Tag: 2021-10-nn-roundup

Downtown San Jose building height limits come with price tag

By Eli Wolfe, San Jose Spotlight, October 4, 2021

“Airlines flying out of Mineta San Jose International Airport have lost an estimated $2.8 million in combined revenue due to a 2019 policy that raised the height limit for towers being built in San Jose by up to 35 feet downtown and 150 feet in the Diridon Station area.

“The loss occurs because Federal Aviation Administration safety guidelines force airlines to fly with a reduced number of passengers depending on the height of buildings. […]

“A new policy passed [in September] in San Jose will force developers to pay fees if their cranes exceed the downtown height limit, impacting the operations of nearby airlines. Money from the fund will be used to compensate passengers bumped from flights, with airlines having the discretion to refund fares, pay for a hotel or both.

“Fred Buzo, San Jose director for SPUR, said it’s too early to tell whether the 2019 policy is going to have a long-term detrimental impact on the airport, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as one potential confounding factor.

“When it comes to the crane fee, funds won’t be collected for the first six months of use. If cranes are still up after this period, developers must pay tens of thousands of dollars, although fees may be reduced if they’re working on multiple projects. [Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association] said this will help the airlines, but he’s concerned with how it could potentially hamper development in the future.”

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

Return to Northern News here.

Solar energy: a new cash crop for farmers — and sheep can safely graze

By Xander Peters, The Christian Science Monitor, October 4, 2021

“Gregory Sigue had always planned to return to south Louisiana [to] maintain his family’s land. Why not develop a utility-scale solar project on the family’s cropland?

“He is now pursuing his dream, in parallel with a rising number of U.S. farmers who are open to growing solar energy alongside crops. … But so far, the energy companies he has talked to aren’t offering as much money as he can get leasing land to other local farmers.

“ ‘In some regions, [solar is a] huge excitement … because it gives [landowners] a guaranteed source of revenue’ that often beats their traditional income per acre, says Jordan Macknick, the lead energy, water, and land analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“Spurring it on are local policies and rising demand from energy companies that need places to build. Massachusetts, Michigan, Colorado, California, Maine, Illinois, and Virginia have amended zoning laws for cropland solar projects, [along with] tax rebates in some cases.

“ ‘Farmland [is] almost a perfect location … to develop utility-scale, ground-mounted solar projects,’ Dr. Macknick says. ‘Farms are flat, have access roads, and access to electric transmission lines.’

“What Mr. Sigue is attempting to develop is solar panels mounted to the ground, and only gravel or grass in between. Other landowners are into agrivoltaics, which involves agriculture, including built-in pollinator habitats, sheep grazing, and planting crops underneath solar panels. 

“A recent study by researchers at Oregon State University found that if America’s farmers could share just 1 percent of their farmland for clean power — about 13,000 square miles — it could produce as much as 20 percent of the country’s electricity renewably.”

Read the full article here. (~6 min) 

[Ed. Note: In September, APA released a guidebook for local governments that want to understand the trade-offs and maximize the benefits of large-scale solar developments, such as those described in this roundup. Access the guidebook for free here.]

Return to Northern News here.

Final Plan Bay Area 2050 released

From MTC-ABAG, October 1, 2021

“Guided by input from more than 20,000 Bay Area residents, nearly four years of planning work [has drawn] to a close with the release of Plan Bay Area 2050.

“The final plan, as well as the associated Implementation Plan, Environmental Impact Report and all supplemental reports, is available to read on planbayarea.org/finalplan2050.

“The heart of Plan Bay Area 2050 is 35 strategies across the four key elements of housing, the economy, transportation, and the environment … Equity is interwoven into each strategy, from housing strategies that would produce more than one million new permanently affordable homes by 2050 to transit-fare reforms that would reduce cost burdens for riders with low incomes.

“Ultimately, Plan Bay Area 2050 reflects a shared vision that cannot be implemented by any single organization or government agency. Only through partnership with local, state, and federal governments, as well as with businesses and non-profit organizations, will the plan’s strategies come to fruition.”

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

But no plan can satisfy everyone.

In an October 26 opinion piece in the East Bay Times, Bobbi Lopez, a policy director at Build Affordable Faster California, writes:

Hypothetically, these plans are meant to make the Bay Area more equitable and affordable — the kind of place where people of every race, class, and background can carve out a happy life.

But in that — and most — regards, the recently-issued PBA 2050 misses the mark.

If adopted as written, the plan will result in the disappearance of the Bay Area’s working-class communities of color and displace hundreds of thousands of long-term residents.

Chief among the challenges facing the Bay Area are the twin crises of affordable housing and homelessness. []

First, we need a detailed strategy to fund tens of thousands of housing units and temporary facilities that are essential to ending homelessness in the Bay Area within the decade.

Second, it is imperative that the plan recognize that working-class communities on the front lines of the climate crisis are uniquely vulnerable to displacement sparked by rising sea levels. []

“Do better. Write a plan for the Bay Area that firmly establishes safe, decent, accessible, and affordable housing as a fundamental right.”

Read the full opinion here.

Return to Northern News here.

Napa County may see a relatively high number of new housing units from SB 9

By Edward Booth, Napa Valley Register, September 29, 2021

SB 9 makes it so homeowners can split single-family lots and convert homes into duplexes, up to a total of four residential units.

“Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley published an analysis in July examining the number of homes SB 9 could feasibly build. According to the report’s findings, the law will result in about 714,000 new homes becoming financially feasible to build — around 5.4 percent of the state’s 7.5 million single-family lots […]

“Napa County’s share of those market-feasible units is about 5,000, out of 31,248 existing single-family lots in the county, according to the analysis. The city of Napa’s share of market-feasible units is about 2,700. Compared to the other California counties, Napa is about in the middle of the high end in proportion of market-eligible lots — hitting 0.19 net market-feasible units per eligible lot, compared to California’s rate of 0.12 — with similar results as Marin, Mendocino, Santa Cruz, and Madera counties.

“Planning divisions in Napa municipalities are currently trying to understand the new housing laws and how they might be applied, said city of Napa senior planner Michael Walker. The city, he added, will likely try to set up objective standards to allow for the ministerial approval process of the SB 9 units.

“Walker added that SB 9 units could eventually roll out in Napa along a timeline similar to ADUs.”

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

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