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Archive for the ‘planning’ Category

The parking lot surrounding North Berkeley BART is the poster child for bad station-area planning. For decades city officials have made vague promises to put infill housing there, but nothing actually happens. The wealthy homeowners who live in the neighborhood vehemently oppose infill housing.

Sponsored by Assembly members David Chiu and Tim Grayson, AB-2923 would correct the problem by transferring planning authority to the BART Board. The bill requires the BART Board to put new transit-oriented-development on all its properties (including in Berkeley). Of course, the Berkeley City Council is siding with wealthy homeowners and opposing the measure:

The Council majority routinely opposes new apartments in the city’s many single family neighborhoods filled with homes selling for over $1 million. The area around North Berkeley BART is one such neighborhood.

Home prices in the area have skyrocketed over the past decade, and some longtime owners who have profited mightily from restricting supply do not want apartments built on the BART station. One way to accomplish this is to keep all decision making authority over the site under the Berkeley City Council rather than the region-wide BART Board.

This insistence on “local control” over a regional asset—BART stations—is why Berkeley will soon oppose AB 2923. Exclusionary zoning that produces class segregation is a way of life in Berkeley, and the Council majority aims to keep it that way.

At a March 15 community meeting to discuss building housing on the North Berkeley BART parking lot, most speakers favored housing. But as noted with Mayor Arreguin’s “support,” opponents routinely say they support the idea of housing while working against getting units built. Putting Berkeley on record against AB 2923 is part of this effort.

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Yesterday’s posting on the Dublin-BART parking garage left out some rather bizarre details on how the funding came about.

The project originally came before the BART board. Twice in fact — Feb and August 2017. Even pro-parking suburban directors were dubious of the project. It was underfunded (BART would have to kick in $10 million matching funds), and would have done little to alleviate the parking shortage. The icing on the cake was that staff came up with ways to add the same number of parking spaces within the existing garage. So the garage was dead…but not for long.

After the BART Board rejected the project, the Alameda County General Services Agency (GSA) went ahead and filed a grant application for the garage. The GSA is not a transportation agency; they manage the health, educational, child care, and other facilities for the county. To qualify for the grant, the GSA needed an actual transportation agency to sign on. So the GSA laundered the application through the Livermore Wheels bus agency (LAVTA). The $20 million grant was approved, even though the garage would be of no use to bus riders.

It is a bit of a mystery as to how the GSA was authorized to submit the grant application. In combing over 18 months of agendas and minutes, I found no record that the project ever came before the Board of Supervisors. The project sits on county land, and will be built and maintained by the county. And there is also the small matter of the additional $10 million the county has to provide for matching funds.

Anyway, it just goes to show that stupid zombie projects can’t be killed. They always find a way to come back from the dead.

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In the midst of a gigantic housing shortage, $20 million will be spent at the Dublin BART station constructing new housing for…cars:

On Monday, Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon) and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty announced the State’s approval of a grant for a new BART parking garage to be built at the heavily-impacted Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station, thanks to the $20 million funding secured by Assemblywoman Baker’s office and land provided by Alameda County.

If you are one of the 3,000 people on the wait-list, don’t expect the new garage to help you find parking. It will have at most 700 spaces.

The good news is that the absurdity of the situation wasn’t lost on the staff who wrote the press release:

The parking lot will be a state-of-the-art convertible structure. If parking is no longer needed in the future as technology advances, the structure can be turned into additional housing or office space.

Pretty sure we need that additional housing now, not later.

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Senator Wiener’s legislation for transit housing (SB-627) is dead now, and the car-centric planning around BART stations continues on. Here are the latest neighborhood plans for the San Jose Berryessa station. The Mercury News describes this plan as having “more intense densities and new visions of how the ambitious Berryessa district development might appear.”

As you can see, the retail center looks like just another suburban strip mall (click image to enlarge).

berryessa

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Billions of dollars are going to be spent extending BART to Livermore. And once again, the plan is to surround this new BART station with acres of parking:

In general, according to BART, the neighborhood is still over-parked and is not entirely consistent with BART’s TOD policy and guidelines that recommend against parking minimums and recommend lower parking maximums. Eliminating parking minimums and reducing parking maximums can help reduce the cost of housing, consume less valuable land near transit and reduce associated environmental costs, such as water pollution from increased impervious surfaces.

In addition, BART expressed concern that the location of the additional parking capacity in such close proximity to the BART station entrance at a key point of pedestrian and bicycle access to the station will diminish the placemaking features of the development and discourage active and shared-ride modes of transit access, as well as diminish the overall quality of the transit­ oriented development.

This is yet another example of local government blocking infill development around transit stations — and why it is so important to pass SB-827 (Wiener) which enacts mandates for transit-oriented development.

You can read all of BART staff comments on the Isabel station plan here.

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At its March 6 meeting, the Dublin City Council voted unanimously to deny a permit for a 220-unit apartment near the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station.

The project would have consisted of 22 studio units, 98 one-bedroom units, 96 two-bedroom units, and 4 three-bedroom units. Staff recommended approval of the project, but Council members said the project was too massive and used the wrong colors (the developer offered to hire a color consultant).

This episode is serves as further motivation for the State to scale back planning control from local cities, starting with Senator Wiener’s SB-827 bill. In the meantime, housing activists are threatening to file a lawsuit against the city for violating the Housing Accountability Act.

 

 

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“Smart City” has become one of those inane buzzwords that can mean almost anything:

One of Bill Gates’ investment firms has spent $80 million to kickstart the development of a brand-new community in the far West Valley. The large plot of land is about 45 minutes west of downtown Phoenix off I-10 near Tonopah.

The proposed community, made up of close to 25,000 acres of land, is called Belmont. According to Belmont Partners, a real estate investment group based in Arizona, the goal is to turn the land into its own “smart city.”

“Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs,” Belmont Partners said in a news release.

Ronald Schott, executive emeritus at the Arizona Technology Council, says the land Gates’ company purchased is in a good spot, in part due to the proposed I-11 freeway, which would run right through Belmont and connect to Las Vegas.

Ex-urban car-centric development is the dumbest city imaginable. But it will have high-speed internet and “autonomous logistics hubs” so there’s that…

 

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