Tag: 2021-06-nn-roundup

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who’ve shaped our cities

By Taylor Moore, Planning Magazine, Spring 2021

“In (roughly) chronological order, here is a selection of the many Asian American and Pacific Islander urbanists you should know about:

  1. Norman Yoshio Mineta (1931 –)

“In his 90 years of life, Mineta has achieved a lot of firsts: first Japanese American mayor of a major U.S. city, San Jose; first Asian American in a presidential cabinet, as Clinton’s commerce secretary; and the longest-serving Secretary of Transportation, as the only Democrat in President George W. Bush’s cabinet.

  1. Paul Ong (1949 –)

“As professor emeritus at UCLA specializing in urban planning, social welfare, and Asian American studies, Ong is an urbanist with wide-ranging interests. … At UCLA, he’s the founder and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge and editor of AAPI Nexus, a journal that explores community development, education, and other topics in relation to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  1. Manjusha P. Kulkarni (1969 –)

“Kulkarni is a racial justice attorney with a long history of advocacy. She’s worked at the Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU of Southern California, and the South Asian Network, and is currently the executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (A3PCON), a coalition that advocates for mental health services, environmental justice, and other issues for AAPI residents of Los Angeles. She also cofounded Stop AAPI Hate, a hate crime reporting center that’s taken on new resonance as anti-Asian attacks have increased across the country.

Read the full article here. (~5 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Biden’s infrastructure bill could help tear down I-980 separating West Oakland from downtown

By Nico Savidge, Mercury News, May 11, 2021

“[Interstate 980] connects Oakland’s Nimitz freeway with Interstate 580 and Highway 24 to Contra Costa County. But in the eyes of its critics, who include Oakland planners and Mayor Libby Schaaf, I-980’s massive trench might as well be a moat that seals off the city’s resurgent downtown and bustling nightlife in Uptown from historically Black and working-class West Oakland.

“Their solution is to fill it in, turning one of the Bay Area’s least-used freeways into a tree-lined boulevard and converting the 17 acres of prime land it takes up into new parks, housing and other development.

“The $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal President Joe Biden rolled out earlier this spring includes $20 billion in funding for projects to ‘reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments,’ which his administration argues would be a step toward correcting the Interstate system’s history of tearing through and segregating Black and Latino neighborhoods in cities across the country.

“Congress is also considering funding for freeway removal projects as part of a separate federal highway bill.

“Caltrans, which hasn’t taken a position on the freeway’s future, is seeking funding for a study that would consider turning it into a surface street, among other potential changes.

“Drivers from North Oakland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek and beyond could complain about a plan that adds time to their most direct route to downtown, A’s games, or the Oakland airport. But [Warren Logan, “the policy director for mobility and interagency relations in Schaaf’s office,” and Jonathan Fearn, “a city planning commissioner and founding member of Connect Oakland, which advocates for removing I-980’s most disruptive stretch”] and others who want to convert the freeway argue that convenience hasn’t been worth the cost to West Oakland.

“As to whether replacing the freeway would fuel gentrification, Connect Oakland says they want decisions about what will replace I-980 to be driven by the needs of longtime residents, rather than developers.”

Read the full article here. (~6 min.)

Other Bay Area transit projects that could be funded by Biden’s infrastructure bill were previously covered here in April’s Planning news roundup.

Return to Northern News here.

California’s population declined for the first time, and only one Bay Area county grew

California’s population declined for the first time, and only one Bay Area county grew

By Leonardo Castañeda, Mercury News, May 7, 2021

California’s population shrunk in 2020 for the first time in more than a century, a stunning turnabout emerging not long after population shifts cost the largest state in the nation a seat in Congress.

“The decline is significant, but don’t call it ‘an apocalyptic exodus from California,’ cautioned [California Department of Finance] spokesman H.D Palmer. ‘The data do not bear that out.’

“Instead, the department attributed the drop in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, which last year resulted in about 51,000 more deaths than the average in recent years. … Federal policies restricting immigration also cost the state about 100,000 residents, the department said.

“The loss of international immigration exacerbated years of negative domestic migration, as more U.S. residents continue to move out of California than move in.

“The population loss was felt strongly in the Bay Area, where Contra Costa was the only county to gain residents.

“Within the Bay Area, Oakland bucked the overall downward trend, adding nearly 3,200 residents.

“Housing, the other topic explored in the report, was one of the few bright spots for California on Friday. The state built 103,073 new housing units in 2020, the first time it produced more than 100,000 units in a year since 2008.

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

In a blog post for the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California, Hans Johnson observes: “In general, those who move here are more likely to be working age, to be employed, and to earn high wages — and are less likely to be in poverty — than those who move away.” Read his analysis here.

Return to Northern News here.

San Rafael council approves downtown corridor overhaul

By Adrian Rodriguez, Marin Independent Journal, May 7, 2021

“An estimated $13.9 million plan to overhaul Second and Third streets in downtown San Rafael has won the City Council’s approval.

