jstephens's blog

 

A Housing Incentive That Actually Works

The February 9 Legislative Analyst Office report on California “serious housing shortage” ends on a decidedly depressing note: “Bringing about more private home building … would be no easy task, requiring state and local policy makers to confront very challenging issues and taking many years to come to fruition.” The report, which focuses on low-income housing, follows a a March 2015 companion that officially – if obviously – summarized the state’s skyrocketing housing costs. 

Los Angeles' Moral Failing

Whereas a Berkeley resident can cross from exuberance of Telegraph Avenue into the heart of the Cal campus in a few steps, UCLA is an auto-oriented campus surrounded by a moat of driveways, green space, and city streets. Its neighbors are some of the wealthiest and orneriest an institution could ever have the misfortune to live next to. The university, for all its academic heft, retreats from the city, and the city from it.

UCLA was an ironically illustrative venue for a talk by Michael Storper, lead author of "The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies," that I attended recently. Contrary to its expansive title, Storper’s study concerns only Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given that both are booming Pacific Rim metropolises, it may be hard to figure out which is the “rise” and which is the “fall.”

SGC Announces 2016 AHSC Schedule, Workshops

SGC has announced its timeline for applications for the 2015-16 Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program and has scheduled six statewide workshops.

 The schedule for the AHSC program is as follows: 

A 'Dislike' for Facebook's Housing Bonus

Boundless as cyberspace may be, the companies that rule the internet still have to take up real estate. And their employees still have to put their heads down somewhere at night. For whatever reason, the mysterious forces of the "innovation economy" have lured an outside share of those companies, and their employees, to Silicon Valley. 

With all those likes, stock options, and organic cafeteria items comes, of course, a housing crisis. As absolutely no one is unaware, rents in Silicon Valley have gone up like Pets.com stock over the past few years. 

Last week Facebook announced that it was going to make an investment in the crisis. Not an investment in housing, mind you. Just an investment in the crisis.

CP&DR News Briefs, December 21, 2015: S.D. Climate Plan; Sale of ONT Airport; Coastal Comm. Sides with The Edge; & More

The San Diego City Council unanimously approved a new Climate Action Plan, one of the nation’s most ambitious plans to cut carbon emissions by creating legally binding mandates for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Can Jurisdictions ‘Play Nice’ to Reap New Tax Increments?

For the past three years, California's cities have been like beachcombers, waving metal detectors over miles of beach in the hopes of discovering $5 billion. They haven't had much luck -- until recently. In the past year, though, Sacramento has bestowed upon the state’s cities two new funding tools that, while they don’t replace redevelopment, have given cities, developers, and other institutions reasons to salivate. 

CP&DR News Briefs, December 14, 2015: New Zoning for SE San Diego; SCAG RTP/SCS Released; Group to 'Sue the Suburbs;' and More

The San Diego City Council is expected to approve Southeastern San Diego's first comprehensive set of zoning changes since 1987 with the goal of encouraging more development near mass transit.  Community leaders often complain that the area's lack of high-paying jobs discourages developers from building quality reta

Theater Review: Urban Planning Takes Center Stage in 'If/Then'

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, the American Planning Association's Burnham Award will go to Dr. Elizabeth Vaughan. She will be recognized for, among other accomplishments, forcing improvements to a mega-development on Manhattan’s West Side, elegantly creating more affordable housing, and making peace with anti-gentrification activists. 

A Plan with 'Zero' Chance of Success

In 2013, 34 pedestrians died on the streets of Denmark. The city of Copenhagen, roundly hailed as the world's pleasantest city for walking and biking, has about 10 percent of Denmark's population of 5.6 million. We can extrapolate that exactly three pedestrians died in Copenhagen in 2013, for a rate of about 0.5 per 100,000.

