Tag: 2020-08-nn-roundup

The price of saving Paradise

By Laura Bliss, Bloomberg CityLab, August 25, 2020

One resident “isn’t planning on coming back. Instead, she’s selling her property so it can be part of a wildfire buffer zone. The Paradise Recreation and Park District is in the early phases of acquiring swaths of land along the town’s perimeter, in the hopes of connecting them into a dual-purpose greenbelt fully encircling the 18-square-mile community. If the nascent plan is fully realized, a moat of green acreage could provide space for respite and play. It would also serve as a fuel break, an unofficial urban growth boundary, and an access point for crews to manage the area with landscaping, prescribed burning, and fire containment for when the next blaze comes.

“ ‘Whereas other places are looking only at defensible space for buildings, we’re looking at the scale of the entire community,’ said Dan Efseaff, the PRPD district manager.

“Property owners nationwide have proven to be willing to risk fire, flooding, and other threats to stay in their communities, and in some places few legal tools exist to prevent them; meanwhile, many residents lack the resources to relocate. ‘The real question is, what are the out-of-the box solutions that we can engineer to live in places where fire is inevitable?’ said Crystal Kolden, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Merced.

“The way the town carved itself out of the wilderness, with a number of narrow two-lane roads and dead-ending streets, proved fatal as residents fled. So did the dense growth that shrouded many sprawling properties. Improvements to parks and walking paths were included on a list of 40 projects in Paradise’s long-term recovery plan, which was crafted with public input in 2019. Also on the list was a stronger fuel management plan, and better transportation access for residents and firefighters.

“Like any fuel break, a greenbelt would simply reduce the speed and intensity of a fire by knocking it down from the forest canopy to the ground, where suppression crews could have a better chance at putting it out.”

Read the full article here.

Return to the September issue here.

SF sees historic shift in housing inventory

By Andrew Chamings, SFGate, August 15, 2020

“Online real estate company Zillow released new statistics shining a stark light on the issue this week. Their ‘2020 Urban-Sub­urban Market Report’ reveals that inventory has risen a whopping 96% year-on-year, as empty homes in the city flood the market like nowhere else in America.

“The astronomical cost of owning a home in the San Francisco city limits — which has been sky high for over a decade now, since the second tech boom — had to break at some point, and the coronavirus seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“ ‘When comparing the principal city to its surrounding suburbs, the San Francisco metro area does break the mold…Whereas in similar cities like Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., declining or flat inventory is a consistent trend within and outside the city limits,’ the report states.”

Read the full article here.

Return to the September issue here.

SF finally approves 1,100 homes at Balboa Reservoir

By Trisha Thadani, San Francisco Chronicle, August 12, 2020

“San Francisco’s west side will get its biggest influx of housing in decades, after the Board of Supervisors approved more than 1,000 new units on the 17-acre Balboa Reservoir site August 11.

“Developers Bridge Housing, AvalonBay, and Mission Housing will build 1,100 units of housing, 550 of them affordable, on the property, now used for City College parking.

“Of the 550 affordable units, 150 are for City College teachers and staff. The project includes a community center, 4 acres of open space, a child care center for 100, and $10 million for transit and infrastructure improvements.”

Read the full article here.

Northern News covered this development in May 2020.

Return to the September issue here.

New research: Advancing environmental justice while rebuilding existing locally unwanted land uses

By Miriam Solis, Planetizen, August 11, 2020

Unlike most studies that focus on conflict around siting locally unwanted land uses, Prof. Solis examines the redevelopment of existing locally unwanted land uses (ELULU). She considers the case study of San Francisco’s Southeast Treatment Plant, located in Bayview-Hunters Point, a historically Black neighborhood. She considers the “at once fickle and stubborn” consequences of urban infrastructure rebuilding, and how the process might advance certain environmental justice outcomes.

Prof. Solis provides two approaches for planners to strengthen their environmental justice efforts: “First, they ought to consider ELULU relocation and decentralization options, resisting the tendency to presume that a facility must be redeveloped. Second, planners need to couple redevelopment, relocation, or decentralization with anti-displacement efforts.”

Read the full article summarizing the research here.

Access Prof. Solis’s article in Journal of Planning Education and Research here (paywall)

Return to the September issue here.

Portland passes the ‘most pro-housing reform’ to low-density zones in US history

By Michael Andersen, Sightline Institute, August 11, 2020

“Portland’s city council set a new bar for North American housing reform [on August 12th] by legalizing up to four homes on almost any residential lot.

