A Backlash Against Cities Would Be Dangerous

By Scott Wiener, Anthony Iron : theatlantic – excerpt

Undue fears of urban density warp public policy—and make Americans more vulnerable.

Cities are a boon for public health—even now. As public-health experts have known for decades, people who live in a city are likely to walk and bike more often, and they live closer to community services such as grocery stores. Urban density also supports faster emergency-response times, better hospital staffing, and a greater concentration of intensive-care beds and other health-care resources.

In fact, no correlation exists between population density and rates of COVID-19 infection, according to recent studies examining the disease in China and Chicago. But if state and local governments still conclude that density itself is a problem, they are more likely to promote suburban sprawl as a matter of law—instead of making the accommodations, in their housing stock and their streetscapes, that allow people to live in cities safely and move about them comfortably…

One difference between New York City and San Francisco? The Bay Area responded to the pandemic earlier and more decisively than New York did, imposing social-distancing measures before major cities on the East Coast.…(more)

There is a difference between opposing cities and opposing unlimited growth in cities. The headline is misleading and the logic is missing. Senator Wiener aligns himself with the administration in Washington if he suggests we should return to business as usual. Most of his constituents disagree.

After being cooped up in tight quarters for weeks people are eager to get out. There was an exit from cities underway before the pandemic. Now the pace is picking up. Many workers have successfully transitioned to working at home and do not plan to return not the office. Employers are re-thinking their need for office space.

Cutting down on commuters does a better job of clearing the air than building dense transit-oriented housing and offices. The new normal will not be dense development. New health standards will require more space between people, throwing the crowding for profit principal  out. This will probably devalue property and reduce local taxes. Downsizing seems inevitable.

RELATED:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York was blunt about the rationale behind this time of quarantine.

“There is a density level in NYC that is destructive,” he tweeted Sunday, after similar comments at one of his daily press briefings. He’d seen New Yorkers out in parks together, behaving as if this were a normal sunny spring weekend, and he was dismayed. Togetherness itself could now be deadly.

“It has to stop and it has to stop now,” he tweeted. “NYC must develop an immediate plan to reduce density.”… (more)

National Trends Organic Urbanism is the Cure for New Urbanism By Douglas Newby : newgeography – excerpt

Organic Urbanism is the Cure for New Urbanism

By Douglas Newby : newgeography – excerpt

The New Normal. Who needs trees when you can have cranes and 100’s of thousands of new neighbors?

New Urbanism is like a virus. For 50 years it keeps coming back in mutated forms. It needs a cure.

First, the only thing new in New Urbanism is the new construction that tears down the organic city. A form of New Urbanism has been around for 50 years. Like I said, it is a virus that keeps coming back in mutated forms. But the scheme, of more density, new mixed-use construction, and fixed rail transit, replacing existing homes remains constant. The desire of planners to determine where you live and where you work also remains constant. New urbanists increasingly do not like single family homes, which most Americans prefer… (more)

A Taste of the Climate Apocalypse to Come

by Abrahm Lustgarten : propublica – excerpt

PG&E’s rolling blackouts probably don’t eliminate fire risk, and they actually could make responding to fires harder. What they largely do is shift responsibility away from the company…

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. This article was co-published with The New York Times Magazine…

The National Weather Service was predicting 55-mile-an-hour winds, with 10% humidity. It was like living inside a ticking time bomb. And so, in a desperate attempt to avoid detonation, the utility decided to haul almost 800,000 households backward through time into premodernity, for days at a stretch. Around Silicon Valley, residential areas adjacent to some of the most technologically advanced corporations in the world — the offices of private space-exploration companies, internet search engines, electric vehicle manufacturers — would forgo basic electricity.

The blackouts solved nothing, of course. De-energizing the electrical grid is a bludgeon: imprecise, with enormous potential for collateral damage as people deal with a darkened world. It doesn’t even eliminate fire risk. What it largely does is shift responsibility away from Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility company, whose faulty transmission lines had been found to have caused some of the most destructive wildfires on record…(more)

RELATED:

The Obscure Charges That Utility Companies Add to your Bills
The price of oil and gas has dropped as domestic supplies have increased, and residential energy use has plummeted as appliances and lighting have become more efficient. Still, the national average price of electricity has increased slightly over the last decade, with additional surcharges counteracting any potential savings. That means at the end of the day, many customers have likely noticed little, if any change in their final bills…(more)

100% Renewable Energy Requirements on new commercial Properties

sfgovtv.org : (ncludes video link to the hearing)

Land Use and Transportation Committee presentation on proposed Ordinance 190708 Environment Code – 100% Renewable Energy Required for On-Site Electricity Demands in Nonresidential Buildings of 50,000 Square Feet or More. (Details)

http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=177&clip_id=33946&meta_id=756158

If you can watch the one public comment at the end of the presentation. Around 14:14.

 

Google plans to add tens of thousands of new jobs as it expands in 14 states

Edward C. Baig : usatoday – excerpt

Want a job at Google?

Google plans to hire tens of thousands of employees across the U.S. this year, through investments in new data centers and offices. CEO Sundar Pichai announced Google’s plans in a blog post Wednesday.

