Major Changes May Come to Bay Area Planning As MTC and ABAG Move Toward Merger

Michael Krasny : KQED – excerpt – (includes audio)

MTCvABAG

THE MERGER UNDER CONSIDERATION

http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201602180900

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) are responsible for housing and transportation planning for the Bay Area, including the controversial “Plan Bay Area” mandate. Now there’s talk of merging the two agencies, with a study underway on how that could be accomplished. But critics argue that the merger process lacks transparency, and that a consolidated agency will take decision-making out of the hands of local communities. We’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a potential merger.

Host: Michael Krasny

Guests:

  • Dave Cortese, chair, Metropolitan Transportation Commission; supervisor, District Three, Santa Clara County; former president of ABAG
  • Julie Pierce, president, Association of Bay Area Governments; council member for the city of Clayton
  • Egon Terplan, regional planning director, SPUR
  • Catharine Baker, assemblymember, 16th District (R) (Walnut Creek, Danville, Pleasanton), California State Assembly
  • Zelda Bronstein, Bay Area activist and journalist; former chair of Berkeley Planning Commission; writes for 48hills.org

More info:

Bay Area needs powerful regional government, study says

By Andrew McGall : contracostatimes – excerpt

The Bay Area generates one of the brightest sparks in the nation’s recovering economy, but feeding its vitality means residents will have to give up some local control, dig deeper into their wallets, and make room for tens of thousands of new neighbors, according to study released Friday.

Keeping on prosperity’s path requires a regional government with power to overcome local obstacles, money from new taxes and tolls, and opening the doors to housing closed by local growth controls and state environmental red tape, according to “A Roadmap for Economic Resilience,” an in-depth study done by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

Without action, the Bay Area’s highways choked with commuters, its fragmented transit systems, and anti-growth attitudes will choke the boom times, the report says.

The Bay Area may have 101 cities, “but it is one economy with more than 7 million people,” says Bay Area Council President Jim Wunderman… (more)

Special Deal Would Benefit Influential Oakland Developer

By eastbayextress – excerpt

The Oakland planning department quietly proposed zoning changes that would greatly benefit a politically connected developer in the heart of First Friday.

The proposed zoning changes would make it easier for Signature Development to build a large mixed-use project across the street from the company’s Hive development in Uptown.

The Oakland Planning and Building Department recently attempted to quietly push through changes to the city’s zoning code that would greatly benefit a politically connected developer who has acquired a big chunk of real estate in Uptown Oakland, right in the heart of First Friday, the Express has learned. Planning staffers buried the proposed zoning amendment in a six hundred-plus page document amid other proposed changes that they described as routine and neutral efforts meant only to “clean up” Oakland’s planning code. But the zoning change, which underwent no public scrutiny before the planning department recently proposed it, would greatly increase the value of property recently purchased by Signature Development Group, a major Oakland real estate company run by Michael Ghielmetti, and would make it easier to build a large development project between 24th and 25th streets near Broadway.

“There seems to be a blatant disregard for the community,” said Hiroko Kurihara, founder and director of the nonprofit 25th Street Collective, in an interview. “The zoning changes that were proposed at the last minute … left even members of the planning commission scratching their heads.”… (more)

The technique is described really well by someone who researched the methods used by SFMTA to illegally alter the parking policies while claiming they were not making any substantive changes. See details here: https://metermadness.wordpress.com/actions/

San Francisco Affordable Housing Bonus General Plan

Author’s opinion piece:

If you ever want to oppose any development in SF, Voting no on D may be your last opportunity to do so before they pass this program.

If the Mayor gets his way to fastrack projects without public scrutiny, review, comments or opinions, you will soon have less chance to oppose it than you do now.

Lack of public access to the meetings and the screenings of the meetings is of great concern. For some reason the Planning Commission Meeting (where the Planing Staff described how THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING BONUS PROGRAM will be used to turn us into New York West) did not screen live at noon. The meeting went live at 3 PM. after a special Parks and Rec meeting, I was able to watch most of it. This has been happening a lot lately. It seems to be part of the plan to keep the public in dark. As of today there is no posting of the link on the city Government TV site under Planning Commission. WHY? I sent a complaint to Jonas Ionin. They may have “forgotten” to post the link on the Planning Commission Page. It appears to be scheduled to run at midnight this weekend.