“Portland’s new rules will also offer a ‘deeper affordability’ option: four to six homes on any lot if at least half are available to low-income Portlanders at regulated, affordable prices. The measure will make it viable for nonprofits to intersperse below-market housing anywhere in the city for the first time in a century.

“And among other things it will remove all parking mandates from three quarters of the city’s residential land, combining with a recent reform of apartment zones to essentially make home driveways optional citywide for the first time since 1973.

“It’s the most pro-housing reform to low-density zones in US history.

“The ‘Residential Infill Project,’ as it’s known, melds ideas pioneered recently by Minneapolis and Austin and goes well beyond the requirements of a state law Oregon passed last year.

“A rendering, by Alfred Twu, of the housing options Portland’s residential infill project would legalize.”

“Policies like this serve as a sort of force multiplier for nonprofits that are, like Habitat for Humanity, already developing modest homes at below-market prices.

“Just as importantly, it makes it feasible for builders like Habitat to gradually scatter such projects through all Portland neighborhoods. It lifts a de-facto ban on new affordable housing from much of the city.

“In the last two years, the Democratic Party has rapidly come around to the position that a diversity of housing types and prices in every neighborhood is good. Its presidential candidate’s platform reflects this: Joe Biden says the federal government should withhold various grants from cities that don’t take steps toward the standard Portland is about to set.”

Read the full article here.

In Bloomberg CityLab, Laura Bliss reported:

“Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler praised the new upzoning law as a response to the city’s disparities, past and present, if not necessarily a complete one. City analyses have found that a few of Portland’s low-income neighborhoods could face slightly greater housing pressure under the new plan. That was one reason that outgoing commissioner Amanda Fritz said that she opposed it at Wednesday’s hearing, calling hers, ‘the saddest vote I have ever cast on this council.’ ”

Read Laura Bliss’s coverage of Portland’s housing reform here.

Return to the September issue here.

Report: Single-family zoning dominates Bay Area housing, presenting barrier to integration

By Marc Abizeid, UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute, August 11, 2020

“The report, the fifth and final installment of UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute’s “Racial Segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area” series, reveals the correlations between neighborhoods with restrictive, single-family zoning, non-single-family zoning, and their levels of segregation.

“In a first-ever for the Bay Area, the researchers mapped every jurisdiction in the region to show their proportion of single-family zoned housing. The illuminating set of maps of 66 cities across six Bay Area counties shows the regions and proportions of the cities that are zoned for single-family homes, other residential zoning, and non-residential zones.

“Because single-family zoning is a barrier to lower-income people of color, the report advocates for the loosening of restrictions on multi-unit housing as a first step in a set of remedies to the Bay Area’s widespread problem of segregation.

“Additionally, the report recommends a set of policies which data shows can promote or preserve integration when properly implemented.

“The report’s analysis of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) shows that jurisdictions where RHNA is not enforced are whiter and more likely to have a higher proportion of single-family homes than the jurisdictions where the program is implemented.

“Alarmingly, it shows that overall, segregation will continue to rise in the region, as has been the case in most counties over the past several decades.

“Using those predictions, the report suggests goals to reverse this trend.”

Click here to the full report “Racial Segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area, Part 5: Remedies, Solutions, and Targets.”

Find links to the other reports in this series, as well as an interactive map of housing segregation in the nine Bay Area counties, here.

Read the full press release here.

Return to the September issue here.

Minor reparations


“I work on a small team within a large city’s government. We are doing work around equity, and one of the first things is to hold speaker events to educate ourselves.

“Because it’s government, we don’t have a budget for this. Our budget is allocated well in advance and there’s nothing we can shuffle around. One of the members of the organizing sub-team said we should ask employees who attend these events to contribute personally to pay speakers. I’m deeply uncomfortable with asking people to pay for things associated with work. Am I wrong to object?”

— Anonymous

“Kudos to your team for their willingness to do the work of expanding and improving their thinking and efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion. Public speaking is labor that deserves to be compensated, but it is absolutely unacceptable that your team members should be spending their own money on this. You are not at all wrong to object. It is ridiculous that the most feasible solution here is for your staff members to assume their employer’s financial obligations. I suppose that’s a reflection of how governments all over this country, including the federal government, are shirking their responsibilities and hoping — if they care at all — that right-minded individuals will take up the slack.

“I do not believe there is nothing in the budget that can be shuffled; I believe there is nothing your organization is willing to shuffle. When an organization truly wants to find money for something they prioritize, they find the money. If they aren’t going to treat work around equity as a priority, you and your fellow employees don’t need to pay the bill. There are other things you can do — reading groups, discussions and the like. But mostly, you need to hold your management accountable. This is their responsibility, not yours.”

