Tag: 2021-02-nn-feature

Meet a local planner – Janea Jackson, AICP
Photo by www.tasinsabir.com

Meet a local planner – Janea Jackson, AICP

By Catarina Kidd, AICP

Photo by www.tasinsabir.com

Janea Jackson, AICP, is Director of Asset Manage­ment, Multi­family Hous­ing: West Region at U.S. Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Urban Develop­ment, San Fran­cisco. She holds a master of urban plan­ning from the Uni­versity of Wis­con­sin, Mil­wau­kee, and a BA in so­ci­ol­o­gy from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­vania.

What is your role at the federal level?

HUD’s mission is to provide safe, decent, and sanitary housing. My Division’s re­spon­si­bil­ities are to do that for HUD-insured and project-based Section 8 multi­family hous­ing. We are stewards of these programs to house vul­nerable persons, charged with mon­itor­ing and preserving our long-term in­vest­ments as partners with property owners and manage­ment agents. Our team also plays a role in enforcing the federal fair housing rules for properties in our portfolio.

Your re­cent ac­com­plish­ments?

Our San Francisco Asset Management staff concluded fiscal year 2020 with several noteworthy achievements. Our region had an unprecedented number of wildfires this year. Two of those wildfires were Presidentially Declared Disasters — the California Lightning Fire and the Oregon Fire. A total of 481 properties were identified as in proximity to those fires, and within 72 hours our staff contacted and completed outreach for each property.

We also processed 94 sub­sidy preserva­tion trans­actions with multi-year Housing Assistance Payments contracts and preserved a total of 7,247 units. Many of these properties have also undergone capital repairs and rehabilitation to extend their useful life.

I am proud to have led the development of an enterprise-wide onboarding training program for newly hired account ex­ec­u­tives. The virtual self-paced pro­gram has been well received, particularly as we pivoted to a virtual organization and are onboarding new staff virtually during the pandemic.

How do you work with people locally?

Our customers are our residents, property owners, and property management agents. We monitor the properties in our portfolio, and residents reach out to us asking for HUD to intervene when there is an issue at the property. Political officials’ offices also reach out to us to help address resident complaints. HUD programs are complicated to administer and require a true partnership between the owners and property management agents. We work very closely with owners and management agents and their advocacy groups — Affordable Housing Management Association and Leading Age, to name two.

How do housing units come under HUD management?

The last of the project-based Section 8 funds were created in the 1980s. No new project-based Section 8 subsidy has been added since then. So preservation of existing subsidized units is critical. New federal funding is focused on creating new FHA loans with only limited funding for Section 811 and Section 202 Capital Advance programs.

What approach do you use to preserve housing?

To safeguard long-term rental assistance, we use different tools to recapitalize affordable rental housing , improve and modernize properties, and put them on solid financial footing. Examples of some of the programs are Transfer of Budget Authority, Rental Assistance Demonstration, and FHA Interest Rate Reductions.

Does HUD partner with local groups?

We partner with local advocacy groups and advocate for programmatic and policy improvements where we lack local delegation of authority. Congress and federal laws drive big-picture policy issues, but Headquarters has delegated authority to us to make many local programmatic decisions in the field.

What influenced your career choices?

My undergraduate major at Penn was sociology. I was interested in how housing can help or hinder different socioeconomic outcomes around health, education, and safety.

I found my way to planning while teaching high school in Pasadena. I learned about the gentrification of Old Town Pasadena and the resulting socioeconomic and racial stratification. After graduating from UW-Milwaukee, I worked for a small private firm in Hawaii, then a large planning firm in California, and eventually became a federal planner specializing in base master planning with the Department of Defense. I absolutely loved planning with DoD and took advantage of a variety of high-quality training opportunities. I eventually made my way to my current position — my dream job.

Was there a turning point that elevated your practice?

At DoD, I developed a passion for process improvement and committed to growing as a servant leader — putting the needs of the employees and customers first. That skill set has been valuable in every position I have held since.