Planning Commissioners response to the plan:

The Planning Commissioners did not feel comfortable with the plan because it will remove the opportunity for public comment or review of many of the large projects that will effect ALL the neighborhoods without their knowledge. This is probably against the city charter or should be. Looks like the Planning Commissioners will push back and force at least one additional informational meeting. Some of our friends were there and spoke out against it. THANK YOU!

Link to explanations, links, and maps, and our petition against it:

https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/sf-actions/a-better-plan/

A good showing at the next Planning Commission Meeting is needed. Watching the Commisioners comments will help us write some objections. If anyone knows where in the Charter, CEQA, or zoning codes requirements for pubic reviews and comments are established, please let me know.

Planning Commission meeting 10/15/15

400-Square-Foot Two-Bedrooms Proposed, Planning Has Concerns

socketsite – excerpt

Panoramic Interests plans to raze the single-story industrial building at 333 12th Street and build up to seven stories and 274 apartments on the parcel and adjacent parking lot between Folsom and Harrison.

s currently zoned, the Western SoMa site could support around 200 units of housing in buildings up to five stories in height, but Panoramic intends to invoke California’s Density Bonus law, which could allow for the additional height and density for the “affordable-by-design/workforce” project if approved.

Regardless, the proposed units would average 398 square feet apiece, or roughly 350 square feet excluding the bathrooms.  And that includes the two-bedrooms as well..(more)

398 square foot two-bedroom units are being presented to qualify as additional units under the state bonus housing plan. Now Mayor Lee wants to extend this plan to include even more density and height for more affordable untied on site. This could be your worst nightmare. The Planning Commissioners aren’t sure about this. A good reason for our petition: We need a better Plan

Brown deal allows steals local rights

hanfordsentinel – excerpt

“CANOE THEORY AT WORK IN GUV’S CEQA EXEMPTION DEALS”

Gov. Jerry Brown has never professed to be the model of political or ideological consistency. In fact, he’s a decades-long advocate of the “canoe theory” of politics, which goes like this: You paddle a little to the left and you paddle a little to the right, and you keep going straight down the middle of the steam.”

You also keep all sides guessing a lot of the time and you make sure opponents of some of your policies are allies on others.

So the governor who once proclaimed that “small is beautiful” and announced an “era of limits” for California apparently has no stomach for limits on huge developments.

That’s the meaning of the agreements he made with legislators to exempt some of the most significant building projects on California drawing boards from many environmental regulations. These deals were part of the horse-trading that led to easy passage of the new state budget.

Brown’s press release on the budget, of course, made no mention of such deals, which also exempt the project-enabling bills from thorough legislative hearings because like the developments they promote, they are fast-tracked…

This is the same governor who has not opposed changes in the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA, that allow developers to qualify initiatives okaying their projects for local ballots and then let city councils adopt those initiatives without a public vote or debate.

If this is what Brown really meant when he campaigned in 2010 on a promise to devolve more government authority to locals and away from the state, it will surely go down as one of the least green and least positive legacies of his long political career…  (more)

These discrepancies have not gone unnoticed by the press, but this a particularly well-authored interpretation. Good reading for those of us who lack the clarity or the nerve to call the Governor out on his tactics.

United States: State Agencies Can’t Say CEQA Mitigation Is Infeasible If Earmarked Funds Are Unavailable, High Court Says

by Kenneth Kecskes : realestatecounsel – excerpt

When environmental review of a proposed development project by a state agency shows that it will have traffic impacts, a state agency is not allowed to nevertheless approve the project on the grounds that the funds needed to mitigate congestion have not been earmarked by the Legislature, the California Supreme Court has held.

