Tag: 2022-02-nn-roundup

Save Mount Diablo protects ‘missing mile’ of open space from future housing

By Shomik Mukherjee, East Bay Times, January 17, 2022

“Save Mount Diablo, has secured that critical square-mile piece by forging a $1 million conservation easement agreement with a local equestrian society that was considering selling some of the property for construction of single-family homes.

“[T]he land is now legally guaranteed to remain open space, though it remains under the ownership of the Trail Ride Association. Save Mount Diablo will oversee its conservation easement with annual monitoring.

“The property is adjacent to Save Mount Diablo’s Young Canyon property and North Peak Ranch project and is surrounded by Mount Diablo State Park on three sides.

Location of the now-protected Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association lands on Mount Diablo. NW portion of a map by Laura Kindsvater, Communications Manager, Save Mount Diablo

“Save Mount Diablo and the Trail Ride Association discussed during negotiations how the land could remain free without taking away the association’s ability to manage equestrian trails for its members.

“A couple of decades ago, the organization had begun leasing some of the land for private residences to raise needed revenue. Now it won’t have to.”

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

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Controversial affordable housing project OK’d in rural Cloverdale

By Kathleen Coates, The Press Democrat, January 12, 2022

“Cloverdale planning commissioners, despite objections from community members … voted 3-2 [on January 11] to approve a 75-unit affordable housing project.

“The Alexander Valley Family Apartments, which will be built in a rural area along the Highway 101 frontage road and house low- and very low-income families, has been opposed by neighbors and others who say they fear the highly trafficked area with only partial sidewalks will be unsafe.

“Many spoke in favor of the project at the last commission meeting on Nov. 2, including Ezequiel Guzman, president of Latinos Unidos, who pointed to the great need for farmworker housing.

“The Planning Commission would have only been able to reject the proposed development if there was no way to fix any of the issues community members and commissioners raised about increased traffic and risks to public safety.

“In addition, according to staff, opposing or tabling the project, as many members of the public urged the commissioners to do, could leave the city open to a potential lawsuit.

“ ‘I think the city has to do a lot better job to prepare the city for projects like this,’ [said Planning Commissioner Chad Asay, who voted yes,] referring to infrastructure such as sidewalks and lighting.”

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

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Daly City council approves major apartment project, but affordability issue lingers

By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, January 11, 2022

“A plan to build 1,200 apartments on the site of a former high school in Daly City won city council approval Monday night despite objections from residents who said the development would be too tall, too expensive for many families and would eliminate a sprawling vegetable garden.

“The Jefferson Union High School District owns the land and wants to partner with a developer to build the project — five rental apartment buildings set to rise over the next 10 to 15 years on its Serramonte Del Rey campus — to bring in much-needed revenue.

“[S]chool district representatives said the district has struggled to boost teacher pay, update facilities and expand student programs. It loses about a quarter of teachers every year, often to other districts that pay more and have more modern facilities.

“Though the council approved the preliminary plan, council members directed the district to make a ‘good faith effort’ to double the percentage of affordable units to 20 percent or more.

“ ‘I’m committed to building as much affordable housing as we can so long as it doesn’t fiscally impact our ability to do the project,’ said [Jefferson Unified High School District Trustee Kalimah Salahuddin].

“The projects come at a time when the state is finalizing each city and county’s housing production requirements for the next eight years…[U]nlike past RHNA cycles, when the majority of cities ignored their production goals, the state now has an enforcement unit tasked with making sure housing is approved as long as it meets local zoning and general plan goals.

“The school district project represents about 23 percent of Daly City allocation of 4,838 units.”

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

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Saratoga City Council considers Housing Element proposal in seven-hour meeting

By Hannah Kanik, The Mercury News, January 11, 2022

“More than 550 residents sat in on the seven-hour meeting, where Saratoga City Council reviewed a list of nine potential sites to fulfill its state-mandated Housing Element requirement. More than 130 people voiced concerns over the high concentration of proposed developments along Saratoga and Cox avenues and the area north of Highway 85.

“ ‘In my mind, this is the biggest challenge the city of Saratoga has faced since its incorporation,’ Mayor Tina Walia said at the meeting. ‘It is fundamentally going to change the character of Saratoga, and that is personally very disturbing to me.’

“Saratoga City Council appealed its RHNA allocation last July, asking for a 50 percent reduction from 1,712 to 856 new housing units. [The Association of Bay Area Governments denied all six appeals from Santa Clara County.]

