Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Strange Math of the Dixie School Debate.

Remember to give a hug for your neighbors.  We are going to need a lot of love after the Dixie School District name change debate is past.

HUD's "Affirmative Further Fair Housing" Rule in Five Minutes.

Clarification: Westchester V Hud was settled in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appesls in NY. The Final Decision quoted Chief Justice John Roberts. This short video describes the effects on local communities if they accept HUD money for fair housing or urban development under their new rule, Affirmatively Furthering fair Housing. AFFH, as a term has existed for many years, the ruling went into efect July, 2015.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Three Mayors on Affordable Housing and SB50

Los Angeles Leader Koretz Slams SB 50 as Devastating to LA

Los Angeles Leader Koretz Slams SB 50 as Devastating to LA

Tall buildings towering over homes until they are squeezed out!

Slamming Senate Bill 50 by Scott Wiener, which aims to wipe out thousands of single-family neighborhoods and strong rental stock statewide, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz today urged the L.A. City Council to oppose SB 50.

SB 50 is far, far more devastating to California’s cities and counties than SB 827, Wiener’s highly controversial gentrification law that died in committee in 2018.

The soft-spoken Koretz led Los Angeles in opposing SB 827 in 2018, calling it “Utterly insane, the worst bill I have seen in the history of California.”

Wiener is back with something more horrible. SB 50 aims to stamp out single-family neighborhoods near bus or transit lines, and areas near “good public schools with above-median incomes” to make way for 6-story to 8-story apartments, clearing out stable communities in big cities, distant suburbs and small towns alike.

Perversely, his bill forces low-income communities to adopt his dystopian plan for luxury housing towers by 2025 – or Wiener will dramatically “upzone” their communities for them, destroying their vibrant diverse neighborhoods.

SB 50 will unleash a land-buying craze among luxury housing investors so intense that Wiener has begun claiming his bill protects renters from the profound displacement and homelessness his plan will set off. Under Scott Wiener’s impossible scheme, cities would protect the working-class from luxury housing developers by tracking the current and past addresses of their renter populations — something only a handful of cities are capable of.

We at Coalition to Preserve LA urge the Los Angeles City Council to educate itself now, by reading the analysis link below and reviewing the two-slide PowerPoint linked to here.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Planning Department earned a black eye in 2018 when it issued a late, vague analysis of SB 827 that was useless in fighting Wiener. Luckily, analyses of Wiener’s SB 827 were published in a timely manner in early 2018 by civic groups, the City of San Francisco, and others.

SB 50 is a Russian Nesting Egg that the media have not yet unpeeled. We thank the civic groups, attorneys, and city planning commissioners from around California who helped create the two documents we link to in this press release.

Here’s today’s statement against SB 50 by Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz:


February 28, 2019 – Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5), introduced a resolution yesterday in formal opposition of California State Senate Bill 50 (Wiener) that ostensibly seeks to require upzoning in cities throughout California to increase affordable housing and density along transit corridors regardless of local jurisdiction’s zoning laws.
The resolution points out that SB 50 would allow construction of higher density multi-family housing developments near major transit stops that are out-of-compliance with local land use regulations and procedures and requests that the City of Los Angeles oppose the bill in its 2019-20 State Legislative Program, unless the bill is amended to exclude the City of Los Angeles from its provisions. Los Angeles already has its own increased density mechanisms that are being tailored to better fit the city’s many unique neighborhoods.

“While we all agree that we need to build more affordable housing, particularly near transit, SB 50 focuses mainly on the creation of market-rate housing and takes away planning oversight from local jurisdictions,” said Councilmember Paul Koretz. “Furthermore, Los Angeles is more progressive than many California cities in that it already incentivizes multifamily development through Measure JJJ and the Transit Oriented Community program – both of which could be set back if SB 50 becomes law. State control of local zoning undermines not only the integrity of cities and counties, but strips residents of their ability to engage in a meaningful planning and community building process.”

SB 50 is a new iteration of Wiener's earlier controversial SB 827 that was killed in its first committee hearing. The earlier bill would have allowed the construction of apartment buildings up to five stories tall near every high-frequency mass transit stop in the state regardless of local residential preservation zoning law. It was opposed by many California cities including Los Angeles.

Councilmember Koretz has been a constant critic of both bills pointing out that “the passage of SB 50 would still threaten single-family neighborhoods in CD5 and elsewhere, where we could look forward to seeing tall narrow 4 to 5 story buildings towering over single-family homes until they are squeezed out and many analysts have interpreted the vague language of the bill to mean that those heights are minimum requirements and that the buildings could end up being built much taller.”

“I applaud Councilmember Koretz for once again leading the City’s opposition against Wiener’s dystopian version of the growth of California’s cities,” said Jill Stewart, Executive Director of the Coalition to Preserve LA. “As was the case with SB 827, Wiener’s newer bill seeks to end the world of yards, single-family homes, tree-lined streets and places for children to thrive. The media does not seem to understand that SB 50 is a Russian Nesting Egg whose undeniable but purposely obscured outcomes are far, far worse than SB 827. SB 50 openly threatens the "sensitive communities" of Los Angeles, requiring them to upzone their own starter-home neighborhoods out of existence by 2025 It's a direct attack on Latino and black home ownership, on families with children, and on our crucial environmental need for trees and places to breathe.”

