Tag: 2021-10-nn-roundup

Major Los Gatos project promised 270 apartments. Only 50 are happening.

By Tran Nguyen, San Jose Spotlight, October 20, 2021

“Los Gatos officials in 2015 promised at least 270 affordable housing units from one of the town’s largest projects — North 40 — to address a housing crisis that has priced many out of the upscale town. But as of this year, the project will only provide 50 below market rate apartments for seniors — falling far short of what the town envisioned and needed for its housing goal.

“When a developer submitted a plan in 2016 with only a fraction of the housing below market, the town voted it down. The developer, Grosvenor, sued and won. When the town council was mandated to rescind its rejection and approve the plan, the outcome was a bitter pill to swallow.

“ ‘That was a lesson for Los Gatos,’ Mayor Marico Sayoc told San José Spotlight. ‘You can specify your desires. But ultimately, you could not impose more than what is in policies and regulations.’

“Judge Takaichi noted that the town can only reject a development based on specific plan and zoning standards, forcing Los Gatos to reconsider the project. The council then approved the number of units as proposed, effectively ending Los Gatos’ pipe dream of building hundreds of affordable units.

“Sayoc, who sat on the housing element advisory board and the council at the time, said she thought by specifying the level and numbers of affordable units in the specific plan, Los Gatos would get what it asked for.

“ ‘But going through the process, especially the process with the court, we understand that it’s strictly based on our current inclusionary policy,’ Sayoc said.”

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

Return to Northern News here.

Ljubljana, Slovenia, a small European capital, realizes a car-free city center

By Alexis Ferenczi, Vice, October 19, 2021

“In 2007 [Ljubljana] published ‘Vision 2025’, an incredibly thorough set of proposals for a greener, cleaner, and more sustainable city.

“Central to Ljubljana’s proposal for creating an environmentally responsible metropolis was turning the city centre into a car-free zone. […]

“The scheme wasn’t always so well-received by Slovenians. […]

“One of the major challenges facing the Vision 2025 team was how best to go about rethinking Slovenska Cesta, a main road that runs right through the middle of Ljubljana’s tourist district. […]

“In addition to classic sustainability policies and pledges like promoting the use of bikes and pre-existing forms of transport, the city introduced ‘Kavalir’, a small fleet of electric vehicles that are free to use and slow enough to be hailed with ease…Ljubljana’s [population of 300,000] means such a scheme only requires a handful of vehicles to be operational at any time.

“Despite initial misgivings about the long-term sustainability of cordoning off a section of the city from privately owned vehicles [Academic Saša Poljak Istenič, who has written about the impact of pedestrianization on the city,] is of the opinion that ‘it’s been a decade now and none of us can really imagine cars ever staging a comeback in the city centre.’

“Istenič is adamant that other local authorities who are looking towards Ljubljana as a model for the (relatively) car-free city of the future have to bear one thing particularly in mind. ‘It is crucial that you outline to residents exactly what the plans are and why they’re being proposed,’ she says.”

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

Return to Northern News here.

HUD chief calls Oakland ‘transit village’ a national model for housing

By Sarah Ravani, San Francisco Chronicle, October 14, 2021

“Marcia Fudge, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, toured Oakland’s Fruitvale Transit Village on Thursday and called it a national model for building housing on transit corridors amid the state’s escalating housing and homelessness crisis.

“Fudge applauded the city’s efforts to leverage federal funds to purchase hotels and motels for homeless housing and said alternative housing models, like tiny homes, need to be prioritized.

“The sounds of the development’s construction were loud as Fudge walked through the transit village. She acknowledged that the development process to build new projects takes time, and said she talks to Gov. Gavin Newsom often about the need to build faster.

“ ‘They know that there is no time to waste,’ Fudge said, adding that federal resources and aid available to states will have time limits for certain projects to encourage speedy development. Fudge did not specify what those resources are or will be.”

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

Return to Northern News here.

New Sonoma County housing fund to lend millions in PG&E settlement money for major projects

Ethan Varian, The Press Democrat, October 14, 2021

“A new Sonoma County housing fund spearheaded by local elected officials is set to lend over $20 million in PG&E settlement cash to support planned projects in Santa Rosa and outlying areas starting early next year.

“The fund is touted by officials as the key to jump-starting large-scale developments that will put a dent in the region’s chronic housing shortage and invigorate Santa Rosa’s downtown core.

“Because lenders tend to view the North Bay as a less ‘proven’ market for large, market-rate apartment buildings, banks often end up offering developers smaller construction loans, [Santa Rosa Councilman Jack Tibbetts] said.

“The hope is that the fund can then come in to ‘bridge the gap’ in financing.

