Blog » regional planning
- July 15, 2010BY TIMOTHEA TWAY
[Photo Credit: flickr user Sam Williams]
Earlier this month, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) unanimously adopted new air quality guidelines related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and particulate matter (PM 2.5) from land use projects. The comprehensive new guidelines, among the most stringent in the nation, address the impacts of air pollutants, as well as recent changes in state and federal air quality. The guidelines also include air quality significance thresholds and mitigation measures local agencies can use when preparing air quality impact analyses under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Some significant changes to the guidelines include:
- Single family housing projects of 56 dwelling units or greater, hotels with more than 83 hotel rooms and general office buildings with more than 53,000 square feet will all be considered to have a significant impact on GHG emissions under CEQA.
- Local governments are encouraged to adopt qualified GHG Reduction Strategies.
- New screening criteria and threshold levels have been set for extremely fine particulate matter emissions and toxic air contaminants. Projects which fall above these new thresholds will be required determine whether the project will result in a significant impact, including evaluation of emissions within a 1,000 foot radius of the proposed project.
Stricter greenhouse gas and particulate matter guidelines are a good thing, right? Not always, say some who argue that the new guidelines may inadvertently lead to more sprawl by making it harder to develop the denser parts of our region. Some worry that the new regulatory obstacles will drive up the costs of future affordable housing, infill, and transit-oriented development (TOD) projects. Developers and cities are concerned that the new guidelines will make compliance with SB 375, the State's law which requires compact development, more difficult.
The guidelines do contain a method for local governments to accelerate the CEQA review process for projects that are infill or transit-oriented. To do this, a city can prepare a GHG Reduction Strategy and have it approved by BAAQMD. Projects or plans consistent with these strategies could then be considered less than significant under CEQA, and therefore exempt from full review. With cities around the region reeling from the budget crisis, and in some cases cutting planning staff, however, resources to develop these strategies are in short supply.
San Francisco has already begun working on a GHG Reduction Strategy, so it is unlikely that the BAAQMD Guidelines will cause significant environmental review process changes for projects in the City; the new air quality standards will likely have more significant impacts on projects and plans in jurisdictions without GHG Reduction Strategies or detailed climate change related policies.
- July 13, 2010BY FABIANA MEACHAM
What are the most pressing issues facing California in the next 15 years and how should we deal with them? If only there were one comprehensive PDF document floating around the internet with all the answers.
Policy wonks across the state will now be thrilled to discover the Public Policy Institute of California's recently released CA2025 report, a "briefing kit" covering California's most important long-term policy issues. Outlining policies on topics ranging from water to transportation to the economy, the report acts as a kind of handbook for every major policy concern confronting the state today. While one might expect an insufferably dense document, the text is actually quite accessible, the graphics clear and informative. Some might crave more detail and in-depth analysis than CA2025 provides, but the report still serves as an excellent primer for the key issues facing the state, and presents compelling arguments for how our policy makers might tackle them.
[Graph courtesy of PPIC CA2025]
- January 5, 2010BY BEN LOWE
This past fall, a group of SPUR board members and staff traveled to Washington DC to learn from the urban-planning successes of our nation's capital; today, three members of that group presented their findings at a lunchtime forum.
SPUR Deputy Director Sarah Karlinsky began the discussion with an overview of the Washington urban planning models from Pierre L'Enfant's plan of 1791 to and James McMillan's Plan of 1901 through modern-day endeavors to enliven the long-neglected Southeast waterfront area along the Anacostia. Regional Planning Director Egon Terplan expanded the geographical scope of the discussion, demonstrating with satellite photography areas in the region where forward-thinking transit-planning decisions brought about transit-oriented development along major corridors and high public transit use. Terplan focused on the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in Virginia and Bethesda in Maryland, both tremendous successes in inducing dense development clustered around regional rail service.
Finally, architect and urban historian Rod Freebairn-Smith showed photographs gathered during the trip focused on how security threats affect both civic life and architecture. His photos included many examples of how buildings have been fortified through bollardization and other means, while not marring the storied city or preventing access to national monuments and icons.
- November 21, 2009BY BEN LOWE
Study after study has shown that cities prioritize development that lets visitors and residents walk, bicycle, or take public transit to get around, people are healthier and have far less negative impact on the environment. Now, a new study by TransForm entitled Windfall for All demonstrates another benefit to developing livable communities: people who do not use cars to get around spend far less money on transportation than people who do. Citing AAA estimates, the report shows that, on average, it costs $8,097 per year to own, maintain, register, insure, and fuel a vehicle. In all, individuals in the Bay Area spend $34 billion on private transportation, most of which on owning and operating cars.
