What had to go wrong for Muni boss Ed Reiskin to lose his job? Everything.

By Joe Eskenazi : missionlocal – excerpt (includes classic photo from Mission community meeting)
Transit agency head’s departure comes following video of woman dragged by train; revelations of defective vehicles; daylong Muni meltdown — and so much more…

In an astoundingly cavalier move, Muni failed to inform the mayor’s office that it planned to undermine its own service, leaving Mayor Mark Farrell and, subsequently, Mayor Breed, flat-footed. You’d think, in a normal city, this combination of presumptuousness, insubordination, and callous self-destruction would lead to a mass of gratuitous dismissals long ago…

So Muni is off the rails. It remains to be seen who, if anyone, can put it back on track…(more)

State rent-gouging bill advances, but still no action on tighter rent control

By Matt Levin : calmatters – excerpt

A bill aimed at protecting California tenants from “egregious” rent hikes cleared a key hurdle in the state Legislature today, less than 24 hours after pro-tenant groups learned their latest try to expand tighter rent controls throughout California is flailing in the Capitol.

The anti-rent-gouging bill, modeled after a first-in-the-nation statewide law enacted earlier this year in Oregon, would cap the amount that landlords could raise the rent year-over-year at 5% plus inflation. Authored by Assemblyman David Chiu, Democrat from San Francisco, Assembly Bill 1482 passed its first committee vote today on a 6-1 margin, marking a rare early victory for tenant groups who have struggled to get state lawmaker support in recent years.

“This is a bill to provide certainty to 15 million California renters that they will not receive an exorbitant rent increase while allowing property owners to make a fair return on their investment,” said Chiu, in a Capitol hearing room overflowing with tenants and landlords…

Assembly Bill 36 was scheduled to be voted on today, as part of a renter protection package organized by a group of progressive lawmakers. But late last night the bill’s author, Assemblyman Richard Bloom, Democrat from Santa Monica, withdrew it before it could be voted on.

“Pulling” a bill before a vote usually indicates it would not have received enough lawmaker support to advance. Bloom could not be reached for comment… (more)

SF Biz Times: no proof that TOD works

By Fiona Kelliher : bizjournal – excerpt

TOD is “all the rage,” but planners have no idea whether it’s working. Another way in which SB 50 is like urban renewal.

Transit-oriented development has been a Bay Area buzzword for the last 15 years, heralded as the best weapon against the housing crisis, gridlocked traffic and widening sprawl.

Across the region, developers have pushed dozens of TOD projects into urban centers and far-flung suburbs alike, from Oakland’s Fruitvale Village to Walnut Creek. Meanwhile in Sacramento, the idea has grown legislative legs in proposals that would spur development near high-frequency transit stops.

“TOD is not only the rage, but it’s the right thing to do,” said Brian Fitzpatrick, real estate and property manager at SamTrans. “Get people closer to their jobs, get people closer to transit.”

It “just makes sense,” as AvalonBay senior vice president Nathan Hong put it.

But for all the chatter, a lack of comprehensive data about how Bay Area TOD projects have fared — in terms of transit use, traffic reduction or quality of life for residents — makes it difficult to keep transit-oriented development aligned to its lofty goals.

There’s minimal Bay Area-specific data to guide decisions about key issues like parking, amenities and transit access. Developers and planners are often left to follow their hunches.

“It’s interesting how much money we’ve put into TOD projects and encouraging them … but how little we really know about the success of them, and also how little strategy we have with TOD in the region,” said Tom Radulovich, executive director of nonprofit Livable City who served as a BART director from 1996 to 2016…

Editorial: The alarming magnitude of the Bay Area housing crisis

By Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards : mercurynews – excerpt

The region cannot continue to thrive if only the upper echelon can afford to live here

We knew it was bad. Now we know how bad — how unaffordable housing has become for Bay Area residents.

In an eye-opening article published Sunday, reporters Katy Murphy and Kaitlyn Bartley document how rapidly rising rental and home-purchase costs have priced out a staggering portion of the Bay Area’s population…

As the region’s economy soars, a shrinking portion of the workers who sustain it can afford to live here. Those who stay are being forced to devote more of their income toward keeping homes near their jobs, to squeeze into smaller living spaces or to commute longer distances to live in affordable homes.

