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City begins Transit Center repairs but won’t set reopening date

“Repairs are scheduled to be complete by the first week of June 2019.”

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) announced Friday that repairs will finally begin on the Transbay Transit Center, more than four months after mysteriously cracked support beams shuttered the barely-used, $2.2 billion downtown facility.

According to Friday’s statement:

Early morning Saturday, February 2, 2019 , crews will replace the hydraulic jacks on First Street with a shoring system to allow the TJPA to reinforce the girders on the bus deck above First Street.

[…] Steel plates are currently being fabricated offsite and will be delivered to the transit center in March for installation. Repairs are scheduled to be complete by the first week of June 2019 and then the shoring systems at both Fremont and First streets will be removed.

 

Read more at Curbed SF

 

 

Owner who demolished Neutra house ordered to build exact replica

Ruling comes on the heels of the proposed Housing Preservation and Expansion Reform Act.

Designed in 1936 by Richard Neutra, the all-white, two-story Largent House in Twin Peaks was one of the few conceived by the noted architect in the Bay Area. For years it stood as a respected example of modernism, and as a dramatic and different construction when it went up during the Great Depression.

Today the house is no more. Over the years, the home suffered ill-advised renovations before falling victim to a demolition crew in early 2017 after it was purchased and illegally razed.

Now the city is fighting back.

According to a directive from the city’s Planning Commission, the owner must build an exact replica of the home.

“In a unanimous 5-0 vote late Thursday night, the commission also ordered that the property owner—Ross Johnston, through his 49 Hopkins LLC—include a sidewalk plaque telling the story of the original house designed by architect Richard Neutra, the demolition and the replica,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Johnston explained to the San Francisco Planning Commission that, for $1.7 million, he had purchased the house “as a family home that would enable my family of six to move back to San Francisco.” He went on to say that he had been “stuck in limbo for over a year,” claiming that the property had already been renovated by former owners over the years, thus disqualify it from historic designation status.

No dice. The city wants to make an example out of Johnston.

 

 

Read more on Curbed SF

 

 

 

Oakland may require landlords to retrofit seismically unsafe apartments

Oakland may soon require hundreds of old apartments to be seismically retrofitted in an effort to prevent a mass collapse of buildings in the next big earthquake.

The retrofit rules would apply to soft-story residential buildings: multiunit, wood-frame structures with weak first stories built before 1991. An apartment with garage parking in the ground floor or street-level retail could fall into the targeted category.

Such buildings are prone to collapse during earthquakes, when the combined weight of shaken upper levels becomes too much for the vulnerable first story, as Loma Prieta proved in 1989 and Northridge in 1994.

“You look at photos of (San Francisco’s) Marina District after ’89 — quite a few buildings looked like three stories when they used to be four,” said Thor Matteson, a structural engineer of the Bay Area firm Quake Bracing.

Oakland is believed to have more than 24,000 housing units in 1,400 to 2,800 soft-story buildings, defined as those with at least five units and two to seven stories, according to city estimates. The first step of the ordinance proposed by City Councilman Dan Kalb and Mayor Libby Schaaf involves finding out which buildings must be retrofitted and which are exempt, such as those that have already completed the work.

Building types would be divided into three tiers, and each category would be on a different timetable. Owners would have four to six years to complete the retrofit work.

Read more on the San Francisco Chronicle

Oakland’s building boom is giving rise to robos, virtual reality and other construction tech

With the building boom in full swing in Oakland, many contractors are using different technologies from productivity software to robots to improve productivity, efficiencies, and job-site safety.

Contractors that are ahead of the game are using drone technology, 3D modeling and building information modeling, virtual reality, print camera technology and mobile-friendly software, such as PlanGrid, which digitizes building plans and makes them accessible on any device. The startup was just bought by AutoDesk for $875M.

Nationwide, contractors are turning to these technologies to create better efficiency, supplement the workforce during a skilled-worker shortage and reduce mistakes and project costs.

Construction technology is still new to many contractors in Oakland, and it hasn’t yet been fully implemented. Because of this, some contractors are still running up against a lot of rework due to poor communication, PlanGrid Western Region Customer Advocate Ross Wagner said.

“Business out here hasn’t had the growth that San Francisco has had … but overall there certainly are people who are ahead of the curve in Oakland,” Wagner said. “The growth curve is just a little bit later.”

He said technology is allowing contractors to work together and increase productivity without having to go back and forth to the trailer to get information needed at the job site.

 

 

Read more on Bisnow Oakland

 

 

US homebuilding rose in October on a rebound in multifamily housing projects

U.S. homebuilding rose in October amid a rebound in multifamily housing projects, but construction of single-family homes fell for a second straight month, suggesting the housing market remained mired in weakness as mortgage rates march higher.

Other details of the report published by the Commerce Department on Tuesday were also soft. Building permits declined last month and homebuilding completions were the fewest in a year. Housing starts increased 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.228 million units last month.

Data for September was revised to show starts dropping to a rate of 1.210 million units instead of the previously reported pace of 1.201 million units.

Building permits slipped 0.6 percent to a rate of 1.263 million units in October. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts rising to a pace of 1.225 million units last month.