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Why Hong Kong Is Claiming Golf Greens for New Housing

Why Hong Kong Is Claiming Golf Greens for New Housing

MARY HUI FEB 27, 2019
In a controversial decision, the government has announced it will take part of a golf club and redevelop it as housing, much of it public.

HONG KONG—Part of a 129-year-old golf club will be appropriated for new housing in this land-squeezed city that, for nine years running, has been ranked as having the world’s least affordable housing market. The decision comes following protests over the fate of the club’s 172-hectare (425-acre) site in the northern suburb of Fanling.

Last week, the local government announced that it will take 32 hectares (80 acres) from the Hong Kong Golf Club next year and redevelop it for housing, much of it public. (The local government has the authority to do this because it essentially owns all the land in Hong Kong, and leases it out on decades-long terms.) Later this year, the government will begin a technical study to determine the number of apartments to be built on the land and the scope of infrastructural work needed to support the development. Construction is expected to start in 2024, with residents moving into the homes in 2028 at the earliest.Public and private housing complexes in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has one of the highest population densities in the world, and its housing is among the globe’s priciest. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

In a statement, the Hong Kong Golf Club immediately denounced the government’s decision as “populist and political … putting housing and sports at loggerheads.”

“We sort of anticipated this was going to come,” said Yoshihiro Nishi, president of the Hong Kong Golf Association, a group representing four private golf clubs including the Hong Kong Golf Club. Nishi led the group’s efforts last year in lobbying the government to preserve the entire Fanling site. Now, he said he is worried that the decision will be a blow to the future of golf in Hong Kong.

Supporters of the golf club also said the redevelopment will mar a landscape that includes historic buildings and many old trees. “It is one of the oldest courses in Asia, and a lot of history is going to have to go with it,” said Michelle Cheung, a member of the Hong Kong golf team.

Meanwhile, housing advocates criticized the government for not taking more land from the club.

“It’s killing the chicken to scare the monkey,” said Yam Chun, a community organizer for the Concerning Grassroots’ Housing Rights Alliance, using a Chinese idiom that means warning the many by punishing the few. “To protect 140 hectares by taking back 32 is to just silence citizens’ demands, and we think this is unacceptable.” Yam wants to see the entire Fanling site, with three 18-hole courses, redeveloped for housing and other public uses.

The fight over the future of the golf courses started last February, when a task force proposed a series of options to increase Hong Kong’s land supply, including partially or fully redeveloping the Fanling site. The bitter debate that followed laid bare deep fractures in a city grappling with problems of economic inequality, declining social mobility, and slowing growth.

One of the most common criticisms of the golf club and other private sports clubs like it is that they rent their land from the government through special, reduced-rate leases called private recreational leases. Because Hong Kong’s 24 private sports clubs serve about 56,000 people in a city of 7.4 million, some have attacked the special-lease policy as a subsidy for the rich. (The government this week announced that private sports clubs will be charged substantially higher land premiums starting from 2026 or 2027, but they will still be well below market rates.)
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A corporate membership at the Hong Kong Golf Club costs about $2 million (U.S.). Individual memberships cost much less, but involve a vetting process and a years-long waiting list. Non-members can play on most weekdays, with an 18-hole round costing around $140, and the club has outreach programs offering classes for underprivileged students and training for young golfers.

Last March, protestors stormed the Hong Kong Golf Club, chanting “Land for all!” and “We want public housing!” At another demonstration in April 2018, protestors scuffled with security guards and a golf coach grabbed a protestor by the neck and threw him to the ground. The coach was later charged with assault and given a suspended prison sentence.Last March, protestors stormed the Hong Kong Golf Club, chanting “Land for all!” and “We want public housing!”

The golf-course redevelopment is one of eight recommendations in a report published in December by the land-supply task force, which spent months studying various ways to tackle Hong Kong’s land shortage. Hong Kong covers about 425 square miles of land, but with less than a quarter of that developed, it has one of the highest population densities in the world. The task force’s other recommendations included tapping into private farmland, developing underused sites like container yards, and a $60 billion project to build a series of artificial islands totaling 6.5 square miles. The government recently endorsed all of the task force’s proposals.

While redeveloping a portion of the golf club is one of several government initiatives to boost Hong Kong’s land supply and grow its housing stock, it leaves unresolved the larger, more deep-rooted problem of a complicated land policy, said Christine Loh, chief development strategist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the city’s former undersecretary for the environment.

“Land policy is a very complex issue in Hong Kong,” Loh wrote in an email to CityLab. “The issue of land premiums is [one] issue but there are others, such as the Small House Policy; and as far as housing is concerned, Hong Kong also has many dilapidated buildings.”

There has been intense focus among activists and within the government on increasing the supply of land, but some advocates have argued against this. Rather than the supply of land, they say, the real issue is how land is distributed, which in turn affects the price and quantity of housing.

For example, the government currently sells land leases to the highest bidder. While this is the most transparent way to award land, it also means that property developers are forced to recoup their costs by pricing their apartments ever higher.

“Creating land but not solving the issue of land distribution will just worsen income inequality,” said Johnny Lau, a member of the Land Justice League.