It’s unsustainable… (more)

WA Appeals Court Allows Necessity Defense For Alleged Vandal In Shutting Down Pipeline As Environmental Protest

By Darren Smith : jonathanturley – excerpt

have been critical of the notion that a defendant may not always be permitted the opportunity to present evidence in their defense, especially the affirmative defenses of necessity and self-defense. Yet in a case recently before the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division One, The Court held that in a particular case, a defendant charged in shutting down an oil pipeline to draw attention to environmental hazards posed by such industry–he is entitled to argue before the court his actions were necessary to protect the environment and common good of the people…(more)

Groundbreaking legislation could help homeowners and businesses grab power from the sun, wind and other renewable sources.

By Tom Molanphy : thebaycitybeacon – excerpt

Although Governor Newsom outlined some broad possibilities for PG&E’s future, California legislators seem unwilling to simply wait around for the latest edition of post-bankruptcy PG&E. Instead, advocates for smaller, local, and more dependable energy sources have seized this crisis as an opportunity.

Introduced on February 13 by State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-SF), SB 288, the Solar Bill of Rights, would “enable greater deployment of customer-sited distributed energy resources (DER) by recognizing that all Californians have the right to generate and store their own renewable electricity without undue interference from their local electric utility.”

Weiner announced SB 288 with co-sponsor Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) on the steps of the state capitol in Sacramento. “No matter where in California you live, no matter what your income, no matter what the quality of the air that you breathe,” Weiner said, “You should be able to save money and help save the planet by using solar, energy storage, and other ground-breaking clean energy technologies at home and at your place of work.”

Although the latest draft of the bill is clear on demands and fuzzy on enforcements, Weiner and Nielsen emphasized the practical (and rare) bi-partisanship of the legislation; it’s a bill that can help homeowners in San Francisco as much as agribusinesses in the Central Valley. “Agriculture depends on the sun,” Senator Nielsen said. “And with the use of solar, the agricultural community here can be even more efficient.”…

Susannah Churchill, California Director of Vote Solar in Oakland, believes the bill will address three critical issues: delays from utilities in connecting to the grid businesses and residences that use solar energy; improper fees for that connection and use; and a clarification of the right of state residents to store and capture their own energy…

Beyond the fees, there’s the question of how much businesses and residences with solar who put energy back into the grid should be compensated for that energy. According to PG&E’s website, “Compensation for excess energy changes depending on state regulations. The price is set by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and usually the energy is priced at $0.03-$0.04 per kilowatt hour (kWh).” The Solar Energies Industries Association estimates that 6,084,000 California homes have solar panels, and that 19% of the state’s electricity comes from solar…

PG&E has gone through bankruptcy before and come out mostly unchanged. But if and when the utility corporation reemerges this time around, the energy market could be dramatically different. SB 288 joins the mandate for rooftop solar panels on all new single-family homes starting in 2020, as well as SB 100, which targets 2045 as the year California energy will be carbon-free. Earlier this year, San Francisco joined Berkeley, Hayward, Richmond and Oakland and declared a “climate emergency” to reduce carbon emissions…(more)

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Controversial California housing bill to move forward after compromise

By Marisa Kendall : mercury news – excerpt

SB 50 now carves out some exceptions for smaller cities, counties

A controversial housing bill that could bring taller buildings to certain California neighborhoods cleared its second hurdle Wednesday, scoring a decisive committee vote after several changes designed to make it more palatable to its many opponents.

Senate Bill 50 gathered the votes it needed to pass out of the state Senate Governance and Finance Committee, but the bill looks different now than when it was first introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

Wiener’s bill has been heavily attacked by city leaders worried it would usurp their local planning control and apply one-size-fits-all zoning rules throughout the state, and by activists worried it would accelerate gentrification and lead to the displacement of more low-income residents. In response, Wiener amended the bill to include some exemptions for smaller cities and counties, a provision to make sure affordable housing is built with SB 50 projects, and several other tweaks. The changes merged Wiener’s bill with SB 4 by Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg…(more)


Palo Alto could almost triple in size under controversial housing bill, new report says
But the bill’s author calls the new report “misleading” and “absurd.”

