Tag: 2021-11-nn-roundup

Oakland, LA, piloting universal basic mobility

By Laura Bliss, CityLab, November 11, 2021

In Oakland, “one of several pilots in U.S. cities testing the concept of ‘universal basic mobility,’ up to 500 residents will [soon] receive prepaid $300 debit cards for transit and shared mobility services. Los Angeles is preparing a similar grant-funded program focused in south L.A.”

“The goal is to understand how a minimum guaranteed level of transportation could change outcomes for people who have previously gone without it. Across the U.S., poorer households spend far more on transportation as a percentage of their incomes than more affluent ones.

“Interest is strong. Oakland officials received more than twice as many applications than it could take for the city’s grant-funded pilot. [Five hundred east Oaklanders] will be able [to use] debit cards on public transit, car share, bikeshare, and scooters from multiple operators for as long as the $300 lasts. 

“That will likely be no more than a few months, said Quinn Wallace, the Oakland transportation planner who originally designed the program to strengthen access to a new bus rapid transit line. Now the goal is to [see] how a small amount of extra money can change how, and if, people opt to travel.

“ ‘Increasingly, this project is about reducing financial barriers to … transportation…’ she said. ‘So if we give you $300 on a prepaid card and you … put it all on a transit pass [or] you use it to replace a few vehicle trips with bikeshare… that’s a win.’ 

“The programs come in the wake of guaranteed income pilots in cities such as Stockton … that support … guaranteed cash flow for vulnerable residents. Oakland recently launched one such study on low-income families of color, separate from its $300 mobility pilot. …Transportation is closely tied to economic success in the U.S., and … providing discounted access to multiple services beyond public transit for disadvantaged riders is something that’s been discussed … for years.”

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

Return to Northern News here.

Los Altos agrees to legal settlement over SB 35 project; developers still pursuing 5-story building

By Bruce Barton, Los Altos Town Crier, November 9, 2021

“[Los Altos] Council members voted unanimously Nov. 2 to pass an agreement that pays [developers] Ted and Jerry Sorensen $1.2 million to ‘fully and finally resolve all claims’ stemming from a legal fight over the nearly 30,000-square-foot office and housing project they successfully sued to build [at 40 Main St.]. The project qualified under State Senate Bill 35, which [allows ministerial approval based on a set of objective standards for certain projects].

“According to a staff report on the settlement, the city would waive approximately $800,000 in developers’ fees should the Sorensens choose to pursue a four-story project. But Ted Sorensen indicated that may not happen.

“Mayor Neysa Fligor declined direct comment on the Sorensens’ intentions, but pointed to the purpose of the agreement, which includes providing ‘incentives to developer to apply for a four-story discretionary project in lieu of the permitted five-story SB 35 project.’ ”

Read the full article here. (~2 min.)

Previously in roundup: Read about the initial suit filed in 2019 and the long, troubled history of the 40 Main St. project here.

Return to Northern News here.

Wind promises new economic boom for Humboldt County

By Andrew Graham (Editorial), Press Democrat, November 9, 2021 

“If the North Coast’s many offshore wind energy boosters get their way, change for Samoa, California, has only just begun.” Samoa, located on Humboldt Bay a mile-an-a-half northwest of Eureka, had a population of 258 in 2010.

The Vance Lumber Company “built Samoa over the following two decades, putting up dozens of houses, a school, a bank and a civic center. Lumber flowed out of the bay by ship to Los Angeles, San Francisco and as far as Australia and Hawaii.

“Vance sold to Hammond in 1900, [and the] town passed from one company to another. 

“In 2014, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District acquired the pulp mill site and waterfront.

“Now, the district’s elected governing board hopes to convert that shoreline into a modern marine terminal centered on building towering floating wind turbines and sending them to sea.

“In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a state budget that included $11 million to the harbor district to advance that plan.

“Energy experts measure power sources by their ‘capacity factor.’ For wind energy, the measurement is reached by calculating how often a farm can generate its full electricity output potential. The Humboldt Wind Energy Area’s capacity factor is estimated as high as 52 [percent, making it highly effective]. 

“The wind’s strength alone isn’t enough to make Humboldt Bay into [a] clean energy behemoth …,” but the deep water harbor with no bridge across it is the ace in the hole.

“The 12-megawatt offshore wind turbines that would most likely be developed for the Humboldt Wind Energy Area would be more than 800 feet tall, 52 feet taller than the height of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Humboldt Bay is California’s only harbor north of Ventura with both deep water and no impediment from a bridge.”

