By Florentina Craciun, October 16, 2020
Besides making your voice heard in the national elections, you will also have the chance to vote for your American Planning Association, Northern Section leadership. Electronic ballots will be sent to the Northern Section APA members on November 2, 2020, and will be due November 21, 2020.
Michael Cass for Director Elect
Cass has served as a public sector planner for more than 16 years, working for the cities of Lafayette, Concord, and Dublin, where he is Principal Planner, specializing in policy and regional issues. These positions afforded wide experience in current and advanced planning. With APA California – Northern, Cass was East Bay Regional Activity Coordinator, 2018-2019, coordinating events for networking and professional development; and he has served as Section Treasurer since April 2019. Beyond those elected and appointed positions, he served on the Section’s Bylaws Update and Onboarding Committees, participated in the APA Mentorship Program over the last few years, and served on the APA California Chapter Awards Jury in 2020. His professional, volunteer, and educational experiences, along with his experience with the APA California – Northern Board, make him an ideal candidate for the Director-Elect position. Cass is enthusiastic about working for Northern Section and hopes to continue by serving as Director-Elect for the two-year term commencing January 1, 2021.
Veronica Flores for Administrative Director
Flores, a Bay Area native, works for the San Francisco Planning Department, Legislative Affairs section. She was appointed Administrative Director for Northern Section in November 2019 and hopes to continue in the role for the next two-year term. Over the past year, Flores built on her predecessor’s process improvements and applied her organizational skills to help keep the Board on track and accountable. If elected, she hopes to further refine resources for new and veteran Board members and support the Board in any new tasks. Flores also served as SJSU Student Representative to the Board, and later as Co-director of the Young and Emerging Planners Group (formerly Young Planners Group). There she coordinated networking events and office tours to provide emerging professionals and students in planning-related fields with social and professional opportunities to learn more about the planning field. She also assisted Northern Section’s Mentorship Program, Awards Gala, and state and national conference planning efforts.
Here are the duties of these elected officers:
- Act as Section Director should the Section Director be unable to serve, as authorized by the Section Board.
- Keep the Bylaws in order, appoint the Nomination Committee, and organize Section elections.
Administrative Director Duties:
- Maintain Section records, and make them available for members.
- Work with Board members to publicize professional development activities and networking events, and maintain a calendar of such activities.
- Inform APA California of Northern Section activities of interest to other APA members.
WATCH FOR YOUR BALLOT AND VOTE!
By Jonathan Schuppert, AICP, October 14, 2020
As the days get noticeably shorter, I start to reflect about all that has happened this year and everything I want to accomplish before 2020 ends. The year has been an eventful one for all, and it will undoubtedly live in our memories forever.
What will we remember about this year?
When you look back at 2020, what do you want to remember? When you think about it now, what stands out?
For me, this has been a year of constant change, a year of division, a year of adapting, and a year of reprioritizing our lives and our values.
And while none of us can or should forget or ignore the global pandemic and those who’ve suffered or died from it, the critical shortages in our supply chains, the horrific videos of injustices and killings, massive unemployment, multiple natural disasters, and the everyday stresses we face in different ways, I’m taking some time just to be thankful.
- I’m thankful for the opportunity to reflect and rethink my priorities.
- I’m thankful we have the technology to tap a few buttons and carry on a conversation with friends and family from all over the world.
- I’m thankful for the creative solutions to transform our streets and other public spaces into safe, social, and socially distanced places.
- I’m thankful that people are appreciating the outdoors more.
- I’m thankful for the learning opportunities I’ve had about systemic racism and that I’ve had the time and platforms to help move the conversation forward.
- I’m thankful for the innovative ways people have figured out how to work, learn, and be social from afar.
- I’m thankful to be in a profession that is about thinking ahead, envisioning a better world, and creating the tools and strategies that will get us there.
It’s all too easy to think of the many negatives associated with 2020. What’s harder, and what helps round out the perspective, is taking the time to think about and reflect on this year’s positives.
So take a moment and reflect. What are you thankful for in this chaotic year?
