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- September 6, 2012by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
There may be a drought in much of North America, but this summer has produced a bumper crop of reports on urban agriculture in cities across the continent. Nonprofit groups in New York, Toronto and Boston have recently published studies examining what their cities can do at the policy level to support city gardeners and farmers.
In the Big Apple, the Design Trust for Public Space and Added Value partnered together to produce Five Borough Farm: Seeding the Future of Urban Agriculture in New York City, the most comprehensive of the reports. The study’s snapshot of urban agriculture revealed:
- More than 700 farms and gardens (including school gardens) are producing food. This, the report pointed out, is more than three times the number of Starbucks in the city.
- In addition to 390 food-producing community gardens managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation, the New York City Housing Authority hosts 245 food-producing gardens.
- The vast majority of the sites are 5,000 square feet or less.
An innovative aspect of the report was its call for the city and urban agriculture practitioners to provide more detailed metrics — not only to track production (in pounds of food, value, jobs and participation) but also to track impact (dietary change, food literacy and social cohesion). In the coming year, the Design Trust will begin working with a small sample of sites to collect this sort of data, similar to the work of Farming Concrete.
One other notable aspect of the New York City report was how the history of land insecurity, specifically former mayor Guliani’s attempt to auction off 115 community garden sites for private development in 1999, led to a very specific garden review process for any future transfer proposals. It also led to the establishment of a small handful of land trusts — including the New York Restoration Project and three smaller community trusts that were recently spun off by the Trust for Public Land — that own scores of community garden sites. In contrast, there are no community land trusts operating urban agriculture projects in San Francisco.
Providing an international perspective from a colder clime, Toronto’s Food Policy Council published GrowTO: An Urban Agriculture Plan for Toronto. The goal of this enthusiastic report was to scale up urban agriculture across the city. Reflecting the similarities that dense cities face on this issue, the four top policy recommendations from Toronto are similar to those SPUR identified for San Francisco:
1. Create an urban agriculture program within the City of Toronto.
2. Update city policies to support and implement urban agriculture.
3. Provide incentives (financial and/or other) to groups and individuals starting or growing their urban agriculture initiative.
4. Develop a website that provides a clearinghouse of urban agriculture information.
The report also highlighted a “yard sharing” initiative called YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard), a model of maximizing use of private yards that has not been institutionalized yet anywhere in the Bay Area.
Not to be outdone by bigger cities, researchers from the Conservation Law Foundation in Beantown issued their report Growing Green: Measuring Benefits, Overcoming Barriers, and Nurturing Opportunities for Urban Agriculture in Boston. Unlike the others, this report was framed as a feasibility study for a hypothetical commercial urban farming venture that would cultivate many sites across Boston, totaling 50 acres. Two notable findings in the study were that:
- Commercial urban farms were likely to employ 2.6 to 4.5 people per acre
- Boston has at least 800 acres of vacant land suitable for urban agriculture
Alongside its feasibility analysis, the report provides detailed descriptions of existing policy and initiatives in the city, including an urban agriculture zoning overlay district. Unaddressed, however, was whether that zoning policy, or any other policy change, would make it feasible for any urban agriculture venture to gain access to 50 acres of land.
What the three studies show is both a growing sophistication of urban agriculture policy efforts in cities across the continent and the similar obstacles facing farmers and gardeners in dense urban areas. What is not yet clear is whether the bumper crop of studies will lead to subsequent bumper crops of food produced in those cities.
- September 4, 2012
A cadre of 45 urbanists gathered downtown on a recent Sunday morning to join SPUR San Jose Director Leah Toeniskoetter for a bike tour. Beginning in the urban plaza fronting Philz Coffee, our mighty bike train easily navigated its way along the brand new buffered bike lanes of Third Street, en route to Japantown. A project of the City of San Jose, the extra-wide bike lanes are a product of recent “road diets” on certain streets, where three lanes of auto traffic were reduced to two in order to add the buffered bike lane.