Read the original article here. (3 min.) 

Return to Northern News here.

Two LA Assemblymembers block funds connecting High Speed Rail to Bay Area

By Roger Rudick, Streetsblog Cal, November 8, 2021

“California’s high-speed rail project will be in a good position to compete for $36 billion in federal grants over the next five years, explained the national Rail Passenger Association’s Sean Jeans-Gail.

“For some perspective on California’s ability to compete for federal high-speed rail funds: in 2009, California’s project was awarded $3.5 billion from an $8 billion federal high-speed rail package. And that was when the project was still just a bunch of blueprints. Now, with construction ongoing throughout the Central Valley and detailed planning finished throughout the state, the route towards funding high-speed links all the way to Los Angeles and directly to San Francisco is coming into view.

“But federal budget items generally require state matching. That’s why the biggest remaining challenge to completing the project is the Democrat majority state legislature. Assemblymembers Anthony Rendon and Laura Friedman, ironically, don’t seem to want the project to ever reach their own constituents in Los Angeles. 

“This money is intended to allow operations to begin on the first segment, which would run from the Bay Area to Merced on conventional rail, and then continue to Bakersfield at over 200 mph, while direct connections to Los Angeles and San Francisco are completed.

“As several people pointed out in replies to Rendon and Friedman’s [Instagram] post [promoting their role as California’s representatives at COP26], their climate reputation went up in a puff of carcinogenic diesel smoke when they came out against electrifying high-speed rail.”

Read the full article here. (~2 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

“Save Livermore Downtown” group ordered to post $500,000 bond

By Joseph Geha, Bay Area News Group, November 8, 2021

“The group sued Livermore in June over the City Council’s decision to approve a 130-unit affordable apartment complex, alleging the project is ‘inconsistent’ with … Livermore’s downtown plan and … needs further environmental analysis of contamination on the site.

“[N]onprofit developer … Eden Housing asked the court to order Save Livermore Downtown to post a $500,000 bond to help offset ‘costs and damages’ … while the lawsuit proceeds.

“[The] project was in line for $68 million worth of financing through state and federal tax credit programs, but that funding can’t be accepted and used if the project is delayed because of a lawsuit. The project is also set to receive about $14.4 million [from] Alameda County, but those funds require the project to start construction by the end of 2022.

“Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled in Eden’s favor, ordering that the $500,000 bond be posted.

“Under state law, the developer of an affordable housing project can ask the courts to impose a bond up to a maximum of $500,000 on people or organizations that file lawsuits against the development in bad faith … 

“The judge wrote that the group waited until ‘the very last moment’ possible to file their lawsuit … He said because the group has ‘at least 50 people contributing money to it,’ it wouldn’t face economic hardship by having to post the bond.

“The downtown group [filed] a motion with the First District Court of Appeal, asking for Roesch’s decision to be put on hold. But the three-judge court of appeals panel upheld Roesch’s ruling.”

Read the full article here.

Return to Northern News here.

One of Julia Morgan’s most famous works is open after sitting dormant for 30+ years

By Alissa Walker, Curbed, November 5, 2021

The L.A. Herald Examiner folded in 1989, and its building, a 1914 Mission Revival structure “became an out-of-context medieval ruin along a quiet stretch of South Broadway. [But] 103 years after the building first opened, [a] New York developer began a full restoration in 2017. It’s not quite finished; … but the main tenant, an L.A. outpost of Arizona State University, … has moved in.

“The reawakened building remains one of L.A.’s most important pieces of architecture, in part because of who designed it. It’s an early work by Julia Morgan, the first woman to become a licensed architect in California and the first woman accepted to study architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where she was permitted to enroll in 1898 thanks to nearly a decade of organizing by the Union of Women Painters and Sculptors. Before heading to Paris, Morgan earned a civil engineering degree from [UC] Berkeley (also the first woman to do so).

“It’s a moment of resurgent appreciation for Morgan’s work. In 2014, she was the first woman to be awarded the American Institute of Architects gold medal; in 2019, The New York Times published a long-overdue obituary.

“Thanks to its designation as a historic landmark in 1977, the [Herald Examiner] building couldn’t be significantly altered or torn down, but it also hadn’t been kept up; the structure required three decades’ worth of safety upgrades and had suffered a great deal of water damage. … The third-floor newsroom remains about as it was, a vast open-plan workspace with original sawtooth skylights reopened to reveal seams of blue sky, and it is now, incredibly, a newsroom again, ringed with edit bays and production studios for ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.”