Especially in current tough economic conditions, finding ways to cut costs is critical, and that includes money spent on transportation. Yet many Bay Area towns and cities have prioritized development that not only encourages auto use, but precludes other ways to travel. As the study asserts, people can only move away from expensive auto use toward more affordable transportation means if cities give them the means to do so by putting housing near transit, ensuring pedestrians and bicyclists can get around safely, and investing in pleasant places that are nicer to be in than to drive past.
- November 10, 2009BY EGON TERPLAN, REGIONAL PLANNING DIRECTOR
[Image: Green roof in Toronto from urbanneighbourhood]
How can cities best position themselves in the green economy? What is the role of manufacturing in urban areas? How can a city best choose an economic development strategy given its size and unique economic history? How should federal policy support policy innovation among cities?
Join us for an evening discussion with nationally-recognized visiting writer and professor Joan Fitzgerald. She will give us a preview of her new book, Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development, to be published by Oxford University Press in early 2010. In the book, Joan Fitzgerald shows how in the absence of a comprehensive national policy, cities have taken the lead in addressing the interrelated environmental problems of global warming, pollution, energy dependence, and social justice. Her analysis includes a comparison of 24 cities throughout the United States - major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco (of course) but also less known places such as Toledo and Syracuse.
Join us on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 6:00 pm
Where: SPUR Urban Center (654 Mission Street)
Joan Fitzgerald is a nationally-recognized writer and professor who directs the Law, Policy and Society Program at Northeastern University. Earlier this year, Fitzgerald edited The American Prospect’s April 2009 special report on “The Green Challenge: Will Cleaner Energy Produce New Industries and Good Jobs for Americans?” The answer, says Fitzgerald and the six other contributors to that report, is Yes—provided that governments at the federal, state and local level give green manufacturing the support it needs to flourish. That means much more thanfunding specific companies; it requires crafting and implementing a comprehensive industrial policy. Such a policy, Fitzgerald writes in her piece Cities on the Front Lines, would recognize how traditional sources of manufacturing strength can serve as the base of a renewable energy economy. She cites how a former glass technology and manufacturing center like Toledo, Ohio has now become a leader in solar energy.
And last month in an op-ed for the Boston Globe, Fitzgerald warns that absent a broad and coherent industrial vision that connects demand, supply and technology, the United States is likely to cede leadership in renewable energy production and other clean technologies to German, Japan and China.
- October 30, 2009BY BEN LOWE
On October 29, architects David Baker and Amit Price Patel of David Baker + Partners Architects and David Fletcher from Fletcher Studio presented Xero Energy, their winning entry in the Re:Vision Dallas competition. Sponsored by Urban Re:Vision of San Francisco, the competition asked designers to propose a fully sustainable city block.
The proposal envisions an array of energy-conservation and -generation methods used in concert to reduce the overall energy "footprint" of the building, from photovoltaic panels and geothermal energy generation to on-site community agriculture that would reduce the distance -- and concomitant fossil fuel use -- of residents' food. In reaching for sustainability, the Xero Energy proposal reached far beyond the 2.4-acre site they were assigned to work on as well, presenting a vision of an expansive greenway and connections to Union Station, a handsome Beaux-Arts rail station nearby.Tags: regional planning
- October 17, 2009BY MARY
It's not too late to catch some sessions at the National Conference in Planning History taking place at the Oakland Marriott this weekend. Organized by the Society for American City and Regional Planning History, many of the panels and tours are focused on the Bay Area, as well as their Sunday tours, which include "Historical Development and Ethnic Change in Oakland," "Urban Renewal in San Francisco" and "North of the Golden Gate: Growth Control, Open Space, and Alternative Agriculture on the Urban Fringe." The Marriott is an easy two blocks from the Oakland City Center BART station.
- July 1, 2009BY LAURA TAM, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY DIRECTOR
NRDC has just released a guide to SB 375, the nation's first legislation to link transportation and land use planning with global warming. The goal of this legislation is to foster development patterns that reduce the need to drive. Household transportation is the single largest and fastest-growing source of global warming pollution in California. SB 375 will also help save money for households and taxpayers (through reduced infrastructure costs), reduce air pollution, conserve water, and protect farmland and open space.