By Marisa Kendall

Charming, suburban Palo Alto could almost triple in size, with multi-story apartments surrounding its sought-after single-family homes and up to 90,000 additional cars on its tree-lined roads if a controversial housing bill becomes law, according to a new report that paints an alarming — but some say extremely doubtful — future under the proposed legislation… (more)

Rooftop Pathway at SF Transbay Terminal Already Being Replaced

By Jaxon Van Derbeken : nbcbayarea – excerpt

Transbay officials say they are taking advantage of one problem to deal with another on the troubled project: fixing the rapidly deteriorating rooftop garden pathway while the $2.2 billion transit terminal remains closed because of steel beams that cracked last year.

On Wednesday, crews were at work removing a 4-inch thick layer of resin-topped decomposed granite that had been used to pave the pathway around the rooftop park.

The work went on while the terminal remains closed to deal with the cracks found in steel support beams across Fremont Street in September. At the time those cracks were found, Transbay spokeswoman Christine Falvey says Transbay officials already knew the rooftop path was cracking apart as well…(more)

What did the project manager get anything done right on this job? The wrong people are managing these projects when this many mistakes are make. The voters should curtail future taxes and bonds that are directed to supporting this agency.

Four voter-approved measures in legal limbo in San Francisco, Oakland

By Chris Reed : calmatters – excerpt

A confusing 2017 California Supreme Court ruling about the threshold of approval for local ballot measures that are qualified for the ballot through citizen-led signature-gathering efforts – as opposed to being placed before voters by local officeholders – is causing major uncertainty in the Bay Area.

In the case of California Cannabis Coalition v. the City of Upland, the state high court appeared to suggest that citizen-qualified tax or fee measures needed only a simple majority for approval, while others required two-thirds support. But the court did not offer a definitive statement. Many legal experts questioned how justices came up with a new interpretation of 1978’s Proposition 13 and 1996’s Proposition 218, which generally imposed a two-thirds requirement for voter approval of local taxes.

This has created uncertainty around three measures in San Francisco and one in Oakland that were approved by strong majorities of voters – but not by two-thirds…

San Francisco officials are much more upbeat than those in elsewhere in Silicon Valley about the sustainability of the tech boom. From 2010 to 2017, while tech job growth began to slow in the region, the number of tech jobs in San Francisco went from about 21,000 to 84,000

A San Francisco Chronicle analysis noted that no large tech firm had left the city in recent years. Such companies, development analyst Colin Yasukochi told the Chronicle, are “in the innovation business. Being able to attract the best and brightest minds is going to give them a competitive advantage when it comes to innovating new products and services.”… (more)

Can we get an analysis on the industries that are leaving the city as the tech jobs are arriving? So far no such data has been produced. How will the city support the new population without some basic services?

Environment Report: Lawsuits Are a Weapon in Major Water Conflicts

By Ry Rivard : voiceofsandiego – excerpt

Support is building for a giant water battery, the city’s recycling revenue has plummeted and more in our biweekly roundup of environmental news.

In court, the California Environmental Quality Act is a familiar obstacle to projects large and small — housing developments, solar projects, even bike lanes. It’s also lately become a weapon in the state’s major water conflicts.

Last week, the Imperial Irrigation District filed a CEQA lawsuit trying to block a deal among seven states that could lead to further rations of the Colorado River in the near future.

Even though environmental law doesn’t apply outside of California, Imperial is the largest holder of Colorado water rights in the country — it has dibs on as much river water as Arizona and Nevada combined — and is suing other California agencies that have agreed to give up water if there’s a shortage.

Another new water-related CEQA case is perhaps even more unexpected: The federal government is suing the state to block new regulations from going into effect at the State Water Resources Control Board. The regulations are designed to ensure that three of Northern California’s major waterways — the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers — do not dry up during the summer… (more)

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