The new lanes easily accommodated the group as it cruised past St. James Park and through the Historic Hensley District, known for having the highest concentration of Victorian homes in the city’s central core. San Jose Director of Transportation Hans Larsen noted that the district really came to life in 2005 when road diets were applied to the section of Third and Fourth streets in the Hensley District, calming the fast three-lane, one-way streets to a slower two-lane, two way street with bike lanes. The transition has prompted continued investment in the historical character of the neighborhood.
In no time at all, the two-wheelers turned onto Jackson Street, the main road through the Japantown neighborhood — one of only three historical Japantowns in the United States. The heart of this district was embodied by the tables full of people outside of Roy’s Station, a gas-station-turned-coffeehouse on the corner of Jackson and Fifth streets. After passing the Sunday farmers’ market at the site of the old City of San Jose Corporation Yard, the group continued into the heart of the Northside Neighborhood District’s Luna Park Business District surrounding Backesto Park. Winding its way back through the neighborhood’s charming homes to the newly installed Tenth Street buffered bike lanes, the group made a straight shot back to the center of downtown and onto the San Jose State University campus.
As the oldest public institution of higher education on the West Coast, the SJSU campus is full of serene quads with surprises such as the Black Power Statue, the historic and architecturally significant Tower Hall, built in 1910, and the first library (Dr. MLK, Jr. Library) in the nation to be jointly owned by a city and university.
After snaking through the campus the bicycle caravan entered the city’s first protected bike lane, which runs along Fourth Street on the campus’ western edge. The group then circled back to San Fernando Street, the main bike route between campus and historic Diridon Station, the second busiest train station in California.
The tour then led to the Alameda, built in 1799 as the connection between Mission Santa Clara and the Pueblo of San Jose. In 1868, the Alameda became the state’s first interurban horsecar line and, in 1888, it became California’s second electric trolley line, after San Diego. Previously State Route 82 but now under the purview of the City of San Jose, the Alameda is expected to undergo an extensive upgrade in the Fall of 2012.
With a turn into the Rose Garden neighborhood the caravan passed the Rosicrucian Park and Museum, home to the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts on display in Western North America, and wound its way around another beautiful neighborhood, with homes dating to the 1920s and 1930s. A tour of the Rose Garden neighborhood wouldn’t be complete without passing its namesake, the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, a 5.5 acre city park filled with more than 3,500 bushes and 250 varieties of roses cared for by local volunteers.
A quick venture into the Shasta-Hanchett neighborhood, lined with Craftsman houses built between 1900 and 1920, led the group back to the Alameda, through the Cahill Park neighborhood and then to Park Avenue, another bike route into the downtown. A turn onto the Guadalupe River Trail, a separated bike path that runs along the Guadalupe River Park, guided the caravan straight through the 32nd annual Italian Family Festa of San Jose. After riding past stands offering fresh cannoli and other treats, the group traveled just a few blocks further to finish the tour at the San Pedro Market, having experienced a new way to see at least a small portion of what San Jose’s biking landscape has to offer.Tags: community planning
- September 4, 2012By Michael S. McGill*
California water policy is endlessly fascinating. It addresses the single most important resource problem facing the state. It is complex. And it changes with glacial slowness.
This year, San Franciscans face two issues that reprise what occurred three decades ago: What should the city do regarding the long-term fate of the Tuolumne River? And what should the state do about moving fresh water through the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta for shipment to the south?
Indeed, these two issues were the first water policy questions SPUR ever addressed. In 1982, the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission were proposing to build three dams and two powerhouses along the 20-mile stretch of the Tuolumne River between O’Shaughnessy Dam and New Don Pedro Reservoir. Also in 1982, Governor Jerry Brown was proposing to build a Peripheral Canal around the delta to move Sacramento River water directly to the massive pumps that send it to the South Bay, Central Valley and Southern California.
