Hometown star and Newark, New Jersey-born native Queen Latifah is a developer now. The rapper, actress, and producer is investing in a $14 million development of market-rate and affordable units as co-president of the Blue Sugar Corporation, alongside Jersey-based Gonsosa Development. The project will consist of 20 three-family townhomes with market-rate units and a three-story mixed-use building. That building will contain 1,900 square feet of commercial space for local nonprofits, as well as a fitness center and 16 units of affordable housing. Latifah, through a spokesperson, has indicated that she wanted to address the need for affordable housing in Newark, where more than 20,000 families paid over 50 percent of their income for rent, according to a 2017 study. The project was initially proposed as two mixed-income buildings with more affordable housing, totaling 115 units. But the developer was denied the low-income tax credit by the state, and the project scope was shifted to include more market-rate housing, in which rents will start at $1,800 a month. Renderings for the as-yet-unnamed development show a facade of connected townhouses with alternating bays of wood-faced main volumes and recessed gray brick entrance areas. Initial site plans show the development will take over an entire block bordering Springfield Avenue and South 17th Street. The project is scheduled to begin construction this summer, and the 60 units of market-rate housing are expected to be completed by December 2020. The mixed-use building will be done the following year in 2021.
Posts tagged with "Affordable Housing":
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Ziman Center for Real Estate has launched a unique affordable housing development program geared toward sharing some of the most innovative approaches in the field with housing professionals. The executive course, a partnership between school administration and private donors, consists of an intensive three-week program that brings together professors in urban planning and real estate, UCLA M.Arch I graduates, and interested students to develop conceptual proposals for affordable housing projects in Los Angeles. The program—developed by Ziman Center professor of finance Stuart Gabriel, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs lecturer in urban planning Joan Ling, CityLAB UCLA director Dana Cuff, and others—takes students through the exercise of designing, permitting, and funding their projects with the goal of instilling a “curriculum-based” approach to affordable housing development, according to Ziman Center founding executive director Tim Kawahara. Most of the students in the program are working professionals who are already engaged with the world of affordable housing development in some form, Kawahara explained, but are looking to expand and enrich their current knowledge. Kawahara said that because many of the professionals working in affordable housing have fallen into the field unexpectedly or work for self-taught non-profit housing developers, there is something of a gap in terms of shared, industry-wide knowledge. That’s where the university's deep bench of housing policy- and development-focused professors is stepping in to create a formalized approach to help affordable projects come to life. “The affordable housing crisis in California has reached an untenable level,” Kawahara said. “We have been doing a lot of teaching in the affordable housing space and wanted to find a way to help address the crisis, so we said, ‘Lets do a university-based executive program that will help deliver as many affordable housing and middle income and units as possible.’” The program’s inaugural class has been a smash success. After planning for an introductory cohort of roughly two dozen students, the Ziman Center received over 140 applications for the program. The university is now looking at ways of expanding the reach of the program, either by raising additional funding to hold the course more often throughout the year or by transforming the curriculum into a syndicated learning package that can be taken up by other universities. Word of the program even reached the California State Legislature, which has asked Ziman Center to give a version of the class to interested lawmakers. Organizers hope that more projects like the Little Berkeley development by CityLAB-affiliated Kevin Daly Architects come to life as a result of the program. The award-winning eight-unit project organizes residences in a staggered arrangement on a tight urban lot in Santa Monica and uses oddly-shaped interstitual spaces to provide outdoor access for residents. With California working to allocate tens of billions of dollars in new funding for affordable, supportive, and transitional housing projects, timing for the course and its much-needed curriculum is on the organizers’ side. Across the state, efforts are being made at all levels of governance to bring new funding sources and other incentives to affordable housing developments, while many California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have instituted so-called linkage fees that require market-rate developers to include subsidized units in their developments. California’s new governor is working to enact a robust pro-housing agenda that aims to deliver up to 3.5 million units in less than a decade. Perhaps not unexpectedly given this momentum, Kawahara, sees affordable housing as a “growth industry” that might even have the potential to fare better than others if the economy takes a much-predicted downturn. With increasing levels of funding for these projects and political interest in the housing crisis only growing, it’s possible that a sizable percentage of the state’s new housing could come from affordable development initiatives. There’s even room to grow, because despite the prodigious growth in housing incentives and funding for certain targeted groups, “We still have a low- and middle-income housing affordability problem,” Kawahara said.