This election year looks very different from years past. Candidates take the debate stage surrounded by plexiglass and at a distance. Massive voting campaigns interject on every social media platform. And with everyone registered to vote in California receiving mail-in ballots, it has never been easier to vote, vote early, and vote safely. You can even sign up for ballot tracking so you’ll know when your ballot was sent to you and received by the registrar.
You’ll also soon receive voting information to elect the next Northern Section Director-Elect and Administrative Director. It’s all digital, so there’s no need for that prepaid envelope to cast your votes!
Christina Ratcliffe, AICP, is now Planning Manager for the City of Vallejo. Previously, she was community and economic development director for the City of Martinez. Before that, Ratcliffe was the principal of her own consulting firm, community development director for the City of Benicia, senior planner for the City of Orinda, planner for the City of Alameda, and a senior associate at PMC. She completed her master’s in city and regional planning at UC Berkeley and holds a BA in urban studies from San Francisco State University. She is on the steering committee of the Bay Area Planning Directors Association (BAPDA) and has served on the Northern Section Board.
Dina Tasini is now Director of Community Development at the Town of Tiburon. Previous positions included community development director at the City of Dixon, planning manager at the City of Vallejo, and deputy director of planning and economic development at the City of Martinez. Before that, she was principal at Tasini and Associates, planning manager at Lennar Development Company, and deputy director for Base Reuse for the City of Alameda. Tasini holds a master of architecture and urban planning from UCLA and two bachelor’s degrees in urban studies and planning — from UC San Diego and the California Polytechnic University.
By Ellen Yau, October 13, 2020
APA California – Northern Section is excited to kick off its 2021 Mentorship Program. Registration is open now until the end of November 2020.
Our career development program offers one-on-one mentorship matching between mentees and mentors. The program aims to build relationships, enhance the knowledge base, and connect planning professionals to those who share our experience as California planners. Sign up to be a mentor or to be matched with a mentor for the 2021 mentorship class.
Please visit the Mentorship Program webpage for program requirements and more information.
By Dan Marks, AICP, October 15, 2020
Plan Bay Area 2050, to be adopted in 2021, is in its third iteration. Previous PBAs, prepared in 2013 and 2017, have shown, in theory, how the Bay Area can achieve its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals. But the plans’ implementation — particularly in regard to meeting housing needs — fell short. If the Bay Area is to meet both our housing and GHG reduction goals, we need to ask why previous plans failed to do so.
Prepared jointly by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the PBA is the Bay Area’s sustainable communities strategy (SCS), which is required by state law to be updated every four years to align transportation and land use decisions to achieve GHG emissions reduction targets. Public review of “Plan Bay Area 2050 Blueprint,” an outline for PBA 2050, began in July with a summary of the key strategies needed to achieve the plan’s goals.
I have long been involved in regional planning here. First, at what is now the Greenbelt Alliance, I was principal author of the first “smart growth” strategy for the Bay Area, “Room Enough, Housing and Open Space in the Bay Area” (1983). Later, as a planning and community development director in various Bay Area cities, I was actively involved in the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process and in the first PBA (2013). Strategies we identified almost 40 years ago — and considered impractical — are now de facto regional land use policy. But the PBAs have never been able to achieve one of their main goals — provision of sufficient housing for the region. That failure has led to escalating housing costs that disproportionally affect low income and minority populations, and to displacement, over-crowding, and homelessness in the Bay Area. Moreover, we’ve exported some of our unmet housing demand to surrounding regions — resulting in even longer commutes and more GHG emissions.
Yet the current PBA 2050 Blueprint outlines the same set of strategies as its predecessors, with some tweaks. So why should we expect that continuing those same strategies will be more effective this time?
What PBA has achieved
The 2013 and 2017 PBAs identified land use and transportation strategies needed to meet GHG reduction goals. Because cars and light trucks produce 30 percent of all GHG, reducing the distance people and goods travel, and especially reducing the number of single occupant vehicles on the road, is fundamental to reducing GHG. The average number of miles we travel is, in significant part, a function of land use. The more spread out our development patterns, the more we use our cars. The closer we are to transit, the more likely we will use it. Thus the fundamental strategy of the PBAs is to build up, not out.