SPUR opposed both proposals. We persuaded Mayor Dianne Feinstein to forego the additional revenue, water and electricity that the Tuolumne dams would generate. She even authorized me to go to Washington, D.C., to testify on the city’s behalf at a congressional hearing on designating the Tuolumne as a Wild and Scenic River. I also joined a variety of environmental groups in several meetings with Governor Brown and his staff to try to persuade him to drop the Peripheral Canal.
Governor Brown put a bond issue for the canal on the November 1982 ballot. It lost. More than 90 percent of Northern Californians voted against it. Congress voted to save the Tuolumne in 1984.
And now, here we go again.
For the Tuolumne, the issue at stake is San Francisco’s Proposition F, which asks whether the city should commence planning to demolish O’Shaughnessy Dam and allow the Hetch Hetchy Valley to return to its natural state. Doing so would, however, deprive the city of one of the purest water supplies of any urban area in the nation — as well as hydroelectric power and a revenue stream generated by the sale of a portion of that power. SPUR has written previously about how decommissioning the dam and reservoir will threaten San Francisco’s water supply and why the city will continue to need this system.
But what would this proposal mean for the Tuolumne River itself? It means destroying the very values of that 20-mile stretch downstream that persuaded Congress to save it. In those 20 miles, with hardly a road or a structure in sight, there are two dozen major rapids. It is one of the finest whitewater experiences in the world. Running those rapids is possible all summer long because of a reliable flow of water released daily from Hetch Hetchy. Demolishing O’Shaughnessy would mean that the water would be too high and violent during spring runoff, and too low for the rest of the summer for all but a handful of days. There would be no dam in place to capture the high spring flows, and no reservoir to provide timed releases all summer long.
The Tuolumne is also a premier trout fishery. Demolishing O’Shaughnessy eliminates that fishery, because the water would get too warm during the summer months without replenishment on a daily basis from Hetch Hetchy.
Having failed in 1982 to persuade the voters to approve the Peripheral Canal, Governor Brown now wants to pursue a $14 billion project funded by revenue bonds to construct a Peripheral Tunnel. He argues this is essential to save the fragile ecology of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and to assure the continued delivery of a reliable supply of water to the South Bay, Central Valley and Southern California. The bonds and operating costs would supposedly be repaid by city and agricultural water users, although California farmers served by the two water systems receive heavily subsidized water supplies and cannot possibly afford to pay the full cost of developing the water.
The arguments from 30 years ago still apply today, even though conditions in the delta have gotten worse and the state has grown more populous. The proposed tunnel would have a capacity to deliver 9,000 cubic feet per second of water to the pumps for delivery south. Bypassing the delta would enhance the reliability of this water supply against an earthquake disrupting the delta and ensure that this water was of a higher quality than at present. It would also end the confusion fish face as they try to swim upstream while the pumps change the direction of stream flows.
But pumping this much water would consume one half to two thirds of the average normal monthly flow of the Sacramento River during the summer, when demand is highest. What happens during a drought? At present, the pumps cannot draw too much fresh water from the delta without sucking in salt water from the San Francisco Bay. With the tunnel, no such impediment would exist, and the entire flow of the Sacramento could be sent to the pumps. Halting the flow of fresh water into the bay for any sustained period would destroy its value as a major estuary.
Assurances are offered that the primary goal of this whole effort is to restore the delta environment, and that it may produce no new water or even result in reduced flows. This claim is based on the assumption that existing environmental laws and regulations will remain in place and be enforced, so too much water cannot ever be sent south.
Remember what happened on the Klamath River in 2002? The federal government decreed that less water was needed to preserve the salmon fishery, so more could be delivered to farmers. The result? More than 70,000 salmon died before reaching their spawning grounds. It took four years for a court to decree that the decision to reduce the flow was wrong, but the damage had been done.
So long as Sacramento River water going south has to flow through the delta, rather than around or under it, the Central Valley and Southern California cannot take all of it. But the Klamath River experience suggests that environmental laws and regulations alone cannot prevent excessive water withdrawals.
