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Want to Slow Displacement? Then Build More Housing, Says Legislative Analyst’s Office

From the LAO report

From the LAO report

What will it take to make sure there’s a future for lower- and middle-income people in California? Anyone who has tried to look for a place to live recently knows that question is much more than an abstract policy discussion.

Increasingly, the high cost of housing in California is driving the state’s low- and middle-income workers farther from job centers and even out of the state.

In a report released yesterday, “Perspectives on Helping Low-Income Californians Afford Housing,” Sacramento’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), a nonpartisan advisory office that provides lawmakers with policy and budget analyses, tackles the sticky issue of displacement and what role, if any, new market-rate housing can play in stopping it.

It’s particularly timely, as no-growth activists in Los Angeles are currently gathering signatures to put a measure on the November ballot that would significantly hinder the city’s ability to plan for new housing growth.

The new report is a follow-up to the LAO’s report last March, which outlined the causes and consequences of California’s housing shortage, and, in short, says that given the scope of the problem, the only way to stem displacement on a large scale is to significantly increase the amount of new housing that gets built in California’s desirable coastal communities.

Too great a need for the status quo

The report notes that it’s simply unrealistic to expect that current strategies to prevent displacement, like voucher and affordable housing production programs, will meet the growing need of rent-burdened low-income households by themselves.

“While affordable housing programs are vitally important to the households they assist, these programs help only a small fraction of the Californians that are struggling to cope with the state’s high housing costs. The majority of low-income households receive little or no assistance and spend more than half of their income on housing,” according to the report.

“Extending housing assistance to low-income Californians who currently do not receive it — either through subsidies for affordable units or housing vouchers — would require an annual funding commitment in the low tens of billions of dollars. This is roughly the magnitude of the state’s largest General Fund expenditure outside of education (Medi-Cal),” the report says.

Policies like rent control, while they may benefit some existing tenants, don’t actually do much to address the problems in the long term because price controls don’t add new housing.

“Households looking to move to California or within California would… continue to face stiff competition for limited housing, making it difficult for them to secure housing that they can afford. Requiring landlords to charge new tenants below-market rents would not eliminate this competition,” according to the report. “Households would have to compete based on factors other than how much they are willing to pay. Landlords might decide between tenants based on their income, creditworthiness, or socioeconomic status, likely to the benefit of more affluent renters.”

How does new housing help the poor? Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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#DamienTalks 30 – SCAG’s Hasan Ikharta and the Pilot Program That Could Slay the Gas Tax

Today, #DamienTalks with Hasan Ikharta, the executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments about the pilot program that could be the second step in replacing the state’s gas tax with a vehicle miles traveled tax.

Ikhrata-2008Last week, the state announced it was looking for 5,000 drivers to participate in a pilot program to analyze different methods for replacing the state’s gas tax. Tax receipts have fallen in recent years as cars become more fuel efficient. While cleaner cars are a good thing, the state can’t keep up with the backlog of road repair projects that are needed to keep the state’s transportation network functioning.

So, they’re looking to do something different.

If you prefer your information in written form, and missed last week’s story on Streetsblog California, click here. If you’d like to sign up for the pilot program, click here.

At the end of the interview, we discuss SCAG’s long-term transportation planning and the opportunities to participate in that project. We are watching the LRTP closely at Streetsblog Los Angeles, and if you’re an interested Southern Californian, we urge you to follow that website for updates.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at damien@streetsblog.org, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

Via Streetsblog California
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OPR to Host Webinars on Transportation Impacts Under Environmental Law

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) recently issued long-anticipated changes to a provision in California law that currently ranks traffic congestion as an environmental impact. For more details, see recent Streetsblog coverage here. The new guidelines are under a 45-day review period, with public comment being accepted until February 29.

OPR logoTo help educate and inform people about the upcoming changes, OPR will host two webinars in February. The webinars will give background information, go over the proposed changes, give examples of how the changes would affect various types of projects, and provide time for questions and answers.

Registration for each webinar is limited to 500 participants, but a recording will be available after the presentations on the OPR website.

OPR requests that people register for only one webinar to leave space for others, and you can always gather your colleagues and watch it together.

The webinars will be held on the following days. Click on the links below to register.

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Don’t Forget! There’s an SBSF Happy Hour at Virgil’s Monday the 25th

Virgils

Who wouldn't want to have a beer with this guy?

PPS: Who wouldn’t want to have a beer with this guy?

Join Roger Rudick and Damien Newton at the Streetsblog San Francisco happy hour on Monday, January 25th at Virgil’s Sea Room, 3152 Mission Street, starting at 6 pm.