“Community Development Director Debbie Pedro said that if Saratoga does not fulfill the Housing Element requirement, the city will be subject to ‘severe penalties.’

“ ‘These include reducing our say over future development, including building permits, subdivisions and use permits. Other penalties include fines and loss of grant funding for things like money to improve our roads,’ Pedro said.

“Some who spoke at Monday’s meeting pushed a ballot initiative proposed for the November ballot that’s intended to give local governments more control over local land use. City Council passed a resolution last October in support of the proposed statewide initiative.

“Council also discussed guiding policies for the new developments.”

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

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San Jose hopes to rebound from losing over 1,700 acres of trees since 2012

By Maggie Angst, The Mercury News, January 10, 2022

“Despite boasting ambitious climate goals, the nation’s 10th largest city is in the midst of an environmental crisis as the tree canopy that shades it has dwindled by 1.82 percent between 2012 and 2018.

“That leaves only 13.5 percent of San Jose covered by trees, compared to 28 percent of Seattle, 27 percent of Boston and 40 percent of steel city Pittsburgh.

“A new 242-page city report — the Community Forest Management Plan — reveals how decades of underinvestment and mismanagement led to the current state and warns that the damage could continue unless corrections are made.

“Compounding the problem is that almost 90 percent of San Jose’s trees are on private property or in a public right-of-way and property owners are responsible for maintaining them.

“ ‘We have a policy that instead of incentivizing families, landlords, tenants, our residents to plant and maintain trees, we penalize them if there’s any disruption to the infrastructure,’ [Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco, who represents East San Jose] said in a recent interview. ‘So for a low-income family, that’s not an incentive to plant a tree.’

“Some cities like San Francisco have taken the rare step of caring for street trees. In 2016, voters there overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to provide additional funding for city maintenance of all street trees, repairs of all tree-related sidewalk damage, and liability coverage of people or property harmed by trees.

“San Jose does not have any plans for a similar ballot measure, but officials say they’ll ask the City Council to consider one in the future.”

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

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The strange, fun, and fascinating stories behind Bay Area city names

By Katie Dowd, SFGate, January 9, 2022

Four selections from a full tour of Bay Area cities from Alameda to Walnut Creek:

Burlingame

“There’s some debate over land ownership and property acquisition, but the provenance of Burlingame undoubtedly comes from Anson Burlingame. Burlingame was a lawyer and politician, serving as President Lincoln’s minister to the Qing Empire in China. It’s speculated that the politician bought a large estate in the Bay Area after visiting friend William C. Ralston’s manor in Belmont.

Hercules

“Hercules’ name is — excuse the pun — quite explosive. In 1881, the California Powder Works company starting producing dynamite and black powder. It was sold as Hercules Powder, a marketing ploy meant to show off the dynamite’s potency. When the town was incorporated in 1900, the community leaders, who also worked as the plant managers, chose Hercules as the city name.

Milpitas

“If you guessed Milpitas is a Spanish word, you’re almost right. The city’s name comes from ‘milpa,’ a Nahuatl word that means ‘place where corn grows.’ Mexican settlers adopted the word and made it into a diminutive (milpitas) to refer to Native American gardens. They also named a large land grant Rancho Milpitas, which then became modern day Milpitas.

Union City

“This one sounds Civil War-related, but it’s not. Union City got its name from ‘The Union,’ a steamboat owned by settlers John and William Horner. The Horners built up the settlement in the wake of the Gold Rush. John Horner also went on to found today’s Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco.”

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

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Judge halts mega-resort in California wildfire zone, says residents could die trying to flee

By Ryan Sabalow and Dale Kasler, Sacramento Bee, January 6, 2022

“[A] Lake County judge’s ruling on the Guenoc Valley Resort could have sweeping ramifications for housing and business developments across a state where fires are growing in severity and local officials are under intense pressure to approve new building projects during a housing crisis.

“The ruling, under [CEQA], also represents a major victory for environmentalists opposed to new housing and business projects in areas with extreme wildfire risks.

“The California Attorney General’s Office joined the Center for Biological Diversity in the environmental group’s lawsuit challenging the posh Lake County resort.

“[The Lake County judge] said developers had done a good job of attempting to reduce fire risks. That said, they hadn’t fully accounted for serious problems that could arise if a wildfire broke out.

“The ruling comes as state policymakers struggle to balance the state’s unrelenting demand for new housing and business opportunities, while also seeing lethal fires destroy entire communities nearly every summer.

“It was no no fluke when a portion of the Guenoc Valley development site actually caught fire during the LNU Lightning Complex, the state argued in court filings challenging the project.

