Tag: 2019-10-nn-roundup

What SF crane watch does and doesn’t tell us

From an article by Sarah Holder, CityLab, September 24, 2019.

“Rider Levett Bucknall, a construction project management company, [conducts] a semi-annual international Crane Count.

“As dots on a map, all cranes may look the same. But their impact isn’t indiscriminate. Are they harbingers of displacement, or agents of much-needed supply?

“Two things can be true: San Francisco’s crane count is almost half that of Seattle, and its affordability crisis is more severe. The average rent for a Golden Gate one-bedroom reached $3,700 this year, while in Seattle that figure is $2,130. [And] 78 percent of Seattle cranes were building mixed-use and residential projects in January, while in San Francisco, only 35 percent were involved in housing.

“RLB doesn’t factor affordability into their analysis, but most of the luxury housing being sold on the San Francisco market is part of existing housing stock, not new apartments, according to a 2017 analysis by the Urban Institute. At least some of this crane-related activity is easing, not exacerbating, the city’s housing crisis.

“The last count found cranes concentrated in South of Market (SOMA) and Portrero Hill, where multifamily projects have been rising. Construction was also active in Parnassus Heights, where UCSF’s Medical Center was growing.

“When the final count was released in July, North America’s overall crane count had jumped yet again, for the fourth consecutive year. But San Francisco’s count had again decreased, one of only three cities to see slumps. The decrease was probably due to the completion of two major projects, the new Chase Arena and the UCSF medical center.

“Counting tower cranes might not be the best way to track the real momentum of a city’s construction scene: Sorely needed missing-middle housing, like duplexes and fourplexes, don’t require the same construction gear. But for now, it’s the best RLB’s got.”

Read the full article here.

Bay Area employment tops 4.1 million jobs for first time

Excerpts from a Mercury News article by George Avalos, September 21, 2019

“The Bay Area added 5,100 [non-farm payroll] jobs during August. The upswing was led by the region’s three major employment hubs, the South Bay, East Bay, and San Francisco-San Mateo region, the state’s Employment Development Department reported. Mark Vitner, senior economist with San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank, said ‘The region continues to be on a roll because the tech sector is the fastest growing part of the economy.’

“The Bay Area’s job market growth has outpaced the state and the nation. Over the one-year period that ended in August, job totals grew by 2.5 percent in the Bay Area [even with job losses of 1,900 in Sonoma, Napa, and Marin Counties. That compares to a 1.4 percent gain nationally and 1.8 percent in California.]

“[This is] the first time, the Bay Area has had more than 4.1 million non-farm payroll jobs. The last time the nine-county region suffered a job loss was in October 2018, EDD statistics show.

“Plus, the types of jobs appearing in the South Bay and San Mateo regions are well-paying tech positions. It appears the tech sector has yet to cool off in the Bay Area, said Stephen Levy, director of the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. ‘The job growth in these areas is fantastically positive in terms of income gains,’ Levy said. ‘They are information jobs, professional, scientific, and technical positions, tech jobs, categories that are higher-paying and faster-growing.’ ”

Read the full article here. 

Vancouver may be able to pull off ride-hailing as a complement to public transit

Excerpts from an article in CityLab by Laura Bliss, September 17, 2019

Some “53 percent of Vancouverites manage to get to work by means other than driving. One thing is conspicuously missing from this urbanist dreamscape: ride-hailing: Uber. Uber tried to railroad its way into Vancouver in 2012, but British Columbia regulators notified the company that the province’s official minimum rate for limousines was $75 per trip.

“Ever since, Uber, Lyft, and other transportation network companies (TNCs) have been snowed out of the region. Vancouver appears to be the last major city in North America with an effective ban on the app-based services.

“But those days are numbered. Applications to operate a TNC in British Columbia opened on September 3, and a requisite insurance package became available on September 16. Uber and Lyft have officially applied.

“In contrast with U.S. cities that have rushed to be first to the table with new mobility offerings — be they autonomous cars, hyperloops, or drones — Vancouver may prove that it pays to be last.

“Over the years, Vancouver has watched as its peers have dealt with the darker sides of Uber and Lyft: muddy passenger safety records, negative impacts on congestion and emissions, flouting of local regulations, and widely criticized labor practices.

