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Archive for the ‘planning’ Category

UC Riverside is raising tuition, cutting staff, and faces a reduction of $30 million in state support. Coincidentally, $30 million is how much the campus is spending on this gigantic new parking garage:

UC Riverside’s new four-level parking structure at the east end of campus is nearing completion. The main elements of the project — its concrete levels and frame — are finished though other features still remain to be done, said John Franklin, a project manager with the Office of Planning, Design and Construction. He estimated it will be completed by the end of April.

“It’s quite a substantial structure when you walk by it,” Franklin said.

Work on the 1,079-space parking structure on the east side of Parking Lot 13 on Big Springs Road began in January 2020. When complete, the structure and surrounding space will provide a total of 1,287 spaces — a net increase of 800.

Parking Lot 13

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There is way too much parking at Denver RTD “transit” oriented developments. That is the conclusion of a new report:

In late 2019 and early 2020, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) of Metro Denver, Colorado, surveyed property managers, counted parking supply and demand, and analyzed findings from 86 station-area developments. Per RTD’s analysis of peak parking demand, market-rate properties provide 40 percent more parking than residents use, and income-restricted properties provide 50 percent more parking than residents use.

Providing an excessive amount of parking at station-area properties across Metro Denver affects residents’ welfare and the economic vitality of the region, which the State of Colorado enabled RTD to promote. As parking increases development costs, developers pass on costs to residents – particularly low-income residents – in the forms of higher rent, fewer units, and reduced services. In aggregate, increased costs for unnecessary parking contribute to a higher cost of living across Metro Denver, which recently experienced the second greatest rate of gentrification in the country. From the perspective of the transit agency, which particularly benefits from the patronage of low-income passengers, fewer income-restricted units near existing service threatens the agency’s fiscal solvency and satisfaction of its mandate.

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There have been a number of such positive reactions to Buttegieg’s nomination to head DOT. People making such comments have probably not looked at his actual performance as Mayor….which is not good.

As Mayor, Buttegieg had a traffic signal removed from a busy arterial, directly in front of a bus transportation center. It was there that an 11 year-old was killed while trying to cross the street trying to get to his school bus. Four other intersections near schools also had traffic lights removed:

City officials had planned since May 2016 to install traffic signals at the downtown intersection where an 11-year-old boy was struck and killed Monday, and activation was expected next week, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday. Following a consultant’s 2015 study finding that vehicular and pedestrian traffic at the corner of South and Michigan streets didn’t warrant a traffic light, the city placed a bag over the light Feb. 1, 2016, as it did at a handful of downtown intersections.

Following the study by American Structurepoint Inc., the city bagged and evaluated lights at four other intersections: Calvert and Michigan, and Calvert and Main. Those signals were put back in last fall because schools were located nearby. Broadway’s signal was removed permanently. One near the fire station on South Michigan Street was reactivated.

Buttigieg was asked whether he thinks the boy’s death was attributable to any mistakes made by his staff. “Any time anything bad happens in the city, finger-pointing happens,” he said. “I get it. I’m in charge. But I also think what you had here was professional engineers acting on recommendations based on expertise, and based on everything we knew, making the best decision that we could. 

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Congratulations, you played yourself

The “zoning” doesn’t exist in nature. Its rules come from city councils and landmark preservation commissions. Those with most influence over making the rules have been white homeowners and NIMBY’s – which is why for 40 years most economic gains have gone to the top.

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The timing would have been fortuitous. Had the VTA simply stuck with its original cut-cover tunnel plans for BART phase-2, then some of the most disruptive construction might have occurred during the COVID shutdown.

As most know, the BART phase-2 tunnel was originally planned as conventional cut-cover, and considerable engineering work had been done on that design. But the cut-cover plan was derailed when San Jose demanded a more complicated deep-bore design. This led to years of delays (not to mention billions in cost overruns).

The reason for the unusual demand was to reduce disruption of local business. Those businesses have now been destroyed anyway by COVID — so all the extra tunnel expense was for nothing. Downtown San Jose will now get a double whammy: COVID followed by BART construction. This was probably not the outcome they were expecting.

One can imagine in some alternate universe that the VTA took advantage of the COVID shutdown to expedite construction. While the pandemic was not predictable, any major delay in the planning pipeline reduces flexibility in construction scheduling. Compare to the controversy over the LACMTA Purple line extension through Beverly Hills. Rather than give in to irrational demands, the LACMTA stuck with original plans, and then expedited that plan when COVID hit.

Project schedule as of July 2016

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All the national environmental organizations have a major blind spot for urban design. I guess it is easier to slam Exxon and Trump rather than local city councils for their car-centric zoning. Which brings us to a bizarre candidate endorsement from Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.

Leonard has endorsed Sophie Hahn for Berkeley City Council District 5. Unless you live in Berkeley then you probably would not recognize the name, but most local advocates know Hahn all too well. During her time on the Zoning Board she fought against infill development, especially around the downtown BART station. In her first run for City Council, she was not only opposed to an AC Transit BRT project — but was in favor of voter Measure KK. That measure would have prohibited any reduction in road capacity for cars or parking unless first approved by voters in a general election. The measure would have severely curtailed work on the city’s bike and pedestrian plans.

Annie Leonard lives in Berkeley, has a Masters Degree in City Planning, and tweets non-stop about climate change — so she cannot use the excuse that she was not aware of Hahn’s problems. That makes the endorsement all the more embarrassing for her and for Greenpeace.

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Mayor Steven Sharf, you may recall, is the one who made a tasteless joke during his state-of-the-city address about building a wall around Cupertino and making San Jose pay for it. Cupertino has a severe jobs/housing balance, and Sharf has been vehemently opposed to new infill housing in Cupertino.

Also receiving a Sierra Club endorsement is Palo Alto councilwoman Lydia Kuo, who wants a citywide height limit and opposes transit lanes.

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Robert Reich is a NIMBY

Robert Reich, author of The System: Who Rigged It, wants to help the poor and homeless by….blocking infill development on his street:

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The “character” of his North Berkeley neighborhood was originally the result of racially restrictive covenants. After the courts outlawed the covenants, they were replaced by zoning rules which served the same purpose. Berkeley was one of the first cities in the country to use zoning this way.

And sadly, it is not the first time Dr. Reich has proposed keeping the working poor as far away as possible:

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Blood on their hands

It was 1 decade ago that Berkeley City Council canceled the AC Transit BRT project, a decision which generated nationwide ridicule. Councilmember Robinson is trying to revive the project, and asked council to reverse the decision. This may be just virtue signaling (Berkeley routinely passes meaningless proclamations), but we’ll see:

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The 2010 AC Transit BRT project was much more than bus lanes — it was a Complete Street makeover with left-turn pockets, bike lanes, and crosswalk fixes to make Telegraph safer for all road users.

From 2010 until 2018 (the last year data is available) the CHP SWITRS database records a whopping 216 injuries on Berkeley’s portion of Telegraph Ave. How many of those injuries could have been prevented had the BRT project been built? Well, we can look to Oakland where a road-diet along its portion of Telegraph reduced total injuries by 40%. Oakland DOT also reports that their Telegraph improvements accomplished a Vision-Zero milestone: no pedestrian collisions in crosswalks. By contrast, Berkeley’s section of Telegraph had 54 pedestrian injuries in the years 2010-2018.

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Injury collisions (all types)

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