Visualizing smart growth through photo art

Steve Price, SF Public Press — Jul 9 2012 - 11:47am

People need realistic pictures to understand development options. Using photo-editing and 3-D modeling software, we create seamless photo simulations that realistically show how revitalized urban and suburban places might look.

Developers seek to legalize tiny apartments in San Francisco, citing soaring rents

Chase Niesner, SF Public Press — Jul 6 2012 - 3:23pm

Plan would shrink smallest living spaces by one-third, but opponents fear crowding

San Francisco of the near future could be a place where thousands of young high-tech workers pack into 12-by-12-foot boxes in high-rises, each equipped with a combination desk/kitchen table, a single bed and the overall feel of a compact cruise ship cabin. A developers’ group is pushing the idea that tiny apartments could be the answer to rising rental prices, and has convinced the Board of Supervisors to put the proposal up for a vote next Tuesday. The plan is to reduce the minimum living space in apartments from the current 220 square feet to just 150 — a little larger than a standard San Francisco parking space.

Despite political nature, Mirkarimi case in San Francisco brings spotlight to domestic violence

Christopher Peak, SF Public Press — Jul 3 2012 - 3:16pm

In a hearing room in City Hall last week, reporters scrambled to get play-by-play reaction from followers of suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, sporting blue-and-white “Stand With Ross” stickers, and organized opponents, with purple signs saying, “There’s no excuse for domestic violence.” The complex game of personality, politics and procedure has for the most part eclipsed larger policy questions about the city’s approach to handling thousands of cases of domestic violence each year. But as the city’s Ethics Commission continues to debate whether Mirkarimi is fit to hold his elected position, advocates for victims say the hearings are helping generate awareness about the wider problem of domestic violence, and the needed response from social service agencies and law enforcement.

Rising gas prices exacerbated foreclosure crisis, researchers find

Dhyana Levey, SF Public Press — Jul 3 2012 - 12:32pm

Spiking gas prices in recent years were likely a contributing factor to foreclosures in newly built outlying housing developments in the Bay Area, researchers say, suggesting that sprawl may be bad for the region’s economic stability. Two recent studies found links between gas prices and foreclosure rates across California and other parts of the nation. The highest concentrations of Bay Area foreclosures were in eastern Contra Costa and parts of Solano and Sonoma counties. The areas with the lowest foreclosure rates were in the urban corridors of Oakland, San Francisco and parts of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties — areas most accessible by public transit.

Marin cities rebel against regional planning

Kelly O'Mara, SF Public Press — Jul 2 2012 - 12:02pm

Corte Madera, population 9,300, kicked off a fierce debate in Marin over housing mandates earlier this year when the town council voted to become the first member to secede from the Association of Bay Area Governments. At the time, the nine-county planning agency (until then, made up of representatives of every Bay Area city) was launching a big regional housing-growth initiative called Plan Bay Area. Now, several local groups across the Bay Area are questioning the value of the regional plan, saying it will sacrifice local control.

Map: The bay’s 50-year boom — population growth, 1960-2010

Darin Jensen, Madeleine Theriault and Mike Jones, SF Public Press — Jun 29 2012 - 11:21am

Among 101 cities, those in periphery grew fastest

Like trees, cities can be thought of as adding growth rings every year. For most cities on this map, the outer ring represents the current population, from 2010 census data. The smallest, inner growth ring was the population in 1960. The largest cities of 1960 — San Francisco and Oakland - have larger inner rings. San Jose is a notable outlier, having swelled to consume the Valley of Heart's Delight. The spacing of the decennial rings allows the reader to understand whether cities' population growth is sudden, like Concord between 1960 and 1970, or gradual, like Pleasanton, denoted by the regular interval between the growth rings. Slow-growing Moraga doesn't show a 1960 ring at all, because it is covered up by the 2010 growth ring.

Muni to try quicker boarding scheme in latest effort to meet elusive performance goals

Jerold Chinn, SF Public Press — Jun 28 2012 - 11:28am

Clipper Card readers placed in the back of Muni buses long ago will finally get more use starting July 1.Transit officials are gearing up for all-door boarding throughout this system, which will reduce travel times, speed up loading on Muni buses and generate more fare revenue, said Muni spokesman Paul Rose. Muni will become the first bus and light-rail system in the country to have all-door boarding for its entire system.

With redevelopment's end, Bay Area cities scramble to keep grand plans alive

Alexis Fitts, SF Public Press — Jun 27 2012 - 3:10pm

Oakland's Auto Row renaissance may have to work on a smaller scale

Since 2000, city officials have had big plans for Auto Row. They called it the Broadway-Valdez project, a 96-acre development that included a strip of housing and restaurants next to the 19th Street BART station, the Valdez Triangle.Planners said the effort, if fully funded, would be Oakland’s best bet to revive its sagging retail sector. But the project’s prospects have dimmed since California killed redevelopment funds as a way of backfilling the state budget deficit.

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.