San Franciscans have a direct role to play in determining the fate of Hetch Hetchy reservoir by voting on Proposition F in this November’s election. Their role in addressing the issue of the Peripheral Tunnel is less direct. Without question, the current system for transporting water from north to south damages the environment and is vulnerable to disruption from natural disasters, ranging from drought to earthquakes. But fixing it involves finding a Gordian knot solution that links protecting the environment with ensuring a reliable supply of high-quality water via a mechanism not vulnerable to political pressure.
* Michael McGill served as SPUR associate director from 1973 to 1981 and executive director from 1982 to 1989. He moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as chief of staff and senior advisor on water policy to Senator Dianne Feinstein, and currently is a public affairs officer with the U.S. General Services Administration’s Public Buildings Service. The opinions expressed in this post are his alone and not necessarily the opinions of SPUR.
- August 27, 2012
SPUR is proud to announce our first smart phone app!
Our guide to downtown San Francisco’s privately owned public open spaces (POPOS) is now available for the iPhone. This landmark guide maps the rich network of more than 50 plazas, gardens, rooftop terraces and other little-known oases tucked throughout downtown San Francisco.
As our report Secrets of San Francisco explains, the 1985 Downtown Plan requires developers to build one square foot of open space for every 50 square feet of office space. But these open areas are often unmarked or tucked away on rooftops or inside buildings, making them hard for the public to find. Our report calls for improvements such as better signage. In the meantime, our app — affordably priced at $1.99 — is here to help you find them all. Proceeds from each purchase help support SPUR’s policy work and programming.
- August 23, 2012By Corey Marshall, Good Government Policy Director
It’s not often that the SPUR agenda features so prominently on the ballot in San Francisco. But the November 2012 election hits on three significant issues at the forefront of our work: affordable housing, business taxes and funding for parks. Our policy work has helped shape three important measures on the upcoming ballot, all of which we will support this fall.
Housing Trust Fund (Prop. C)
In the shadow of the governor’s elimination of redevelopment agencies, Prop. C is a Charter Amendment that would create a dedicated source of local funding for affordable housing for the next 30 years. SPUR and other housing advocates spent many months crafting this proposal to create a Housing Trust Fund for San Francisco. The measure would take advantage of the loss of redevelopment to recapture a portion of the local property tax receipts and dedicate up to $50 million annually toward the construction of affordable housing. But the measure goes even further; it would also provide down payment assistance to moderate-income families and it could provide an incentive for building more overall housing in San Francisco by lowering developer requirements for on-site affordable units, a move that could stimulate the production of both market rate and affordable housing.
Business Tax Reform (Prop. E)
Ever since a 2001 legal settlement eliminated a gross receipts tax and left the city’s business tax entirely dependent on a payroll tax, SPUR has advocated to either revise or replace the payroll tax altogether. While the revenue from the payroll tax funds important local priorities, taxing job creation through a payroll tax sends the wrong message and compromises San Francisco’s competitiveness as a city. There are many different ways to incentivize the creation of jobs and attract businesses, and Prop. E is a step in the right direction. Prop. E would transition San Francisco from a payroll-based tax to a gross receipts tax, a structure currently used in Los Angeles and other major cities in California. While retaining any local tax on business may not be ideal (SPUR has long been interested in whether or not environmental taxes could replace the payroll tax), this gross receipts tax proposal will actually result in less volatile revenues than the payroll tax — a key component to stable growth. This reform of the business tax was not put together quickly. It is the result of a process involving literally hundreds of businesses and hours of meetings: exactly the type of collaboration and consensus the city needs for a major transition such as this.
Parks Bond (Prop. B)
Funding for our city’s parks and open spaces has long been an important part of the SPUR agenda. The focus of our Seeking Green report was on finding operating funds to keep the doors (and park gates) open to the public and to properly maintain facilities built or renovated with bond funds. This year’s parks bond is the third in a series to help the department rectify years of deferred maintenance driven by budget reductions. The department has done a lot of work to improve planning and project delivery of bond projects, but much work remains. While we support this one-time bond, our hope is that the department’s next effort will address a more permanent solution to its $30 million annual operating deficit.
