heavily on those funds for proposed programs.
ZONING CODE and OBJECTIVE STANDARDS
This Code is a regulatory tool for implementing the goals, policies, and programs of the Plan, while maintaining consistency with existing ordinances and applicable laws. The Zoning Code focuses on and establishes zones, land use regulations, development standards for building height, setbacks, lot coverage, building and frontage types, as well as general development standards for fencing, civic space, and parking, and new administrative and permit procedures to give administrators some flexibility. The updated code assures that the goals for development are “legal” and where possible, incentivized. The Code was updated concurrently with the Specific Plan — and focused on empowering the community Vision — to reclaim Downtown for people through more attractive and contextually appropriate frontages and a more inclusive human-scale public realm.
ADOPTION OF THE PLAN
After two and a half years of hard work by the City, the community, and the Consultant Team, the Specific Plan, Code and EIR were approved unanimously by the City Council in April 2019. The City’s commitment to transparency and investment in community engagement was evident in the final hearing: Council members and the public, including the Carpenter’s Union Local 713 and local Sheet Metal Worker’s Local 104, spoke in support of the Plan. The unions pledged to work side-by-side with the City to build more housing, more businesses, and a stronger, more attractive city.
Henry Pontarelli is vice president and co-founder of Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc. In the past 13 years, the firm has grown to 18 staff, with offices in San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Henry’s role at LWC focuses on marketing, communications, HR, contracts, and risk management, as well as picking up the tab at staff happy hours.
With private financing the growing driver, owner-developers are trying
By Rene Bihan, Principal, SWA-San Francisco
Sports venues and stadia are mostly known for operating as fortresses, dormant most of the year, and flickering to life on game nights. But an increasing trend in California and around the world is breaking that tradition. There’s an economic imperative, too, as more sports complexes are privately or majority privately financed.
Chase Center in San Francisco, in its opening-day announcement, focused on its multi-use aspects as much as it did on its anchor tenant, the Warriors basketball team. Said owner Joe Lacob in a statement, “Today is the beginning of an exciting new era for the Warriors and our franchise. We’ve officially transitioned from a basketball team to a sports and entertainment company with this incredible state-of-the-art arena. Chase Center will provide not only our players and coaches with first-rate facilities, but our fans from around the Bay Area — and fans of all forms of entertainment — with unforgettable experiences.”
How is that accomplished in the urban design?
Chase Center and its 10.5-acre site — dubbed “Thrive City” — embrace San Francisco by anchoring the new sports and entertainment district in a former industrial zone. Whether neighbors or visitors have game tickets or not, they are invited to stroll up a grand staircase to take in spectacular views of the City by the Bay, enjoy a picnic lunch, visit the many retail and dining outlets, or meet friends for an alfresco movie. Thrive City’s landscape design unifies and supports those activities through a picturesque sequence of spaces connected by a spiraling path that echoes the arena’s built form as well as the topographic city it inhabits.
Accessibility and views
Accessibility characterizes the public realm part of the Warriors’ new home. Chase Center is an urban mixed-use project, and as such, it’s a bit of a chameleon, with the public coming to dine alongside a growing professional workforce and fans of sports, music, theatre, art, and entertainment. We designed the site to offer an urban stroll among gardens in a series of connected spaces that expand and contract with seasonal and event programming. In this place, you can absorb much of San Francisco’s burgeoning culture one piece at a time — or collectively.
Accessibility is important, and our planning was pedestrian- and bicycle-focused: Chase Center is served by a MUNI transit stop, numerous bus lines, and dedicated bike corridors, plus onsite bike valet. In a welcoming civic gesture, the center offers the public views of the bay from this unusual arena site. From the waterfront side, designed topography offers viewing platforms over the water while also tempering the scale of the building. On the city side, sloping pathways with seating draw pedestrians into the central plaza, where they can experience free, programmed activity.
Flexibility adds value
The landscape plays a dual role, guiding visitors to and from the arena while also offering a number of gathering places in the flexible plazas, essentially a series of outdoor living rooms. These spaces are key to the landscape architects’ strategy for animating the site. Custom designed planters/seating modules — deployed throughout several plazas to frame different events — can be moved by forklift to create spaces for ice skating, farmers’ markets, an instant micro-garden, or a car show. They can also aid in traffic flow.
In fulfilling San Francisco’s strict codes for water runoff, SWA designers created a special terraced garden along 3rd Street. The garden offers a learning experience, revealing the biofiltration process by which plants help to cleanse all water onsite. Native California planting throughout the 10.5-acre parcel conserves water, provides shade, and unifies the area’s character.
Identity design, from Warriors to workplaces
The spiral theme expressed in the arena building design by Manica Architecture is repeated in the site’s paving. Embedded stainless steel bands convey a sense of circular movement, as does the scoring pattern of cast-in-place concrete, making for a pleasant pedestrian experience. The Warriors’ identity will be on display throughout the year via programmed activities and a landscape color palette that supports their brand. Sharing the team’s digs will be Uber’s new workplace and headquarters, featuring two outdoor terraces offering dining and entertainment for its employees.
Major art installations include “Seeing Spheres” by Olafur Eliasson, “Play Sculpture” by Isamu Noguchi, and murals by Precita Eyes.
A large number of consultants were involved in this complex project, including:
— Project Architect: Arena, Manica Architecture; office architect, Pfau/Long Architecture; retail, Gensler and Shop; architect of record, Kendall Heaton Architecture.