The court’s recent unanimous decision in City of San Diego v. Board of Trustees of the California State University is significant for two important reasons.  First, it is now clear that state agencies cannot shift the costs of off-site environmental mitigation of their projects to local and regional governments, except in very limited circumstances.  Second, the use of a “statement of overriding considerations” by the legislative body of a lead agency will not be given deference by the courts if potential mitigation measures are not “truly infeasible.”…

… if the Legislature did not make an earmarked appropriation for specific environmental mitigation, the Board of Trustees argued that it could take the position that mitigation was infeasible and the Board of Trustees could adopt a statement of overriding considerations and approve the project.  A “statement of overriding considerations” is a legal tool under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) that allows a reviewing public agency to approve a project because it offers non-environmental benefits that outweigh its unmitigated significant environmental effects…

CEQA is not only a procedural statute.  Many provisions of CEQA have as their focus the preparation of environmental documents to inform the public and decision makers of the significant environmental impacts of proposed projects.  However, as this case makes clear, CEQA’s “substantive” limitations on the powers of state agencies and local legislative bodies to make decisions should not be overlooked…  (more)

RELATED:

California Supreme Court Holds that State Agencies May Not Escape CEQA Mitigation Requirements Based on Failure of the Legislature to Appropriate Mitigation Funds :  In a decision that enhances the ability of local interests to obtain mitigation funds from state agencies, the California Supreme Court held that the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) requires the Board of Trustees (“Board”) of the California State University (“CSU”) to mitigate the cumulative traffic impacts of a campus expansion project where the Legislature had not appropriated funds to pay for the traffic mitigation… (more)

California Supreme Court Could Stop Bullet Train : The California Supreme Court threw a giant obstacle on the California bullet train’s track, ruling that the state agencies cannot escape the state’s environmental laws by claiming federal laws supersede them… (more)

WE WON! OUR POINT AT PLANNING TODAY.

Thanks to everyone who showed up and everyone who wrote letters, they are tabling the parts of the Amendment that we most objected to.

We are especially grateful to Rick, Saif, and John, (from Cultural Action Network, CAN) for showing up and speaking.

Rose requested a two week lead time for snail mail notices and documents instead of the one week Planning wanted to give us. Sue Hester specifically claimed the policies are hurting the Mission, Potrero and Mission Bay.

The Commissioners mentioned public input on the change in timing, and all of them agreed with Commissioner Richards motion to table Items 1, 7 and 8. So we can let that go for while. Rose will keep us informed if it rears its ugly head again.

What is our next date at Planning? Send me those public meeting and hearing dates to me.
And, sign up to follow the new Calendar I am posting here:
https://cancalendar.wordpress.com

Mari
zrants@gmail.com

After 8 months, developer still hasn’t complied with city planning rules

by Zelda Bronstein : 48hills – excerpt

The story of 660 Third Street is a sad example of how big commercial property owners can get away with ignoring zoning rules

APRIL 29, 2015 — Last September supporters of PDR (Production, Distribution and Repair) jobs — and the rule of law in San Francisco — thought they’d scored a rare victory, when the Planning Commission told the owners of the PDR-zoned property at 660 Third Street that it would not authorize their illegal conversion of the entire property to office space.

But more than seven months later, there are still office tenants in the space that is supposed to be limited to PDR, and the building manager is advertising office space for lease, as Planning officials struggle to get the owner to comply.

The Planning Department had originally recommended the ex post facto approval of the illicit conversion. Planning changed its recommendation after a May public hearing where community members, with land use attorney Sue Hestor in the fore, vehemently objected. A subsequent 48 Hills investigation found major discrepancies between reality and claims made in Planning’s staff report and the affidavit submitted by David Silverman, the Reuben, Junius & Rose attorney representing the owners.

In September, Planning changed its recommendation, urging the commission to approve only the office conversion of the two upper floors of the four-story building, specifying that the lower two floors, or 40,000 sf, should be rented out to PDR users… (more)

A CEQA advance environmentalists should explore

By Stuart Leavenworth : sacbee.com – excerpt

For environmentalists in the Golden State, few laws are more sacred than the California Environmental Quality Act. Enacted in 1970, the law gives citizens and interest groups the power to challenge the decisions of local governments and state regulators and block projects they find objectionable.
Used at its best, CEQA has protected poor communities from toxic incinerators and landfills. It has helped conservationists stop big development projects in the wrong places, such as the sensitive Martis Valley near Lake Tahoe.
Yet because of its sweeping nature, CEQA has sometimes been abused in cities, undermining the kind of transit-friendly development that environmentalists say they support… (more) Continue reading