On the day following the November elections, Matt Taecker AIA AICP led a roundtable discussion on the results of local planning-related measures. Matt chairs AIA East Bay’s Regional and Urban Design Forum and was directly involved with defeating a measure that would have halted transit-oriented growth in downtown Berkeley (see Measure R below).
Election results were decidedly in favor of smart growth with affirmation for transit-oriented growth, new funding for alternative modes, and holding the line against sprawl at the region’s edge. Consensus among the planners and designers who attended the roundtable was that land use decision, while not always perfect, were tilting in favor of urbanism and higher urban densities.
Cutting across all of the Measures was a general sense that “Next Gens” are embracing urbanism more than “Baby Boomers” did during their child-bearing years, and that the Bay Area remains largely a “high-barrier-to-entry” market that desperately needs infill development to address housing needs.
Here’s a brief synopsis of discussion around each local vote.
Measure BB: Alameda County Transportation Sales Tax – Passed 69%.
This sales tax extension and increase supports expansion and improvement projects over the next 30 years. This initiative will bring long-term improvements across all transportation modes. While roads continue to get the lion’s share, Measure BB increases that proportion of transportation dollars going to alternative modes, including improvements like transit, pedestrian and bicycling projects.
- Is there an immediate need for expensive long-range BART expansion to areas such as downtown Livermore?
- Will this make urban areas more accessible but attempt to provide long-range hauling and fill-in areas that could instead be serviced by CalTrain?
- Will Alameda County attend to existing transportation facilities, as opposed to ambitious long-haul extensions?
Measure T: Dublin Annexation of Doolan Canyon for Development – Failed 82%.
This Measure was initiated with citizen signatures – and underwritten by publicly-traded development companies. It would have annexed 1,650 acres along and around Doolan Canyon, truly scenic ranchland at the eastern edge of the Tri-Valley. The Measure would have set aside large parts of the area as permanent open space but that wasn’t enough for the people of Dublin to support the plan – at this juncture at least.
- If the measure had passed, what effect would urban edge development have had on Dublin and the Tri-Valley subregion?
- Should this area be an urban reserve or permanent open space?
Measure R: Berkeley Downtown Zoning Amendments on Buildings over 60 feet – Failed 74%.
Would have added a host of new requirements for new buildings over 60 feet and eliminated a streamlined entitlement option for pre-determining the status of potential in exchange for “Green Pathway” concessions.
- If the measure had passed, would it have halted all development?
- How “green” is it when communities impose height restrictions or make greater demands on tall buildings near transit?
- What will be the face of Berkeley’s “green downtown”?
- Is more upward development boosting Berkeley’s languishing downtown economy – or squeezing out middle-class people?
- Would escalated development downtown result in higher rent in an area that already lacks sufficient affordable housing?
Measure M: Menlo Park Downtown Amendments Limiting Development. Failed 62%.
In Menlo Park, Measure M would have added significant new restrictions on downtown development, such as increased open space requirements. It would have limited new development of office plots, while still restricting residential housing to 680 units. The principal target of the Measure was a multi-block area controlled by Stanford University.
- The Measure in Menlo Park is similar to Berkeley’s in that opponents to growth couldn’t restrict expansion overtly, except by piling additional requirements onto development.
- What effect would limits to development have had on Menlo Park’s already over-heated real estate market?
- Is downtown Menlo Park really poised to see office development, or was this part of the measure somewhat moot?
Measure N: San Bruno Downtown & Corridors Increasing Development — Passed 67%.
Allows for development in the Transit Corridors Plan area to exceed the previous maximum building height of fifty-feet, imposed in 1977 by Ordinance 1284. It also includes the construction of a new Caltrain station.
- This measure recognizes the city of San Bruno’s need for more widespread housing and development.
This measure is a stepping stone toward positive community growth in San Bruno.
Measure F: San Francisco Pier 70 allowing Mixed-Use Redevelopment – Passed 72%.
Authorizes the $100 million redevelopment of Pier 70 in San Francisco’s Dogpatch and calls for the renovation and restoration of three buildings that span a 28 acre stretch.
- This redevelopment plan provides 600 more units of affordable housing instead of pushing out existing residents to use land for solely commercial use.
- Nine acres of new parks will preserve balance of open and built environment.