Tag: 2022-03-nn-roundup

New study: Ample possibilities to turn excess school land into teacher housing

By Louis Hansen, Mercury News, February 16, 2022

“California has roughly 75,000 acres of school property on large lots that could be developed — more than all of the land in Oakland and San Francisco combined, according to a new study released Tuesday. The Bay Area makes up about 10 percent of the prime developable school properties in the state.

“Jeff Vincent, director of the Center for Cities + Schools at UC Berkeley, said high housing costs have caused high turnover rates in many school districts as young teachers seek out more affordable regions to continue their careers.

“The study found ample possibilities for local education authorities to turn large parcels of at least one acre in size into new homes and apartments for teachers. The five core Bay Area counties have 7,600 acres of school property ripe for potential development, led by Santa Clara County (3,084 acres), Contra Costa County (2,209 acres) and Alameda County (1,367 acres), according to the analysis.

“School districts in every Bay Area county have shown a willingness to develop housing for educators, including San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco, and West Contra Costa unified districts, according to researchers.

“ ‘Addressing the housing affordability challenges that so many teachers face is an important step in both attracting and retaining teachers and improving outcomes for California’s students,’ said Elizabeth Kneebone, the research director at Berkeley’s Terner Center.”

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

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Court orders UC Berkeley enrollment freeze over CEQA suit

By Madison Hirneisen, The Center Square, February 15, 2022

“The enrollment freeze stems from an Alameda County Superior Court ruling in August that ordered the university to cap student enrollment at 2020-21 levels, which the university said Monday was an ‘abnormally low’ enrollment year due to the pandemic.

“The university said [on February 14] that it had appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court of California.

“The lower court ruling that ordered an enrollment freeze stemmed from a lawsuit brought forth by a group known as ‘Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods,’ which challenged … the campus expansion under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods argued in August that UC Berkeley had exacerbated the city’s housing crisis because it did not build enough housing for its students.

“[Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the Senate Housing Committee chair, said,] ‘Let’s be clear: This was never the point of CEQA. This broken status quo must change. Stay tuned.’”

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

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New report: Coastal sea levels in U.S. to rise a foot by 2050

By Henry Fountain, New York Times, February 15, 2022

“An [update to a 2017] report by researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other agencies also found that, at the current rate of warming, at least two feet of sea-level rise is expected by the end of the century.

“[Rick Spinrad, a NOAA administrator,] said that while cutting greenhouse gas emissions to limit warming was critically important, the projected sea-level rise by 2050 ‘will happen no matter what we do about emissions.’

“On the West Coast, sinking land and compaction are less common, so sea-level rise is expected to be at the lower end of projections.

“The report said that the calculated rise over the next three decades means that floods related to tides and storm surges will be higher and reach farther inland, increasing the damage.

“The report provides detailed sea-level projections for states and territories by decade for the next 100 years. Dr. Spinrad said it was meant to help local officials, planners, and engineers make decisions about where to locate or how to protect critical infrastructure like roads, wastewater treatment systems, and energy plants, and otherwise adapt to rising waters.”

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

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San Jose OK’d $45 million in fee waivers for downtown developers — with little housing to show for it

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

“City records reveal that since 2007, just four high-rise housing projects totaling 1,552 units have been completed under the city’s [construction-related fee] waiver program — nearly 1,000 units fewer than previously stated by the city’s Office of Economic Development.

“Of the approximately $45 million in approved waivers, only about $25 million has been captured at this point because the projects must be completed for developers to benefit.

“Despite the generous incentives, a handful of approved projects have still struggled to pencil out, including one site that’s headed for an auction and foreclosure and another that was recently bought out after the first developer defaulted on its development agreement with the city.

“One of the program’s largest proponents, Mayor Sam Liccardo, acknowledged in an interview the waiver offers have yet to produce the desired number of housing units, but noted he’s not ready to end it.

“Jeffrey Buchanan of Working Partnerships USA called the program a ‘troubling exercise’ in giving millions of dollars in subsidies to a handful of wealthy, well-connected developers.