“Repaving the road, replacing and adding new traffic signals, and extending sidewalks near intersections to improve safety for pedestrians are part of the plan. The project also will build a two-way bike lane separated from the road by a barrier …

“Residents voiced concerns about the loss of mature trees, including a 40-foot London plane tree in the median …

“Bill Guerin, director of public works, said the project requires that the lanes shift north. If the road is designed to spare the tree, the city would lose five parking spaces that were promised to the residents who have a lack of street parking in the neighborhood.

“Regarding the bicycle lane, staffers said they are considering different options for barriers, including a concrete curb, an asphalt berm, or bollard markers. The choice would be determined by what is affordable, staff said.

“ ‘Corridor projects require a major investment that is often a stretch for local jurisdictions,’ [Anne Richman, executive director of Transportation Authority of Marin] said. ‘Support from these targeted, voter-approved funds helps give a boost, in this case, nearly a $13 million boost.’ ”

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

South City scopes affordable housing options

By Austin Walsh, Daily Journal, May 3, 2021

“The South San Francisco City Council discussed during a study session Tuesday, April 27, a proposal to hike commercial linkage fees alongside hopes to purchase more land officials could use to build below-market-rate developments.

“Agreeing financial contributions from commercial developers comprise the most significant source of income which can be used for constructing affordable units, officials looked for ways to build the linkage fund.

“Should the city expand its funds addressing housing affordability, [Vice Mayor Mark] Nagales said he favored examining opportunities to acquire new properties which South San Francisco could use to partner with nonprofit builders.

“ROEM Development Company constructing an entirely affordable building with 37 units after South San Francisco donated the land at 418 Linden Ave. was acknowledged as a model partnership officials hoped to replicate if they controlled more land.

“Nagales said officials are compelled to try and lead the process of building new affordable housing because no new large developments have been proposed in South San Francisco since councilmembers hiked the city’s below-market-rate mandate.

“Chief Planner Tony Rozzi [AICP] added that some large projects entitled prior to the increase have sought a series of legislative actions that would expose them to further negotiations with officials, which can reopen the affordable housing conversation.”

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Redwood Coast forests may be involved in justifying higher CO2 emissions

By Lisa Song and James Temple, ProPublica, April 29, 2021

“Along the coast of Northern California near the Oregon border, the cool, moist air off the Pacific sustains a strip of temperate rainforests.

But forest ecologies vary, “and the actual amount of carbon on any given acre depends on local climate conditions, conservation efforts, logging history, and more.”

“California’s top climate regulator, the Air Resources Board, glossed over much of this complexity in implementing the state’s [carbon offset] program.

“That decision has generated tens of millions of carbon credits with dubious climate value, according to a new analysis by CarbonPlan, a San Francisco nonprofit that analyzes the scientific integrity of carbon removal efforts.

“CarbonPlan estimates the state’s program has generated between 20 million and 39 million credits that don’t achieve real climate benefits.

“While close observers are well aware of numerous problems with California’s forest offset rules, ‘they’re revealing a deeper set of serious methodological flaws,’ [“Daniel Sanchez, who runs the Carbon Removal Laboratory at UC Berkeley”] said.

“Supporters of forest offsets say no system is perfect, and that focusing solely on the carbon math overlooks the incentives offsets create for protecting forests.

“[I]f the societal goal is preserving forests, it would be simpler and more effective to describe it accurately and fund it directly, said [“Barbara Haya, who leads the Berkeley Carbon Trading Project at UC Berkeley and is a co-author of the CarbonPlan study”]. As soon as these forests get tied up in an offset program, the carbon math does matter, because every additional ton purportedly preserved in trees enables polluters to purchase the right to generate an additional ton of CO2.

The Yurok Tribe, and other Native American tribes further inland, have participated in forest carbon offset programs. “Thomas Joseph, an activist and a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe in California, said offset developers target tribal projects because tribes are in ‘dire need of revenue’ and own vast tracts of mostly intact forest.

“[“Cody Desautel, president of the Intertribal Timber Council, a Portland-based nonprofit consortium of native tribes”] sees it differently. When the issue comes up among tribal members, he explains that polluters under cap and trade need to pay either the state for permission to pollute, or landowners through carbon offsets.

“ ‘Forests really can be a part of the solution for the climate, but we haven’t gotten it right yet,’ [“said Zack Parisa, chief executive of the carbon offsets company SilviaTerra”].”

Read the full article here, including a cartoon guide to forest carbon offsets and maps detailing Redwood Coast offset projects. (~20 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

HCD launches housing element Annual Progress Report dashboard

By Chris Lee and Marina Espinoza, California State Association of Counties, April 23, 2021

“The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) recently released the housing element Annual Progress Report (APR) Dashboard. The dashboard is intended to provide useful housing-related data to policymakers, stakeholders, and the general public.