Building more intensely within our existing urban footprint is critical in other ways besides GHG reduction. Higher density development uses fewer natural resources over its lifetime, tends to be more affordable, better utilizes land with existing urban services, helps to revitalize existing communities, and reduces the costs of expanding and maintaining infrastructure. It also preserves productive close-in agricultural lands, is less susceptible to wildfires, and accommodates growth while preserving our access to open spaces.
Many find it hard to accept that there is no alternative to the fundamental direction presented in the PBAs, and that has created a significant amount of resistance to the plans. Some politicians are saying that planners and environmentalists want to eliminate the single-family home — a mainstay of the “American Dream” since the 1950s. But today’s smaller, more diverse households have different housing needs.
Plan Bay Area is not “destroying the suburbs”: quite the opposite. It puts forward how the region can accommodate growth without sprawling and without significant change to existing single-family neighborhoods — a most important contribution.
However, preserving single-family neighborhoods does not mean communities will stop changing. The Bay Area is projected to add 2.4 million people over 30 years — a 30 percent increase, and an almost 50 percent increase in housing units. While that it is theoretically possible without more sprawl and without much impact on existing single-family neighborhoods, the PBAs are ineffective in explaining to our 98 “suburban” communities how they might change to accommodate that growth. Sadly, neither PBA nor the majority of Bay Area cities have sought to envision their futures under the PBA strategies.
What needs to happen
Of the two regional planning agencies, only MTC has the financial resources to implement PBA. MTC, despite its focus as a transportation agency, has made grants available to help local governments prepare land use plans for appropriate development, especially around transit hubs. While this has helped PBA implementation, it has failed to make a significant dent in housing supply. The regional housing finance agency, established by the legislature last year, can help with funding new housing, but it will not remove the many other barriers to infill housing.
Local governments have little reason to pay attention to PBA. Few if any General Plans or Climate Action Plans produced over the past few years have sought to accommodate the region’s long-term growth in a sustainable way: It’s challenging to envision the level of change necessary, or for a local politician to support potentially significant changes in community character that may be required to accommodate expected growth — especially if such changes are perceived to negatively impact traffic, crowd the schools, or degrade community services.
General Plan Housing Elements also have been ineffective. They have too short a time horizon (eight years) and identify “potential” development sites that have little chance of being developed. The State, as well, continues with ineffective actions — e.g., tweaking the rules for accessory dwelling units, and threatening to remove some local government land use authority — without addressing why few local governments embrace new housing development, and especially infill. The billions that have been approved in state and local bonds for affordable housing will help, but they have little effect on the underlying supply and demand problem that continues to push Bay Area housing prices up inexorably.
Here’s my take on what PBA needs
Through the lens of my experience as a local government planner, I believe it will take two things to “move the needle.” First, we need to come up with better incentives for communities to build housing, and second, we need to give local governments more effective tools to make infill sites available.
In the plethora of information about the fiscal impacts of housing, a number of studies say housing pays its way (taxes, revenue, services). But from my years of sitting in city council meetings, I know those studies never sank in. In terms of funding police, fire services, or schools, housing is perceived to be the driver of higher costs and lower revenue. That’s true compared to other potential uses of property: Costco and Walmart are welcomed for their sales tax revenue, hotels for their transit occupancy taxes, and new offices and business parks for their jobs (and few costs). Housing is not welcome (since 1978’s Prop 13) as it is not a fiscally desirable land use.
And money talks. So rather than looking at ways to punish local governments for failing to meet their housing objectives, I believe the State should amply reward those that do. Making housing a significant fiscal winner could give local government decision-makers a reason to embrace housing and push back on NIMBYs.
Those who build the housing want that process streamlined and more predictable. My experience is that when there is agreement on expectations — both by the community and by the developer — projects are approved relatively quickly and without much controversy.
Specific and Area plans (some funded by MTC) have been effective in setting those expectations. Infrastructure and environmental constraints are identified in advance and, if the proper financing tools are available, those issues can be addressed upfront. But local governments have little money for the necessary advance planning, and MTC’s funding for those plans has been a drop-in-the-bucket of overall cost. We need to commit substantial funds to land use planning if we want to facilitate infill development at the scale needed.