According to Pichai, Google’s investment of more than $13 billion in 2019 will lead to major expansion in 14 states and also create more than 10,000 new construction jobs in Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

“These new investments will give us the capacity to hire tens of thousands of employees, and enable the creation of more than 10,000 new construction jobs,” he posted… (more)

Good news for the over-saturated cities in SF Bay who have had to take all the growing pains of rapidly (or is that rabidly) expanding tech firms. Good idea for them to grow elsewhere for a while.

California Lawmakers Push for Oversight of Delta Tunnels Project

By Nick Cahill : courthousenews – excerpt

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – A group of Northern California lawmakers seeking more sway over a mammoth $17 billion water project introduced a proposal Friday that would require new construction contracts to be reviewed by the Legislature.

The Legislative Delta Caucus says because of the scope of the California WaterFix, the project should require more scrutiny from both the public and lawmakers now that former Gov. Jerry Brown has left office.

Brown fiercely advocated for the expensive public works project that he and supporters believe will both update the state’s aging water delivery infrastructure and protect it against sea level rise and other effects of climate change. Also known as the Delta Tunnels, the project calls for two 30-mile tunnels that would funnel water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to aqueducts that supply farmers and cities farther south.

State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, believes his proposal will shed new light on the “flawed” project that environmental groups bitterly oppose….

Senate Bill 204 would require the state agencies in charge of WaterFix, namely the state Department of Water Resources, to submit information about pending contracts with private companies to the Legislature before finalizing deals…

Democratic Assemblyman Jim Frazier, whose district covers parts of the delta, called SB 204 a “common-sense, good-government bill.”. (more)

 

Gov. Newsom must mop up Brown’s water mess

By Jonas Minton : secbee – excerpt

Despite many high priority issues on his plate, one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first tests will be how he deals with California’s water challenges and opportunities. Unfortunately, in the last days of his term Gov. Jerry Brown made a bad bargain with the Trump administration and special interests. It’s yet another mess for the new governor to mop up…

Despite many high priority issues on his plate, one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first tests will be how he deals with California’s water challenges and opportunities. Unfortunately, in the last days of his term Gov. Jerry Brown made a bad bargain with the Trump administration and special interests. It’s yet another mess for the new governor to mop up…

During his last month, Brown quietly signed an agreement with the Trump administration to transfer water from Southern California and portions of the Bay Area to corporate farms in the San Joaquin Valley. In return, the Trump administration dropped its threatened opposition to Brown’s legacy project — the massive tunnels that would divert water from the San Francisco Bay Delta. This was done with no public notice, hearing or environmental analysis…

Scientists have concluded that the effects of this closed-door deal are likely to cause the extinction of multiple California fish species. As a result, there are already over 20 lawsuits from water districts, farmers and environmentalists… (more)

 

 

Building Opportunity: Mapping Gentrification and Investment across Opportunity Zones

By Eric Willett, Vice President, and Brett Dunlavey, Analyst : rclco – excerpt

Among the more controversial aspects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was the designation of certain parcels of land as “Opportunity Zones,” which would allow investors to defer or completely waive all capital gains taxes on qualified investments in these areas.[1] While regulations for opportunity zone investments have yet to be wholly finalized, real estate investors have amassed sizable amounts of private capital to target commercial real estate within these geographies.

Given the significant attention and capital this investment strategy has already attracted, we set out to identify the census tracts that had most gentrified in recent years, and therefore would most likely become the target of Opportunity Zone investment. Our analysis quantifies changes in real estate investment, household income levels, and associated demographic characteristics[2] to build a Gentrification Index that is then applied to every Opportunity Zone in the 25 largest metro areas. Our analysis finds that there are a number of quickly gentrifying qualified Opportunity Zones, some with tens of thousands of multifamily units to be delivered over the next several years.

Read through our key findings below, or use the interactive dashboard to explore the Opportunity Zones in your city that have gentrified the most…(more)

 

Guest opinion: Battle for the soul of Mountain View

by Lenny Siegel : mv-voice – excerpt

New housing shouldn’t displace residents

There is a battle underway for the soul of Mountain View. For decades the Mountain View community has treasured diversity. We have long accepted people regardless of ethnic background, political or religious beliefs, or economic condition. In turn, they have helped build our community, performing jobs that we all need.

But the fabric that holds Mountain View together is at risk. Our extraordinary economic growth is causing gentrification and the displacement of many low- and middle-income residents. When we turn a blind eye, we lose part of our soul as a community…

We do need new housing in Mountain View, but we don’t have to displace people to build it. The city is encouraging both apartment and ownership housing construction on land that is currently in commercial use. We can’t legally force the owners of old apartments to stay in business, but we can eliminate their incentive to demolish by denying redevelopments that displace low- and moderate-income tenants…

If you value our apartment dwellers, vehicle residents, and mobile-home owners, please join me in signing the Soul of Mountain View petition at http://chng.it/TC7SFb4tPD. The soul of our community is at stake… (more)

‘Incentive to create havoc’: Self-driving cars set to turn streets into gridlocked hell – study

RT – excerpt

Driverless cars could spark a gridlock nightmare to avoid paying for parking, a new study warns. Autonomous vehicles could even gang up to create traffic delays, allowing them to continuously cruise around instead of park.

The idea sounds like a smart one: Avoid ever having to pay for parking by getting your car to simply continue to drive around the block until you’re ready to take off again. However, this seemingly savvy hack could turn our urban streets into traffic-clogged hellscapes, roads flooded with driverless cars, making it a challenge to actually get anywhere…(more)

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