Other experts, like the economist Richard Wong, have long argued that a flawed public-housing policy is to blame for Hong Kong’s housing crisis.

That the decision about the golf club has rankled people on both sides speaks to the intractability of the affordable-housing shortage in Hong Kong—and not only in that city.

“Income inequality is not going to be solved by snatching some land from the golf course,” said Loh. “There are no quick or easy answers to a nearly worldwide problem that has resulted from major forces over the last 50 years.”
About the Author

Mary Hui

Mary Hui is a Hong Kong-based writer. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the South China Morning Post, and Poynter.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Yimby Leader Sonja Trauss is advocating storming golf courses and demanding housing

Yimby Leader Sonja Trauss is advocating storming golf courses and demanding housing

Imagine what a herd of these YIMBYs can do to your neighborhood. :)

Solano Citizens are outraged about MTC's power grab with CASA

Did you know Frank Lloyd Wright would likely be a staunch defender of the suburbs?

Is the world ready for Frank Lloyd Wright’s suburban utopia?

Inside the architect’s overlooked plan for Broadacre City

By James Nevius Jan 4, 2017, 10:00am EST

If you read enough about Frank Lloyd Wright, a standard narrative begins to emerge: There’s early Wright, where the brash young architect breaks from his Chicago School mentors to create the Prairie style and design such early icons as the Robie House in Chicago and Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel. Then there’s late Wright, the mature genius who brought us Fallingwater and the Guggenheim Museum. In between, there’s a fallow period of personal scandal, a slowdown in commissions, and oddball musings, such as his 1932 plan for a utopian, libertarian community he called Broadacre City.

Though Wright remains America’s most famous architect, his Broadacre theories are often relegated to a footnote of his career; indeed, many biographies don’t mention them at all. But what if the Broadacre plan—a sweeping, individualized American “anti-city” that fused Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian ideals into a seamless, Wright-designed, suburban landscape—was, in fact, the architect’s most enduring idea?

Had Wright followed in the footsteps of an architect like his rival, Le Corbusier, who both theorized about master-planned cities and got a chance to design one in Chandigarh, India, the Broadacre concept might today be seen as more central to his career.

Even though Wright didn’t get the chance to bring a Broadacre City to fruition, many of his Broadacre ideas have become central to the American landscape. With today’s telecommuting and technological breakthroughs—like the promise of self-driving cars just around the corner—will there finally be a full-fledged version of Wright’s Broadacre vision?

Wright first proposed the Broadacre concept in 1932 in a book called The Disappearing City, but the public didn’t take notice until he unveiled a model of a Broadacre City in 1935 at an industrial design fair held at Rockefeller Center.

The irony of that location was certainly not lost on the architect, who thought that New York’s newest skyscraper complex represented “the entrails of final enormity.” Rockefeller Center—and by extension, any dense urban agglomeration—was the exact opposite of what his Broadacre concept entailed.

Displayed in a huge scale model that was 12 feet square and eight inches high, Wright’s first Broadacre rendering showed what a low-density modern city could look like—if you removed nearly everything from it that was remotely urban. Most of the model was taken up by neatly gridded plots for what Wright would later term “minimum houses.” Areas were set aside for recreation and Wright envisioned a skyscraper or two for recovering city dwellers who couldn’t bear the thought of too much open space. Today, looking down at the Broadacre model from above, it resembles just about any American suburb; at first glance, it doesn’t seem radical at all.
American architect Frank Lloyd Wright at the Rockefeller Center, New York, with a model of his ‘Broadacre City’ concept for suburban development, April 15, 1935. Photo by Keystone View Company/FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Soon after the model went on view, Guy Hickok in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle praised the “charm” of this “City of the Future”:

A good way to get the full thrill is to stand by the big relief model and imagine yourself motoring, coming upon it by surprise …. It would dawn upon you gradually that the landscape had taken a turn for the better, that for once … the works of man, taken collectively, were lovely, that the usual urban scar or scab was in this case a garden …. Before you left you would almost certainly ask how to become a resident. It is a city of pre-fabricated houses, built under zoning regulations plotted in advance to keep everything under control from the very start.

That same year, Wright summed up his vision in a piece for Architectural Record titled “Broadacre City: A New Community Plan.” The architect distilled The Disappearing City into five pages, outlining the central tenets of the Broadacre concept, in particular the “freedom to decentralize,” and the idea that every citizen has “his social right to his place on the ground as he has it in the sun and air.”
What if the Broadacre plan—a sweeping, individualized American “anti-city” that fused both Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian ideals into a seamless, Wright-designed suburban landscape—was, in fact, the architect’s most enduring idea?

Wright’s use of the term “Broadacre” reflected this. At a minimum, each “childless family” would be guaranteed one acre of land in a Broadacre City, though larger families would require more. As Wright’s plan was refined over the next two decades, he ultimately envisioned a population density of about 2.5 people per acre (or roughly the current population density of the state of Arkansas).

To put that in perspective, in the 2000 census, Manhattan had about 104 people per acre (down from a peak earlier in the 20th century). Another way to think of it is that a typical New York City block is about five and a half acres—in Wright’s thinking, only enough room for about 13.75 people.