Anything else you want to share?

Planners, if you’re looking for a job, HUD is hiring! Check us out: www.usajobs.gov.

Interviewer Catarina Kidd, AICP, is senior development manager at FivePoint and a guest writer for Northern News. All interviews are edited.

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The slow streets of College Terrace

The slow streets of College Terrace

Lessons from a quick fix 46 years ago

By Naphtali H. Knox, FAICP

On a warm afternoon in late October, while my car was serviced at a gas station on El Camino Real, I decided to wander the streets of the adjacent College Terrace neighborhood — a residential panhandle of Palo Alto surrounded by Stanford University lands on three sides.

Red stars show auto barriers. Base map: Google Maps.

What immediately caught my eye — just one block in from El Camino — was this modest traffic circle, reinforced by a street closure made of telephone poles.

Traffic circle on College Avenue (at right) and vehicle barrier at Yale Street.

I had all but forgotten: In 1974, in my third year as Palo Alto’s planning director, I met with a group of College Terrace residents at their request. This once-quiet area — it enjoyed “slow streets” until the late 1950s — was overcome by heavy vehicular traffic cutting through the neighborhood to travel between Stanford’s main campus on one side and the Stanford Industrial Park on the other. The residents were concerned for their safety as pedestrians and saw their quality of life diminished. They presented a plan they hoped would temper the burdensome through-traffic by closing 10 of their 12 cross-streets at key locations. I heard and understood their concerns and found their proposal persuasive.

With the city manager’s blessing, I enlisted the city’s utility and public works departments to quickly and inexpensively impede through-traffic on a trial basis. The solution? Cut short sections of utility poles stored at the city’s corporation yard and embed them vertically at 10 intersections along the perimeter streets.

The plan worked. We had some pushback from students and employees in the Stanford Research Park and who were used to cutting across the neighborhood to get to buildings and labs on the Stanford campus. But since the closure requests had come from the residents, their wishes had greater influence. The “temporary” closures have remained in place — and without much in the way of maintenance as far as I can tell.

Let me tell you a bit about this neighborhood.

A giant Valley Oak shelters three houses on College Avenue at Hanover Street.

This panhandle of 120 acres has roughly 900 households. The streets were platted in 1887 and named for colleges and universities.

Image: College Terrace Residents Association

The area has long been known as an inviting place for Stanford graduate students and young families. In 2019, Niche.com ranked College Terrace the #1 place to live in California. The neighborhood has four small parks; Palo Alto’s oldest library branch is sited in one of them.

College Terrace Library, looking north along Wellesley Street from California Avenue. The building was sited on the most easterly of the four parks. Wellesley Street loops around the library to the left, which discourages through traffic. A reduced-size park remains.

Neighborhood lot widths are as small as 25 feet, but most are 50 feet. Some lots have been combined. House size varies greatly, from tiny to huge. Apartments and house rentals abound. Stanford’s real estate arm has bought scattered lots on which it is developing single houses for sale to faculty and staff.

New houses on College Avenue completed by Stanford in 2020 for sale to faculty and staff.

By all measures, the neighborhood is a success story. At least some of the credit must go to its slow streets. And the credit for those goes to its organized residents and a receptive city government.

Slow streets in larger cities

Today, it is often city officials who ask for slow streets — which is quite different from the College Terrace experience.

“With Covid-19 placing a premium on safe outdoor space” in Durham, NC, “the goal was to encourage socially distant walking, biking, and play.” But “good intentions by city planners can miss the mark.” (“Slow streets disrupted city planning,” Bloomberg­CityLab, January 6, 2021.)

“Sometimes people in marginalized communities are very caught off guard by what is seen as priority,” said Aidil Ortiz, a program manager at a Durham social justice nonprofit. “I knew if slow streets were implemented without dialogue and consent and co-ownership, people would resent how it unfolded, and it’d become another example of how some people matter and others don’t.”