Read the full article here. (~8 min.) 

Return to Northern News here.

New California task force focused on housing laws

By Louis Hansen, Mercury News, November 4, 2021

“California Attorney General Rob Bonta on [November 3] announced a new strike force to enforce housing laws, seeking to put teeth into long-ignored regulations that restrict local authority over residential development.

“State lawmakers earlier this year gave the attorney general’s office more power to enforce housing laws. The new strike force will consist of 12 lawyers and staff members with experience in land use and development, environmental law and civil rights. It will work with the state Department of Housing and Community Development, get input from community groups and public hearings and address certain tenant-protection issues.

“More than one-quarter of Bay Area cities, towns and counties — mostly wealthy communities — have appealed new, higher development goals set by regional planners this year. Some are also pushing back against a key measure, SB 9, before it takes effect Jan. 1. It allows homeowners to develop duplexes on their single-family properties, splitting their lots to build and sell new units.

“Pro-housing groups have challenged cities that reject development. In September, a California appeals court upheld the state’s Housing Accountability Act, which limits the reasons a municipality can reject a development proposal.

“Developers have been reluctant to sue cities over developments, fearing repercussions on future projects, [Michael Lane, state policy director of regional think tank SPUR] said. …The attorney general’s office backing pro-housing groups with experienced lawyers ‘can be very powerful,’ Lane said.”

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

Return to Northern News here.

New reports: Locations and factors favoring successful commercial to residential conversions

From UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, November 1, 2021

“Commercial land is ubiquitous throughout California, but can repurposing these areas for housing make a meaningful dent towards the state’s housing production needs? Two new papers from the Terner Center explore the potential for commercial land to be used for new homes.

Strip Malls to Homes: An Analysis of Commercial to Residential Conversions in California finds that over the five-year period of 2014 to 2019 about 38,000 homes were built on commercially zoned land across the state’s four major metro areas—Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Sacramento, and San Diego—and only slightly more housing can be expected to be built over the next five years, absent policy changes. Notably, not all California regions are equally positioned to see commercial lands play a significant contributing role to new housing supply going forward. Locally variable land-use policies drive much of the difference between regions; for example, the Los Angeles region substantially surpasses the rest of the state in terms of its rate of conversion.

Adaptive Reuse Challenges and Opportunities in California looks at the likelihood of adaptive reuse of commercial buildings for residential purposes. It identifies specific architectural, financial, and policy factors that are most likely to be predictive of adaptive reuse being a viable strategy for sites with existing commercial buildings.

“Find these and more resources on commercial zoning reform on a new landing page here.

Read the press release from the Terner Center here. (~1 min.)

Previously in roundup: Last year, Terner Center published a residential development potential assessment of California’s existing commercially zoned land. This report is available through the landing page linked above.

Return to Northern News here.

Does the Bay Area have the water it needs to grow?

By Laura Feinstein and Anne Thebo, San Francisco Examiner, October 29, 2021

While the Bay Area continues to struggle with affordable housing provision, “the region is experiencing a record-setting drought, just four years after the last historic drought ended. … Against this backdrop, you may wonder — does the Bay Area have enough water to continue to grow?”

A new report from SPUR and the Pacific Institute attempted to answer this question.

“One of the most interesting findings [from the report] was how much people could save water inside their homes just by installing the best available plumbing appliances. The typical Californian uses about 50 gallons per day inside their homes (including about eight gallons lost to leaks).

“There also are big opportunities to use less water outdoors. About a third of water in the Bay Area is used outside. With a combination of adopting water-efficient landscaping in residential yards and pursuing compact growth strategies, the region could reduce its water use by 28 percent compared to a business-as-usual approach.

“The commercial sector (businesses and other non-residential institutions) currently accounts for 37 percent of all water use in the Bay Area, but there’s comparatively little known about how businesses use water. Business owners have argued that laws requiring them to become more efficient could stifle the economy. It’s hard to counter them, because we don’t have good studies on water use in businesses.

“The keys are to continue to make homes, businesses and landscapes more efficient, and pursue compact land-use planning.”

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

“Central Valley farmers and Southern California desalination supporters have begun collecting signatures for a statewide ballot measure that would fast-track big water projects and provide billions of dollars to fund them — potentially setting up a major political showdown with environmentalists next year shaped by the state’s ongoing drought.” Read that story by Paul Rogers in the Mercury News here. (~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.