It was apparent from the start that while Wright was using the term “city” to describe Broadacre, he was actually creating, in the words of architecture critic Lewis Mumford, an “anti-city.” To critics like Mumford, a place like Broadacre City would destroy all that was good about urbanity.

Wright probably would not have disagreed.

In “Broadacre City: A New Community Plan,” he wrote that one of the problems of the modern city is that it cheats citizens “of their democratic values.” He goes on to note:

The landlord is no happier than the tenant …. The present success-ideal, placing, as it does, premiums upon the wolf, the fox and the rat in human affairs and above all, upon the parasite, is growing more evident every day as a falsity just as injurious to the “successful” as to the victims of such success. Well—sociologically, Broadacres is a release from all that fatal “success” which is, after all, only excess. So I have called it a new freedom for living in America.

Wright’s concepts of success and freedom come not just from getting people out of overcrowded, non-democratic cities, but also from three key technological advances that make a Broadacre City possible:

1. The motor car: general mobilization of the human being.

2. Radio, telephone, and telegraph: electrical inter-communication becoming complete.

3. Standardized machine-shop production: machine invention plus scientific discovery.

For Wright, the car was key (he had a mild obsession with them). Older cities like New York had been built to emphasize the pedestrian, but that was the model of the past. As Wright wrote in The Disappearing City, “grid-iron congestion is crucifixion now.”

The rapid spread of the automobile—by 1930, there were over 25 million cars on the road—meant that cities would continue to get overcrowded and highways were the new key to American living. Wright envisioned phasing out railroads and putting the right of way once occupied by train tracks “into general service as the great arterial”: lower decks for slower moving truck traffic, upper lanes for “speed traffic,” and in between a “continuously running” monorail. As designed by Wright—or by his surrogates—such highways would, of course, “become great architecture.”

Today, someone coming to Wright’s Broadacre plan with the author’s name stripped from the title page would be forgiven for thinking it was the musings of another urban planner from the 1930s: Robert Moses. As the mastermind behind such projects as the Triborough Bridge, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Cross Bronx Expressway, and the ultimately doomed LOMEX superhighway, Moses sought to transform New York in a similar fashion. As he once remarked, “cities are created by and for traffic. A city without traffic is a ghost town.”

Moses’s 1920s highway projects on Long Island—like the Southern State and Wantagh State Parkways, which improved access to Jones Beach—prefigured Wright’s ideas that roads could efficiently usher a decentralized population to and from recreational (and other) “hubs” as desired.
Ellen Moody/Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art

These hubs included gas stations, which Wright predicted would become the “advance agent of decentralization.” And, as Neil Levine writes in his book, The Urbanism of Frank Lloyd Wright, Wright “correctly predicted [the gas station] would ‘naturally grow into a neighborhood distribution center, meeting place, restaurant, rest room or whatever else is needed.’” In essence, Wright’s highways would be dotted not just with gas stations, but with shopping malls and, due to efficiencies in production and shipping, what today we’d call big box stores.

Wright’s second rationale for abandoning an urban core was the improvement in “electrical inter-communication.” Here, too, he was peering into the future, imagining a world where abundant electricity—allowing a radio, telephone, and television in every home—would render downtown office districts moot. And that’s without envisioning computers or the internet. As he wrote (somewhat convolutedly) in The Disappearing City:

Financial, official, professional, distributive, administrative: offices may now all go where they belong to function as units of whatever industry they represent and be found there where actual production is taking place.

He again pictured decentralized hubs along the arterial roads, where police, fire, and the judicial system would congregate, housed in utilitarian structures and “not in the braggadocio buildings now customary.”

For those not employed in public service or retail, Wright sees the success of a Broadacre City coming from the desire to work at home, whether you are an artist, doctor, or other “professional.” Not only does this dovetail with his emphasis on the rights of the individual, it would also cut down on what he calls the “human wear and tear in the ‘back and forth haul’” and the “vain scramble in and scramble out” of commuting.

But more than just envisioning the telecommuter, Wright was looking at each individual “broad acre” as a spot for every person to self-actualize. There’d be room for every type of activity, just on a personalized, manageable scale:

little farms, little homes for industry, little factories, little schools, a little university going to the people mostly by way of their interest in the ground, little laboratories on their own ground for professional men. And the farm itself, notwithstanding the animals, becomes the most attractive unit of the city.

Wright’s final point about “standardized machine-shop production” is mostly about raising the collective standard of living. In The Disappearing City, Wright noted that “mass production … [can] now make expensive utilities and accommodation cheap for all concerned instead of questionable luxuries for the few.”

This last point was perhaps the most important, since Wright was, above all, an architect of actual buildings, not just an urban thinker. For much of the remainder of his career, he would embrace a new style of architecture—mostly domestic, but sometimes in civic buildings—that he called “Usonian.”
Wright was looking at each individual “broad acre” as a spot for every person to self-actualize. There’d be room for every type of activity, just on a personalized, manageable scale.

That word, which he first used in conjunction with Broadacre City, was a neologism that he popularized to describe the uniqueness of the United States. (Wright rejected “America” because it might refer to either North or South America.)

The early hallmark of his Usonian house plan—which was in many regards an update of his earlier Prairie style—was that it would be within easy reach of the average citizen, who would prosper in it. For example, “to build Broadacres as conceived,” Wright wrote in Architectural Record, “would automatically end unemployment and all its evils forever.”

