Today’s Headlines

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  • Jeffrey Baker

    SB-827 introduced yesterday by Wiener would upzone virtually all of SF, Oakland, and Berkeley to 85 feet and eliminate all parking requirements.

    https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB827

  • mx

    “More on Scoot E-Bikes”

    I’m pretty excited for this. I have a lot of trips on moderately flat areas where I don’t need to carry a ton, and the Scoot scooters are overkill. This would be a perfect compromise.

    I see the Jump bikes all the time, but despite their website saying “Drop us a line for your personal access code,” they won’t allow people to use the system. Which is really the worst of all words: bikes parked on public sidewalks, but not available to the public at any cost.

  • mx

    I’ve been looking at this, and it’s intriguing, but the definition of “High-quality transit corridor” as having “fixed route bus service that has service intervals of no more than 15 minutes during peak commute hours” is frightening.

    It covers pretty much the entirety of SF:
    https://twitter.com/jrivanob/status/948999828582809600

    Also included are projects within a half mile of a “major transit stop.”

    Based on how people usually think about transit in this city, I’m hesitant to think that the residents of an area like, say, Glen Park just under Billy Goat Hill (about a half mile from Glen Park BART) consider themselves so well-served by transit that they’d give up car ownership. Do people living a quarter mile from the 35-Eureka (advertised 20-minute peak evening service, assuming they actually operate as scheduled) or the 37-Corbett consider themselves living on a “high-quality transit corridor?” We’re fighting over whether buses really need to stop every single block in some areas, but the proposed law considers living a quarter-mile away from a bus that comes, at most, twice an hour on the weekend “high-quality service?”

    To some extent, the market can solve that problem—people just won’t build more where the transit isn’t adequate—, and I do sincerely hope that development will bring transit improvements to areas where they are sorely needed. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that people consider themselves so well-served by transit that parking requirements are unnecessary if they live a quarter-mile from a bus that comes every half hour on the weekend that will eventually take them to a subway where they’ll get stuck in the tunnel again.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    If it allows BART to just build a giant apartment building at N. Berkeley BART, I’m all for it.

  • mx

    Oh me too. Upzone the hell out of anything in the immediate vicinity of a BART station.

  • All of university ave between Shattuck and San Pablo should be upzoned. It makes me sick every time I see all that parking surrounding the N. Berkeley station.

  • jonobate

    This table and thread have more clarifying details: https://twitter.com/fromira/status/949027908068171777

    I agree that the Major Transit Stop and High Quality Transit Corridor definitions are problematic. They’ll need to get clarified during the bill amendment process.

  • People drive for many reasons. Pathetic transit options is a huge reason. Take the Sunset/Richmond…all these homes have driveways and garages…for a reason. In fact, the bulk of SF residential development, old and new, includes parking. Once you get into the suburbs car ownership is a guarantee with most rail stations offering huge commuter parking lots to handle the cars, many of which are filled before 7am.

  • Wiener also promised us a master subway plan. Still waiting…

  • mx

    Thanks! I started to summarize some of that, and it was making my head hurt a little.

    I’d be curious what the map looks like if it were just 1/4 mile from actual high-quality transit, something like just Muni Rapid, Metro, and BART stations (insert your own snark here about the quality of said services; I don’t have the heart).

    As it stands, I feel like a long-term outcome of this plan will be to make Uber and Lyft a lot of money.

  • Mike Schiraldi

    That’s not correct. The shaded areas on the map are indeed the areas that would be affected by the bill, but much of that shaded area would only be upzoned to 45 or 55 feet. See https://medium.com/@jaapweel/what-sb827-the-transit-rich-housing-bonus-actually-does-4bd62fb93c46

  • Mike Schiraldi

    Glen Park near Billy Goat Hill would only be upzoned to 45′ under this bill. That’s just five feet higher than the current zoning. The bigger change would be that project sponsors would have the option, but not the obligation, to build a 45′ apartment building instead of being mandated to produce only single-family houses, and they would have the option, but not the obligation, to have some or all of the units come without off-street parking.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Hi, Mike. Yes that’s true that there are tiers of heights for side or main streets. But the shaded areas are also incomplete, so the coverage is more than people are initially saying.