— Landscape Architect: SWA for landscape master plan, concept, and implementation of all 3.2 acres of public realm for the 10.5-acre project site.
— Landscape SBE consultant, Merrill Morris
— General contractors: Mortenson/Clark JV
— Civil engineers: BKF
— Structural: Magnusson Klemencic Associates
— and many others!
Thrive City and its 18,064-seat ‘anchor,’ Chase Center, offer an exciting multipurpose, privately financed complex. And like the Warriors themselves, the new mixed-use development they call home will be exciting to watch as this new year-round amenity for San Francisco and the Bay Area flourishes.
Rene Bihan is managing principal at SWA Group, a leading landscape architecture, planning, and urban consulting and design firm he has been with since 1988. You can reach him at email@example.com
By Catarina Kidd, AICP
Leah Greenblat is Transportation Project Manager at West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay. Greenblat and her team won the 2018 APA California Award of Excellence for their work on the West Contra Costa High-Capacity Transit Study.
Where did you go to college?
My undergraduate degree was in landscape architecture, with a minor in planning at UC Berkeley. My master’s degree is in urban and transportation planning from the University of Washington, Seattle. During graduate school I also studied at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
Tell us about your path to transportation planning?
I don’t think I’d heard of transportation planning until I was an undergraduate. I grew up in a town that had no traffic signals. They were talking about putting one in. I was interested in how it would change how people traveled through the area and how people experienced the place. In my landscape architecture program, we talked a lot about the design of public space, but most of that wasn’t dealing with city rights-of-way. It was a shift from plazas and parks to how you design roadways.
Tell us about your current role.
For almost five years, I have been working for West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee (WCCTAC), one of four regional transportation advisory committees in Contra Costa County. We are a Joint Powers Authority that works on behalf of our five west county cities plus the county and three transit providers. We provide a forum to plan and coordinate transportation issues within the subregion. West Contra Costa is different from the rest of the county, and WCCTAC represents the transportation planning interests of our member agencies in regional transportation settings.
What are some examples of those planning interests?
The West Contra Costa High-Capacity Transit study found an unmet market for express bus service between West County and Northern Alameda County. The transit for commuters in the area has historically been focused on getting people to San Francisco. We now see a high percentage of West County residents employed in Northern Alameda County. I-80 is the most congested freeway, so people are trying to find ways to get to work other than driving. We are working with local jurisdictions to plan for future express bus service. Due to our earlier study, we were able to get funding for new express bus service in Regional Measure 3, and now we’re looking for additional sources for operations and capital. It takes a lot of money to run high frequency service.
What is challenging about WCCTAC’s role and how do you overcome those challenges?
For the express bus project, the challenges are in public outreach. It’s hard to find potential users of the service because they are not currently using such a service: it doesn’t exist. Right now, if you lived in Pinole and you want to take transit in the morning to Emeryville, it’s what we call a “three-seat ride”: one bus to BART, BART to Oakland, then Emery Go-Round, a fare-free public bus system in Emeryville. That’s not very attractive. It costs a lot and takes longer to get there.
In attempting to reach the right members of the public to get their input, we’ve tried to be creative and flexible. Our consultant has walked the streets of some cities where there are large employers to connect and find out where people want routes. They’ve even hung out at popular lunch spots to talk to potential riders.
With respect to our member agencies, the challenge is we’re not their highest priority. Local staff are busy responding to residents and juggling multiple tasks. I try to make things as easy as possible for our member agencies to respond and participate. I don’t want to overwhelm local staff, but it’s important they get the information.
Yes. We recently held a focus group with employees at Pixar in Emeryville — that was fun visiting their campus. We met with 10 or so employees to hear about what they would need. We’re finding that interest in the new express bus service is almost universally positively received. The past focus was getting people to San Francisco and Downtown Oakland to some extent, but not West Berkeley or Emeryville. Major employment centers developed within the last two decades have not been sufficiently served by transit. We want to find a solution to that.
Whom do you really admire, whose example or advice has helped you develop professionally?
Kirk McKinley comes to mind. He was the first transportation planner I knew. He hired me when I was in grad school as an intern for the City of Bellevue, Washington. He was just a great combination of expertise and humor. He understood the politics and was a creative thinker. I try to emulate his style — being honest and trustworthy with the public. It is one of my strengths: I am straightforward with the public. The need to build trust with the community is so important.
Tell us about a favorite project.
Traffic calming in Lafayette on Stanley Boulevard — a street that never had sidewalks. After that project was done, one of the neighborhood residents told me that, for the first time ever, kids were trick or treating on Halloween. That made my day!
Planners work in a political environment. How would you advise planners who are facing the challenges of that dynamic?
Recognize that there is a process and know what your role is. With local-decision making, there is a need for engaging members of the public. There are always multiple opinions and points of view. Our professional advice may be informed from one perspective and backed up by facts and data. That doesn’t mean there aren’t multiple perspectives that are legitimate. There are many smart, caring people out there. Planners working at the local level can play an important role in helping to work through the options. You can find real, meaningful value in working in the public realm.
Interviewer Catarina Kidd, AICP, has been Northern News’ associate editor since 2015. Although she is stepping away from her editorial position, she will continue her work on “Meet a local planner.” All interviews are edited.