While these three propositions are quite distinct, they are in many ways interconnected. We need a healthy business community to provide employment opportunities for our residents and a source of revenue for important local priorities. People flock to San Francisco not simply for its jobs, but also for its quality of life and amazing recreational and cultural amenities. And without adequate affordable housing, too many people will be left out and the entire ecosystem could ultimately crumble. Now we must turn our attention to the November election and ensure that San Francisco voters also understand the importance of the complex ecosystem supported by the measures before them.
Look for the full SPUR voter guide with our in-depth analysis of all San Francisco measures this fall at www.spur.org/voterguide.
- August 23, 2012By Laura Tam, Sustainable Development Policy Director
This November, San Francisco’s Prop. F asks voters to approve an $8 million planning process to find a way to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the city’s most important water system asset. SPUR believes that this is a bad idea for many reasons, and we strongly oppose Prop F (stay tuned at www.spur.org/voterguide for our full ballot analysis in early October).
The measure also calls for a task force to develop a long-term plan to improve water quality and reliability, and to identify new local water sources to supplement water currently diverted from the Tuolumne River into the Hetch Hetchy system. As we have said before, it is so obviously a good idea to plan for alternative supplies that such endeavors are already well underway in San Francisco (and we certainly don’t need a ballot measure to compel us to do planning that is already being done). The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is working to site recycled water facilities in the city, develop groundwater supplies on the west side and make deep gains in conservation — no small feat in the most water-efficient city in California. By agreement with its wholesale customers, who use two-thirds of the water from the Hetch Hetchy system, the SFPUC must develop 10 million gallons a day of these additional supplies in San Francisco by 2018. This represents about 13 percent of the city’s current daily water use.
Not all of these alternative water supplies are created equal. Regulations — and common sense — currently prohibit us from drinking recycled water (i.e. treated sewage water), graywater (used kitchen, laundry or bath water) or seepage water (water that seeps into basements and needs to be pumped out), none of which are treated to drinking water standards. But these water sources are perfectly fine for uses such as flushing toilets, filling cooling towers or irrigating parks and can be used to offset our potable water demand. This way, we can save the very best Hetch Hetchy water for drinking.
To support this idea of matching supplies to appropriate uses — which is more efficient, sustainable and drought-resilient than using the same source for every use — the SFPUC recently evaluated the feasibility of “onsite” supplies to meet nonpotable demands.These are water supplies such as rainwater, graywater, blackwater (sewage) and seepage water that are generated, partially treated and reused on the same property. The SFPUC studied how much Hetch Hetchy water could be saved by aggressively encouraging the use of onsite supplies to meet nonpotable demands for residential, commercial and municipal open space uses. The study looked at the theoretical maximum available supply from sources such as rainwater or graywater and then looked at maximum feasible onsite demands for such sources. It concluded that in 2035, with 100 percent participation in these programs, San Francisco could save 3.4 million gallons a day.
Let’s put 3.4 million gallons a day in perspective. This savings is significant for a conservation program. It’s more than we will get from any one recycled water facility. It would add a significant extra and drought-resilient supply of local water, over and above the 10-million-gallon-a-day alternative supply portfolio San Francisco is developing from recycled water, groundwater and conservation. It would be a huge boon to the Tuolumne River and its ecosystems if we could put that extra water back into the river. We should pursue this new supply with gusto, first by making it easier to do onsite nonpotable reuse (which SPUR has strongly supported), then by creating greater incentives to do so.
But it will never replace the 74 million gallons a day that Hetch Hetchy delivers to San Francisco. We can’t reduce reuse, and recycle our way out of needing our region’s most important water system.