To be sure, those three deaths deserve due lamentation, scrutiny, and sympathy. On the other hand, they deserve celebration. Copenhagen's pedestrian fatality rate is about as low as it gets. The lowest pedestrian fatality rate of any major American city is 0.76. Copenhagen's rate is a full five times lower than that of the City of Los Angeles, which, at 2.57 (pdf) is towards the high end.

If you divide Copenhagen's fatality rate by Los Angeles', you get 19 percent. The question that some in Los Angeles are now asking is, what happens when you divide by zero?

Beating Boston at Its Own Games

Are there any two American cities more different from each other than Boston and Los Angeles? History vs. modernity, compactness vs. sprawl, chowder vs. kale, sun vs. snow, modesty vs. flash, intellect vs. entertainment. 

Back in January, Boston beat out Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., to become the United States Olympic Committee’s official pick to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Since then, civic leaders in Los Angles have been nearly salivating with every hint of disaffection on the part of the Beantown faithful. Concerns were legion: Boston doesn’t have room; Boston’s transit system can’t handle the crowds; Boston doesn’t have the facilities; Boston doesn’t want to spend billions; Boston, to be characteristically blunt, has better things to do.

Papacy Comes Down to Earth on Climate Change

It turns out that two of the world's biggest proponents of smart growth are Catholic. One of them is California Governor Jerry Brown, who once studied to be a Jesuit priest and, more recently, has promoted earthly initiatives like high-speed rail, the adoption of vehicle miles traveled metrics, and the most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals in the western hemisphere. 

The other is the Pope. 

Let the Sun Set on Ballot Measures

Allow me to laud something about California’s state and local ballot initiative system. No, really. 

Voting schemes for electing human beings to office are inevitably flawed. Whether a jurisdiction uses party primaries, open primaries, ranked choices, multiple votes, pluralities, majorities, voice votes, or anything else, no system can capture the true passions and preferences of all voters as they relate to all candidates. 

Californians Show Their Bravery on Climate Change

This morning, Hector Tobar, a respected Los Angeles-area commentator, personally heaped all the ecological sins of humankind on to the current residents of Los Angeles in an editorial in the New York Times, a publication that has gotten increasingly feisty about its hatred for California of late. Tobar writes:  

Complete Streets Movement Gains Momentum in California

Back in the early days of email, before Facebook and Buzzfeed, people used to send jokes around as chain messages. “Forwards” we sometimes called them. My favorite of these forwards was “Ways to Confuse Your Roommate” (here’s a version of it). My favorite way: “Go to the gym. Use the multipurpose room. For just one purpose."

I’ve often thought about streets the same way. We usually use them for just one purpose, especially in California. And yet, no one is ever baffled. 

The complete streets movement is changing this attitude. As most planners know, complete streets have been gaining popularity for the past few years, as the infrastructural equivalent of smart growth. Inspired by the Dutch woonerf and, before that, by the simple reality of multi-use, pre-automobile streets, complete streets seek to accommodate a diverse array of transportation modes all in the same space. The movement contends that feet and cars can peacefully coexist, and that streets can be places that people inhabit rather than pass through. 

Will Brown’s 40% Executive Order Squeeze Regions Via SB 375?

This week, Gov. Jerry Brown announced an executive order to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030. It’s being hailed as the most aggressive climate change policy pursued by any government in North America – but will it put the squeeze on California’s metropolitan planning organizations and their sustainable communities strategies?

Brown’s order has drawn attention for its combination of ambition and immediacy. But it does not come out of thin air. Brown’s 2030 targets fit, substantively and chronologically, between those of Fran Pavley’s 2006 law Assembly Bill 32, which mandates lowering GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2010, and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s goals of 80 percent reduction by 2050, also established by executive order. Meeting them means that, in relatively short order, California will look, drive, and power itself far differently than it does today — especially as its population continues to rise. 

The order requires all state agencies with jurisdiction over sources of greenhouse gas emissions to participate. Agencies must prepare implementation plans by September 2015, with guidance from a technical advisory group that will be set up by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.