California lawmakers wrestle with coronavirus on top of housing shortages
San Francisco Chronicle – May 9
As the Legislature returns for a session redefined by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, lawmakers say they remain committed to addressing what has become one of the biggest debates at the Capitol: how to resolve California’s housing crisis. Even as they have asked members to scale back their agendas, the leaders of both houses of the Legislature say boosting housing construction and reducing widespread homelessness are priorities this year. San Francisco Democratic Senator Scott Wiener has proposed two bills: SB 899, allowing churches and nonprofit hospitals to build affordable housing on their land, and SB 902, which would essentially eliminate single-family zoning across the state by permitting small, multi-unit housing in nearly all residential neighborhoods. Other significant proposals include AB 3107 by Assembly member Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, which would open commercial properties to housing development, and AB 2580 by Assembly member Susan Talamentes Eggman, D-Stockton, which would create a simplified process to convert hotels and motels into housing. Both would require at least 20 percent of the units in a project to be affordable for low-income households.
San Jose unveils plan to reopen, allow for outdoor dining and activities
The Mercury News – May 8
Under a new initiative proposed by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Council member Dev Davis, businesses — particularly restaurants — could be allowed to take over parking lots, shut down parts of streets, and siphon off areas of a public park for open-air services when the region begins to open back up in the coming months. The new proposal — dubbed Al Fresco San Jose — directs city staff to work jointly with local business leaders to identify ideal locations, including public parks, alleys, plazas, and streets, where the outdoor business activities could take place. Earlier last week, San Mateo Mayor Joe Goethals announced a new task force that will be exploring the potential of closing some downtown streets for restaurant seating.
Controversial Vallco project can continue under SB 35, judge rules
San Francisco Chronicle – May 7
A yearslong fight to redevelop the nearly empty Vallco mall in Cupertino has culminated with a legal victory for the developer. A Santa Clara County judge ruled in favor of the Vallco project on Wednesday, rejecting a lawsuit from a residents’ group that alleged that the city had improperly approved the housing and office development. Sand Hill Property Co., which bought the property in 2014, was approved to build 2,400 residential units, 2 million square feet of offices, and 400,000 square feet of retail in 2018. Half the housing units would be below market-rate, which allowed the project to qualify for streamlined approvals through SB 35, which quickens housing projects with affordable units. The huge size of the project made it a battleground for opponents who believe the project will worsen the area’s congestion and contribute to unsustainable growth, while supporters have said the large-scale residential component will help alleviate Silicon Valley’s housing shortage.
Taller buildings, more open spaces, and historic district proposed for Hillcrest
The San Diego Union-Tribune - May 11
Hillcrest may soon have taller buildings, more public squares, better access to Balboa Park, and a historical district focused on the neighborhood’s thriving gay community. San Diego officials last week launched a new effort to revamp the blueprint for future growth in Hillcrest, a highly urban neighborhood just north of downtown that dates back to the city’s early 1900s streetcar system. City officials say the new effort is a partial “do over” of a 2016 update to growth blueprints for Hillcrest, Mission Hills, University Heights, and Bankers Hill that failed to increase housing capacity despite San Diego’s ongoing housing crisis. In addition to adding dense housing, the goals of the update include creating more parks and public spaces, bolstering business districts, and boosting access to Balboa Park, downtown, and North Park with bike lanes and transit. City planner Michael Prinz said a draft likely would be ready early next year. The city’s Planning Commission and then the City Council would be expected to approve it in 2022.
California high school project achieves LEED Platinum
School Construction News – May 12
Sonoma Academy’s Janet Durgin Guild and Commons was recently awarded LEED Platinum, the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest green building rating. The $17 million project—at the private co-ed college preparatory high school—has also been recognized for its low carbon footprint and material transparency. Leading with biophilia, the building integrates active and passive systems allowing for a zero net energy approach that decreases high-energy-component demand by 75+ percent. To reduce operational energy consumption, the building is 80 percent naturally lit, wrapped with operable windows and coiling doors for natural ventilation, and it has high-performing, low-e glazing. Deep overhangs provide shade and shelter from the elements. Adjustable exterior sunshades and movable screens tune for user comfort and curb heat gain.