- August 22, 2012By Tony Vi
Los Angeles is in the midst of discarding its stereotype of exclusive auto-mobility and reshaping itself as a transit metropolis. (See the August/September issue of The Urbanist for more on the expansion of transit in L.A.). Pedestrian plazas, food trucks, CicLAvia (L.A.’s version of Sunday Streets), planned bike sharing, 1,600 miles of planned new bike lanes, and $40 billion for transit over the next 30 years all indicate this change. Metro, the region’s transit agency, has an estimated 1.4 million riders a day. (In comparison, the Bay Area’s seven largest transit agencies have a combined average of 1.5 million weekday riders.) Iconic boulevards, such as Sunset and Atlantic, are becoming places for people rather than just cars.
Can the Bay Area follow in Los Angeles’ footsteps in re-envisioning its boulevards and arterials?
Our region has an abundance of boulevards connecting multiple destinations and different land uses. Streets like Geary in San Francisco, San Pablo and International in the East Bay and El Camino Real, Bascom and Stevens Creek in the South Bay are all “boulevards” in this sense. These streets are natural corridors for transit, as they can form a grid network. Transit systems that focus on connecting multiple destinations have been found to have high ridership and low cost per rider, even when riders must transfer buses for transit trips. Multiple destinations along corridors can encourage two-way travel for transit routes. Instead of running express routes, where buses often run full in one direction and empty in the other, having many destinations along a corridor can keep buses productively full (as it does in decentralized Los Angeles). This allows transit corridors on boulevards to become places for people and activity.
Downtown Los Angeles Metro Service
While the Bay Area is not as decentralized as the Los Angeles region, boulevards and arterials in the Bay Area do provide similar opportunities for infill development that could create destinations and form a network for future growth in employment and housing. This is especially important as the Bay Area embarks on a regional planning effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by linking transportation and land use. Many arterials already have transit service and low-density, auto-centric development, making them ideal for infill and revisioning as places for people. Corridor planning efforts, such as the Grand Boulevard Initiative for El Camino Real in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, are important steps for revitalizing boulevards and arterials.
Boulevards Connecting South Bay Bus Rapid Transit Lines
However, there are many challenges to recreating boulevards:
- The high volume and speed of traffic make boulevards less livable
- Street design guidelines prioritize congestion mitigation
- Outdated zoning and parking requirements prevent infill development
- Multiple jurisdictions can have authority over one boulevard, making change difficult
The fear of congestion that could result from removing travel lanes, dedicating lanes to transit only and calming traffic is one argument against changing arterial streets. But cities need to look beyond increasing mobility and mitigating congestion. Congestion is a byproduct of economic prosperity, and eliminating it can remove urban vitality. Cities also need to develop strategies to overcome barriers to infill development, such as updating zoning codes, reducing parking requirements, incentivizing transit-oriented development, streamlining approval processes, and investing in street design and open space. Transit agencies need to increase transit frequency and service on arterials and connect feeder routes to serve growing areas of activity.
The Bay Area is fortunate to have arterials that form a network of potential infill destinations. What remains is for the region to encourage denser infill development and create high-frequency transit corridors on existing boulevards.Tags: transportation
- August 21, 2012by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
For more than three decades, San Francisco's Heart of the City Farmers’ Market has been operating at UN Plaza, along Market Street and within sight of City Hall. The market is unique not only for its central location but also for its dedication to offering fresh produce to low-income customers living in the nearby Tenderloin neighborhood while also supporting the livelihood of California farmers.
Since its start in 1981 as a joint project of the American Friends Service Committee and Market Street Association, Heart of the City Farmers’ Market has been governed by its farmer-vendors. As a result, the farmers have worked to keep stall fees – what they pay for space at the market – low. Currently the fees are $30 per day, per 10 foot by 10 foot stall, which may be the lowest rate in the city. The low stall fees are a prime reason this farmers' market is known not only for its variety but also for its affordability.
The market is also known for its size. With more than 50 farm stands and nearly 20 prepared-food vendors selling fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, eggs, bread, tamales, rotisserie chicken and more, the market is bigger than most other markets in the city except the Ferry Building and Alemany Markets. According to Kate Creps, Heart of the City market manager, most of the farmers travel 1.5 to 3 hours to reach the market, though some travel further, including Dates by Davall, who drives more than 8 hours one way to bring his produce from the Coachella Valley, east of Los Angeles.
