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More housing provides sustainable opportunities

Janet Borgens | SF Examiner

An artist's rendering of a proposed four-mile streetcar line from the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center to a new center at Westminster Avenue and Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove. (City of Santa Ana)It is often said that all politics is local. And nowadays, local politics is more local than ever. Take The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors’ recent study session on affordable housing.

As residents described debilitating rent hikes, overcrowded apartments and myriad housing hardships, the supervisors voted to implement 10 progressive policies for more affordable housing.

The ink was barely dry on their vote tallies before San Carlos issued a report recommending it establish its own housing authority to create more affordable housing for its low-income and aging residents. And in January, Burlingame, at the behest of deeply concerned renters — more than half the residents are renters, according to county Supervisor Dave Pine — held a study session and public forum on housing policy. Last summer, Redwood City held an in-depth study session to explore housing issues and constraints. These initiatives are worthy attempts to get ahead of a very serious and growing problem. But it is not nearly enough.

What’s coming in Silicon Valley is the perfect storm: epoch-shattering job growth and roaring demand for office space juxtaposed against a nonexistent supply of housing. This year’s imbalance is next year’s full-blown crisis. And what’s happening here is a poignant example of the insidious rise of inequality playing out across the country.

According to Jill Lepore in the March 16 New Yorker, income inequality in the United States has been growing for decades and is greater than in any other democracy on Earth. Economists and sociologists from all ends of the political spectrum agree — and the problem is so widespread that last year a technical treatise detailing the causes of inequality by French economist Thomas Piketty became a runaway national bestseller. Read more

 

RTA facing challenges as it grows ridership alongside communities

Douglas Guth | Fresh Water Cleveland

An artist's rendering of a proposed four-mile streetcar line from the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center to a new center at Westminster Avenue and Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove. (City of Santa Ana)Cathy Poilpré may be the quintessential transit rider. She lives in Lakewood near the recently upgraded 55 bus route that whisks her to her job as director of marketing and communications at Cleveland Public Library. Poilpré also rides the rapid and uses the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority‘s (GCRTA) free trolleys to attend lunchtime concerts at Trinity Cathedral or meetings at Cleveland State or Playhouse Square.

Having a dedicated bus line available during rush hour is a convenient alternative to dealing with morning gridlock or mushing through snow and ice supplied by a typical Cleveland winter, Poilpré declares.

“I get dropped off right in front of my job,” she says. “I actually get to work faster since we glide past all of the cars sitting in traffic.”

Though Poilpré is mostly satisfied with her riding experience, Cleveland’s public transportation system, and its rapid service in particular, suffers in comparison to the other cities she’s called home.

The CPL director, a veteran of the Washington D.C. metro during her four years in the nation’s capital, calls out RTA’s limited destinations and small parking lots as factors that could curtail those interested in giving public transit chance.

“If the system was easy and practical, tourists and residents alike would use it instead of driving,” says Poilpré. “With downtown Cleveland developing, more young people would be prone to do without a car if they could get anywhere, anytime.” Read more

 

New Bill Allows for Creation of Transit-Focused TIF Districts

Staff | Chicago Curbed

[Photo via Flickr user H. Michael Miley]Amidst the ongoing conversation about tax increment financing (TIF) and recent pushes for transit-oriented development in Chicago comes welcome news from the Illinois Senate, Streetsblog Chicago reports.

Last week the Illinois Senate passed a new bill, SB0277, which will allow Chicago City Council to create new transit-focused TIF districts within a half-mile of a handful of major transit projects currently or soon-to-be underway, including the CTA’s Red and Purple Modernization, the South Red Line Extension, the Blue Line’s Forest Park Modernization, and the Union Station Master Plan project.

Transit TIFs will work as property values increase in areas adjacent to existing or planned transit facilities. Additional tax revenue generated in these areas, above a certain level, will be set aside for transit TIF projects, which will continue to focus on modernization and improvement, consequently further increasing surrounding property values. Read more

Rail could make a comeback in O.C. with proposed streetcar line

Dan Weikel | Daily Pilot

An artist's rendering of a proposed four-mile streetcar line from the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center to a new center at Westminster Avenue and Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove. (City of Santa Ana)
An artist’s rendering of a proposed four-mile streetcar line from the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center to a new center at Westminster Avenue and Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove. (City of Santa Ana)

A decade ago, Orange County transportation officials shelved plans for a 9.3-mile, billion-dollar light-rail system that would have run through Santa Ana and Costa Mesa to John Wayne Airport.

Political support for the long-planned and controversial CenterLine project had vanished, and policymakers turned to other options, including adding bus service and shifting transportation funds to road and freeway construction.

Now, rail transit is poised for a comeback in a region skewed much more than Los Angeles County, its rail-building neighbor to the north, toward the automobile.

The Orange County Transportation Authority and the cities of Santa Ana and Garden Grove are finalizing plans for a $250-million streetcar line that would connect the heart of Santa Ana — the county seat — to a new regional transit hub in Garden Grove.

Environmental reports are done, and the project recently qualified for coveted federal funding status that could provide half the money needed for construction.

“This will be a paradigm shift that will change Orange County and allow the county’s central core to function differently,” said Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, an OCTA board member and leading proponent of the project. Read more

 

Sustainable planning essential to combating climate change

Staff | Santa Monica Daily Press

As a community, we are often guided by the maxim that we should think globally and act locally. In the fight against global climate change, that has certainly been true.

Santa Monica has been a leader in this fight. As a city, we have been striving for a 15 percent reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — the primary cause of global climate change – by 2015 compared to 1990 levels.

We’ll find out later this year if we’ve hit the target, but it’s clear that, even if we have, the harder work lies ahead.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest executive order, calling for a statewide reduction of GHG emissions to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2030, only drives home the urgency for action now.

Brown’s order was meant to get us to the ambitious goal of a statewide 80 percent reduction in GHG emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2050. That’s the goal mandated by State Senator Fran Pavley’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Bill (AB 32).

To get there, we will need a full toolkit. The single largest source of GHG emissions in our city — and the state — is transportation. More than a third of GHG emissions comes from personal vehicle travel. Read more

 

Do Light Rail and Gentrification Go Hand in Hand?

Daniel Person | Santa Monica Daily Press

 

Later this week, Mayor Ed Murray will present to the city council his proposed $930 million transportation levy, which would fund everything from street paving to pedestrian safety projects.

Included in the plan is $10 million for a new light-rail stop at Graham Street in Hillman City, money meant to entice Sound Transit into building the stop between Othello and Columbia City that has been indefinitely shelved by the transit authority.

The stop has been the subject of a Change.org petition—it has 1,088 signatures—and is framed by some as a tangible way to help Seattle’s poor and immigrant communities (the neighborhood around Graham Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way is home to strong Filipino and East Asian populations). Just last week, a report out of Harvard showed that access to reliable transportation is a major indicator of poverty. So, give poor people easier access to light rail in Seattle, and help those people lift themselves out of poverty, right?

Wrong.

In a sign of just how much gentrification is on everyone’s mind in Seattle, even at a press conference called to promote Murray’s package, support for the new light rail station came with the caveat that gentrification would have to be addressed.

Rebecca Saldaña, executive director of Puget Sound Sage, took to the podium in Beacon Hill to say that while racial equity groups like hers favor the new station, the city would have to take steps that were “crucial to preventing displacement that so often occurs with economic growth resulting from new transit investments.” Read more

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