“Now B.C. transportation leaders are cautiously optimistic that being a last-adopter will prove to be a virtue. They hope that strict data-sharing requirements, a stringent licensing scheme for drivers, and a long-term vision to mitigate added traffic with fees on curbside access and downtown streets at rush hour will help make ride-hailing more sustainable here.”

Read the full article here. 

“Accept the Era of the Ministerial”

From a CP&DR post by William Fulton, September 17, 2019

“Cities around California are beginning to feel tremendous pressure from the state to accommodate new housing rather than just plan for it. And there’s a growing feeling among planners around California that the cities they work for had better be more proactive on the housing issue so that the state doesn’t step in with even more onerous requirements.”

“ ‘We are making a transition from a discretion-based society to a ministerial-based society,’ [former Berkeley planning director Mark] Rhoades said. Cities are fighting this idea on the legislative level, but on the ground you have to make sure the ministerial projects are the ones you want.’ ”

That’s part of what Bill Fulton summarized from the annual California Planning Roundtable panel at this year’s APA California planning conference in Santa Barbara.

At the same panel, “Longtime Mountain View [former] Community Development Director Elaine Costello [FAICP] pointed out that when they are in the midst of a contentious public hearing, planners often become ‘clamshells,’ completely closing up, saying nothing, and looking down at their notes. But planners shouldn’t be clamshells, she said.

“ ‘One way we can be the leaders is to get the facts out there,’ she said. ‘One, do advance work about what the issues are going to be. The other thing is, at the hearing, have some process for where you can come back and give the facts. That does not mean standing up in the middle of some angry person’s comments. But no clamshells.’ ”

You can read Fulton’s wrap-up on CP&DR here. 

And while you’re there, take a look at Fulton’s “How Localities Are Implementing SB 743.” Both articles are free.

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. 

Main-Street Modern: How Columbus, Indiana, became a design capital

Excerpts from an article by Kriston Capps, CityLab (with 8 large color photos, September 3, 2019)

“Just 45 minutes south of Indianapolis, Columbus is in most respects a quaint Hoosier town brimming with main-street appeal. But in one vital way, it is unlike any other place in the country. It is a mecca for Modernism, a repository of mid-century architecture. As unlikely as it sounds, Columbus, Indiana, is a citadel of design.

Image: Exhibit Columbus 2019, Miller Prize, Frida Escobedo Studio

“For the next three months, I.M. Pei’s plaza [at the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library] is even more inviting than usual. It’s the temporary home for Untitled, an elevated garden terrace designed by Mexico City’s Frida Escobedo Studio. Next to the 1969 library, Escobedo’s platform is a complement in elegance and a contrast in materials (and ideas).

“More than a dozen other additions and pairings across town make Columbus an ideal destination for lovers of high design. ‘Exhibit Columbus’ has turned the lens around on architecture, and on itself. Social factors are as key to contemporary design as glass was to the Modernist era, and this biennial reflects that trend.”

How did Columbus become what it is today, with “One map of Columbus listing 97 projects of architectural significance, dating from 1942 to the present day”?

“J. Irwin Miller was executive and chairman of Cummins, a diesel-engine [and now Fortune 500] company headquartered in Columbus. After World War II, prospects for the business were strong, but Miller saw that teeny Bartholomew County was struggling to attract the world-class engineering talent that the growing company needed.

“So in 1954, under Miller’s stewardship, the Cummins Foundation offered to subsidize any new, public, Modernist building in this Bible Belt town by paying for the architectural fees. Miller generated (confidential) lists of preferred architects for each project, which he offered like a menu to institutions such as the school board. From the 1950s on, the program furnished exceptional buildings with the goal of putting Columbus on the map. The Saturday Evening Post dubbed the city “Athens on the Prairie.”

READ MORE in the CityLab article: “Exhibit Columbus looked to architects who focus on community — and designs that would provoke as much as they delight — to elevate the city’s historic architecture. Mostly missing is the high-strung academic bafflegab that attends events in New York or Paris or Dubai. The language of design is accessible here.”