The market also distinguishes itself by its commitment to support the use of food stamps at farmers’ markets. More than 75 percent of all CalFresh electronic benefits used at farmers’ markets in San Francisco are redeemed at Heart of the City.
The organization just reached a new milestone this month with the addition of a Friday market, complementing its existing Wednesday and Sunday gatherings. While it’s still to be seen whether demand is sufficient to sustain the Friday market, it's an exciting development in a neighborhood with no full-service grocery store. Starting a new farmers’ market is difficult in general, but that’s especially true in low-income areas, with the close of the Bayview farmers’ market providing an example.
Describing the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market, though, doesn’t do it justice. So stop reading and mark your calendar for a Wednesday, Friday or Sunday starting as early as 7 a.m. Bring a shopping bag, appetite or both, and enjoy this special market yourself.
- August 9, 2012By Leah Toeniskoetter, SPUR San Jose Director
In January 2010, San Jose passed an inclusionary housing law to help do three things: address the city’s affordable housing needs, meet the state’s requirement for regional fair share housing and promote economic integration. But now a successful legal suit has thrown the future of this law into question. To understand what’s at stake, this post takes a look at how the 2010 ordinance was designed to work and what the lawsuit could mean for San Jose and other California cities.
Before 2010, San Jose’s inclusionary housing policy applied only to redevelopment areas, but the 2010 ordinance expanded the requirements citywide. The ordinance applies to residential developments of 20 units or more and requires that 15 percent of units in for-sale housing developments be made available for purchase by income-restricted households at below market rates. Additionally, 9 percent of the dwelling units in rental developments must be priced for moderate-income households and 6 percent for very low income households. (“Moderate income” is defined as $53,000 for a 1-person household and $75,700 for a 4-person household, and “very low income” is $36,750 for a 1-person household and $52,500 for a 4-person household.)
The ordinance creates an incentive for developers to build the inclusionary units on-site, but it also provides them with other options to fulfill their affordable housing obligations. For example, developers can pay an in-lieu fee that helps to fund future affordable housing initiatives in the city, build affordable units at a separate location or dedicate land for future affordable housing developments. Additionally, the ordinance places deed restrictions to ensure that the inclusionary units remain affordable well into the future. In the event that an owner of an inclusionary unit were to sell the home to a buyer who does not meet the income requirements, the city would capture a portion of the appreciated value of the home. Those proceeds, similar to the developer in-lieu fee, would pay for future affordable housing.
The ordinance is meant to help San Jose reach its housing goal of providing more than 19,000 affordable housing units between 2007 and 2014, as determined by the Association of Bay Area Governments and in accordance with the state-required regional housing needs allocation (RHNA) process. The city had already implemented precedents for this concept in large-scale development plans, including the redevelopment of the former Hitachi industrial campus and North San Jose’s Specific Plan, where a portion of the new homes built would be affordable as a way of ensuring a diverse community.
San Jose’s inclusionary housing ordinance was slated to go into effect in January 2013, but following its adoption the California Building Industry Association (CBIA), with assistance from the BIA Bay Area, filed a lawsuit to overturn it. The plaintiffs argued that the city did not show proof that market rate housing adversely affected the community or created the need for affordable housing. Proving evidence of a relationship between the impacts of a development and the requirements put on the developer, called a “nexus,” has been established as a constitutional standard in previous land use lawsuits. In certain cases cities will undertake a nexus study to prove the relationship before proposing fees or requirements. However, it is very unusual for jurisdictions to do nexus studies to justify their inclusionary housing ordinances. Normally, cities can rely on the “police powers” afforded them under state and federal law in order to enact inclusionary housing laws for the purposes of regulating land use or protecting the health and well-being of their citizens. This is nothing new in California cities: The California Coalition for Rural Housing compiled a database that indexes 145 inclusionary policies in different jurisdictions statewide, nearly half of which are enacted in other Bay Area cities.