“Nowhere was that tension truer than in Oakland,” wrote CityLab journalist Laura Bliss in the article. Oakland, she noted, was “one of the earliest adopters of the slow streets concept” with a “plan to restrict car traffic on 74 miles of residential corridors, much of it all at once. Lauded for its speedy implementation and streets-for-the-people messaging, it became an international model for other cities as they searched for rapid transportation-based pandemic response.”

“But not all Oaklanders shared this enthusiasm,” Bliss wrote. “A few weeks into the project, a survey revealed that … people of color, people with lower incomes, and people with disabilities reported much lower levels of awareness, use, and support.”

“Over the next six months,” city officials and staff “convened with representatives from local nonprofits to gather their reactions. Rather than give up on the program, the city revised it.”

Lessons from College Terrace

  • If constituents call, meet with them and hear what they have to say.
  • Look for quick and easy ways to respond to legitimate problems.
  • A good idea is a good idea; it doesn’t have to come from you.
  • Solutions don’t have to be expensive, and if they can be applied quickly, all the better. The problem won’t fester.
Street closure on Harvard Street at California. Telephone poles were not used for the three barriers along California Avenue, a street that fronts the manicured Stanford Research Park.

One last point: This long-ago College Terrace experiment played out in an atmosphere of trust. The city staff had no reason to believe that the residents did not represent the neighborhood or were promoting a hidden agenda, such as keeping out affordable housing; and the residents had no reason to think that the city would not follow through on its commitment to quickly proceed with a trial solution to their problem.

And there were no endless meetings.

Naphtali H. Knox, FAICP, has been the editor of North­ern News since 2005. He was Palo Alto’s first Director of Plan­ning and Com­mu­nity En­viron­ment — he chose the title — and had a suc­cess­ful general plan prac­tice in California from 1981 until his retire­ment in 2009 at age 76. Knox holds a master’s in city planning from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­sylvania and a B.Arch from the Uni­ver­sity of Min­neso­ta. He and his wife live in Palo Alto in the house they bought in 1972.

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Small Towns take planning big

Small Towns take planning big

By Krystle Heaney, AICP, January 18, 2021

The northern California coast is noted for its wild and untamed nature.

In Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties, the rugged coastline gives way to redwood forests and diverse watersheds stretching inland to coastal mountain ranges. Travel to the area can be accomplished by infrequent air service, or via one of a handful of winding highways that make their way along river canyons that in some cases eventually give way to vast river floodplains.

This wild landscape is known for its treasures — the Lost Coast, Redwood National Park, and the Trinity Mountains range. The North Coast is also home to several rural communities, such as Mendocino, Garberville, Willow Creek, McKinleyville, and Hoopa, along with several small cities, including Fort Bragg, Point Arena, Rio Dell, Ferndale, Fortuna, Arcata, Trinidad, Crescent City, and Eureka — the largest of all — with a population of 27,000 and an area 15 square miles.

Arcata Plaza. Photo: Terrence McNally, Creative Commons attribution 2.0 Generic.

Each of these communities has its own complex set of needs for development, growth, culture, and the overall daily well-being of its citizens. Meeting those needs takes big planning ideas and approaches.

Community planning takes many forms as shown by the varying disciplines within the planning field such as transportation, open space stewardship, resource conservation, hazards management, housing development, and short- and long-term planning. In larger cities, and in more centralized and connected areas, planners often have the opportunity to hone their skills in one particular concentration. In more rural areas like the North Coast, where the smaller and more spread-out communities rely primarily on agriculture and tourism for their economic base, local planners develop skills in many different areas of community planning.

At the same time, the often-limited economic base in these communities means they cannot support a large in-house staff, so cities seek alternatives. The cities of Trinidad and Ferndale contract with private firms for planning services. That helps reduce their overhead costs while still providing the community with experienced planners to meet city needs.

The majority of North Coast cities have one or maybe two staff planners to accomplish a wide range of planning tasks. A typical day for a city planner can involve processing lot-line adjustments, responding to public inquiries about the zoning ordinance, managing grant applications, working on general plan updates, updating ordinances to meet current state legislation, and participating in regional meetings on transportation, climate change, and fire services development.