    I guess it would be funny if NIMBYs started narrowing streets to bring down the height limits.

  • Mike Schiraldi

    Sup Jeff. Yeah, I’d have mixed feelings if that were to happen; I’m a big fan of wider sidewalks.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Yeah, I feel like the off-street parking benefit is better than the height benefit. For my house in Oakland, I already got some relief from parking minimums last year, because the ADU law from last year says that no parking can be mandated for ADUs within 1/4 mile of a bus stop with frequent service, the “high-quality transit corridor” of this new bill. But, I still can’t redevelop my property because even a single-family house in my zone now requires two off-street parking spaces, which is two more than we have today. This bill would nix those two spaces, so I could put a two-unit building here without adding parking.

  • Uber/Lyft have proven to be disruptive forces to public transit systems across the world, especially when the economy is looking good and folks got disposable income to spend. However, in many cases taking a ride hailing service isn’t frivolous. I take evening classes in downtown SF. All of my classmates who live in Oakland take Uber or Lyft home rather than wait 15-20 minutes for a BART train (and in some cases a transfer after that to AC Transit). Me too when the next L train is 45 minutes and it’s a 40 minute ride after it arrives to the Sunset.
    Bay Area public transit is extremely limited when you look at the map and then factor in transfers (Muni is designed to maximize the number of transfers, not minimize) to cover that last mile. SF alone should be connected by multiple rail networks, encouraging lower car ownership, increasing ridership to cover fare box costs (thereby keeping fares at a reasonable rate). But the problem extends beyond just adding rail lines and stations. Operating costs and employee benefits/pensions. The only way to be successful long term is to privatize. Riders are paying for 100k salaries and overbloated pensions.
    It’s a complex problem, but overhauling the entire transit system would be a good start.

  • p_chazz

    What happens if a Major Transit Stop is eliminated or a High Quality Transit Corridor is degraded due to budget cuts? Do height limits automatically come down?

  • jonobate

    Well, they wouldn’t come down automatically, because the legislation sets height limit minimums, not maximums. But you’re right that planning the built environment around bus service levels that can be easily altered brings up some challenges. Another issue that has been raised is that suburban cities might deliberately reduce their bus service to arrive less than 15 minutes during rush hour in order to avoid having to upzone.

    There’s also a chicken and egg problem here, in that usually an area has frequent bus service *because* it’s dense. There are lots of places that aren’t quite dense enough to support frequent bus service but could become that dense with some infill; and of course once it is that dense, it’s easy to increase bus service. The bill does nothing to upzone those places, most of which are suburban. You can see from the map linked to above that Marin, the Peninsula, and the South Bay are largely unaffected by the legislation, while Oakland and SF are blanketed.

    This bill reminds me of SB 743 a few years ago, which started out by eliminating LOS requirements around transit but ended up eliminating LOS for the entire state. Similarly, I hope that we end up at a place when medium sized buildings are legal to build on any piece of land in California that’s not protected farmland or open space. That seems a lot easier to enforce, less easy to find loopholes in, and more equitable in the distribution of new residents.

    But, baby steps…

  • p_chazz

    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis. Over at an Alameda Facebook group I belong to, they are totally losing it over this proposal. There is a big stripe down Santa Clara Avenue where the 51A runs that could be upzoned. Measure A in 1972 imposed draconian height and density limits to stop Victorian homes that were getting pulled down to build schlocky apartment buildings there. It’s an article of faith in Alameda.

    They have a point. As infill opportunities fill up, I think there will be more pressure to demolish historic or architecturally significant buildings in favor of denser development. I really wouldn’t want to see the character of single family neighborhoods wiped out by bland, cookie cutter apartment buildings and condominium towers.

  • Mike Schiraldi

    And now there are *two* pending bills that would solve your problem.

    Here’s the new one: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB831