Getting downtown ‘right’ in San Jose has been a trial-and-error process

The plan for San Jose’s downtown is years old. What’s new is that Google has bought into that vision.

The critical challenge of getting things right in the next iteration of downtown San Jose has been a hot issue at least since the 1980s, when downtown was torn up and many businesses suffered and died during construction of the Valley Transportation Authority’s light rail system.

Downtown’s future was a central focus of the thousands of people who participated in the four years of work that in 2011 produced the city’s latest general plan, Envision San Jose 2040, that anticipated Diridon’s status as a transit hub amidst 40,000 new jobs.

“This is not a novel idea we just came upon because Google came around last year,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

Kim Walesh, San Jose’s deputy city manager and economic development director, said the plan always envisioned “having an anchor developer who would do a cohesive master planned development in that central area.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that latest round of planning efforts and community engagement sparked by Google’s development announcement last year has pleased everyone who will be affected by what happens around Diridon.

 

 

Read more on Silicon Valley Business Journal

 

 

 

Oakland leaders declare Section 8 landlord incentive program a success

An incentive program aimed at bringing new landlords into the Section 8 low-income housing program — and keeping them around — has yielded positive results, with hundreds of new units added this year, Oakland city leaders announced today.

The three-tiered incentive program was launched by the Oakland Housing Authority in January. As of June 30, 75 new property owners had signed up to accept Section 8 housing vouchers.

“In just six months, 684 families have found stable, secure, affordable housing in Oakland. That is something to celebrate,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said at a press conference today.

Section 8, a federal program that provides rental assistance to qualifying low-income families, has been struggling in Oakland in recent years.

From 2015 to 2016, the Section 8 program shed more than 1,000 owners, according to Eric Johnson, executive director of the Oakland Housing Authority.

Since then, the program has been in “recovery mode,” he said, looking for ways to attract new owners.

“It can be a challenge to get to know us,” Johnson said. “We have lots of forms, and the first time through them is not easy.”

At a 2016 cabinet that discussed ideas to address Oakland’s housing and displacement crisis, city leaders identified incentives for Section 8 landlords as a priority.

 

 

Read more on Hoodline

 

 

WeWork brings its newest office model to San Francisco to chase mid-size companies

WeWork is putting a twist on its co-working model with HQ, a new concept aimed at medium-sized companies that offers more privacy.

Co-working space operator WeWork is bringing a new concept aimed at medium-sized companies to San Francisco.

The fast-growing company eased 17,500 square feet in 800 Market St. for its first location of the new model, known as HQ, outside of New York City.

WeWork’s HQ is geared toward businesses with 11 to 250 employees that need office space, but don’t want to sign a traditional lease or don’t need the common areas the company provides in its co-working location.

“Since launching HQ By WeWork, we have been inundated with inquiries from businesses looking for private, flexible, cost-efficient spaces that allow them to reflect their identity,” said David Fano, the company’s chief growth officer, in a statement. “San Francisco was the obvious next destination.”

The company already runs six HQ locations in New York totaling more than 400,000 square feet, with the goal of reaching 1 million square feet within the next year.

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

 

Get ready for a big fight over California’s property taxes in 2020

A big battle over property taxes in California is shaping up for the 2020 ballot.

Supporters of a bid to increase taxes on commercial land announced Tuesday they’ve collected more than 860,000 signatures to force a vote on the issue in two years.

“This is a defining moment for California,” Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, said in a statement. “Closing the commercial property tax loopholes is important to our state.”

Backers, including the California Federation of Teachers, the League of Women Voters and community organization California Calls held news conferences Tuesday in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Fresno, San Diego and San Bernardino to demonstrate support across the state for the idea. Of the signatures turned in to the Secretary of State’s office, 585,407 must be deemed valid for the measure to qualify for the November 2020 election.

The initiative would make dramatic changes to the tax system established four decades ago by Proposition 13, which capped how much property tax bills could increase every year. The proposed measure would boost property tax revenues from commercial and industrial properties by assessing them at their current market value. Property tax protections would remain unchanged for residential properties.

The changes could net $6 billion to $10 billion annually in new property tax revenue statewide, according to an estimate from the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. The analyst’s office also warned that the measure could have significant downsides for California’s economy by causing businesses to leave or opt against relocating to the state.