In his book Frank Lloyd Wright: Essential Texts, Robert C. Twombly neatly summarizes the characteristics of Usonian homes:

radiant floor heating, a single story with flat floor and widely cantilevered eaves, floor-to-ceiling windows and doors opening to a garden with patio, a kitchen-bathroom unit slightly elevated above roof line, a bedroom zone, a kitchen-dining-living zone semi-divided by function, partially prefabricated walls that could be assembled on site (or potentially in a factory) and raised into place, street-facing clerestory windows and, next to the entry, a roofed but open-ended carport, a term Wright coined.

Wright’s first Usonian home, built in 1936 in Madison, Wisconsin, cost just $5,500 (including Wright’s fee). Today, that would be approximately $94,000, certainly a bargain for a home built by the country’s premiere architect.

By the 1950s, Wright had designed prefabricated Usonian homes to be sold by builder Marshall Erdman, but only 11 of these less expensive units were ever constructed (including Staten Island’s Crimson Beech house). Most Usonian homes went to wealthier clients, and costs skyrocketed. For example, the Hagans, who built a Usonian called Kentuck Knob in Pennsylvania in 1956, spent $96,000 (about $850,000 today) for a custom-built design that in some ways had more in common with its famous neighbor, Fallingwater, than with the Erdman prefab homes.

Even as suburbs developed following World War II—aided and abetted by the car, just as Wright had hoped—Wright couldn’t get a Broadacre concept off the ground. While many manufacturing jobs left large cities, the urban centers remained. Business districts weren’t replaced with a generation of homesteaders and at-home entrepreneurs. In fact, as people moved farther away from urban centers, Wright’s highways merely became conduits to move them in and out of cities each day—the “vain scramble in and scramble out” that Broadacre was supposed to solve.

Wright died in 1959 at age 91, and his Broadacre concept pretty much died with him. Just two years later, urban thinker Jane Jacobs published The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which stood as a rebuke to people like Wright and their auto-centric visions of suburbia.

Jacobs’s work not only began a trend toward revitalizing cities, but also had a profound effect on New Urbanist thinkers, whose modern suburbs reject the diffused Broadacre vision in favor of miniature, walkable, Jacobs-inspired exurbs.

The closest Wright ever got to seeing a Broadacre City was in 1947, when one of his former students, David Henken, enlisted a group interested in creating a master-planned, cooperative community. (An earlier, similar project near Detroit was abandoned when many of its potential residents were conscripted into World War II service.)

Henken’s group purchased 95 acres near Pleasantville, New York. With Wright’s help, Henken and fellow architect Aaron Resnick began drawing up plans for a town, which they called Usonia in the architect’s honor. Wright designed three Usonian homes (out of a total of nearly 50), along with the town’s road system. In keeping with the Broadacre concept, house lots were each one acre. At the beginning, all the land in Usonia was cooperatively owned—though that hadn’t been one of Broadacre’s guiding principles—but eventually trouble with mortgages meant the community had to convert to a more traditional ownership scheme.

Another development influenced by the Broadacre concept was Levittown. Principal Alfred Levitt had been inspired in part by talking to Frank Lloyd Wright when Wright was building a home in Great Neck in 1936. It was the embrace of mass production, as Wright advocated in the plans for Broadacre City, that allowed the Levitts to create their homes quickly and affordably, both on Long Island and in suburban Philadelphia.
Aerial view of the vast spread of Levittown, Long Island, New York, the nation’s first suburban housing development complex, circa 1955. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

None of these communities were utopias. Nor did they fulfill Wright’s other dreams for a Broadacre City. They weren’t filled with little farms, factories, or laboratories. In fact, other than its innovative, Wright-inspired architecture, Usonia was like any other exurban town, a mix of commuters and those employed nearby in Westchester County. Moreover, while the people in both Usonia and Levittown felt they were a part of a community, they were communities that strove to keep other people out. In Usonia, a somewhat oddball application form was designed to ensure compatibility for residents; in Levittown, black people were barred from ownership. The spirit of true democracy that Wright saw as underpinning Broadacre City never flourished.

Could it today?

In 1932, a planned community of telecommuters probably seemed like science fiction. Today, why not build a Broadacre City where high-speed internet allows everyone who wants to to work at home? In addition, the rise of urban farming and a growing interest in sustainable communities means that Wright’s “little” backyard farms are already a reality in many places. Why not in a Broadacre City?

In his original plans, Wright envisioned cars and monorails whisking people to their gas station/shopping hubs. Soon, gas stations may be a thing of the past, but mercantile hubs make sense. (After all, you need your Starbucks and Pilates studio somewhere.) Why not reach them via light rail—already a viable solution in many communities—and build a town with “great arterials” that are designed to embrace the driverless car? Autonomous cars save both time and land (since so much acreage today is given over to parking lots), so they could be an important step in making a Broadacre City work.

Lastly, there’s the architecture. We will never have a city filled with Wright-designed Usonian homes. But the rise of the tiny house movement has seen a concurrent revitalization of prefab buildings. While Broadacre homes wouldn’t need to be tiny to comply with Wright’s writings, the ethos of the tiny house movement works well within the Broadacre vision. In fact, Wright’s love of little schools, factories, and more has been embraced by a generation that’s in favor of a smaller-scale, more DIY approach.