Off I-95 in the northern Bronx, just past the swamps at the mouth of the Hutchinson River and the paved paradise at Bay Plaza mall, arise 35 massive, brick and concrete tower blocks. Most residences nearby are single-family, but Co-op City's 24-story towers shoot out of the ground like sore, red-brick thumbs. But, as out of place as they seem, there are many similar complexes all around New York City and the rest of the country: Stuyvesant Town by the East Village, Riverton Square in Harlem, and the gone-but-never-forgotten Pruitt-Igoe projects of St. Louis. According to Adam Tanaka, a New York–based urbanist who studied these Bronx housing blocks for his Harvard graduate dissertation, Co-op City is the country's largest and most successful cooperative living facility. Many of its 35,000 residents have been living in them since they opened 50 years ago. In a mini-documentary published with CityLab, entitled "City in a City," Tanaka interviewed residents, building managers, representatives, and others involved in the conception of the towers to understand what makes these buildings so successful compared to other projects. On top of interviews and historical analysis, documentary footage shows what life at Co-op City is like. During most weekends of fair weather, tenants and local merchants buy and sell art and food, local musicians perform while residents dance, and children play on the swing sets. Wildlife even has a large presence there: residents have reported seeing deer. What is so special about Co-op City that allows for beautiful scenes like this to be the norm? Tanaka suggests the towers owe their success not to the City of New York, nor to any federally-funded programs, but to their fellow resident, architects, and the coalition of labor unions responsible for the towers’ development. The documentary highlights several of the complex's relatively unique features: a ban on market-rate apartment resale, permanent rent control (which was established in the early '70s after the state tried to increase rents for Co-op City’s tenants), affordable down payments, an elected representative board, self-funded maintenance, and a racially, culturally, and financially diverse group of tenants. But architectural features like larger-than-average apartments with grand windows and ample living and storage space, as well as multiple communal parks and green spaces—all of which was designed by architect Herman J. Jessor, inspired by Le Corbusier’s Villes Radieuse and Contemporain—play major roles, as well. In the documentary, Alena Powell, a resident of Co-op City since 1973, said a friend from the Upper East Side “was amazed because [Powell’s] living room could hold her [friend's] living room and kitchen all together.” Powell also “likes the fact that [she’s] not on top of other people as if [she] was living in Manhattan.” Other residents remark about how “spacious” the apartments are, and how they love the consistent natural light. Pleasing as they may be for many who live there, the Co-op City buildings were (and are) not without criticism. According to an article in Curbed by historian James Nevius, the Co-op City buildings stand as a testament to the ethics of erasing "slums," and to the power of the infamous Robert Moses, whose "bulldoze it" approach to entire neighborhoods is a highly-debated matter, to say the least. During construction in the early 1970s, many rallied against the design and construction of the towers, citing the cheap and unpleasing exterior. Nevius cites Jane Jacobs, who stated they were “truly marvels of dullness and regimentation, sealed against any buoyancy or vitality of city life.” Nevius also references criticisms by the AIA: "Similarly, the American Institute of Architects complained that 'the spirits of the tenants' at Co-op City 'would be dampened and deadened by the paucity of their environment.'" However, many in Tanaka's documentary do not share those opinions and come to the towers' defense. Ken Wray, former executive director of the United Housing Federation, says “the aesthetic was ‘Why waste money on the outside of the building?’ You don’t live on the outside of the building…People driving by might think it’s ugly but people who live there know what [the apartments] look like.” Often overlooked, too, is a sprawling meadow laced among the buildings. According to Nevius, over 80 percent of Co-op City's footprint is dedicated to landscaping: grass and trees with play structures, courts, benches, and market stands on the perimeter. For the people who use these daily, these are helpful amenities that similar developments do not have. Co-op City raises questions about the emphasis on policy or architecture, about interior design versus exterior, about the house and the outdoors, and about ownership and citizenship. Regardless of where one lands on these issues, there's something to be learned from these 35 towers in the Bronx.