“The dashboard shows all the APR data — previously only available in multiple spreadsheets and PDFs — consolidated in one place and reformatted as easy-to-use graphs and charts. It also includes new data points that have never been published before, including updates on housing element program commitments, housing applications, and housing funding source information.

“The dashboard will be updated this summer to include data received on the 2020 annual progress reports that were due on April 1, 2021.

“Counties can use the APR dashboard to:

  • Track housing production data at different income levels, structure types, and geographies
  • Determine which cities and counties have HCD-certified housing elements and whether they have submitted their annual progress reports
  • Find out if a local government’s housing plan is compliant and whether the agency submitted its APR
  • Track changes and trends over time or view stand-alone trends
  • Explore how housing tools, such as SB 35 streamlining and density bonus, are being used.”

Read the full press release here. (~2 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

First-ever statewide ADU owner survey shows growth, room for improvement

By UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, April 22, 2021

“Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have become an increasingly popular housing choice in California in recent years.

“However, not as much is known about who is building ADUs, and who lives in them.

“[The Terner Center has released] the results of California’s first ever statewide ADU owner survey.

“Among the report’s findings:

  • The median rental price of a new ADU in California is $2,000, ranging from $1,925 in the Central Coast region to $2,200 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“ADUs do provide relatively affordable rental housing units for Californians, confirming previous research… [T]he benefits from this new ADU growth may not be equitably shared. The results of the survey confirm that despite legislative reforms, the ADU revolution has been slow to reach low-income homeowners of color.”

Read the survey report and previous UC Berkeley research on ADUs here.

Read the full research synopsis here. (~2 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Appeals court rules apartment complex can go up at site Ohlone consider sacred site

By Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside, April 21, 2021

“The owners of the old Spenger’s parking lot at 1900 Fourth St. have the right to build a 260-unit complex there despite the opposition of the city of Berkeley and the Confederated Tribes of Lisjon, the California Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday.

“While members of the Ohlone community and the city contend the construction would destroy a historic structure, a shellmound that has existed for 4,900 years, the court disagreed.

“[Frank Spenger Co.] have tried to get a project approved on the land for years, first through Berkeley’s normal development channels, and then in an expedited process through SB 35, which allows some projects with 50 percent affordable housing to be almost automatically approved.

“Even though the Spenger’s parking lot project met those criteria, the city rejected the application because the site was a designated city landmark. A city staff analysis also said the application conflicted with the city’s Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee requirements. Berkeley also raised the question of whether the project fit into SB 35’s definition since it incorporates 27,500 square feet of retail and parking.

“ ‘We are disappointed the court did not preserve the city’s ability to protect the below-ground elements of the shellmound,’ said [Berkeley] Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

“The Chochenyo-speaking Ohlone Indians inhabited West Berkeley for thousands of years prior to European contact. Their diet included clams, oysters and abalone, and they discarded the shells and other materials into mounds. Occasionally, the Natives buried their dead in the mounds. Historians believe there were more than 400 shellmounds around the Bay Area. The Ohlone abandoned West Berkeley 600 to 800 years ago.”

Read the full article here. (~4 min.)

[Ed. note: Alan Murphy, an attorney at Perkins Coie LLP, writes that the court found Berkeley’s historical preservation decision is the kind of barrier to affordable housing development that the Legislature sought to restrict through SB 35. Read his analysis in Northern News here. Separately, AB 168, in effect since September 25, 2020, added a tribal consultation requirement to SB 35 projects, closing a potential loophole allegedly used by the developers.]

Return to Northern News here.

HUD announces student winners of 2021 innovation in affordable housing design and planning competition

From HUD User, PD&R Edge, May 2021

“The 2021 Innovation in Affordable Housing (IAH) Student Design and Planning Competition partnered with Fresno Housing Authority (FHA) to challenge teams to create innovative workforce housing solutions for residents of Firebaugh, California.”

An April article about the challenge described the Firebaugh site: “[F]ive properties that are contiguous but currently separated by fencing and other barriers that prevent resident interaction and community living. These barriers not only are physically unappealing but also contribute to the larger disconnectedness of the entire community. The residents who were interviewed indicated that an ideal design plan would remove these barriers, add green space and recreational elements, and improve the infrastructure necessary to support a car-centric, rural community.”

HUD selected four finalist teams: Columbia University; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and two collaborative teams: the University of Michigan with Harvard University and New York University with the Pratt Institute.

“Students engaged with FHA staff, local officials, site managers, employers, health providers, and residents… Michael Duarte, chief real estate officer for FHA, offered students key insights, challenges, and important considerations as they refined their plans for the final presentation and awards ceremony.”

“The Pratt Institute and New York University team’s winning plan, ‘A Breathable Connected Community,’ addresses the intergenerational and agricultural needs of the community. The team’s design included a comprehensive financial package and attention to environmental sustainability.”

“A team of students from the University of Michigan and Harvard University were this year’s runner-up for their understanding of the detailed financing scheme as well as their attention to phasing for onsite relocation.”

Read the full article here. (~5 min.)

Return to Northern News here.