By Kathleen Ronayne : smdailyjournal – excerpt

In an effort to spur affordable housing production and aid California’s economic recovery due to the COVID-19 crisis, Senate Democrats unveiled a package of legislation intended to bolster production of new housing and remove existing barriers by further streamlining the development process, according to Senate President Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

According to Atkins, the package of bills will lead to more construction jobs and apprenticeships opportunities that will strengthen the economic viability of working families and the state.

It follows the work of state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, after the defeat of his controversial Senate Bill 50…

The first bill, SB 902, by Wiener, allows local governments to pass a zoning ordinance that is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act for projects that allow up to 10 units, if they are located in a transit-rich area, jobs-rich area, or an urban infill site.
Atkins has her own bill, SB 995, that would expand the application of streamlining the CEQA process to smaller housing projects that include at least 15% affordable housing. It also would broaden application and utilization of the Master Environmental Impact Report (MEIR) process, which allows cities to do upfront planning that streamlines housing approvals on an individual project level.
Another Atkins bill, SB 1120, would encourage small-scale neighborhood development by streamlining the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot in all residential areas.
SB 1085 by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would enhance the existing density bonus law by increasing the number of incentives provided to developers in exchange for providing more affordable units.
SB 1385, by state Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, would unlock existing land zoned for office and retail use and allow housing to become an eligible use on those sites… (more)

Check out Livable California Act Now on for details on actions you may take to stop the bills you don’t like. Many communities and city leaders are calling for a time out on density as the population shifts during the pandemic. Many will not return to their offices choosing to work from home.


The Work-From-Home Revolution Is Quickly Gaining Momentum
by Jack Kelly : forbes – excerpt

…Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics, said according to her firm’s study that,  “Seventy-seven percent of the workforce say they want to continue to work from home, at least weekly, when the pandemic is over,” and Lister estimates that, “25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.”…(more)

Move LA gets fully behind Peter Calthorpe’s vision

via email

Move LA is getting fully behind Peter Calthorpe’s vision of building new housing (including affordable housing) on major boulevards to replace underutilized retail and commercial spaces, and adding zero-emission bus lines to serve them. (While leaving existing residential neighborhoods alone.)

Here is what they are saying:

*Everyone knows there isn’t enough affordable housing in LA County* and that too many people live on the street. How are we going to expand the supply of housing for our low-income workforce and for people likely to become homeless as the economy flounders and more jobs are lost due to COVID-19?

Moreover, how can we rebuild transit ridership in urban neighborhoods served by transit when the people who use it the most can’t afford to live there anymore?

Move LA has a proposal about how to do this. We call it “Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity.”

First, we need sufficient land with good access to frequent transit where new neighborhoods can be built without requiring the demolition of existing housing or the displacement of residents. Second, we need policies in place and/or sufficient public capital to build housing affordable to low and moderate-income households in these new neighborhoods.

Below we discuss where we think we can find the land on which to build sufficient housing without displacement. Next week we will write about where we think we can find the resources to build a significant amount of affordable housing on this land.

What We Propose

We believe state and local governments should enable and encourage, even prioritize, multifamily mixed-income housing along commercial boulevards and in downtowns that are well-served by transit—especially zero-emission bus rapid transit (BRT)—where because of longstanding zoning policies little housing has been built.

LA County boulevards have long been dominated by commercial uses, but many of these boulevards declined as retail moved to shopping centers, a decline accelerated now by the increasing popularity of online shopping. Many are ready for reinvention and redevelopment.

The new mixed-use neighborhoods with multifamily housing that we propose building along these boulevards should include robust urban greening as well as improvements that make it both safe and appealing to walk and bike—which would help attract new residents as well as new development.

There are already very successful local examples of neighborhoods like this, including some dating back to the 1980s. We think it’s time to take this model to scale.

Local History with Mixed Use

In the late 1980s the cities of Pasadena and Santa Monica, for example, began experimenting with mixed-use development, adding multifamily housing  above ground floor commercial uses in Old Pasadena along Colorado Blvd and  around Santa Monica’s new Third Street Promenade. These initiatives necessitated challenging the specialized building codes and banking practices of the day.

To the surprise of many, people were eager to live in these neighborhoods. More than 3,000 units have been built in Santa Monica’s downtown since 1990 including 1,000 deed-restricted affordable units. This experiment in Santa Monica and Pasadena pioneered a new urban model for LA County.

In 2006 the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), concerned about the surge in regional population growth and sprawling development, released a study showing that if housing were built in downtowns and along commercial corridors served by frequent transit that all SoCal’s projected population growth could be accommodated on just 2% of the region’s land.