“Much of Guenoc Valley lies within spots designated by Cal Fire as highly vulnerable to major fires.

“The Lake County judge’s ruling should force planners and developers ‘to see how absolutely crucial it is to consider evacuation challenges when building projects this risky,’ said [Peter] Broderick, the environmentalist attorney challenging the resort.”

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

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Santa Clara County housing bond on track despite roadblocks

By Tran Nguyen, San Jose Spotlight, January 4, 2022

“A Civil Grand Jury says Santa Clara County’s $950 million housing bond is working as promised, giving it an ‘A’ rating in a recent report—despite the small number of low-income homes built since its approval.

“Six years into the initiative, Santa Clara County has finished 289 affordable units—about 6 percent of the ultimate goal … 41 percent of the county’s housing goal [is yet] to be determined.

“[The grand jury’s] December report found the county isn’t obligated to move construction ahead, as many roadblocks—such as oppositions and delays at the city level and difficulty securing matching state funds—are beyond the county’s authority.

“The report also found that construction costs and potential inflation have not affected Measure A developments. The county has committed $108 million to buy 16 properties to avoid land cost increases.

“One of the biggest roadblocks for affordable housing developers in the area is the ability to secure all funding sources, especially tax credits and bond allocations at the state level, the report notes.

“[Santa Clara County Assessor Larry] Stone said the pandemic has also slowed down numerous developments, as many workers in city housing and planning departments pivoted from their jobs to respond to COVID-19 needs. This has created a backlog across the county, he said.

“According to Stone, local governments also need to take drastic steps to increase density in their cities, which would allow more housing to come in.

“Office of Supportive Housing Director Consuelo Hernandez, who oversees Measure A funding for the county, didn’t respond to an inquiry about the report. She has previously defended the county’s approach to the housing bond.”

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

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Oakland is a hot spot for lead contamination of children, study finds

By Annie Sciacca, Mercury News, December 25, 2021

“Children in many parts of Oakland are among the most at-risk in the state of being poisoned by lead, even though the hazardous metal component was outlawed decades ago, a new study has found.

“The study reviewed State Department of Public Health data that showed 53 percent of the 1,589 lead-poisoned kids in Alameda County between 2013 and 2018 were from Oakland.

“And of the 116 census tracts in the county identified as posing lead risks above the statewide 75th percentile, the 22 tracts ‘burdened’ the most were all in Oakland. Those accounted for the top 5 percent of census tracts statewide considered at highest risk.

Using nearly $10 million from a $305 million settlement received from several paint companies, “[Oakland] leaders have promised to implement recommendations [from an earlier city analysis] by launching an ambitious new program that would send inspectors out to search for lead instead of just responding to complaints.

“The city and [Alameda] county have agreed to later decide whether the remaining settlement funds should be used for that program or an extension of the county’s lead prevention efforts to Oakland.”

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

Read the full statement from the City of Oakland about the results of the study and their next steps here.

Return to Northern News here.

Caltrans officially embraces Complete Streets in all projects

By Melanie Curry, StreetsBlog Cal, December 22, 2021

“Caltrans has officially issued its new Complete Streets policy … It comes from the top this time, signed by the Caltrans Director, whereas the previous one was issued by Deputy Director Kome Ajise. It is also accompanied by a list of ‘high-priority implementation actions’ which include developing detailed design guidance and ‘championing’ design flexibility to teach its engineers ‘state-of-the-art’ street safety design principles.

“While in the past several years Caltrans has been moving away from its old definition as a highway-focused department, and has set bike, walking, and transit goals, this is the first clear statement that acknowledges that Caltrans is committing to accommodating all road users in every project it works on.

“The policy applies to the entire state transportation network, which ‘refers to the State Highway System (SHS) and all other multimodal facilities, including parallel and intersecting paths, frontage roads, and other facilities not directly on the SHS mainline.’

“It also applies to all Caltrans employees, and includes a breakdown of specific responsibilities for all employee functions, at both headquarters and in the twelve districts.

“[T]here are a lot of other projects in earlier stages that should benefit from this policy. [For example, in Marin County] many bike and pedestrian facilities have to cross Highway 101, the main north-south route in the county. San Rafael is considering improving a highway crossing at Manuel T. Freitas Parkway, near Northgate Mall. [Warren Wells, Policy and Planning Director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition] said, ‘it doesn’t quite meet the standard set by this policy directive. It will be interesting to see how we can use that policy on a project that’s in the early stages.’ ”

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

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