Ever-changing population predictions frustrate Bay Area smart-growth planning

Maureen Nandini Mitra, SF Public Press — Jun 25 2012 - 12:38pm

State and regional planning agencies have produced differing predictions of how many people will migrate to the Bay Area in coming decades. The disagreement is frustrating efforts to forge a consensus on how many hundreds of thousands of new homes to build across the region, and where. In May, the California Department of Finance took a fresh look at economic forecasts and officially backed away from its prediction that 9.5 million people would live in the Bay Area in 2040. The state now says it is likely to be closer to 8.4 million. But the Association of Bay Area Governments pegged the population for the same 2040 target date at a robust 9.3 million. The agency is charged with developing Plan Bay Area, an ambitious agenda to reshape the sprawling region by building 660,000 new homes in the urban image of walkable, transit-friendly San Francisco.

Map: Where we live now — 2010 household density and priority development areas

Darin Jensen, Madeleine Theriault and Mike Jones, SF Public Press — Jun 22 2012 - 12:34pm

Part of the challenge facing regional planners, who wrote the 30-year Plan Bay Area, is that it is hard to predict future population growth. The current list of more than 200 potential priority development areas in the plan tracks established high-density zones closely, indicating that the Association of Bay Area Governments, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and other regional agencies want to fill in developments in areas that are already highly urbanized or near mass transit lines, instead of in undeveloped or underdeveloped suburban settings. This map helps readers of the Public Press’s summer edition special project, Growing Smarter: Planning for a Bay Area of 9 Million, understand these trends.

Tea partiers and Occupiers make strange bedfellows opposing sprawl control

Maureen Nandini Mitra, SF Public Press — Jun 21 2012 - 1:22pm

So far, Plan Bay Area — an ambitious regional blueprint for dense urban communities convenient for walking and public transit — seems to have more strident critics than defenders. Some libertarians, liberal Democrats, environmentalists, professional urban planners and anti-capitalist Occupiers have all found issue with parts of the plan, and the way its authors have sought public opinion.

Muni asks drivers to hold it in while new bathrooms get approvals

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Jun 20 2012 - 5:19pm

Bus operators looking for a toilet after hours sitting in the driver’s seat will have to hold it just a little longer. That’s because Muni’s plans to build seven new free-standing bathrooms needs to be approved not just by the transit agency, but also Public Works and the Arts Commission. All told, it’s going to take six months.

Can San Francisco add 150,000 more people?

Alison Hawkes, SF Public Press — Jun 19 2012 - 11:55am

As the Bay Area struggles to meet sustainability goals, double-digit population growth presents a clear challenge to reducing the region’s ecological footprint. Residents must use resources more efficiently to counteract the addition of more than a million new residents. In many ways, it mirrors a challenge the planet is facing. Can population growth in San Francisco and the Bay Area be sustainable?

Officials say planning for regional smart growth prevents ‘a world of hurt’

Chase Niesner, SF Public Press — Jun 15 2012 - 10:21pm

The leaders of Bay Area planning agencies are struggling to persuade local governments and community groups that joint planning will make the region more socially, economically and environmentally healthy. Dealing with sprawl, the focus of the summer print edition of the Public Press, was front and center on Friday’s edition of “Forum,” the daily public-affairs talk show on KQED Radio.

Why smart growth?

Angela Hart, SF Public Press — Jun 14 2012 - 5:26pm

Sprawl is commonplace in the Bay Area — from places like Antioch and Brentwood on the outskirts of Contra Costa County to parts of Santa Clara and Sonoma counties. The pattern emerges from an all-too-familiar suburban formula that for decades earned developers high profits: perfectly manicured lawns, streets that meander around small neighborhood parks and cul-de-sacs at the end of nearly every block. Mixed use is forbidden — businesses are clustered into shopping malls a car trip away. Though the Bay Area started out on a European-style city grid in the era of the horse and buggy, the neighborhoods developed after World War II, after the rise of the automobile industry and interstate highway system, became the American dream.

Cities resist regional plan to limit sprawl

Angela Hart, SF Public Press — Jun 13 2012 - 2:44pm

A high-profile effort to focus new Bay Area housing into energy-efficient transit villages is seen as unworkable even as it makes its public debut this summer, say urban planners, because regional government lacks the authority to make cities build dense urban neighborhoods. The three-decade Plan Bay Area, unveiled in May, is the product of more than two years of research on the region’s demographics, economy, transportation and architecture. Proponents say “smart growth” could be the future of the Bay Area — if regional agencies had either the legal tools to enforce the grand vision or enough money to make it worthwhile for cities to participate.

Young poets launch social justice campaign against diabetes

Zaineb Mohammed, New America Media — Jun 11 2012 - 11:30am

Amid rising rates of diabetes in teenagers, youth are leading a new campaign to combat the social and environmental factors that created the epidemic. “This campaign is more about the social determinants of the disease,” said Sarah Fine, project director for the Youth Speaks UCSF Public Health Literacy Project. “We want to change the conversation to what are the social forces exacerbating the epidemic and what can we do to affect change.” 

San Francisco activists wary of U.N. climate reunion in Rio

Ruth Tam, SF Public Press — Jun 7 2012 - 12:33pm

The Bay Area is the unofficial headquarters of the green movement and the progenitor of the United Nations. So locally based environmental groups are particularly annoyed this week that the U.S. government continues to sideline climate change as world leaders prepare to gather in Brazil in late June.