“Within the next year, the city council is expected to again weigh whether to extend the program to encourage developers to move those projects past the goal line. Because the fees aren’t officially waived until their projects are built and occupied, the city needs to extend the Jan. 1, 2025 expiration date for those that won’t be finished by then.”

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

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With bike buses, kid cyclists feel safer together on the road

By Maxwell Adler, Bloomberg CityLab, February 10, 2022

“Call it a bike bus, a bike train, or a cycle bus. With safety, health, and camaraderie in mind, people from Barcelona to Duluth, Georgia, have been gathering in large groups and riding to and from schools [on a set route at the same time of day], creating a more protected route to school for some kids.

“ ‘Bike buses create a safe environment for kids and they are a great way to raise visibility for cycling infrastructure,’ said Dr. Jennifer Dill, director of the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University.

“The phenomenon isn’t new. But as cycling took off during the pandemic, robust new bike bus initiatives have sprung up (video 1:33).

“The number of kids who walk or bike to school in the U.S. and elsewhere is just a fraction of what it was decades ago. With bike buses, the packs of cyclists are harder for cars to miss — and sometimes take up the full width of the road, leaving enough room for a few adults to shepherd larger groups of students safely.

According to one co-founder of San Francisco’s own bike bus, Kid Safe SF, it was only feasible after the city’s Slow Street’s program limited through traffic on two corridors along a route to his children’s school.

“The San Francisco bike bus has nearly doubled in size since its inception in December. Some adults have started joining the rides even though they don’t have any kids to drop off at school. Teachers have [said] that students report feeling more energized after bike bus rides.

“The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote March 2 on whether to permanently designate some of the Safe Street corridors — a vote that could also determine the future of the bike bus program.”

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

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New research: a startling safety gap for crosswalks in some San Francisco neighborhoods

By Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 2022

“[Marcel Moran, a UC-Berkeley doctoral candidate studying city planning] just published a study in an academic journal mapping every single one of San Francisco’s 6,399 intersections and using satellite imagery to determine whether each has a crosswalk. In this supposedly progressive, equity-focused city that’s pledged to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024, the results are dispiriting.

“Crosswalk cold spots, where pedestrians can walk blocks without encountering a crosswalk, are almost entirely in the southern half of the city. Some cold spots exist in wealthier neighborhoods including the area around Grandview Park in the Sunset and Bernal Heights. But many cold spots exist in lower-income neighborhoods such as the Excelsior, Visitacion Valley, and Bayview-Hunters Point.

“To its credit, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has made strides in making the city’s streets safer —particularly in the Tenderloin, where it reduced the speed limit to 20 miles per hour and banned right turns on red lights.

“Erica Kato, a spokesperson for the SFMTA, said that the same rules apply for drivers at intersections whether there are painted crosswalks or not and that the agency doesn’t have the resources to paint or maintain crosswalks at all intersections.

“Kato added that the agency is focusing on repainting crosswalks on the streets with the most traffic injuries.”

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

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Woodside decides it’s not a mountain lion habitat, allows housing under SB 9

By Angela Swartz, The Almanac, February 7, 2022

“Facing a lawsuit, national attention and a warning from California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the Woodside Town Council on Sunday [February 6] backpedaled on its recent move to ban all projects under a new state housing law.

“The town froze applications two weeks ago, citing a loophole that exempts mountain lion habitats.

“ ‘The town of Woodside has consistently exceeded state mandated low and moderate income housing commitments, and the town council remained focused on doing its part to alleviate the regional shortfall in affordable housing,’ [Deputy Town Attorney Kai] Reuss said.

There were no housing applications submitted to the town under SB 9 before projects applications were halted, according to [Town Manager Kevin] Bryant.

“Bonta warned town officials on Sunday, Feb. 6, that the effort to declare the town a mountain lion habitat is an attempt to avoid complying with state law.

“The council’s decision garnered national, and even international, attention, with The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Guardian jumping on the story after The Almanac published it.”