In the 1940s, the members of the collective that built Usonia each chipped in $10 a week for a few years until they had enough money to buy the 100-acre parcel to create their town. Today, a hundred investors chipping in $100 a week for three years would raise $1.56 million—before interest. Surely that’s enough to secure the land for a future Broadacre City.

Who’s in?

53 percent of Californians want to leave the state, according to new survey

53 percent of Californians want to leave the state, according to new survey

Alix Martichoux, SFGATE | on February 13, 2019

Photo: Paul Sakuma

A moving truck is shown at a house that was sold in Palo Alto, Calif., Tuesday, June 19, 2012. A new survey shows more than half of Californians are considering leaving the state.

Dreaming of greener (read: cheaper) pastures? You're not alone.

According to a new survey by Edelman Intelligence, 53 percent of Californians are considering moving out of state due to the high cost of living. Millennials are even more likely to flee the Golden State — 63 percent of them said they want to.

Bay Area residents surveyed were especially sensitive to affordability issues, and it's no surprise. The median home value in San Francisco is $1.37 million, according to Zillow, and $1.09 million in San Jose. In Edelman's survey, 76 percent of Bay Area residents say they consider cost and availability of housing to be a serious issue.

ALSO: It's not just people fleeing the Bay Area — these businesses are leaving, too

Sixty-two percent also call homelessness a very serious issue for California.

It appears the housing and homelessness crises have led to a pessimistic outlook: 62 percent of those surveyed say the best days of living in California are behind them.

The trend is backed up by much of SFGATE's past reporting. We've spoken with people who've left California for the Pacific Northwest, Texas and Denver — all popular destinations for Bay Area ex-pats. Nearly everyone we talked to cites the high cost of living as the primary reason they left. Others were looking for a slower pace of life, lower taxes, less traffic and more time with family.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

SB50 is another Senator Wiener Housing Bill that Threatens California

CA Senator Wiener’s Resurrection Program Falling Flat

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-The first efforts to prime the media pumps for a giant real estate giveaway program, California Senator Scott Wiener’s proposed Senate Bill 50, also dubbed the Son of SB 827 or SB 827 2.0, are out of the gate. So far, the arguments marshalled to bolster Wiener’s legislation fall flat, as I explain below. 

The most prominent recent article promoting SB 50 was Bill Boyarsky’s opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times. He praised the YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard) real estate lobbying group that drafted Senator Wiener’s bill, and he called the bill’s community critics NIMBYs (Not in My Backyard), an epithet coined by developers to disparage their detractors without addressing their arguments. For those who want to understand how the proposed SB 50 bill, which Mr. Boyarsky supported, will backfire, Casey Maddren, elegantly laid out the case in his February 17, 2019, CityWatchLA article
The second article praising SB 50 was Josh Stephens call in Planetizen for Californians to recognize their common destiny, which he equated with large, private sector apartment buildings built where developers can maximize their profits, such as near transit. While “common destiny” could (and should) apply to California’s imminent cataclysmic earthquakes, social and economic inequality, mega-droughts and mega-floods, heat waves, sea level rise, wild fires, mediocre public education, and the collapse of public services and infrastructure, Stephens ignores them all. For him common destiny only means one thing, high density, high-end private sector apartment buildings.  
To be clear, when Stephens zeros in on high density, he does not mean adding more water, electricity, parks, trees, community centers, schools, libraries, bike paths, storm drains, high speed internet, 5G cellular, or medical clinics and hospitals to existing urban neighborhoods. 
Instead, like other WIMBYs (Wall Street in My Backyard), Stephens glibly presents a lofty, common-destiny goal: solve the housing crisis by supporting Senator Wiener’s SB 50. If Sacramento forces California cities to allow private investors to build tall, pricey, lucrative, high density, and currently illegal apartments up to a half-mile from subway lines, bus stops, and in communities with good jobs and schools, those beloved real estate developers will have saved the day. Their pursuit of 15 to 20 percent annual rates of return will flood housing markets with so many vacancies that prices will fall, become affordable, while subway cars and buses will fill up with passengers. 
Stevens’ wonderful solution, however, does not include any data supporting Wiener’s up-zoning scheme or an assessment of competing programs to address the housing crisis, such as: 
  • Restoring eliminated and gutted HUD and CRA affordable housing programs. 
  • Reducing economic inequality, an important driver of the housing crisis, by increasing wages and benefits and plugging tax loopholes for the 1%. 
  • Protecting existing affordable and rent stabilized housing, including reforms of the Ellis Act to stop sham evictions. 
  • Most importantly, pursuing the State of California’s legally required process for determining and achieving common destinies: the preparation, updating, and monitoring of municipal and county General Plans. These plans would address the housing crisis by identifying the location of under-utilized existing residential zoning capacity, where the greatest needs for affordable housing existed, and which approaches actually worked. 
In his hurry to promote SB 50, Mr. Stephens also neglects to include any monitoring programs.  With these monitoring program, cities could determine if the statewide, top-down residential up-zoning approach the YIMBYs campaign for through Senator Wiener’s SB 50 would -- or would not -- result the following: 