Read the original here.

Roxane Gay is the author, most recently, of “Hunger” and a contributing opinion writer to The New York Times.

Return to the September issue of Northern News here.

Sales tax to fund Caltrain will go before voters

By Bay City News Service, Mountain View Voice, August 8, 2020

“San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an eighth-cent sales tax measure for the November election to fund Caltrain during a special meeting Friday — the last day to place the measure on the county ballots.

“If ultimately approved by two-thirds of voters across San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, the tax would generate an estimated $108 million annually. The funding is desperately needed to operate the system as ridership has plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the measure’s supporters.

“Officials from all three counties have agreed to remove the governance issues from the measure and pass a new amended version that solely calls for the tax.

“The governance issues instead were presented as recommendations to the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB), which oversees Caltrain and is made up of representatives from the three counties. The recommendations, which include, among others, allowing the JPB to appoint its own executive director, special counsel and auditor, separate from SamTrans, were approved on August 6.”

Read the full article here.

Return to the September issue here.

Study: Marin to experience worst traffic delays from sea level rise

By Will Houston, Marin Independent Journal, August 7, 2020

“Marin County and the North Bay could see the worst traffic delays in the Bay Area as highways become more prone to flooding, according to a new Stanford University study.

Published August 5th in the Science Advances peer-reviewed journal, the study assessed how a combination of sea-level rise, tides and storm surges in the next 20 years would affect the Bay Area’s existing traffic jams if left unaddressed.

“While the North Bay doesn’t have the most flooding compared to other areas, the flooding occurs at critical connection points where few if any alternative routes exist, said study coauthor Jenny Suckale, an assistant geophysics professor at Stanford.

“Suckale said a common sentiment among communities that aren’t close to the coasts such as Santa Rosa did not feel they would experience as acute a traffic delay compared to areas more prone to flooding. However, the study found these areas would be some of the hardest hit by traffic delays, especially affecting workers who are already making long commutes.

“Anne Richman, executive director of the county’s traffic congestion management agency, the Transportation Authority of Marin, said that while she has not fully reviewed the Stanford study, the overall findings are not completely surprising based on past studies by the county and Caltrans.

“ ‘It’s important to keep in mind that this is a regional problem, we need regional solutions,’ Suckale said. ‘You can’t do it piece by piece.’ ”

Read the full article here.

Read Stanford’s press release summarizing the research here.

Return to the September issue here.

How do households describe where they live?

By Shawn Bucholtz, The Edge, August 6, 2020

“Although most existing federal definitions of ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ do not include a ‘suburban’ category, data from HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau (Census) confirm what researchers have long believed: most Americans live in the suburbs.

“According to data HUD and Census collected in the 2017 American Housing Survey (AHS), 52 percent of U.S. households describe their neighborhood as suburban, 27 percent describe their neighborhood as urban, and 21 percent describe their neighborhood as rural. The 2017 AHS data also show that federal definitions accurately distinguish urban neighborhoods from rural areas while underscoring the need for an official definition of suburban.

“The 2017 AHS included a question asking respondents if they would describe their neighborhood as urban, suburban, or rural. HUD wanted to replicate the results of a 2015 survey conducted by economist Jed Kolko and colleagues at the online real estate company Trulia, which asked 2,000 people the same question.

“The AHS data show that, when distinguishing urban from rural areas, definitions of urbanization from both the Census Urbanized Areas and the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas closely match respondents’ perceptions.

“At the same time, the 2017 AHS data reveal that existing definitions obscure the fact that most Americans live in suburbs.

“AHS neighborhood description data show that even central cities — which are presumed to be the most urban part of metropolitan areas — are quite suburban.

“When it comes to individual Urbanized Areas or metropolitan statistical areas — including Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and others — the data tell the same story: these areas, with few exceptions, are majority suburban. In fact, all the large metropolitan areas that the AHS surveys are majority suburban.

HUD created two products using this data: 1) Neighborhood Study Summary Tables Workbook, enabling users to compare various definitions of urban, suburban, and rural to survey respondents’ descriptions of their neighborhoods; and 2) the Urbanization Perceptions Small Area Index (UPSAI), a nationwide small area urbanization classification product based on people’s descriptions of their neighborhood.

For more information, see the webinar, How Do Households Describe Where They Live?

Read the full message from Shawn Bucholtz, Director of PD&R’s Housing and Demographic Analysis Division, here.

Return to the September issue of Northern News here.