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February 2015

Are Water-Neutral Growth Policies the key to Building Sustainable Communities?

Mary Ann Dickinson | National Geographic

Plans are underway to completely rebuild the Metro Center on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)We’re accustomed to waiting in lines for a football game, to buy movie tickets or perhaps to get a seat in the most coveted professor’s class. But what if we had to wait in line to move? What if we had to be granted access to a city where we found a great new job or the family dream home we always wanted?

This idea isn’t so far-fetched; in some places, it’s already an unfortunate reality. In the seaside village of Cambria, California, 666 families and individuals are currently waiting for permission to move into their single family homes. Many have been on the wait list for upwards of 20 years. As recently as this summer, the San Diego Union-Tribune was fielding letters suggesting that the city close its doors to new residents.

Why have communities resorted to such extreme measures? The answer is simpler than you may think: they don’t have sufficient water supplies to hook up to new homes and facilities. Planners and decision-makers are increasingly challenged with the task of accommodating new water customers with existing and possibly limited water resources. This tension can also place limits on overall economic growth, deterring businesses from investing or expanding operations that can create jobs and bring opportunity to cities. Read more

 

Garden State’s unified public-private vision

Plans are underway to completely rebuild the Metro Center on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)Jennifer Mazawey | Real Estate Weekly

 

In development, we often laud “public-private partnerships” – ultimately an overused blanket term for projects in which a state or local government is in some way financially vested.

But, the reality is that very few strides are made in real estate and development without at least peripheral support from the state or local governing bodies. And, here in New Jersey, the public and private sectors have set the table for what has become perhaps the smartest and most effective development climate in the nation.

New Jersey has benefitted from the presence of several forward-thinking, innovative developers, to be sure, but policymakers have clearly done their part to incentivize projects that will have the greatest positive impact to their communities. Read more

L.A. coalition wants to keep housing affordable near public transit projects

John Schreiber | My LA News

Photo by John Schreiber.With at least $40 billion in transportation projects being built or planned in the Los Angeles area over the coming years, a transit-focused coalition urged city leaders Tuesday to keep housing near transit corridors affordable for those most dependent on public transportation.

Three-quarters of people in the Los Angeles area who use public transportation to get to work earn less than $25,000 a year — compared with the $60,000 median annual income for greater Los Angeles residents in 2014, according to the Alliance for Community Transit.

Those lower-wage earners could be priced out of neighborhoods near transportation hubs if city leaders fail to enact policies to protect them, according to an ACT white paper, which says research has shown that transportation projects tend to drive up nearby housing costs. Read more

Sacramento Gentrification Is Getting the Streetcar Boost

Rachel Dovey | Next City

Sacramento streetcar rendering from a report prepared for the city by URS Corp.With cranes dominating skylines nationwide, redevelopment and displacement are often portrayed as the yin and yang of city makeovers — one a dark but inevitable counterpart to the other. But gentrification, as Susie Cagle wrote for Next City last year, is not necessarily “an act of nature.” Usually, it’s the culmination of policy and investment choices. With that in mind, as California’s capital paves the political landscape for a streetcar — an attempt to both spur and piggyback on new development — city leaders have some decisions to make.

To realize what’s at stake, you need to understand the city’s geography, which I wrote about last year. Sacramento’s downtown, occupied from 9 to 5 by state workers, was the after-hours home to some of the city’s lowest earners — mostly renters — when census data was collected last. But according to long-range planner Tom Pace (with whom I spoke for that 2014 article), many state workers still commute in from the suburbs, meaning that the central core needs more housing of all kinds. Through an arena, several mixed-use projects and an intermodal transportation facility, city leaders want to fill the area with walkable development. The streetcar, which will get a $30 million boost from property owners along its proposed line, is part of that vision. Read more

 

Use of data can help families benefit from public transit expansion

Michelle Riordan-Nold | CT Mirror

The Beck Group’s Dallas Arboretum Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden is one of the projects competing for the Urban Land Institute award.

The new CT fastrak busway presents a great opportunity for Hartford and New Britain residents, and for Connecticut. The expansion of public transit opens up more employment opportunities for the projected 16,000 riders a day using the new system.

But in order for our region to take full advantage of this new resource, the needs of the residents living in the vicinity of the new transit lines must be taken into consideration.

These residents include young children and families who are often not the primary consideration for transit-oriented development, which generally focus on labor and housing needs, not family needs.