  • New mid-rise and high-rise apartment buildings popping-up near bus lines, subways, and yet to be identified neighborhoods rich in jobs and good schools. 
  • Existing and new tenants abandoning their cars to become bus and subway riders. 
  • Housing prices and apartment rents falling to become affordable. 
  • Declining levels of the Green House Gases responsible for global warming and climate disruption. 
  • Failing public services and infrastructure resulting from an un-planned building boom. 
If cities had this monitoring information, they could make mid-course corrections, such as revoking zone changes, if -- as I predict -- SB 50 fails to achieve its goals. But it is not a random accident that the proposed Stephens-Wiener legislation fails to consider alternatives to up-zoning privately owned parcels or include monitoring once its statewide up-zones are imposed. For these density hawks, coerced up-zoning should be permanent, even if the common destiny goals invoked to justify them turn out to be political marketing ploys. 
Furthermore, many more things are likely to go belly-up if SB 50 becomes law, and a monitoring program would soon reveal the following: 
  1. There is no guarantee that statewide laws, like SB 50, that force cities to involuntarily increase the height, mass, density, and other zoning provisions of privately-owned parcels up to a half mile from subway and bus lines, or in neighborhoods with good jobs and schools, will attract private investment money to build market rate apartments. This is because most cities already have vast amounts of un-tapped zoning capacity which developers ignore. California cities, like LA, also have bonus density programs, such as SB 1818 and TOC Guidelines, that already allow existing privately-owned parcels to easily bust through zoning restrictions on height, mass, density, parking, and yards. 
  1. In some cities, especially LA, nearly every discretionary zoning request, such as zone changes and variances, get rubber-stamp approvals. f these existing gifts to developers have not induced them to build new transit, job, and school-adjacent market-rate apartments, there is no reason why SB 50 will do the trick. In many areas, especially where developers know they cannot attract tenants ponying up $3,000 or more per month for a small apartment, we will not see additional market housing, even if SB 50 manages to deregulate California cities’ zoning codes. 
  1. As explained by Casey Maddren, SB 50’s upzoning will often result in real estate speculation instead of new construction. Parcels up-zoned by SB 50 become much more valuable, and some property owners will flip their old properties to pocket their instant profits.  If a future owner eventually decides to build on these sites, he or she might opt for an office, medical, or retail project, instead of an apartment building. In these cases, Wiener’s upzoning scheme could result in new commercial buildings, but there is no guarantee that their shoppers, employees, or patients will travel by bus or subway, especially if they must walk a half mile over broken, treeless sidewalks, in the midst of harried drivers, air and sound pollution, blazing sun, heat waves, and storms. 
  1. Most importantly, as also explained by Casey Maddren, the entire rationale for the Wiener/YIMBY upzoning scheme, increasing transit ridership, would be revealed as a sham. As clearly demonstrated in Downtown Los Angeles, Koreatown, Miracle Mile, and Hollywood, the construction of new, expensive, transit-adjacent apartments has consistently reduced, not increased, transit ridership. This is because the new housing is lavish, and those who can afford its stratospheric rents largely own and drive cars, while displacing transit dependent residents. 
Let me close with a modest suggestion. SB 50, which is actually worse than SB 827, deserves its same fate: a quick dispatch to the round file.
(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles city planner who reports on local planning controversies for CityWatchLA.  He also serves on the board of United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (UN4LA).  Please send any comments, corrections, or article suggestions to Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Mean Leah Green needs “charm school” or therapy

Leah Green, Marinwood CSD Board President threatens the public with arrest.

Marinwood CSD board president Leah Green threatens public with arrest and jail if "public decorum" is violated and then interrupts the public six times in two minutes during public comment time. Board president is upset that the speaker is criticizing the financial condition and issues arrest warning.

The Marin County Sheriff appears to have his hand on his gun during Leah Green's threat.

From the First Amendment to the Constitution:

The right to petition government for redress of grievances is the right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, one's government, without fear of punishment or reprisals, ensured by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (1791).

nation of sheep government of wolves.jpg

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Frog and the Crocodile

Be careful with whom you place your trust.
Once, there was a frog who lived in the middle of a swamp. His entire family had lived in that swamp for generations, but this particular frog decided that he had had quite enough wetness to last him a lifetime. He decided that he was going to find a dry place to live instead.

The only thing that separated him from dry land was a swampy, muddy, swiftly flowing river. But the river was home to all sorts of slippery, slittering snakes that loved nothing better than a good, plump frog for dinner, so Frog didn't dare try to swim across.

So for many days, the frog stayed put, hopping along the bank, trying to think of a way to get across. The snakes hissed and jeered at him, daring him to come closer, but he refused. Occasionally they would slither closer, jaws open to attack, but the frog always leaped out of the way. But no matter how far upstream he searched or how far downstream, the frog wasn't able to find a way across the water. He had felt certain that there would be a bridge, or a place where the banks came together, yet all he found was more reeds and water.

 After a while, even the snakes stopped teasing him and went off in search of easier prey. The frog sighed in frustration and sat to sulk in the rushes. Suddenly, he spotted two big eyes staring at him from the water. The giant log-shaped animal opened its mouth and asked him, "What are you doing, Frog? Surely there are enough flies right there for a meal." The frog croaked in surprise and leaped away from the crocodile. That creature could swallow him whole in a moment without thinking about it!