While this array of tasks may seem daunting at first, it provides an opportunity to understand the big picture and gives the staff planner a vital role in shaping the community’s future. By seeing the many different activities — from community events to struggles to maintain infrastructure, and everything in between — the planner gains in-depth knowledge of the community, its people, and their needs.

In Ferndale, for example, drainage is a major issue. As the city was built on a flat river floodplain, areas of the city at a lower elevation experience frequent flooding during the rainy season. This can affect housing development, wastewater conveyance, agricultural activities, and sensitive habitats like Francis Creek and the Salt River. In an effort to better plan for growth with these issues in mind, the city is using SB2 grant funding from the California Department of Housing and Community Development to update its drainage master plan.

Small-town planning can also lead to big accomplishments on a regional level. Living and working in a small community means you get to know many of the planners and decision-makers and work with them on a regular basis. These close working relationships can foster regional discussions on important services such as fire and emergency response.

One result in the past year was a large annexation by the Rio Dell Fire Protection District that consolidated several small volunteer fire departments in the Eel River Valley and along the Avenue of the Giants. This annexation gives the expanded District a strong economic base for a potentially higher level of service in areas that were previously struggling to provide fire protection. The volunteer fire departments now have experienced staff to help manage administrative tasks and to help recruit and retain volunteers.

Small town planning requires knowledge in a variety of areas. While that can be challenging, it can also be rewarding when you see the results of the accomplishments on the ground and acknowledged in the faces of your colleagues and neighbors.

Krystle Heaney, AICP, is an Associate Planner with Planwest Partners in Arcata. Before joining the firm in spring 2019, she was a natural resources analyst with EN2 Resources in Placerville. Heaney is a Certified California Naturalist and holds a BA in geography from Cal State University–Sacramento.

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Storytelling workshops: Galvanizing community around displacement

Storytelling workshops: Galvanizing community around displacement

By Reanna Tong, AICP, January 17, 2021

Every year, SF Urban Film Fest (SFUFF) hosts storytelling workshops as part of its annual programming of interactive film screenings. These workshops are organized to guide planners in telling stories, an unfamiliar skill and exercise often not taught in school. This year, SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District is inviting SFUFF, planners, and others interested in inspiring community action to join them for two storytelling workshops on February 13, 2021. Participants will learn the basics of storytelling and apply this knowledge by creating narratives for anti-displacement strategies.

Why storytelling?

Some colleges and universities have courses dedicated to teaching narratives and storytelling, helping people to learn and remember through seeing and hearing lived experiences. People are motivated and invested in a call to action when stories make complex concepts relatable and accessible. Telling stories builds community relationships and trust — they give people a voice! Communication through stories and visualization can often tell so much more than pages of words.

Community groups, organizations, and government agencies are examples of partners who have joined SFUFF’s storytelling workshops in the past few years. In 2019, Young Community Developers (YCD) wanted to create a video that would kick off the 100 Black Homeowners campaign. Inspired by the concepts and individuals’ stories told at the workshops, the final video tells the story of Black families’ Great Migration from the South to Bayview, and the role of YCD and the Bayview community today. Today, this video remains front-and-center on the YCD homepage to continue conveying the community’s goals.

At last year’s workshop, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) presented workshop goers with the challenge of communicating a transit planning concept and traffic congestion through individual stories and experiences. At the end of the second workshop, SFCTA staff reflected on the stories they heard from participants and chose a story that best fit their needs.

About the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District

SOMA Pilipinas is a movement anchored in the South of Market neighborhood and its Filipino history and people. They have hosted film screenings and panels for the SF Urban Film Fest.

Over the past year, SOMA Pilipinas has been working hard to develop its Cultural Heritage Housing Economic Sustainability Strategies report, also known as CHHESS. All cultural districts in San Francisco are required to develop such a report unique to their communities. The reports require extensive engagement with community members to achieve consensus on identity and policy strategies for strengthening community infrastructure.