Enthusiastic essays about SCAG’s “2% Strategy” were written by experts ranging from renowned real estate developer and philanthropist Randall Lewis: The 2% Strategy  to author, urban planner and former City of Ventura Mayor Bill Fulton: If the 2% Strategy a Solution for Southern California? SCAG kept the momentum going with their Compass Blueprint planning grants program  and other cities in Southern California, including LA, began encouraging mixed-use developments on commercial boulevards.

There are dozens of boulevards in LA County where this program could work—including Victory, Vanowen, Vermont, Valley and Venice, to list just some of the “Vs.” Many were once served by the Pacific Electric Red Car; some were important contributors to local economies and are still commercially viable. But many had their heyday decades ago and could benefit from the changes we propose.

Where Do We Start?

Fundamentally this program requires a partnership between LA Metro, local cities and LA County. The State of California would need to create a fund for affordable housing as well. Metro has planned but also needs to prioritize implementation of BRT projects along the boulevards with significant potential for community development and ensure that the city in which the boulevard is located is willing to collaborate and sponsor the development of affordable housing.

Many other required policies and resources are already in place:
• Funding was dedicated in both Measures R and M to develop BRT lines. Three projects are moving forward and Metro is working to identify several more.
• Measures R and M also provide funding to cities for complete streets and for walkable/bikeable first-last-mile connections to transit.
• Statewide funding sources, including the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program funded by the state’s Cap-and-Trade dollars, could be tapped both for affordable housing and urban greening.
• Move LA sponsored SB 961, a bill authored by Sen. Ben Allen and signed into law by Gov. Brown in 2018, to allow cities and counties to create Neighborhood Infill Financing and Transit Infrastructure districts, called NIFTI-2 districts. This makes it possible to recreate a kind of community redevelopment district near transit, where tax increment financing can be used to build affordable housing in mixed-use mixed-income multifamily developments, as well as to fund transit infrastructure and urban greening.

We stress, however, that it is essential that we find a reliable source of funding for affordable housing at both the state and local levels if we want an affordable housing program to succeed. More on that soon.

We’ve Stirred Up Considerable Interest

In 2018, Move LA’s Executive Director Denny Zane—who had initiated the Third Street Promenade and the mixed-use planning model described above while mayor in Santa Monica—was awarded the Durfee Foundation’s Stanton Fellowship to develop a program that would essentially work toward realizing the 2% Strategy.

The intent was to marry Measures R and M’s commitment to BRT with a robust affordable housing program. He called this plan “Grand Boulevards,” but changed the name to “Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity” to emphasize the importance of creating new affordable housing and avoiding the loss of existing housing as well as the displacement of low-income families and longstanding commercial businesses.

Along the way Denny began a conversation with Peter Calthorpe, a San Francisco-based architect, urban designer, planner and principal/co-founder of UrbanFootprint company that provides cloud-based graphic GIS mapping and evaluative services that can help determine the potential for housing and transit ridership. Both were interested in the idea of building mixed-use development along underutilized commercial corridors served by transit as a way to create sustainable transit-oriented neighborhoods.

Last month we scheduled a symposium on the topic at SCAG — with Peter Calthorpe, Metro CEO Phil Washington, LA City Planning Director Vince Bertoni, Estolano Advisors CEO Cecilia Estolano (formerly CEO of the Community Redevelopment Agency in the City of LA), and many other speakers.

*We got so many RSVPs after just one emailed invitation we would have filled the room. And then came the coronavirus. We had to cancel the event.*

But we will stay the course. We are organizing several conversations on Zoom to discuss this further over the next three months. It is our near-term goal to convince at least one city or council of governments to become interested in beginning a boulevard planning process with Metro that can become a model for other cities.

*We will tell you more—in case you want to help!— in coming weeks.*

Gloria Ohland for Move LA

Move LA 2020: Boulevards of Opportunity

Gov. Newsom Suspends 10-Cent Grocery Bag Charge During Coronavirus Pandemic

cbslocal – excerpt (includes video)

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Californians won’t be charged 10 cents per bag at the grocery store and retailers can again hand out thinner, single-use plastic bags under an executive order signed Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

It’s a change that retailers have wanted for weeks, as many major grocery chains have stopped letting customers bring in reusable bags over fears of spreading the new coronavirus. California, which has some of the nation’s strictest laws aimed at reducing plastic waste, banned stores from handing out single-use plastic bags and required them to charge 10 cents for all paper and plastic bags several years ago. Newsom’s order suspends those rules for 60 days… (more)

Good to know where the order came from, although the public will be informed when they go shopping so this directive is really aimed at the retail stores that were charging and keeping the fees. Consumers get a slight price break.