Once he was a satisfied that he was a safe distance away, he answered. "I'm tired of living in swampy waters, and I want to travel to the other side of the river. But if I swim across, the snakes will eat me."

The crocodile harrumphed in agreement and sat, thinking, for a while. "Well, if you're afraid of the snakes, I could give you a ride across," he suggested. "Oh no, I don't think so,"

Frog answered quickly. "You'd eat me on the way over, or go underwater so the snakes could get me!"

"Now why would I let the snakes get you? I think they're a terrible nuisance with all their hissing and slithering! The river would be much better off without them altogether! Anyway, if you're so worried that I might eat you, you can ride on my tail."
The frog considered his offer. He did want to get to dry ground very badly, and there didn't seem to be any other way across the river. He looked at the crocodile from his short, squat buggy eyes and wondered about the crocodile's motives. But if he rode on the tail, the croc couldn't eat him anyway. And he was right about the snakes--no self-respecting crocodile would give a meal to the snakes.

"Okay, it sounds like a good plan to me. Turn around so I can hop on your tail."

The crocodile flopped his tail into the marshy mud and let the frog climb on, then he waddled out to the river. But he couldn't stick his tail into the water as a rudder because the frog was on it -- and if he put his tail in the water, the snakes would eat the frog.

They clumsily floated downstream for a ways, until the crocodile said, "Hop onto my back so I can steer straight with my tail." The frog moved, and the journey smoothed out. From where he was sitting, the frog couldn't see much except the back of Crocodile's head. "Why don't you hop up on my head so you can see everything around us?" Crocodile invited.

"But I don't want to see anything else," the frog answered, suddenly feeling nervous. "Oh, come now. It's a beautiful view! Surely you don't think that I'm going to eat you after we're halfway across. My home is in the marsh-- what would be the point of swimming across the river full of snakes if I didn't leave you on the other bank?"

  Frog was curious about what the river looked like, so he climbed on top of Crocodile's head. The river looked almost pretty from this view. He watched dragonflies darting over the water and smiled in anticipation as he saw firm ground beyond the cattails. When the crocodile got close enough, the frog would leap off his head towards freedom. He wouldn't give the croc a chance to eat him. 

"My nose tickles," the crocodile complained suddenly, breaking into the frog's train of thought. "I think there might be a fly buzzing around it somewhere, or a piece of cattail fluff swept into it while I was taking you across the river."

"I don't see a fly," the frog said, peering at the crocodile's green snout. It seemed odd that anything could tickle a crocodile through it's thick skin. "Would you go check my nose for a piece of cattail fluff, then?" the crocodile begged, twitching his nose. "I'm afraid I'll sneeze and send you flying. I don't want to feed you to the snakes." A tear seeped out of his eye, as if he was holding back a mighty sneeze.

The bank isn't too far, the frog thought. And it's the least he could do to repay him for bringing him over. So he hopped onto the crocodile's snout and checked the nostrils. Just a little closer, and he could jump... "I don't see--" he began. Just then, with a terrific CHOMP! the frog disappeared. The crocodile licked his lips in satisfaction and gave a tiny half-sneeze. "Good, I feel much better already," he smiled, and turned around to go back home.

Survey says half of Bay Area residents want to leave California

Survey says half of Bay Area residents want to leave California

Residents fret about housing, cost of living, and social media

By bykropic1/Shutterstock
The SF office of Chicago-based public relations firm Edelman released its annual California Trust Barometer, which surveyed 1,500 California residents (including 500 from the Bay Area) about attitudes on technology, the economy, and the state of the state.
Like last year, Edelman found that a majority of Californians polled—53 percent—say they are considering moving out of the state, citing the cost of housing and the overall cost of living as the most likely reasons.
The survey does not specify how Bay Area residents feel about their future prospects in the Golden State. However, an Edelman spokesperson tells Curbed SF that after examining only the Bay Area sample, it appears the region split right down the middle this year, with 50 percent of those polled “considering moving away because of the high cost of living.”

If San Francisco is so great, why is everyone I love leaving?

That figure leaps to 66 percent among Bay Area millennials polled and 63 percent among parents with kids under the age of 18.
Also in the Edelman sample:
  • Among Bay Area residents, 76 percent say housing is a “very serious” issue for the state, up from 72 percent statewide.
  • Sixty-eight percent agree with the statement, “[B]usinesses make large profits while draining our local resources and straining our infrastructure. They owe it to the public to contribute more to solving our local problems.” Statewide it’s 63 percent.
  • In the Bay Area, 57 percent say that they trust the tech industry to do the right thing. However, that figure plummets to 34 percent when asked about social media. That means overall trust in tech is up since last year (when 54 percent agreed with the same question) while faith in social media remains essentially interchangeable with last year’s dismal results.
  • Even more intriguing: When Edelman asked tech workers in the Bay Area specifically what their biggest concerns are about the tech industry, only 43 percent said they’re concerned that the industry is driving up the cost of housing. The biggest concerns: lack of privacy and data security threats, which tied for first place with 57 percent each.

You can read the full results of the Edelman California survey here.