The housing market is being hobbled by rising borrowing costs as well as land and labor shortages, which have led to tight inventories and higher house prices. This is making home buying unaffordable for many workers as wage growth has lagged.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is hovering at a seven-year high of 4.94 percent, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac. Wages rose 3.1 percent in October from a year ago, trailing house price inflation of about 5.5 percent.

Residential investment contracted in the first nine months of the year and housing is likely to remain a drag on economic growth in the fourth quarter. Economists expect housing activity to remain weak through the first half of 2019.

U.S. financial markets were little moved by Tuesday’s housing starts data.

Single-family homebuilding stalls

Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, dropped 1.8 percent to a rate of 865,000 units in October after declining in September.

Single-family homebuilding has lost momentum since hitting a pace of 948,000 units last November, which was the strongest in more than 10 years.

A survey on Monday showed confidence among single-family homebuilders dropped to a more than two-year low in November, with builders reporting that “customers are taking a pause due to concerns over rising interest rates and home prices.”

Single-family starts in the South, which accounts for the bulk of homebuilding, fell 4.0 percent last month. Single-family homebuilding jumped 14.8 percent in the Northeast and fell 2.0 percent in the West. Groundbreaking activity on single-family homes dropped 1.6 percent in the Midwest.

Permits to build single-family homes fell 0.6 percent in October to a pace of 849,000 units. These permits remain below the level of single-family starts, suggesting limited scope for a strong pickup in homebuilding.

Starts for the volatile multifamily housing segment surged 10.3 percent to a rate of 363,000 units in October. Permits for the construction of multifamily homes fell 0.5 percent to a pace of 414,000 units.

 

Read more on CNBC

 

 

More move to modular construction to mitigate costs, but it’s not the solution for every project.

In an effort to shorten construction timelines to cut down on costs and find creative ways around the shortage of skilled labor, multifamily developers have embraced the possibilities of modular construction.

But as with any new technology, there are still a lot of pitfalls and issues to work out before it becomes a solution for everyone — and it is not a solution for every project.

The move to modular is being driven by a combination of desperation and fear of the future, Panoramic Interests owner Patrick Kennedy said last week at Bisnow’s Multifamily Annual Conference NorCal in San Francisco.

“Conventional methods seem untenable in many circumstances,” he said.

Ultimately, construction costs will just get higher and more developers across markets will look at modular to address costs and the labor shortage.

 

 

Read more on Bisnow SF

 

 

 

Is Silicon Valley going to change the way we build CRE?

From the end of World War II in the mid-1940s until just a few years ago, there was a surge in productivity throughout the United States economy, giving rise to what has often been called the “productivity miracle.”

Throughout this period, nearly every industry in the US — from retail to manufacturing to agriculture — became not only less expensive, but also much more mechanized and faster, leading to increased efficiency.

One industry, however, failed to come on board with this trend – construction. In fact, productivity in construction has not only not increased, but it is also actually lower today than it was in the late 1960’s.

In other words, the way that most commercial real estate buildings are built hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years or so. The process goes by the name “design – bid – build” – but it isn’t nearly as simple or straightforward as it sounds. First, the developer or owner needs to hire an architect, who drafts a rough design. In order to do this, he or she must bring in various outside consultants, such as structural engineers and landscape architects. Next, the owner puts the design out for bids from various general contractors and then hires one (usually the least expensive bid). From there, the general contractor subcontracts the work out, with the architect and the general contractor working together closely to make sure the project is completed as close as possible to budget and on schedule.

If the system sounds complicated, well, that’s because it is. Having so many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, often leads to misunderstandings, placing blame on others, or worse. The combination of volatile prices for materials and an observed shortage of skilled labor has created an industry that is primed for disruption.

 

 

Read more on NAI Global

 

 

 

How will S.F.’s tallest buildings fare in the next big earthquake? Report expresses concerns

San Francisco’s tall buildings may be at risk of damage during the next big earthquake, a study released by research nonprofit Applied Technology Council (ATC) last week warns.

The 36-page report outlines vulnerability concerns over outdated building standards and provides a strategy for proactive safety checks.

The study’s release comes just days after cracks were found in two steel beams of San Francisco’s newly minted $2.2 billion Transbay Transit Center, and as Millennium Tower next door continues to sink and tilt. Last year, the late Mayor Ed Lee commissioned the report, which was prepared by a group of engineers.

The report probed the city’s 156 tallest buildings — either constructed or permitted for construction — that are at least 240 feet high, primarily located in San Francisco’s Financial District. About 60 percent of these buildings house business and office space, while the rest are zoned residential.

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

 

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

 

 

 

Mayor wants to lure modular housing factory to SF to provide both homes, jobs

As San Francisco officials continue to scout locations for a factory that can churn out modular housing units, Mayor London Breed is lining up the city to be the first customer.

Breed is expected to announce Monday that the city is prepared to spend $100 million on hundreds of modular apartments that would grow the city’s stock of affordable housing.

Who will run the modular housing factory won’t be known for some time, though the leading plan is to seek a private operator on city-owned or city-leased property. And even after a site is selected, it will take years to get a factory up and running.

But Breed and other officials hope the early — and sizable — promise to buy will entice interested operators to set up shop in San Francisco.

Read more on SF Chronicle