Have a beer and talk about the latest news with Roger and Damien. Support staff for Streetsblog SF. Virgil’s Sea Room will be donating 10 percent of all bar proceeds to Streetsblog SF all night. Happy hour specials go until 7.

Looking forward to meeting you!

P.S. – If you were planning to make a donation for our end-of-the-year pledge drive and it slipped your mind, you can still donate by clicking here, or donate at the happy hour, Monday night.

Streetsblog USA
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High Stakes for Cities as Feds Start Regulating Self-Driving Cars

Last week as part of his State of the Union Address, President Obama announced a $4 billion investment over the next 10 years to test autonomous vehicles and get them ready for the market. Two days later at the Detroit Auto Show, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that federal regulators would begin to develop coherent safety regulations for autonomous vehicles — something industry leaders have been pushing.

How long before we start seeing self-driving cars in cities? What kind of change will they bring? Photo: Smoothgroover/Flickr

How can the emergence of self-driving cars be shaped to benefit cities? Photo: Smoothgroover/Flickr

Before you dismiss these developments as just another sop to the car industry, consider the huge implications that autonomous vehicles could have for cities. There are upsides — NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind has said that self-driving cars “can eliminate 94 percent of fatal crashes involving human error” — and there are downsides as well. The ease of operating autonomous vehicles could lead to supercharged sprawl, for instance.

The emergence of self-driving cars raises a host of questions about issues ranging from liability in the event of a crash to the potential for shared autonomous vehicle fleets to free up huge amounts of street space.

Right now there’s a patchwork of state laws regulating the self-driving prototypes that companies are testing (and many states have none). Last month, California released the first state rules governing autonomous cars for public use.

I’m not saying this is all good. I’m saying it’s inevitable, so we should be shaping the way it happens.

Federal regulators say they will work with a group of states, car makers, and other interests to establish model legislation for states. Meanwhile, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration will develop performance standards for self-driving cars.

So the next six months will be a critical time in shaping how self-driving cars are adopted. What should people who care about city streets look for during this process?

In his book Startup City, former Chicago and D.C. transportation director Gabe Klein touches on the emergence of self-driving cars and the potential consequences for cities. We spoke to Klein (who also serves on the board of OpenPlans, the organization that publishes Streetsblog USA) about why these regulations matter and what to look for as they’re developed.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: A Car Free Travel Guide to Los Angeles

podcast icon logo

This week we’re joined by Nathan Landau, a transit planner in the Bay Area and author of the travel guide Car Free Los Angeles and Southern California. It’s got great places to eat, theater, live music, and even local book stores. But why write a travel guide that focuses on getting around without a car? And why is a northern California planner writing about the southern part of the state? Listen and find out.

I put the question to Nathan: If he was Anthony Bourdain and had 24 hours in LA, where would he go? The answer might surprise you — it certainly made me want to go take a look at places I hadn’t been before. We also delve into books and movies about LA that folks should read before a trip, and why it is that disaster movies seem to destroy the city over and over again.

So join us for a fun conversation about Los Angeles and learn a few places to go and how to get there on the bus or train.

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Meet Roger Rudick at the First Streetsblog SF Happy Hour of 2016 on Jan 25

Virgils

Join Roger Rudick and Damien Newton at the first Streetsblog San Francisco happy hour of 2016 on Monday, January 25th at Virgil’s Sea Room, 3152 Mission Street, starting at 6 pm.

Stop by and talk about the latest news, meet the new editor, and support staff for Streetsblog SF. Virgil’s Sea Room will be donating 10 percent of all bar proceeds to Streetsblog SF all night. Happy hour specials go until 7.

Hope to see you there!

P.S. – If you were planning to make a donation for our end-of-the-year pledge drive and it slipped your mind, you can always donate by clicking here, or at the happy hour itself.

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Streetsblog Talks with Supervisor John Avalos About Next Step for Bike Yield

John Avalos and his bike during a campaign event

John Avalos and his bike during a campaign event. From his Facebook page.

Supervisor Avalos’s proposed ordinance would make it the lowest law enforcement priority in San Francisco to issue citations for bicyclists who safely yield at stop signs. However the ordinance would not discourage officers from citing bicyclists who fail to slow to a safe speed at stop signs or fail to yield to another vehicle or pedestrian.

That’s how Supervisor John Avalos’s office introduced the “Bike Yield” ordinance last August. He was responding to complaints that SFPD focused excessive resources on citing bikers on the Wiggle who carefully roll through stop signs. Mayor Edwin Lee announced that he would veto it. The Board of Supervisors passed it, but without the eight votes necessary to override. A second vote is scheduled for January, but analysts say it’s unlikely the count will change. Meanwhile, Park District Captain John Sanford came out in his December newsletter flatly opposing the ordinance. He wrote “…if we allowed individuals to ignore laws they disagree with or would be better accommodated by not adhering to, such laws would create chaos on our streets.”

