jstephens's blog

 

Bay Area Big Winner as SGC Greenlights 54 Projects for Full Proposals

The Strategic Growth Council has given the green light to 54 potential projects to prepare full applications for funding under the newly created Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program. The 54 projects are seeking $301 million in funding -- about 2 1/2 times as much as the $120 million program has to dole out.

Final applications must be completed by April 20 and SGC plans to select the winners by July. Only the 54 applicants on the finalists' list will be given access to the online application.

Of the 54 applications going forward, 44 (worth $235 million) have affordable housing setasides and 37 (worth $229 million) are located in disadvantaged Census tracts -- the definition of which was the subject of considerable debate last year.The finalists represent a diverse array of communities in 22 counties.

Stadium Foe Takes Page from Paranoia Playbook

I don’t like the idea of building an NFL stadium, presumably for the relocated St. Louis Rams, in Inglewood. You know who really doesn’t like he idea? Anschutz Entertainment Group. But do you know who does like it? ISIS. Or al-Qaeda. Or the Taliban. I’m not really sure, but, apparently, one of those groups hates the stadium so much that they're going to want to blow it up. 

Sprawl Depends on More Than Just Density

In the ever-lasting debate over sprawl, the most enduring argument centers on the definition of sprawl itself. The latest entrant is, perhaps, the oldest entrant: density. 

As reported by Richard Florida in his CityLab column this week, NYU doctoral student Thomas Laidley has introduced a new method to measure sprawl. Laidley's "Sprawl Index" uses the following methodology: 

"Laidley uses these aerial images to estimate sprawl at the Census block level, the smallest level available, estimating the share of metro population in those blocks below three key thresholds: 3,500, 8,500, and 20,000 persons per square mile. His index is based on the average of these three values, with higher scores reflecting higher levels of sprawl."

Cities Hustle for $120 Million in Funding from SGC

LOS ANGELES--State-level policymakers have engaged in more than their share of debates over the future of smart grown in California this year. They've debated level of service vs. vehicle miles traveled. They've debated the neediness and definition of disadvantaged communities. They've clamored for cap-and-trade funds. They've tried to reform CEQA and get rid of CEQA (well, not quite). 

Oakland A's to San Jose: It Was Just One of Those Things

The following is a fictitious letter written, by the magic of anthropomorphosis and creative license, by the Oakland A’s baseball team to the City of San Jose. It stands to reason that any statement attributed to these entities is fictitious. Only the facts are real.


My dearest San Jose,

Federal Policies and Land Use Laws of 2015

Last week's UCLA Extension Land Use Law and Planning Conference included a session on updates from the faraway land of Washington, D.C. Federal policymakers ended the year with a few new developments, and continued policies, that may be of interest to planners. This summary comes courtesy of Steven Preston, planning director for the City of San Gabriel, who collaborated with staff members at the American Planning Association's Washington office. 

Pending Issues

An Underwhelming Attitude Towards Density

Consider this headline, which accompanied a recent Citylab article on a townhouse development in Echo Park: “In Los Angeles, Density That Doesn't Overwhelm.” It doesn’t take much to unpack that statement. It implies that density is inherently overwhelming.

Greatest Hits of 2014 Land Use Law, Pt. 1: CEQA

UCLA Extension convened its annual Land Use Law and Planning Conference last week in Los Angeles.

California Engages in Mature Debate Over Spending of Cap-and-Trade Funds

As the inane “debate” over climate change drags on in the more benighted corners of our republic (Washington, D.C., included), it’s becoming abundantly clear that California is no longer the place where America’s fruits, nuts, and loose ends come to rest. I’ve been on the periphery of the stateside discussion of SB 375 for the past two years, so I know that it’s not news to say that there have been many earnest, productive discussions about it across the state.

Battle between Football, Brunch Rages in L.A.

I went to brunch a few Sunday mornings ago at Louie’s, a place that I will unironically describe as a gastropub. My Sunday rituals usually consist of visits to the farmers market and worrying about deadlines.

High-Speed Rail: Coming (Slowly) to a City Near You

There is, perhaps, no place on Earth so supremely well suited for high-speed rail as the leeward side of the island of Formosa. Sheltered from the Pacific winds, all of Taiwan's major cities hug the island's western coastal plain, unbroken by the mountains that characterize the interior. Running in nearly a straight line, the train covers the 214 miles from the Taipei to Zouying in two hours. It now carries 44 million passengers per year.

Los Angeles' Slow Burn

I noticed the da Vinci apartment complex for the first time only a few months ago. How could I not notice it? It looked like a plywood ocean liner beached against the northbound side of the 110 freeway. Rising 4-5 stories at the time, it hovered over the freeway, uncomfortably close to the roadway. I remember hoping that it would have serious soundproofing. And air filtering. 

Not All NIMBYs Are Alike

Last week Harvard history professor Naomi Oreskes defended the public figure that many planners love to hate: the NIMBY. In a column in the Washington Post entitled, “Stop hating on NIMBYs. They’re saving communities,” she argues that "NIMBY" does not deserve the pejorative connotation that many in the planning community naturally ascribe to it.

An Unfortunate Education in Prop 13

As if we needed another story about Prop 13's unintended impacts on education, here's a new twist. 

A Beachhead Against Placelessness

It’s no secret that Walmart stores have caused the entire economies of small towns to decamp for some highway strip and, ultimately, wind up in Bentonville. But at least you know a Walmart when you see it – from miles away, no less.

A similarly insidious trend toward generic placelessness has been taking place in smaller-scale communities, even in many of the places that progressive planners hail as attractive, functioning communities.