S.F. to tackle shelter waiting game for disabled and older homeless

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Jun 6 2012 - 4:52pm

UPDATE: Listen to reporter T.J. Johnston's updated report on this story at KQED news here. The health of homeless people — especially older and disabled ones — is endangered by a time-consuming wait they endure daily when reserving a bed in San Francisco’s public shelter system, advocates and city officials say. As a result of a hearing before a Board of Supervisors panel, the city has begun a series of public meetings with providers, city officials and clients, to seek improvements in shelter access and the health of senior and disabled clients. Homeless policy director Bevan Dufty and others hope to work out a plan this summer and present it to the board.

Tenants raising rents on new roommates

Lisette Mejia, Mission Local — Jun 6 2012 - 12:16pm

Finding a place to live in the Mission can be daunting. Often, dozens of  hopeful renters show up at open houses, and Craigslist ads elicit responses from hundreds of people. With demand comes desperation, and in addition to those who offer cooked meals or to slip in an additional $600 to secure a spot, some are willing to pay extra rent to a master tenant for a room — and some are willing to charge it.

Thousands of tickets handed out to homeless

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Jun 4 2012 - 3:16pm

Ignoring ‘quality of life’ fines can lead to warrants, jail

San Francisco is an expensive place to find an apartment, sure. But it can also be a costly place to live outside. Police served homeless people in the city with almost 40,000 citations over a five-year period, according to records compiled by the city agency that provides homeless services.

Against all odds, former foster kid dons graduation cap

Rosa Ramirez, New America Media — May 31 2012 - 3:40pm

The last time Lerone Matthis was released from the Division of Juvenile Justice in April 2008, he feared he had reached bottom. “I was discouraged by the [diminished] prospects for a meaningful future,” Matthis recalled. He didn’t have a place to rest his head, bathe or change his clothes. He wore the same jeans and white shirt “that was dingy around the neck” because it hadn’t been washed for a month. Since he didn’t have a place to store his clothes, he bought socks from a neighborhood liquor store. He relied on relatives and friends for food and shelter. Other times, the former foster youth simply went hungry.

The unemployed of S.F. speak out

Angela Johnston, KALW News — May 30 2012 - 4:39pm

Close to 100,000 jobless Californians will lose as many as 20 weeks of federal unemployment insurance benefits by the end of May. Improvements in California’s economy and a drop in the unemployment rate will end an extension of federal benefits. At an Employment Development Department on Franklin and Turk, KALW’s Angela Johnston spoke to Little Vila, John Saunders, Maurice Gonzales and Yvette, who wouldn’t give her last name. Here are their thoughts on being unemployed in today’s economy.

To stay in Mission District, Latino businesses split the rent

Rigoberto Hernandez, Mission Local — May 28 2012 - 2:42pm

Stepping inside the storefront at 3270 24th St., it’s not immediately clear what kind of business it is. The space holds two retail outlets, plus a lawyer and an electronics repairman. This may sound like a “man walks into a bar” joke, but it’s not — it’s the business model for many Latino business owners in the Mission.

After a decade-plus of planning, San Francisco finally sets 2016 date for bus rapid transit

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — May 25 2012 - 3:16pm

It took the United States eight years to get a man on the moon, but it’s going to take transit officials almost 12 years to get a new high-speed “bus rapid transit” system onto one of San Francisco’s busiest corridors. The Van Ness Avenue project, which in 2006 was projected to open at the end of this year — in time for the Muni centennial — has been pushed back four more years, largely because transit planners had underestimated the time needed to complete the environmental work and project planning.

Mien farmers cultivate their own garden in East Oakland

Rachael Myrow, KQED News Fix — May 24 2012 - 3:36pm

In the heart of East Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park is an incongruous reminder of California’s Mexican past: 6 acres of open space in a sea of single-family homes. What was once a massive ranchero now features a Victorian house surrounded by carefully tended vegetable gardens. Ben Glickstein is director of outreach here. He says back in 1820, Antonio Peralta had big agricultural dreams for this stretch of land that slopes down to Peralta Creek. "And we’re still using this for agriculture, for food, here in the middle of this pretty urban neighborhood."

Millions for Mission District schools: Where is the money going?

Lisette Mejia, Mission Local — May 23 2012 - 7:03pm

They belong to a club where membership hinges on low reading and math skills, and high dropout rates. They’re some of the worst-performing schools in the state, even the country, and to shape up, the Mission’s six struggling schools took drastic measures to qualify for a share of a $45 million grant — including firing principals and replacing half the staff. In December 2010, Bryant, Everett, Buena Vista Horace Mann, Mission High and John O’Connell began receiving an average of $1.6 million a year for three years from the new federal School Improvement Grant program.

State, tech companies forge alliances to combat sex trafficking

Shoshana Walter, California Watch — May 21 2012 - 2:59pm

Last year, California Attorney General Kamala Harris joined attorneys general across the country in declaring war against Backpage.com, a free classified website run by Village Voice Media. The officials threatened legal action if the site didn’t stop running ads for adult services, some of which have been linked to underage sex trafficking. But while Harris took a confrontational tone with Backpage – which has since balked at shutting down its adult pages – a more cooperative dynamic has emerged this year between the attorney general and online companies.