But the fight is not over. Avalos took steps so the ordinance can be reintroduced in amended form this year. This may mean a pilot project, a compromise floated by one of the mayor’s deputies. At a meeting in his office at City Hall, Streetsblog spoke with Avalos about the future of Bike Yield.

STREETSBLOG: Tell me the nuances of where we are with the legislation right now.

AVALOS: I have a copy of the file. It’s called a duplicated file. It’s in committee. And it’s ready to go when we say it should be scheduled. And we can make amendments to that; narrow the scope of the work we’re trying to do. We can be more prescriptive about what “yielding” is and more prescriptive about what ways that we can define “low priority” for the police department. Cyclists not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign is not really a dangerous activity that police should be focused on.

SB: Why are they focused on it then? What is really going on here?

A: It’s a cultural issue. People tend to think bicycles are more of a nuisance than an actual way of getting around the city that is carbon free and—when it’s done safely—safe and fun. But people say: “bicyclists are this, bicyclists are that.” There’s a whole range of people who bicycle and they have different behaviors. But one bad incident will represent all of cyclists in San Francisco and that seems to drive people’s opinions.

SB: But the cops are supposed to know better.

A: There is a bias against bicycles in the police department. I mean, we had an incident where a person was hit and killed by a truck on Sixth Street a couple of years back. There was a vigil. One of the officers came by the vigil and told them the dead cyclist was in the wrong. Then we had a person find video footage that showed the truck driver was wrong. But that’s the attitude of police.

SB: I was riding on Valencia yesterday. I counted two trucks and a car stopped on the bike lane. I was passed by cops twice. Neither stopped to cite the vehicles. What kind of legislation can we have that will get the police to enforce the law consistently?

A: That’s what we are trying to do with Bike Yield, by putting some real priorities before them. But they oppose them. And they’re denying that they’re doing anything wrong in their enforcement. We’re fought tooth and nail.

SB: It doesn’t seem like that’s how it’s suppose to work.

A: What’s funny is when the mayor talked about the Wiggle he said “I don’t want to approve legislation that’s purely for the convenience of cyclists.” Well, I think that the officers are doing enforcement that’s convenient to them instead of doing their duty to protect people.

SB: What do you mean by “convenient to them?”

A: It’s convenient to them to not enforce speed limits or cite people who block bike lanes and intersections. Often you’ll see police officers stop their own cars right in the middle of an intersection, forcing pedestrians to go into the street to cross. That’s very common. Officers will block Muni traffic when they can actually find a place to park, but they don’t care—it’s whatever is convenient to them and they say “well, I’m a police officer and I’m enforcing the law and therefore I don’t have to follow the law.”

SB: What about getting more SFPD out of cars and onto bicycles themselves so maybe they’ll see things differently?

A: That would be great. We always talk about getting officers out of their cars and onto the sidewalks. And onto the streets with their bikes. But the police are very resistant to change. I’m sure I’m not considered very well by the police because of my efforts.

SB: Bottom line—next step for the legislation is a Bike Yield pilot project?

A: Yes, if the veto can’t be overridden. Yes.

This interview was edited.

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A Happy and Safe New Year from Streetsblog San Francisco

Streetsblog San Francisco will be off for the holidays tomorrow and Friday. We wish you a safe and happy New Year’s celebration. Get in a good walk or bike ride with that time off!

On Monday, January 4, Streetsblog will be back in full swing. We’ll continue our coverage of Bike Yield, WalkSF, Muni, Caltrain, BART, and a host of other Bay Area topics. Our sister publications in the Streetsblog network will present reader poll results and awards. Streetsblog California will announce its first-ever California-wide Streetsie Award winners the following week.

Don’t forget to make a tax-deductible donation to keep Streetsblog’s coverage coming! Do it before the end of the year to be entered to win a Tern Folding bike.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Transit Guide for the Holidays (SFExaminer)
  • Christmas Shoppers Breaking Traffic Laws (Kron4)
  • What Rules Should Apply to Hoverboards? (SFWeekly)
  • Search Resumes for Developer for Transbay Adjacent Parcel (BizJournals)
  • Police Release Photo of Hit and Run Vehicle (NBCBayArea)
  • Suspected Drunk Driver Arrested After Crashing and Rolling His Car (InsideBayArea)
  • Elderly San Jose Pedestrian Struck by Truck Identified (MercNews)
  • More on Marin Sheriff Scofflaw Motorbike Gang (SFist)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA