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California Senate stalls transit-housing bill

Citing not enough affordable housing, vote against leaves Senator Scott Wiener’s signature bill in limbo

After months of public wrangling and amendment, San Francisco’s State Senator Scott Wiener finally brought his signature transit-housing bill SB 827 before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee in Sacramento Tuesday, where it stalled on a 6-4 vote that leaves it in limbo.

SB 827 would have radically changed how California cities zone for height and density by making it illegal to place height limits below four to five stories (depending on the locale) along major transit routes.

Thanks to San Francisco’s extensive bus network, this would have applied to virtually every parcel in the city. But even cities with far less skin in the game, like Lafayette and Berkeley, complained that the bill redirected too much control from local municipalities to the state.

Calling local control “important but not biblical,” Wiener again labored on Tuesday to frame the bill as a necessary step given the scope of the crisis.

Read more from Curbed SF

 

 

 

San Francisco’s homeless crisis is driving tourists away

San Francisco’s hotels are facing a serious problem.

The city’s idyllic image of the Golden Gate bridge and grandiose views of the bay are being replaced by concerns about needles and feces littering the streets, homeless citizens sleeping on sidewalks or in Bay Area Rapid Transit stations and aggression toward visitors by people with untreated mental illness. Visitors are noticing and rethinking booking events and vacations at hotels around the city.

San Francisco’s homeless population was down by 0.5% in 2017 compared to 2015, but is about 17% higher compared to 2013, according to SFist. While homelessness is nothing new for the city, hoteliers and local business say street conditions have worsened.

Within 153 blocks in downtown, there were over 300 piles of feces, 100 drug needles and trash on every block, a recent report by NBCBayArea revealed. Complaints of poor street conditions to 311 have skyrocketed in recent years. In 2016, 311, a city agency where visitors and residents can report issues or seek information about the city, received 44,000 complaints of encampments, human waste and needles, up from 6,300 complaints in 2011, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“[Visitors] are noticing it and hearing about it and saying, ‘well, why would I bring my conference here?’” Hotel Council of San Francisco Executive Director Kevin Carroll said.

Visitors often have rave reviews for the local restaurants and hotel service, but say they will not come back or will not bring their families here, he said.

San Francisco is not the only major West Coast city dealing with issues of homelessness and street conditions impacting tourism and hospitality. Anaheim, home to Disneyland with its spotless, litter-free Main Street, U.S.A., has the stark contrast of homeless people who live just outside the park. The city has been looking into ways to help its homeless population, such as providing emergency shelter and employment opportunities. Honolulu also took action in recent years on cleaning up the streets, including around its popular Waikiki area.

Read more from Bisnow

 

 

 

Wiener scales back bill that would allow taller housing near public transit

State Sen. Scott Wiener scales back a controversial housing proposal.

The proposed bill would strip local governments of their ability to block construction of taller and denser apartment and condominium buildings near public transit stops, and conceded the bill might not make it through the Legislature this year.

The San Francisco Democrat introduced amendments to his SB827 late Monday that would lower the maximum height of buildings that could go up as a result of the bill to five stories from eight. Also, the bill would take effect in 2021 instead of 2019.

Wiener made the amendments ahead of the bill’s first hearing April 17 in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. If passed, the bill will then head to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.

“The bill is not guaranteed to survive either committee,” Wiener said Tuesday. “It’s a hard bill. Hopefully, we pass through these committees and live to fight another day, but if not, then we will try again next year. It’s very common in the Legislature that for hard bills, sometimes you have to try multiple times.”

The measure would override local height limits on proposed four- and five-story apartment and condo buildings in residential areas if they are within a half mile of major transit hubs, such as a BART or Caltrain station. It also would limit cities’ ability to block denser buildings within a quarter-mile of highly used bus and light-rail stops, but amendments eliminated new height requirements.

Read more from San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

Central SoMa Plan Could Add 11 Stories To Pinterest’s HQ

If the city moves forward with an ambitious plan to guide office and housing development in Central SoMa, Pinterest hopes to add a vertical 11-story addition to its headquarters at 505 Brannan St.

A proposal filed by TMG Partners, one of the original six-story building developers, includes an 11-story addition that would add 165,000 square feet to the site and bring its height to 240 feet.

The current building offers 129,450 square feet in office space and is 85 feet tall, but the site is permitted for a structure 250 feet tall, according to SF Planning documents.

The addition is anticipated to cost $38 million.

Read the full article from Hoodline

Oakland creates new policy director position to deal with housing crisis

Mayor Libby Schaaf has named Darin Ranelletti as the city’s first policy director for housing security, a position the mayor created and hopes will help ease Oakland’s affordable housing crisis.

Ranelletti is no stranger around City Hall: He has spent the past 15 years in the planning and building department, most recently as the interim director. In his new policy role, Ranelletti is expected to promote new housing available to all income levels and work to protect longtime residents from being pushed out of Oakland’s market.

“This new position gives the Mayor’s Office the resources needed to address the housing crisis effectively and with urgency,” Schaaf said in a statement Thursday. “Darin’s 360-degree perspective begins with his work in the City’s Planning & Building Department to increase Oakland’s housing production at a record pace this year, as well as his recent efforts to protect tenants and safeguard our city’s affordable housing stock. He also has a deep passion and commitment to equity.”

Read more at East Bay Times

Transit-village housing in Oakland’s Fruitvale gets going, after years of delays

Affordable housing complex a happy milestone for the dozen or so elected officials in attendance.

With BART trains rattling past in the background, several hundred people gathered last week under a white tent to celebrate the groundbreaking of Casa Arabella, a 94-unit affordable-housing complex going up on a surface parking lot just south of the Fruitvale BART Station.

It was a happy milestone for the dozen or so elected officials in attendance. The project, developed by the Unity Council and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corp., will be affordable to households with incomes in the extremely low and very-low categories. Twenty units will be reserved for formerly homeless veterans. It will be followed by another 181 units, which Unity Council CEO Chris Iglesias hopes to start building in 2019.

But the ceremony also underscored the exasperating length of time that it takes to develop transit-oriented housing on BART-owned land. As several speakers pointed out, it had been 24 years since the community plan for the Fruitvale Transit Village was conceived, and nearly 14 years since the 47-unit first phase opened.

Read more from SFGate

 

 

Bay Area residents want more housing, but …

There are a few things locals aren’t willing to sacrifice to get more housing

Fed up with soaring prices that are increasingly putting home ownership, or even a decent rental, out of reach, Bay Area residents overwhelmingly say they want more housing built, according to a new poll. But it better not make their commutes worse.

Residents said they support everything from new single family homes to housing for the homeless in their communities, tossing aside NIMBY concerns that sometimes throw a wrench in building plans. But there were limits to their enthusiasm. Respondents balked at building anything that would cut into the Bay Area’s cherished open spaces or funnel more people onto crowded local freeways and public transit, making their treks to work longer.

Read more from The Mercury News

‘Oakland Is Hot’ And Everyone Is Finally Noticing

Oakland is shedding its old reputation as a city once plagued with crime, and developers and investors are scrambling to secure a foothold.

Thousands of units of housing are in the works and more people want to live here.

“We’re like the girl in middle school who just got her braces off,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said during a Bisnow event Tuesday. “We’ve always been cute, but suddenly everyone’s noticed us. … Oakland is hot.”

While Oakland still has more work to do, the city is safer than it once was, she said. Over the last five years, shootings have been reduced by 50%, armed robberies are down 55% and home burglaries are down 61%, according to Schaaf. She said Oakland is no longer on the top 10 list of most dangerous cities.

Despite the city’s growth, increased homelessness could undo some of the city’s progress.

“There’s something about how we develop housing that has not figured out how to adjust quickly to population shifts,” Schaaf said. “That’s not just an Oakland problem. That’s an international problem.”

Read more from Bisnow

City Hall considers modular housing factory in SF

Potential project would create new housing for the homeless

On Tuesday, London Breed—in what turned out to be one of her final acts as the acting mayor—announced that the city will develop a plan to create a facility for the construction of prefabricated modular housing somewhere in San Francisco.

The proposal is tentative right now. A recent press release announced that “the city will create a business plan and fund a stakeholder engagement process” for the hypothetical future homes factory.

In the same announcement, Breed referenced both the housing crisis and the city’s chronic homelessness, saying, “It is clear that we need more housing and we need it now” and promising to “build homes in a timely, efficient manner.”

While this stops just short of saying the city plans to start investing more in modular homes as a means of creating new housing for the homeless, it’s still clear that’s the idea.

Read more from Curbed SF

 

Sen. Scott Wiener explains plan for taller, denser housing near transit

New bill would allow mid-rise development at transit hubs

In 2017, Senator Scott Wiener rewrote the rules on housing development for California cities with SB 35, a law that mandates municipalities to build more to keep up with demand or risk temporarily losing control of much of their entitlements process.

Now Wiener is backing another new housing bill and hoping for the same success; SB 827 would all but require that new housing near major transit hubs (as defined by the California Public Resources Code) be mid-rise construction of at least four stories.

In a Medium post published Tuesday, Wiener defended the bill from criticism and laid out what it will and will not do.

Read more from Curbed SF