The Early Development Instrument (EDI), a recent pilot study sponsored by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, looks at the whole population of children in neighborhoods in Hartford and West Hartford in regards to five key domains: physical health and well-being, language and cognitive development, social competence, emotional maturity, and communication skills and general knowledge. These domains focus not only on academic success, but also the social and emotional development children need to get ready for school. Read more

Pedestrian accessibility enhances urban vitality in Buffalo

The Beck Group’s Dallas Arboretum Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden is one of the projects competing for the Urban Land Institute award.Daniel Baldwin Hess | The Buffalo News

City planners have used the development of a new city zoning ordinance, the Green Code – to be adopted in the coming months – to reinvigorate planning for pedestrians in Buffalo. The Green Code encourages walkable design by increasing urban density and enhancing the attractiveness of streetscapes. By de-emphasizing automobile access and parking, reflecting the wishes of many residents during public outreach events, the Green Code promotes walkability, bicycle access and transit-oriented development.

Compact and walkable neighborhoods, from which residents can easily reach a variety of daily needs on foot, were a building block of Buffalo’s successes during the 20th century. Despite decades of population decline and disinvestment, key ingredients of those walkable places – neighborhood character, diversity of buildings and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and street crossings – remain as vital components of Buffalo’s urban places. Read more

San Francisco public housing to receive $500 million facelift

Hannah Albarazi | SFBay.com

The Beck Group’s Dallas Arboretum Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden is one of the projects competing for the Urban Land Institute award.At a press conference in a public housing unit in the Tenderloin neighborhood this afternoon, Secretary Castro said that this shift to private management of public housing would allow major improvements to public housing to be made leveraging private capital. He said this announcement comes after years of government failure to address the needs of public housing units nationwide.

Tight federal budgets and limited state and city funding has left many public housing units in unsafe conditions and has prevented creation of new units, according to Castro. Through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, housing units in San Francisco, and across the country, are being transferred from the public housing programs to a Section 8 program.

Private developers, drawn to the program by tax breaks and subsidies, are given incentives to invest in affordable rental housing under the RAD program. According to the National Housing Institute, a non-profit research organization, the RAD program was created in 2012 in order to give public housing authorities a tool to preserve and improve the country’s more than 1.1 million public housing properties in need of repairs, and address a backlog of roughly $26 billion in deferred maintenance nationwide. Read more

 

Transforming Transportation in 2015: Turning Momentum Into Action

Holger Dalkmann | TheCityFix

 

The Beck Group’s Dallas Arboretum Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden is one of the projects competing for the Urban Land Institute award.What will the city of the future look like? How can we unlock the potential of urbanization to create safe, accessible and prosperous societies? At Transforming Transportation 2015 – the annual conference co-organized by the World Resources Institute and the World Bank– we learned about the role of urban mobility in creating smart, sustainable cities and boosting shared prosperity.

With 75 percent of the infrastructure that will exist in 2050 yet to be built, actions taken right now will shape urbanization patterns and quality of life for decades. It is urgent that global leaders concentrate now on ensuring that cities are sustainable, inclusive and prosperous.

The year 2015 provides three big opportunities to build global momentum around the course for change. These are the potential for a binding international climate agreement coming out of COP21, a new development agenda set forth by the UN Sustainable Development Goals SDGs), and a platform for prioritizing safe, equitable cities through the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety. The coming year raises the stakes, with the 2016 Habitat III conference expected to be one of the most influential gatherings in history focusing on making cities more livable and sustainable. Read more

‘Fatigued Owners’ Are a New Breed in San Diego

Carrie Rossenfeld | GlobeSt.com

The Beck Group’s Dallas Arboretum Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden is one of the projects competing for the Urban Land Institute award.Pathfinder Partners is bullish on multifamily and residential development. The San Diego-based fund manager recently announced the initial closing of Pathfinder Opportunity Fund V—a private real estate fund focused on acquiring multifamily and other residential real estate, which launched in November 2014—and the fact that investors committed approximately $30-million to the initial closing. With a target fundraise of $100 million to $150 million, the fund will remain open to new investors through December.

We spoke exclusively with Pathfinder’s senior managing director/co-founder Mitch Siegler about the firm’s strategy for Fund V, the headwinds and tailwinds influencing the multifamily and residential sectors and where the greatest opportunities lie for investment in these categories in the San Diego market.

GlobeSt.com: What is your firm’s current strategy for Fund V?

Siegler: This fund builds on a team that started in 2006 when we created the firm. We have found tremendous opportunity in the wake of the financial crisis as properties were being sold by financial institutions, banks and CMBS special servicers. The market is morphing to a stage we call “fatigued owners.” They didn’t lose their properties, but they’re eight to 10 years older and have either had health issues or passed away and their estates are dealing with these real estate issues. The properties add themselves to our value and transformational approach. By infusing capital into these properties, we’ve demonstrated an ability to dramatically improve their financial performance through increased rent and better management. It’s where distressed opportunities meet a value-add situation, and we can capitalize on the fatigue that has been a byproduct of the financial crisis. Read more

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