Business groups are girding for the fight over the tax hike, known as “split-roll” because it assesses residential properties different from commercial and industrial properties.

“California already has the worst climate for business and job creation in the country,” Rex Hime, president of the California Business Properties Assn., said in a statement. “A split-roll property tax will just increase pressure on many businesses that are already finding it hard to make ends meet.”

 

 

 

Read more on LA Times

 

 

 

Tech tenants continue to compete for limited Silicon Valley office space

The Silicon Valley office market continues to perform well, with tech tenants quickly grabbing up space, particularly larger blocks that are hard to come by in the tight market.

The recent 274K SF lease by Roku at Coleman Highline reflects the strength of the San Jose market. Google’s plans for an 8M SF campus in San Jose have driven a lot of activity in that city’s downtown.

But even beyond a bustling San Jose, the greater Silicon Valley office market has had strong fundamentals for the first half of the year, according to Savills Studley.

In Q2, there was more than 2.6M SF of office leased in Silicon Valley, adding up to 5.8M SF leased in the past 12 months, Savills Studley reports. Availability in the core markets of Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Sunnyvale/Cupertino remains in the single digits, while the region’s overall availability has decreased to 15.8%, down 130 basis points from a year ago.

At the same time, rents are rising, reaching $50.94 overall asking rent for the region in Q2, up 4%. Class-A rents were up 1.7% to $52.51. Tech tenants continue to drive the market.

 

Read more on Bisnow Silicon Valley

 

 

 

Richmond vacant property tax headed to November ballot

Richmond voters in November will decide whether to tax vacant properties to pay for homelessness services, affordable housing and other things.

The vacant property tax measure was inspired by one in Oakland, which was approved for the November ballot a few weeks ago, said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt. If Richmond voters pass the measure — it needs a two-thirds majority vote — a special parcel tax will be placed on vacant properties at the rate of $3,000 a year per vacant developed parcel and $6,000 a year per undeveloped parcel.

The tax would generate an estimated $5.4 million a year for the next 20 years, according to a report from Butt and Councilman Eduardo Martinez. That money will be earmarked for homelessness services, housing, blight, fighting illegal dumping and other specific programs.

There are 980 to 1,180 vacant parcels in the city and 250 vacant structures — most of which are abandoned homes, the report said. About 998 would be subject to the tax.

“In addition to creating a dedicated funding source, by taxing vacant properties, this measure will help encourage people to put those properties back into use, thus increasing the housing supply,” Martinez and Butt said in the report.

The measure passed unanimously at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Only one member of the public spoke on the measure; she was concerned that a vacant lot that she has owned since the 1980s and had turned into a garden would be taxed. City officials at the meeting said it would not be subject to the tax.

Property would be classified as vacant and subject to the tax if it is used less than 50 days a year. The tax would not apply to properties used as gardens or to host farmers markets, the report said.

A hardship exemption would be available to people who qualify as “very low-income” under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s guidelines. Very low-income is defined by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development as households who make 50 percent of the area median income. For Richmond in 2018, a family of four with an income of less than $58,100 would be classified as very low-income.

Vacant property owners who can prove that specific circumstances prevent the use or development of the property are also eligible for an exemption. For example, if a natural disaster damaged the property, or if an undeveloped property was being used as a yard for an adjoining property, it would be exempt. If the measure passes in November, the City Council would include details of that exemption in a  separate ordinance, the report said.

 

 

Read more on East Bay Times

 

 

 

In a U.S. mall owner’s world, ‘boring’ is actually pretty good

Mall landlords, besieged for the past two years by the rise of online shopping, are trying to push a new narrative of improving sales and increased demand for empty space at their properties.

Second-quarter earnings results for the biggest owners were largely in line with expectations, according to DJ Busch, an analyst at Green Street Advisors LLC, a research firm that specializes in real estate investment trusts. And that’s good news for an industry that’s struggling to stay relevant.

“We are pleasantly surprised — boring is pretty good in retail,” Busch said. “Incrementally, we’re moving in the right direction, but it’s going to take several quarters to get back to speed and get some of these centers leased backed up.”

