Business fees to fund housing will be studied in San Jose

The concern, even for some council members who voted for the study, is that despite its housing shortage, San Jose still has many more residents than jobs, which is the opposite of the situation in many surrounding cities.

The imposition of commercial linkage fees to fund below market-rate housing is still alive in San Jose after Tuesday’s 9-2 City Council vote to add a discussion of them to next week’s agenda.

The vote came on an item of how the city should respond to a Santa Clara civil jury report issued in June that included among its findings that the fees are overdue and would increase housing.

Five council members, including Mayor Sam Liccardo, wrote memos changing the staff-authored response of disagreement with the finding to say the city would consider a study to confirm the causal relationship between job creation and an increased need for housing and a second study of the feasibility of enacting fees.

 

 

Read more on Silicon Valley Business Journal

 

 

 

Co-working space costs nearly 15% more than office space, study says. Is it worth it?

More than 1.7 million people will work in co-working spaces by the end of 2018, according to the Global Coworking Survey, and a staggering 29 percent of such spaces were opened over the last year.

Growth of this new workplace trend is most impressive in San Francisco, the city of seemingly infinite startups, many of which aren’t large enough to warrant an office space, but too big for the CEO’s living room.

San Francisco has 51.45 co-working spaces for every 100,000 people — more than any other city in the country — according to a new survey from business development tool SimpleTexting. The study compiled data from Yelp, the U.S. Census Bureau and multiple office-space rental websites.

The cost of co-working space for a single employee is actually more expensive than traditional office space, by about $400 a year in San Francisco, the study found. A years-long co-working pass in the city is about $4,572, compared to $4,200 in an office. Nationally, co-working rent costs an average 14.8 percent more per employee than traditional office space.

 

 

 

Read more on SF Gate

 

 

Markets may be signaling rising recession risk: Fed study

A narrowing gap between short-term and long-term borrowing costs could be signaling heightened risk of a U.S. recession, researchers at the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank said in a study published on Monday.

The research relies on an in-depth analysis of the gap between the yield on three-month and 10-year U.S. Treasury securities, a gap that like other measures of short-to-long-term rates has narrowed in recent months.

Several Fed officials have cited this flattening yield curve as a reason to stop raising interest rates, since historically each time it inverts, with short-term rates rising above long-term rates, a recession follows.

The study, published in the San Francisco Fed’s latest Economic Letter, bolsters that view.

“In light of the evidence on its predictive power for recessions, the recent evolution of the yield curve suggests that recession risk might be rising,” wrote San Francisco Fed research advisers Michael Bauer and Thomas Mertens.

Still, they noted, “the flattening yield curve provides no sign of an impending recession” because long-term rates, though falling relative to short-term rates, remain above them.

 

 

Read more on Business Insider

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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