“Ideally, that would change financiers’ perception of the county’s real estate market and convince them to offer more attractive loans.

“The fund is getting off the ground as Santa Rosa has made new efforts to attract denser development and reshape its downtown core. Last year, the City Council updated its downtown plan with more lenient zoning and design restrictions in hopes of building 7,000 new homes by 2040.

“When it comes to affordable housing projects, which rely largely on public grants and low-income tax credits, some local nonprofit developers say the fund could provide an advantage in applying for those incentives.”

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

Related: “Kaiser Permanente will give over $2.5 million in grants to support Sonoma County affordable housing projects as part of an ongoing effort to help the region rebuild and recover in the wake of the 2017 North Bay firestorm… The San Jose-based Housing Trust Silicon Valley will put in additional millions to the local housing fund as part of a matching partnership.” Read a summary of the October 17, 2021 Press Democrat story by Ethan Varian on the new funding. (~1 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Biden, Haaland approve two CA areas for offshore wind farms

By Matthew Daly, Associated Press, October 13, 2021

“Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said her department hopes to hold lease sales by 2025 off the coasts of [several states, including California]. The [seven major offshore wind farms to be developed on these leased sites] are part of Biden’s plan to address global warming and could avoid about 78 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions, while creating up to 77,000 jobs, officials said.

“[Separately, the Department of Energy] will spend $2 million on visual surveys and acoustic monitoring of marine mammals and seabirds at potential wind sites on the West Coast.

Read the full story on the newly announced site leasing program here. (~3 min.)

Previously, on May 25, 2021, the Biden Administration announced opening two sites on the northern and central coasts of California to “its first commercial scale offshore clean energy projects.”

From the Biden Administration’s announcement: “[T]he Department of the Interior, in coordination with the Department of Defense, has identified an area (‘the Morro Bay 399 Area’) that will support three gigawatts of offshore wind on roughly 399 square miles off California’s central coast region, northwest of Morro Bay. The Department of the Interior is also advancing the Humboldt Call Area as a potential Wind Energy Area, located off northern California.”

Previously in Roundup: AB 525 was proposed in February, setting an ambitious target for California’s offshore wind energy. The bill was signed into law on September 23, 2021, paving the way for coordination between state and federal agencies and the energy industry.

Return to Northern News here.

CalEPA updates “national gold standard” geospatial tools for equitable environmental decision-making

From CalEPA, October 13, 2021

“Since its initial release in 2013, CalEnviroScreen has helped state, regional, and local policymakers prioritize activities and funding to assist communities that are disproportionately impacted by pollution. CalEnviroScreen is used to aid in administering environmental justice grants, promote compliance with environmental laws, prioritize site-cleanup activities, and identify opportunities for sustainable development.

“Areas identified by CalEPA as ‘disadvantaged communities’ based on CalEnviroScreen scores are eligible for a significant share of the California Climate Investments from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and other benefits from specific Climate Investment programs.

“The new CalEnviroScreen version 4.0 analyzes the latest data from 21 indicators of environmental, public health, and socioeconomic conditions in California’s 8,000 census tracts…The latest version also features a new indicator on children’s exposure to lead from housing.

“The update also uses more localized air pollution data, as explained in OEHHA’s ‘Summary of Changes in CalEnviroScreen Version 4.0.’

“A website mapping tool that allows the public to explore CalEnviroScreen results by indicator or by individual census tract is available on OEHHA’s CalEnviroScreen 4.0 webpage.

“A supplemental analysis accompanying the CalEnviroScreen findings, ‘Analysis of Race/Ethnicity and CalEnviroScreen 4.0 Scores,’ shows the dramatic differences in the racial composition of the state’s census tracts depending on their pollution burdens and vulnerabilities. The analysis found that the population of the top 10 percent of neighborhoods with the highest pollution burdens and vulnerabilities consist of 91 percent people of color, while the population of the 10 percent of neighborhoods with the lowest pollution burdens and vulnerabilities is 67 percent white.”

Read the full press release here. (~3 min.)

Read the full report here, including maps of pollutants impacting Bay Area counties.

Return to Northern News here.

Mountain View plans to ban cars, expand outdoor dining along its ‘crown jewel’

By Maggie Angst, San Jose Mercury News, October 13, 2021

“Like many cities across the Bay Area did with their downtown streets, Mountain View in the summer of 2020 closed off Castro Street from Evelyn Avenue to California Street to allow restaurants and shops to move their operations outdoors when public health orders banned them from serving customers inside.

“The Mountain View City Council [has] endorsed a plan to keep the partial closure of Castro Street in place until at least 2023, with the intention of gathering feedback and pursuing a broader vision of turning that segment into a permanent pedestrian mall.

