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.


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)

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)


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)

More Building, Lending Catapult San Francisco Office

By Lisa Brown : globest – excerpt

Construction-to-permanent financing of $93 million was recently secured for One De Haro, a four-story 60-foot tall building with two-thirds office and one-third light industrial uses totaling 133,427 square feet.

SAN FRANCISCO—Construction continues in the city, in an attempt to satisfy growing demand. One project in specific, One De Haro, is located at the intersection of SOMA, Potrero Hill and Showplace Square districts. Designed by Pfau Long Architecture, the project is a four-story 60-foot tall building which will have two-thirds office and one-third light industrial uses for a total of 133,427 square feet.

Construction-to-permanent financing of $93 million was recently secured for the mixed-use building. A NorthMarq team led by managing director Dennis Williams and vice president Briana Harney secured the funding through a life insurance company relationship on behalf of the Sponsor, SKS Partners of San Francisco…

Even with the delivery of the fully leased 750,000-square-foot Park Tower, San Francisco supply is exhausted trying to keep up with the ever-increasing tech demand, according to a first quarter report by Avison Young. The first quarter closed with a total of 3.8 million square feet of available space on the market. However, with total tenant demand of 8.8 million square feet and new construction deliveries 67% preleased, this amount of space will not satisfy the overall appetite.…(more)

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.

‘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)

10 challenges that will define cities in 2019


From homelessness and housing to big tech and budgets, the forces shaping urbanism in the coming year.

Here are 10 big issues expected to play oversized roles in shaping the story of cities in 2019.

The elimination of single-family zoning and parking minimums
How far will the scooter invasion go?
Can cities continue to lead on climate change?
Bigger blowback against big tech
Can congestion pricing help curb traffic woes?… What to watch: The expected Uber and Lyft IPOs offer an interesting wrinkle to the ongoing debate in New York over congestion pricing…
The pension payment time bomb continues to grow
The rise in homelessness
A widespread shortage of affordable housing
The potential of legal pot
Retail’s continued evolution

What to watch: Will New York find a way to fund an ambitious subway overhaul? Will Uber, Lyft, and the raft of scooter companies bleed more riders away from transit?… (more)



Editorial: Good, bad in much-needed plan for Bay Area housing crisis

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

It’s great that the region is finally having this overdue discussion, but it’s critical that we get it right

A coalition of divergent Bay Area interests has come together on a plan to confront the region’s housing crisis…

The group’s so-called CASA Compact, unveiled last week and up for its first public review at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on Wednesday, provides a serious foundation for a much-needed discussion. It hits the target on several fronts but misses the mark on others.

It recognizes, for example, that easing the crisis requires addressing rent gouging, reducing barriers to residential construction and changing zoning around transit stations to enable denser housing.

But it fails to examine how much responsibility employers, especially in the Silicon Valley, have to participate in solving the crisis. And while calling for more housing near job centers, the compact ignores the traffic-easing potential of providing more jobs near housing centers, especially in the suburban East Bay… (more)

California legislator revives bill to boost apartment complexes near transit

: latimes – excerpt

A California state senator has revived a major effort to boost homebuilding near transit, a proposal he says is necessary to address the state’s housing affordability and climate change challenges that have only deepened since his initial bill failed earlier this year.

Under the new proposal from Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), developers would be allowed to build four- to five-story apartment complexes in neighborhoods surrounding Los Angeles Metro stations, Bay Area Rapid Transit and other rail stops around the state. The legislation would also ease some local restrictions on building homes near frequently used bus stops… (more)

Wiener misses the major objection that the opposition had to SB 287 with his new SB 50 bill. The primary problem we as independent taxpaying voters have with these bills is the fact that they are meant to override local government jurisdiction over these matters.

Some of our more honest state representatives have described to us the importance of human contact with their constituents in order to serve them when they are working at the local level. When they go to Sacramento or Washington that close relationship goes away. That is the reason we need to keep the local jurisdictions powerful to provide for the public.

The headiness that takes over once the representation becomes too general and too widespread is not healthy for our republic or our democratic government order. We need to stay local in order to solve the local problems and housing and transportation do not exist in Sacramento or in Washington they exists on all our local streets.

The work that has been done in the name of affordable housing and public transit has not solved our problems. Over the last six or seven years the state has gone into a sad condition of economic and social unrest because the state government fails to recognize the problem is a local one and needs to support the local efforts not hinder them.

Let us start with the CPUC. That entity has done considerable damage to our state by supporting corporate profits over public desires, needs, and services. We were dealing with the Ubers and Lyfts, and their ilk, but nothing compares to the looming power utility crisis that may befall us due to the CPUC’s lack of proper regulation of the power industry. We are looking at a possible failure of that system and calling on our new governor to do something about that problem that needs to be fixed before inviting any more people to move into the state.

People do not live by housing alone, as SB 50 seems to indicate. Just pile them into housing and somehow we will find the water, power, and food to keep it all going. We need a time out now and passing SB 50 is not the answer.

The YIMBYs who support Wiener did not win in his home town and many of his constituents want to recall him. That should give some people pause when they consider supporting this new bill.


Tax breaks for corporations are a bad idea, new study shows

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

The Twitter tax break, the tax breaks for Amazon — they do a lot more harm than good. It’s time SF officials admitted that.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is criticizing the massive tax incentives that New York is giving to Amazon – and that’s created a lot of much-needed discussion about the impact of tax breaks on corporate location decisions.

The conservative National Review agrees with the democratic socialist Ocasio-Cortez: Tax breaks to entice companies to move to a city or region are generally ineffective and a bad idea…

Ocasio-Cortez raises a larger question than the wisdom or value of the tax breaks for Amazon in Long Island. She questions, and I think she is right, whether the new tech HQ will lead to massive displacement in Long Island City. Will the existing residents get the benefits of high-paying jobs – or will people move to that community to take those jobs and force longtime residents out?…

You can’t change bad policy directions without admitting that you were doing the wrong thing. At some point, everyone involved needs to accept reality and say: The Twitter tax break was wrong, on so many levels, in so many ways. Then the next time we can know better… (more)

Election 2018: Local politics in the age of Godzilla

By Joe Eskenazi : missionlocal – excerpt

Godzilla, that stalwart of the man-in-a-dinosaur-costume-stepping-on-toys genre, emerged from the depths of the sea in 1954, and has been featured in 32 sequels. The spectacle of watching an oversize rubber iguana go full Keith Moon on an elaborate, flaming set of obvious papier-mache landscapes populated with dollhouse cities and model trains and cars is its own elevator pitch (hence the sequels)… (more)

As we now know the people power won out over the dark side, if you support the idea of the rich paying to support those people they are displacing. That was sort of the idea behind Prop C. Who knows, some may think twice about coming here to add to the problem. Those fighting for the homeless win either way.

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