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Public has great expectations for San Jose’s Diridon Station amid Google campus plans

City transportation planner: “This will be the only place in the Bay Area where you have so many transportation modes converging in the same place.”

In discussing his hopes for what will be the new Diridon Station in San Jose, Joint Venture Silicon Valley CEO Russell Hancock fretted about ending up “with is something that isn’t bold, visionary, and exciting…instead, we’ll end up with some common-denominator solution that nobody really loves but nobody objected to either.”

If the couple of hundred people who showed up Monday night for the first community input meeting on the Diridon Integrated Station Concept Plan are reflective of city residents as a whole, Hancock should have no worries.

One commenter said he expected “the most impressive train station in the world, the one people in other places will come to see to model theirs after.”

“This will be the only place in the Bay Area where you have so many transportation modes converging in the same place,” said Eric Eidlin, the city transportation modes converging in the same place,” said Eric Eidlin, the city transportation department’s station planning manager. “That’s one of the main reasons why our city’s policy framework seeks to concentrate a lot of the urban development that we’re expecting right around the station.”

 

 

Read more on the Silicon Business Journal

 

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

City passes plan for new SoMa homes

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a sweeping, years-in-the-making plan to transform Central SoMa, potentially bringing thousands of new homes and tens of thousands of jobs to the area, and ending nearly a decade of wrangling over the ambitious package of zoning changes.

The city defines Central SoMa as the area south of Market Street, north of Townsend, and squeezed between Second and Sixth.

It’s a space that includes the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), swaths of low-income housing, nearly 30 landmark buildings, the Flower Mart, and, soon, a stretch of the Central Subway along Fourth Street.

The Central SoMa Plan changes zoning and height limits throughout the neighborhood to encourage more growth, more density, and more diversity of use in future development and redevelopment.

The final passage came as no surprise, after lawmakers unanimously voted in favor of the Central SoMa Plan the first time it came before the board in November.

But the ramifications of the proposal—which took eight years and ran over 1,600 pages in its final form—are so potentially profound as to generate an air of drama about the final vote all on their own.

 

 

Read more on Curbed SF

 

 

Looking to invest in Qualified Opportunity Zones? These resources may help

As investors across the nation seek to deploy billions of dollars in capital gains into Qualified Opportunity Zones, they are actively seeking guidance about the program and on the hunt for resources to help identify neighborhoods, assets and available land within opportunity zones most ripe for investment. 

The program, created through the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year, aims to incentivize private investment in underserved and otherwise blighted communities across the U.S. in exchange for a hefty tax break.

More than 8,700 census tracts have been classified as opportunity zones and numerous opportunity zones funds have already launched to take advantage of the program — with an estimated $6 trillion in unrealized capital gains eligible to be deployed into opportunity zones, according to a study conducted by Real Capital Analytics.

In response to high demand from firms and high net worth individuals interested in the opportunity zones program, a number of tools have come to market to help potential investors understand how the program works, identify neighborhoods that qualify for it and locate assets within the designated areas in need of investment.

“Opportunity zones have brought national attention to areas of the country that have been too often looked over for investment. Unlike traditional community development institutions, knowledge and understanding about these communities is quite limited,” Smart Growth Americas Vice President of Land Use and Development Christopher Coes told Bisnow. Coes is also director of national real estate developer and investor network LOCUS.

“The structure of the opportunity zones tax incentive places the onus on the investor to identify and conduct due diligence … which requires an understanding of not only the project but also the place. Because of this demand, we’re seeing a lot of tools [come to market] to help assist investors and policymakers.”

Read more on Bisnow

 

 

What Google’s San Jose project means for downtown

For years, much of the area around Diridon Station has been a neglected jumble of grimy auto body shops, vacant lots overgrown with weeds and shabby warehouses.

Google — whose plans face a critical City Council vote Tuesday — is expected to transform some 50 acres into a mix of offices, shops and restaurants connected by pathways that wind through parks and plazas filled with public art. Steps away, Diridon is set to undergo its own renovation and become the only place in the Bay Area where BART, Caltrain, Amtrak and high-speed rail converge.

It’s a tall order. But if the tech giant succeeds, the project could transform a downtown that has struggled to rebound from sprawling development in the 1950s and 1960s, when city manager Dutch Hamann rapidly annexed land at the city’s fringes while neglecting its urban core. When it’s complete, the area could support more than 25,000 workers, a 65 percent increase in the number employed in the core of the city today.

For longtime restaurateur and downtown business owner Steve Borkenhagen, Google’s foray into San Jose might finally spark the kind of urban rejuvenation he’s dreamed of for decades. For Kathy Sutherland, a nearly 40-year resident of the Delmas Park neighborhood in the shadow of the proposed development, the project brings both the long-sought possibility of a vibrant neighborhood and the fear of displacement. And for the urban studies theorist Richard Florida, the project is less personal but no less important — a chance for a major American city to finally get redevelopment right, to provide an antidote to the debacle of the Amazon HQ2 rollout.

It will be years before any such dreams or fears are fully realized, but the sale of more than $100 million dollars of city land — expected to be finalized at the Tuesday council meeting — sets the stage for planning and development to begin in earnest after months of closed-door talks and speculation about the biggest thing to happen in San Jose in generations.

 

 

Read more on the East Bay Times

 

 

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

 

 

A sample of SF waterfront redevelopment concepts

The Port of San Francisco’s “request for interest” for 14 waterfront structures within the Embarcadero Historic District is an outgrowth of a larger effort to update the port’s Waterfront Land Use Plan.

That effort began in 2015 and should move to environmental studies next year. The goal for the requests is to try and begin making plans to revive specific piers, so work could begin soon after an update is approved.