In May 2012, the lawsuit against San Jose’s inclusionary housing ordinance prevailed and Santa Clara County Superior Court overturned it. San Jose is in the process of appealing this decision, and the outcome could have implications for any California city that passed similar measures without a nexus study.
Until the appeal is heard, no part of the law can be enforced, and San Jose cannot rely on its inclusionary ordinance to provide affordable housing. Meanwhile, it and other California cities can no longer rely on redevelopment funding that came from tax increment financing, 20 percent of which (and in San Jose’s case, up to 40 percent) was used to fund affordable housing. Since 1988, these funds have helped finance 175 developments in San Jose, providing 13,920 affordable units. The economic meltdown, coupled with these cuts to funding, has left the city significantly behind in meeting its RHNA goals for the 2007-2014 period. (These goals are mandated by state housing law as a way to quantify the need for housing within each city during specific planning periods,) And there is no new source of funds on the horizon.
Meanwhile, the need for housing that is affordable to the local workforce, across the spectrum of incomes in San Jose, remains as high as ever. Affordable housing developers are still trying to pursue projects in San Jose, and the city’s housing department plans on continuing to support affordable housing. Their goal is to provide funding for affordable housing units currently in the pipeline, despite limited funding.
SPUR believes it is important to increase thesupply of housing at all income levels; when designed and located well, housing can become a tool for strengthening neighborhoods and local economies. We also believe that one type of housing need not be built at the expense of another. Instead, we must work collaboratively to obtain the necessary financial resources and regulatory tools to build it all.We hope the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance will be reinstated, and that San Jose will be able to find new resources to help construct badly needed affordable housing.Tags: housing
- August 2, 2012by Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager
San Francisco will soon have a new urban agriculture program. On July 17, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation — introduced by Supervisor David Chiu and co-sponsored by Supervisors Avalos, Cohen, Mar and Olague — that sets clear goals and timelines for how the city government can better support urban farmers and gardeners.
The following week, the board put funding behind the program when it included $120,000 for the initiative in the 2012-2013 city budget.
The supervisors made two amendments to the version of the legislation that passed out of committee before giving it the final nod:
1. The goal of reducing wait times for a garden plot at community gardens to less than 1 year by 2014 was changed to a goal of developing a strategy to reach that same target by the end of this year.
2. The language regarding creating resource centers was altered slightly to prioritize that the resource centers should be hosted at existing sites rather than opening new facilities.
Now that the ordinance is law, the following timelines and goals go into effect:
· To complete and publish, by January 1, 2013, an audit of city-owned buildings with rooftops potentially suitable for both commercial and non-commercial urban agriculture;
· To develop, by January 1, 2013, incentives for property owners to allow temporary urban agriculture projects, particularly on vacant and blighted property awaiting development;
· To develop, by January 1, 2013, a streamlined application process for urban agriculture projects on public land, with clear evaluation guidelines that are consistent across agencies;
· To create, by July 1, 2013, a “one-stop shop” for urban agriculture that would provide information, programming and technical assistance to all San Francisco residents, businesses and organizations wishing to engage in urban agriculture;
· To develop new urban agriculture projects on public land where residents demonstrate desire for the projects, with at least 10 new locations for urban agriculture completed by July 1, 2014;
· To provide garden resource locations in neighborhoods across the city, at existing sites where possible, that provide residents with resources such as compost, seeds and tools, with at least 5 completed by January 1, 2014; and,
· To analyze and develop, by January 1, 2013, a strategy to reduce the wait list for San Francisco residents seeking access to a community garden plot to one year.
While the above timelines and goals set an overall vision for what the new program must do, another crucial deadline in the legislation is December 31, 2012. By that date, the city administrator and mayor must present to the board a strategic plan for how the new program should meet its goals and a recommendation regarding who – meaning which agency or non-profit – should manage the program.
SPUR’s focus on urban agriculture will now shift from the legislation to its implementation. Many questions remain to be answered between now and the end of the year, and we will be working to ensure that the new urban agriculture program is as effective as possible.