“Their decision comes as other cities like Palo Alto and Pleasanton have gone in the other direction — taking down barriers that blocked off cars from downtown streets and putting an end to their beloved outdoor dining scenes.

“The road closure has given Mountain View the opportunity to test out the notion of a pedestrian mall it had been considering well before the pandemic struck the area in March 2020.

“Mountain View plans to start construction on the pedestrian tunnel at the north end of Castro Street by the end of 2024 — or as soon as Caltrain finishes electrifying its tracks. If that timeline holds up, Mountain View officials expect to complete the tunnel by 2026.

“As for Castro Street, the city envisions creating the pedestrian mall in two phases.

“The city’s ultimate vision will require a substantial amount of funding and is expected to take up to 10 years to complete, according to Dawn Cameron, the city’s public works director. …”

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

Return to Northern News here.

New study: 25 years of data from Marin County reaffirms conservation protects biodiversity

By Daniel Roman, Bay Nature, October 13, 2021

“Using data that was collected in protected riparian corridors in coastal Marin County over a period of 25 years, scientists from Point Blue analyzed the population growth rates of 14 bird species.

“The 14 bird species in the study were grouped by their migratory status and habitat association: migratory riparian specialists, resident riparian specialists, migratory riparian users, and resident riparian users. […]

“None of the 14 bird species had special conservation statuses. […]

“Of the 14 bird species the study analyzed (open access), nine had better population trends in protected areas compared to regional average population trends. The scientists found evidence of benefits to both resident and migratory species, as well as to both riparian users and specialists.

“Although the Point Blue analysis showed that the study areas do effectively conserve populations of many bird species, it doesn’t necessarily address how the conservation process works.

“Past evaluations of the effectiveness of protected areas have shown mixed results. … Whether or not protected areas safeguard animal populations from the negative effects of habitat loss and degradation, the scientists found, depends on the area being sufficiently secured and managed.

“The challenge going forward involves not only studying the reasons why some bird species fare better than others in protected areas, but it also involves suggesting conservation actions that are needed to sustain populations of species of all different kinds.”

Read the full article here. (~7 min.)

Read the research summary from Point Blue here. (~1 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

San Francisco’s Clement Street and the 15-minute city

By Soumya Karlamangla, The New York Times, October 11, 2021

“[R]estaurants and shops on Clement Street, the main artery of the Richmond District in the northwest corner of San Francisco, have been spared the financial ruin seen across other big cities over the past 19 months.

“Few, if any, businesses on the street have permanently closed, according to Morgan Mapes, the president of the Clement Street Merchants Association. […]

“The self-contained nature of Clement Street offers not only an explanation for how it survived the pandemic, but also a window into how cities may change in the next few years.

“Mapes believes [the ‘15-minute city’ concept of a neighborhood that emphasizes convenient access by foot or bike to a range of common needs, especially fresh food] was vital to Clement Street’s success during the pandemic. Even during lockdowns, people living in the area continued to buy groceries and other goods from nearby shops.

“Though the ‘15-minute city’ idea predates the coronavirus, it’s gained traction during the pandemic as people spent more time in their communities and came to dread resuming their former long commutes.

“Proponents of the 15-minute city think it will make us happier, too, as we get to know our neighbors instead of rushing from one thing to the next.”

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

Return to Northern News here.

Student loan forgiveness: public sector workers eligible in overhauled relief program

By Jessica Menton and Chris Quintana, USA Today, October 7, 2021

“On [October 6], the U.S. Department of Education announced sweeping changes to its Public Service Loan Forgiveness program after thousands of borrowers applied for forgiveness, with nearly all of them being rejected by the federal government.

“The government previously restricted eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to only certain types of federal student loans and specific repayment plans.

“However, through October 2022, borrowers who have made 10 years worth of payments while in a qualifying job — such as positions in federal, state or local governments … will now be eligible for loan relief no matter what kind of federal loan or repayment plan they have.

“Use this help tool of the Federal Student Aid website to check if you work for a qualifying employer: https://studentaid.gov/pslf/

If I qualify, what steps do I need to take?

“The agency will first loosen some of the rules that had prevented eligible borrowers from discharging their loans, via a limited waiver. […]

“The Public Service Loan Forgiveness waiver will be available to borrowers who have direct loans, Federal Family Education Loans, and Perkins Loans. 

“The department said it would [also] automatically credit borrowers who already have direct loans and have proved they work in an eligible field.”

Read the full article here, including waivers and basic information on federal student loan consolidation. (~5 min.)

Return to Northern News here.