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Regional planners, long dismayed by environmentally destructive suburban sprawl, hope to turn a lot of the Bay Area into something more like San Francisco — walkable, BARTable and very energy efficient. But the “smart growth” renaissance — key to the state’s climate change goals — is facing stiff resistance from cities, and financial pressure from the cash-strapped California state government. Some experts say that on its current path, the plan is too unwieldy to reshape where and how we will live. This special report was produced in collaboration with the CAGE Lab at UC Berkeley’s Geography Department, Earth Island Journal and Bay Nature Magazine.

Bay Area Smart Growth

Rent Control Boosters and Bashers Both Base Claims on Incomplete Research

Nathan Collins, San Francisco Public Press — Oct 17 2018 - 11:33am

As Californians battle this fall over a ballot measure to allow cities much wider leeway to impose all sorts of rent control, both sides of the debate throw around citations to academic papers, economic studies and seemingly compelling statistics. But a review of the available research shows that both sides are wrong.

As Mayor, Kim Would Try to Expand Inclusionary Housing Citywide

Joe Eskenazi, San Francisco Public Press — May 9 2018 - 7:00am

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim represents the city’s wealthiest and poorest ZIP codes. She has focused much of her political energy on inclusionary housing — programs mandating a percentage of apartments in new developments be set aside at below-market rates — and set a new standard by securing higher-than-normal affordability ratios on several mega-projects. On homelessness, she says that if elected mayor, she would treat it more like a public health crisis than an economic problem. Second in a series analyzing the mayoral candidates’ records and pledges on housing and homelessness.

California’s Push for Affordable Housing Could Weaken Environmental Law

Kevin Stark, San Francisco Public Press — Jul 25 2017 - 3:11pm

The Legislature’s efforts to ease the housing-affordability crisis could chip away at longstanding protections in the state’s landmark environmental law. Two such bills were introduced by San Francisco lawmakers.

Census Estimates Show Bay Area Growing Faster than Expected

Noah Arroyo, San Francisco Public Press — Apr 7 2015 - 11:30am

New residents are flocking to the Bay Area faster than regional planners previously expected.

Visualizing smart growth through photo art

Steve Price, SF Public Press — Jul 9 2012 - 10:47am

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.

Rising gas prices exacerbated foreclosure crisis, researchers find

Dhyana Levey, SF Public Press — Jul 3 2012 - 11:32am

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 - 11:02am

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 - 10:21am

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.

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

Alexis Fitts, SF Public Press — Jun 27 2012 - 2:10pm

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 - 11:38am

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.

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