A major component of the SOMA Pilipinas CHHESS report addresses anti-displacement strategies. This year’s SFUFF storytelling workshops will focus on community-centered narratives to support these strategies.

The workshops

If you have little to no experience in storytelling, you need not worry about being unable to contribute. The Level 1 Workshop is organized to help with that and is led by a popular instructor, Keith Battle of the Bay Area Video Coalition. At this workshop, you will learn the basics of storytelling through a framework known as SAMS: Story, Audience, Message, and Style. You will then use what you learned to analyze a few videos on anti-displacement.

In the Level 2 Workshop, you take what you learned in Level 1 and work collaboratively with other participants in small groups to begin creating anti-displacement campaigns that connect the community to the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District’s anti-displacement strategies. Each group will be led through a storyboard exercise by a professional storyteller/filmmaker. At the end, SOMA Pilipinas will vote on the one they feel best communicates the stories of the community.

Members of the South of Market Community Action Network gather on Third Street at Market calling for a landlord to rescind evictions of several Filipino families, June 2018. Photo: SOMCAN

Workshop details

Here’s a chance to help SOMA Pilipinas with their Cultural District’s anti-displacement strategies while also equipping yourself with a new skill! What you learn can be applied across all jobs, workplaces, and community groups, whether trying to communicate a complex concept, share a community’s history, or begin to get the public invested in an effort. We hope to see you at this year’s SF Urban Film Fest screenings.

Storytelling Workshop Level 1: How to Use Storytelling to Fight Displacement. 1 CM Credit Pending

Saturday, February 13, 2021, 2:30 pm | 60 mins. Register here.

Come learn the basics of storytelling and apply it as a tool to fight displacement. In this intense and accelerated workshop, you will learn how to be an effective storyteller using the SAMS (Story, Audience, Message, and Style) framework and will test your knowledge by analyzing a few short anti-displacement videos. You will be surprised at how easy it is to become a storyteller and use the method in your communication to galvanize communities and government leaders around anti-displacement efforts. We recommend taking both Workshops Level 1 and Level 2 to get the most out of becoming an effective storyteller and apply your skills in support of the anti-displacement efforts of SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District. Led by Keith Battle, Filmmaker/Educator, Storytelling Workshop Lead Instructor.

Storytelling Workshop Level 2: Create SOMA Pilipinas’ Anti-Displacement Campaigns. 1.5 CM Credit Pending

Saturday, February 13, 2021, 4:00 pm | 90 mins. Register here.

Participate in an advanced interactive storytelling workshop to create campaigns that will galvanize the community around SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District’s anti-displacement strategies! Develop strong messages and stories that will marshall resources to protect and stabilize buildings containing a high proportion of Filipino residents in the South of Market (SOMA) district of San Francisco. After a brief introduction, participants will break into five small groups led by a pro­fes­sion­al story­teller/film­maker. Each group will generate a storyboard for a video campaign, and SOMA Pilipinas will vote on the best one! We advise you to take Workshop Level 1 to get the most out of Workshop Level 2.

Presenters: David Woo, Senior Planner, SOMA Pilipinas; Keith Battle, Filmmaker/Educator, Storytelling Workshop Lead Instructor; Leah Nichols, Filmmaker, Small Group Leader; Deana Mitchell, Filmmaker, Small Group Leader; Ken Fisher, Filmmaker, Small Group Leader; Avni Shah, Filmmaker, Small Group Leader; Serginho Roosblad, Filmmaker, Small Group Leader.

Author Reanna Tong, AICP, is a planner with the City and County of San Francisco. She holds an MS in city/urban, community, and regional planning from Pratt Institute and a B.Arch (minor in city and regional planning) from UC Berkeley. Reanna has been volunteering for SF Urban Film Festival since 2019 and is passionate about the subjects of storytelling and engaging youth in planning.

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