New restrictions on office space in new Mission District developments move forward

By : sfexaminer – excerpt

The Planning Commission on Thursday voted to prohibit most office space in some new developments in the Mission District.

The unanimous vote Thursday on a proposal from Supervisor Hillary Ronen is intended to boost housing in projects within the urban mixed use (UMU) district that includes the South of Market, Potrero Hill, and the central waterfront, which was created to allow for residential and office space while preserving industrial uses.

The restrictions approved Thursday no longer allow new office space in the upper levels of certain developments within the UMU district, but scale back Ronen’s original proposal to include only the Mission District… (more)

“It’s unfortunate and inequitable to change the rules after it’s gone before the Planning Commission,”

It is also unfortunate and inequitable for a property owner to purchase a property under one set of rules and then lobby to change them. This is what is happening thanks to our state representatives that have bent over backyards to protect the interests of the wealthy landowners at the expense of the rest of society. Wall Street on Main Street is what we have in San Francisco, or in this case, on Harrison.

We shall see how many tech office spaces we need after this epidemic passes. They may build them and nobody may want them after all.

Fortunately, we have a choice of electing new representatives to serve us in Sacramento. Here is one option:

Rent Voucher Program Legislation Introduced for COVID-19 Impacted Tenants

connect – excerpt

The California Apartment Association (CAA) introduced a legislative proposal that would help both landlords and renters endure the financial difficulties brought on by COVID-19. The Sacramento-based association sponsored a bill, SB 1410 by Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, that would set up a system for the state of California to make direct rental payments to help tenants who cannot afford to pay their rent. SB 1410 would cover at least 80% of unpaid rent attributable to the pandemic.

CAA’s Debra Carlton says, “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought frightening and uncertain times, leaving many Californians with health challenges and economic difficulties. Sen. Gonzalez has offered a solution that will help housing providers continue to pay their bills, and their employees, while also making it a little easier for struggling renters to get back on their feet financially when the pandemic ends.”

Eligible renters for the temporary COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program would include those who can demonstrate, as determined by the Department of Housing and Community Development, an inability to pay rent due to COVID-19 or a government response to the COVID-19 pandemic….(more)


The Coronavirus Is Changing the Future of Home, Work, and Life

By Joel Kotkin : thedailybeast – excerpt

COVID-19 is hitting dense urban areas the hardest, and accelerating the dispersion of Americans that had already been underway

The COVID-19 pandemic will be shaping how we live, work and learn about the world long after the last lockdown ends and toilet paper hoarding is done, accelerating shifts that were already underway including the dispersion of population out of the nation’s densest urban areas and the long-standing trend away from mass transit and office concentration towards flatter and often home-based employment.

Amid 20 years of fanfare about how big, dense cities are the future, the country had kept spreading out with nearly all population growth since 2010 occurring in the urban periphery and smaller cities. As a new study from Heartland Forward, where I am a senior fellow, demonstrates, both immigrants and millennials—the key groups behind urban growth—are increasingly moving to interior cities and even small towns…(more) 

No walk in the park for Americans struggling with cabin fever amid coronavirus crisis

By Marjie Lundstrom : salon – excerpt

Government officials and advocacy groups are trying to stem the tide of visitors seeking a nature fix

By the time Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California closed today — this time for real, sealing out even bikers and hikers — local residents were seething.

The picturesque swath of desert east of Los Angeles had been overrun by visitors the weekend of March 21 – two days after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  The line of cars came anyway, bumper to bumper, even though the National Park Service had closed the park’s roads and campgrounds that weekend. The government extended the closure this week to bicyclists and pedestrians.

“It was crazy how many people were in town that weekend,” said Robin Hercia, a graphic artist who lives in the unincorporated community of Joshua Tree. “People thought somehow that coming to Joshua Tree, out into nature, was exempt from the don’t-go-out category.

“It’s just this defiant, selfish behavior,” she said.

The tension is playing out across the nation, as housebound Americans seek refuge in the great outdoors — for exercise, for tranquility, for a place to de-stress…(more)

Not such a big problem if you have a private backyard or open space of your own to use, or you live out of the city. The people who are most likely to disobey the “stay at home” order are the ones living in cramped crowded conditions that do not have private yards and open space. These people rely on public parks and open space because they don’t have any private areas. Private open space is exactly what the so-called NIBMYs have been trying to protect. It did not take a crisis for everyone to understand the importance of private space.