Respondents include restaurateurs seeking space, cultural entrepreneurs, and developers or design firms eager to take part in future projects. The full set of 52 responses can be found at www.sfport.com, but here are six examples that show the range of ideas.

 

Read more on the San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

New effort to push more housing near transit stations by setting state rules

A state bill to allow dense housing near transit stops, alleviating long commutes and coaxing people out of cars, never made it out of committee last session. But backers think the mood has shifted enough in the housing debate to try again.

“I think the political climate is changing,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. He’s the lead sponsor of the More HOMES Act — HOMES stands for Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, Equity and Stability.

“In talking to my colleagues, there’s more support than there was earlier,” Wiener said.

The new iteration, SB50, prevents cities from restricting density within a half mile of a major job center or transit hub, such as a BART or Caltrain station. It raises height limits to 45 feet, about four stories, within a half-mile of the station, and 55 feet or five stories within a quarter mile. It also eliminates minimum parking requirements for new developments, a move that the Board of Supervisors is contemplating for San Francisco.

Those provisions are less dramatic than what Wiener proposed in SB827, his first attempt at statewide zoning reform. It would have barred cities from rejecting four- to eight-story apartment or condo buildings near transit nodes.

Wiener’s first measure laid bare an ideological divide in a state struggling with soaring rents, jammed freeways and a paucity of housing. The crisis has pushed people farther from jobs, forcing them into wildfire zones or soul-grinding commutes, Wiener said. But it has also ignited fears that new development will push out existing residents — or drastically change the landscape. And many opponents bristle at the idea of Sacramento interfering with local governments’ ability to shape their own neighborhoods.

“The issue seems to be that Scott Wiener and his bills are so often looking to undermine local control,” said Susan Kirsch, founder of Livable California, a San Francisco organization that advocates for local urban planning and moderate growth. It opposed SB827.

Political leaders in San Francisco and Berkeley fumed at the building heights in SB827, saying it would allow luxury high-rises to sprout up, unchecked, in quaint residential neighborhoods. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed a resolution against the bill after an emotional hearing in which residents compared it to a “hydrogen bomb” and an “undemocratic power grab.” Some detractors worried that their neighborhoods would be remade to look like Manhattan or Miami Beach.

To other critics, the original bill felt like an unfinished draft. It didn’t do enough to protect tenants from displacement or require affordable housing.

“It felt like it was a big proposal, it was a bold proposal, and there were a lot of details that had not been sufficiently worked out,” said Anya Lawler, a policy advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty. The center opposed SB827 but has not taken a position on the new bill.

Yet in the last few months, the tenor of the debate has changed. London Breed was elected mayor of San Francisco on an ardent pro-housing platform — she’s among the politicians tentatively supporting Wiener’s revised legislation. In September, the Legislature passed a law empowering BART to fill station parking lots with homes. And Wiener is seeking an ally in Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, who emphasized the link between housing and transportation in a post-election speech.

 

 

Read more on SFGate

 

 

 

As housing pressures increase in the Bay Area, multifamily developers focus on Contra Costa County

With several multifamily developments rising up around the Bay Area, many developers have started to turn their attention to Contra Costa County.

With rents and housing prices rising around the Bay Area, parts of Contra Costa are becoming more affordable comparatively and ideal places for millennials and other generations to raise families.

Developers are hoping to capture this shifting demographic as demand for housing shifts to the outer areas of the Bay Area. Walnut Creek and Concord have specifically benefited lately from new investment.

“We always wanted to be in Walnut Creek,” Bay Rock Multifamily CEO Stuart Gruendl said during Bisnow’s Future of Contra Costa County event in early November. “The government here in Walnut Creek is somewhat pro-development.”

The city has two active specific plans, and Bay Rock is a stakeholder in the North Downtown Specific Plan. The developer owns a large parcel and has plans to build 52 units, Gruendl said.

Unlike other Bay Area markets, there aren’t thousands of units teed up in Walnut Creek, Gruendl said. The costs are rising in the Tri-Valley and are becoming cost-prohibitive. A no-growth movement is growing in Pleasanton so there will be a natural cap on growth in that area, which bodes well for Walnut Creek, he said.

Bay Rock is focusing on projects in Walnut Creek, Berkeley and Oakland. “We find tremendous value in this market,” The Address Co. CEO and founding partner Eric Chevalier said. “There’s an affordability factor as well. People are getting priced out of the South Bay and the market. … They are migrating in this direction.”

The Address Co. builds both for-sale and rental properties. The company is working on a multifamily project called Riviera in Walnut Creek and has three other projects in the city. It also is working on entitling a project in Richmond, a city which the company is bullish on, Chevalier said.

 

Read more on Bisnow Oakland

 

 

Billion-dollar deal: Google pays $1 billion for huge Mountain View business park

In a head-spinning mega-deal, Google has paid $1 billion for a huge Mountain View business park, the Bay Area’s largest real estate purchase this year.

It is also the second-largest property purchase in the United States this year, eclipsed only by another Google acquisition, the $2.4 billion the company paid for Chelsea Market in Manhattan.

The newly acquired site in Mountain View, where Google has been the primary tenant, is larger than the property that accommodates the company’s Googleplex headquarters a few blocks to the west, and also exceeds the size of the parcel across the street where Google is building an iconic “dome” campus that features canopies and tents.

“Wow. What a deal,” said Chad Leiker, a first vice president with Kidder Mathews, a commercial real estate firm. “This is an opportunity for Google to own more office space very close to their headquarters. That office space is becoming very rare in Mountain View.”

Google’s Mountain View purchase means that in the two years since the search giant began to collect properties in downtown San Jose for a proposed transit village, the company has spent at least $2.83 billion in property acquisitions in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, downtown San Jose and north San Jose alone.

 

 

Read more on The Mercury News