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

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Judge throws out environmental lawsuit against controversial Richmond development

By Katie Lauer, The Mercury News, February 4, 2022

“After hearing oral arguments in November, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Edward G. Weil on Monday [January 31] tossed a lawsuit that tried to block Winehaven Legacy LLC’s proposal to build 1,425 housing units and more than 400,000 square feet of commercial space on 193 acres of the city’s Point Molate peninsula.

“The site has been the focus of a decade-old debate about whether development there would revitalize the city’s economy and provide much-needed housing or create an environmental disaster on the northern edge of San Francisco Bay.

“Weil ruled there was not enough evidence to back up the environmental coalition’s complaints that the city inadequately accounted for the planned development’s potential harm to [several environmental resources evaluated under CEQA].

“ ‘This decision clears a major hurdle that has been haunting the Point Molate project for years,’ [Mayor Tom] Butt wrote in his e-Forum blog. ‘So far, the City of Richmond has prevailed in all legal challenges to the Point Molate project following the 2018 settlement of the Federal Court lawsuit brought by Upstream Point Molate LLC and the Guidiville Tribe.’

“The case has stirred inner turmoil at Richmond City Hall that boiled over after [several] council members asked [the] former city attorney in a closed session last fall to support the environmentalists’ lawsuit instead of defending the city.

“Although the city took no such action, the debacle led to the city attorney’s resignation, the city manager’s departure and a council vote to censure Butt.”

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

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Court upholds density bonus law that exempts certain housing projects from local restrictions

By Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, February 3, 2022

“A state appeals court says developers who agree to include affordable housing in their projects can be exempted from zoning rules, height limits, and other local restrictions on neighborhood construction. The ruling, in a case from San Diego, has potential statewide impact as tensions over local control and the state’s housing crisis continue to escalate.

“ ‘Once the developer commits to making a specified portion of the project affordable to lower-income households [based on the 1979 Density Bonus Law], ‘local government must allow increased building density, grant permits, and waive any conflicting local development standards unless certain limited exceptions apply,’ Justice Judith Haller said in the 3-0 ruling.

“The court had first issued the ruling Jan. 7 as a decision that applied only to the San Diego project, but agreed to make it a published precedent after hearing from the California Building Industry Association and its Bay Area affiliate, as well as the project contractor.

“The ruling ‘greatly restricts what influence communities can have on development projects, what cities are able to do,’ [Everett DeLano, lawyer for the Bankers Hill/Park West Community Association, which challenged the San Diego development] said. ‘It seems be saying that if you have a density-bonus project, you can do whatever you want.’ 

“He noted that San Diego, whose Planning Commission and City Council had approved the development under local standards, also asked the court not to publish the decision as a precedent for future cases. The city said the Density Bonus Act, the basis of the ruling, had not been discussed during arguments in the case.”

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

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10 percent of San Francisco’s housing stock sitting vacant and empty

By Joe Kukura, SFist, February 1, 2022

San Francisco’s “Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office, which has access to a lot more private residential information than journalists do, ran an exhaustive report on [the number of empty housing units in San Francisco] at the request of Supervisor Dean Preston. And according to the San Francisco Business Times, they found that ‘Nearly one in 10 residential units sits empty in San Francisco.’

“The Business Times, as well as the Chronicle and the SF Standard are all covering this in the context of Preston likely presenting a vacancy tax, a fight that will likely happen, but that’s for another day.

“[U]pwards around 9,000 of our apartment vacancies are richie-rich vacation homes, which are occupied only occasionally.

“[H]ere’s the shocker, particularly when it comes to discussion that San Francisco is not meeting its housing goals. We’re actually exceeding our goals for market-rate (expensive) housing, it’s the affordable housing that we’re lagging on. 

“[T]he report may prompt the board and various city agencies to demand even higher percentages of affordable housing.

“[The report may] make us all demand answers on how a city can have at least 8,000 homeless people while simultaneously having more than 40,000 empty apartments.”

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

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