U.S. mall REITs have been beaten up as the growth of e-commerce and a surge in retailer bankruptcies and store closures upends their business model. In the past 24 months, a Bloomberg index of eight regional-mall owners plunged 25 percent through Monday, compared with a 3.3 percent decline for all REITs. After a brutal 2017, landlords are trying to paint a rosier picture and convince investors that the worst is behind them.

“Demand from tenants for space in our highly productive centers is increasing,” David Simon, chief executive officer of Simon Property Group Inc., the largest U.S. mall owner, said on a call with analysts last week. “We continue to redevelop our irreplaceable real estate with new, exciting, dynamic ways to live, work, play, stay and shop that will further enhance the customer experience.”

 

 

Read more on Bloomberg

 

 

 

How Salesforce Transit Center helped transform a blighted neighborhood

At the start of the economic recovery, San Francisco’s Transbay District was speckled with underused parking lots and very few options for housing and offices.

Now, the neighborhood holds the city’s largest office and mixed-use towers, residential high-rises and 100K SF of retail at the $2.4B Salesforce Transit Center that will soon open.

“Salesforce Transit Center has become a reality that generated a building boom in that area,” Transbay Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Mark Zabaneh said. “The minute the developers saw the transit center under construction, they started developing the parcels.”

The Aug. 11 opening of the transit center’s rooftop park, Salesforce Park, marks the end of the center’s initial transformation. The bus terminal will open to full operations on Aug. 12.

“It’s going to be a really significant achievement that surpassed expectations,” Zabaneh said. “The park is a big attraction. There is very limited quality public space and the park provides 5.4 acres of really quality public space.”

He said there has been a lot of enthusiasm for the rooftop park and the most-asked question has been about the park’s opening date.

 

 

Read more on Bisnow SF

 

 

 

 

 

Should California’s Costa-Hawkins rent control act be repealed?

Debating the pros and cons of rent control at the Urban Land Institute

The Urban Land Institute of San Francisco held a public forum at the Google Community Space Tuesday night debating Proposition 10, the November ballot initiative that would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act and allow California cities to potentially expand their rent-control ordinances.

Arguing in favor of Proposition 10 and potential rent-control expansion was Amy Schur, the director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

John Eudy, co-chair of the “no” campaign Californians for Responsible Housing (and also a vice president at Essex Property Trust) argued against repeal.

David Garcia, a policy director at UC Berkeley’s Terner Center For Housing Innovation, appeared as a third-way party; however, since Garcia appeared to nominally oppose Costa-Hawkins repeal, he often functioned as a second anti-Proposition 10 voice.

All three parties agreed that the state’s goal should be more housing production. They also agreed that Costa-Hawkins as it exists now is ineffectual at protecting renters and that the status quo won’t do in the future.

 

 

Read more on Curbed SF

 

 

City may scrap downtown cap on commercial growth

Planning commission to review council’s proposal to eliminate 350,000-square-foot limit on downtown non-residential growth.

The simmering community debate over how much office space Palo Alto should accommodate is set to flare up again Wednesday night, when the city’s Planning and Transportation Commission will consider abolishing a policy that limits new non-residential development in downtown.

The proposal to scrap the cap was prompted by the City Council’s 5-4 vote in January 2017 to amend the city’s policies for office growth as part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan update, which was completed in November of that year. At the time, the five council members who are more amenable to growth — Liz Kniss, Greg Scharff, Adrian Fine, Greg Tanaka and Cory Wolbach — all voted to abolish the 350,000-square-foot limit on downtown non-residential development, arguing that the policy is no longer necessary given the other restrictions on commercial growth that are already in place.

Palo Alto already has a citywide limit of 1.7 million new square feet of office and research-and-development growth. A citizen initiative to reduce that limit to 850,000 square feet will be on the November ballot.

The council has also recently adopted the annual 50,000-square-foot cap on office development in downtown, around California Avenue and along El Camino Real, which intends to meter the pace of growth.

Even so, the proposal to remove the downtown cap proved deeply polarizing at the January 2017 meeting. Wolbach and Scharff led the charge on removing the policy, with each arguing that downtown’s transit options make it more suitable for commercial growth than other parts of the city.

 

 

Read more on Palo Alto Online