We need more land for housing
Removing local government resistance and speeding the approval process for infill development are necessary but insufficient steps to develop infill at scale. One barrier that needs attention is the supply of developable land. This is not about expanding urbanized areas into the region’s open space. It’s about using the substantial amount of underutilized land in our existing urban footprint for housing.
Recent analyses for PBA demonstrated a substantial supply of underutilized land within the region’s existing urban footprint. Much of that land lies along commercial corridors, in older industrial areas, in downtowns, and in obsolete shopping centers, and it often is broken into small parcels that need to be agglomerated into efficient development sites. Some of that land is toxic or needs infrastructure — too expensive or risky an endeavor for residential developers.
The ABAG/MTC analysis of underutilized land requires further refinement and “ground truthing” as well as a clear definition of underutilization. Local governments should prepare their own comprehensive inventory of all underutilized land as part of Housing Element updates.
Having a better estimate of land supply is a first step, making those sites available for development is the next.
For 50 years until 2011, local governments could use redevelopment to assemble land into developable sites, address environmental constraints, and fund infrastructure. But the ugly history of redevelopment is that it was often used to destroy low-income neighborhoods to build office buildings, hotels, and convention centers. That said, redevelopment also led to significant new housing development when used appropriately. For our region to have sufficient urban land that can actually meet our housing needs (and not just be theoretically available as described in current Housing Elements), tools similar to the ones used by redevelopment will be needed
There are major political barriers to restructuring local government finance to benefit housing and to restore something akin to the land assembly and financing powers of redevelopment. But it’s clear that to meet our housing needs and our GHG reduction goals we need new approaches — and soon. The Plans Bay Area have demonstrated that it is possible to achieve our GHG and housing goals, but they have failed to establish a compelling vision of that future, or to identify what needs to change in “business as usual” to get us there. As the Bay Area’s regional agencies move forward to adopt an implementation plan for “Plan Bay Area 2050,” let’s hope that they — and the legislature — give more thought to what it will really take to implement the PBA’s strategies.
Dan Marks, AICP, has more than 40 years experience as a planner, including 16 years as a community development director and planning director in the Bay Area. He was principal author of the first “smart growth” development strategy for the Bay Area, “Room Enough, Housing and Open Space in the Bay Area,” (1983) prepared by the Greenbelt Alliance. Marks holds a master of city planning from UC Berkeley.
Thanks for including my Seattle photo in the latest Northern News [“Where in the world,” October 2020]. I am honored to be featured along with your London image that includes the Walkie Talkie Building. And that Shanghai photo is terrific. The “exuberance” of Asian cities is unmatched elsewhere in the world. Ever forward,
—H. Pike Oliver, Seattle
What a tremendous reading experience this email is [announcing the October 2020 issue]! And I haven’t event clicked on the links yet. I am delighted by the approach and enthusiastic tone conveyed in your initial message. Wow! It is gratifying to have such talented editors and writers working to put sparkle and pizzazz into Northern News. Thank you to the entire editorial team and to the contributors!
—Stephen Avis, AICP, Regional Activity Coordinator, Redwood Coast Region
By Della Acosta, AICP, October 14, 2020
This year has been different for all of us, and our holidays will be different, too. While November typically brings us together for a holiday celebration, this year we will be connecting in a different way for our annual gathering.
Instead of a single night of celebration, we want each of you, our Northern Section members, to share what made this year special for you and your teams, your families, and your communities.
Share your stories of #PlanningPositivity.
Starting November 18th, log onto the Northern Section website or follow our social media sites on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram to share your #PlanningPositivity photos, memes, videos, news, and stories using the hashtag.
Share positive, wholesome, radically amazing, or just plain “good planning-related” events, experiences, projects, or ideas that occurred in 2020 that you want to celebrate together. Together we will bring to light the good in our lives to share with others and spread the joy we still know exists in the world.
Then, to wrap up our month-long #PlanningPositivity campaign, we’ll host a live virtual event with raffle prizes for planners who shared their stories, key speakers, games, and socializing, and more!
So share your stories of #PlanningPositivity using the hashtag. Tag others and share with your own networks to spread the light farther — maybe even win some prizes along the way.
We know this year has been difficult. Let’s celebrate what’s made it special.