Quarters, a major European co-living company, plans to invest $300 million toward building new developments across the United States and becoming the nation’s largest co-living operator by 2022, according to an article in Curbed. Millennials are the primary target demographic for the co-living industry. Due to financial issues and their tendency to lead nomadic lifestyles, young adults are typically the most interested in shared housing spaces. By offering pre-furnished bedrooms, shared common spaces, and amenities such as 24/7 laundry access, cleaning services, Wi-Fi, and community events, co-living companies like Quarters want to provide Millennials with more affordable access to increasingly overpriced, metropolitan neighborhoods. Quarters’s $300 million expansion deal was made possible by a $1.1 billion fundraiser led by its parent company, Medici Living. Medici’s goal is to buy and build up to 35 co-living facilities throughout Europe, and over 1,300 new residential units in the U.S. within the next three years, according to Curbed. The Berlin-based company already operates co-living spaces in New York City and Chicago, but it plans on expanding its footprint to cities like Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Seattle—all of which are teaming with millennials and startup activity. Residential projects at these sites could house between 100 and 300 people, while new spaces in New York could hold up to 500. Like Quarters, other co-living firms have upped their ambition, diverting their attention away from small group homes to focus on large-scale high-rises. WeWork, the massive, New York-based co-working company, recently unveiled "WeLive," its latest co-living project with its first apartment building located at 110 Wall Street in Manhattan. The Manhattan high-rise, whose private studios start at $3,050 a month, offers apartment dwellers flexible leasing, access to fitness classes, cleaning and laundry services, potluck dinners, and a digital social network, all conveniently accessed through a mobile app. According to Curbed, WeLive, if successful, plans to eventually house 600 people throughout the 20 floors of the Lower Manhattan high-rise, as well as build more developments in other major U.S. cities. While co-living is not a new or innovative concept, companies like Quarters and WeWork have transformed it into a business model to take advantage of the fluctuating economy and provide young adults with a service that can make city living more affordable and hospitable.
Hot off Microsoft’s announcement that it would be creating what is essentially a $500 million affordable housing bank for the Seattle area, the founder of Facebook has unveiled a similar fund for California’s Bay Area. Through a group of businesses, nonprofits, and philanthropists, the Partnership for the Bay’s Future, which was established through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, will invest $500 million to preserve and build affordable housing. That pledge from the Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan–led charity extends to San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties. The move, which the fund estimates will add 8,000 new units of affordable housing while preserving an existing 175,000 units over the next five-to-ten years, comes at a dire time. As Fast Company points out, only 58,000 new units were built in the Bay Area from 2012 through 2016 even though the region added 373,000 new jobs. From that perspective, it looks like the fund won’t make much of an impact, but the backing groups are hoping that they can lay the groundwork for long-term tenant protections, rent reform, and future investments. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative revealed the Partnership for the Bay’s Future, which has already raised $260 million of its $500 million target, in a January 24 announcement. The nonprofit San Francisco Foundation joins the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Ford Foundation, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Facebook, Genentech, Kaiser Permanente, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The partnership will focus primarily on its two Investment and Policy Funds. The $500 million Investment Fund, to be managed by LISC (which the release calls the “the largest nonprofit community development financial institution in the country”), will invest in projects agreed upon by other members of the partnership. Their first project? Offering a revolving line of credit, which can be repaid and borrowed against, to the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation for neighborhood development in the East Bay. The organization expects that with the investment fund’s backing, it can support the completion of six projects over the next five years. The Policy Fund, which has raised $20 million of its $40 million goal, will be used to push for legislation that preserves housing, makes building new affordable housing easier, and strengthens low-income tenant protections. The fund will be administered by the San Francisco Foundation and will offer Challenge Grants for broader projects, and smaller, technically-minded Breakthrough Grants.
After vociferous opposition from Starbucks, Amazon, and other large Seattle-based corporations last summer, the Seattle City Council voted to roll back a tax that would have raised $47 million towards building 591 units of affordable housing. Now, Microsoft has announced that it will invest $500 million for affordable housing over the next three years across King County, Washington. Seattle has been plagued by rising rents and homelessness rates as the area has grappled with a housing shortage, caused in part by inflated demand and stagnant wages. Amazon and other so-called “mega-corporations” in the city had successfully talked the government down from imposing a $500-per-employee head tax that would have funded 1,700 new units of affordable housing in May of 2018 before the watered down version of the tax was ultimately killed in June. Affordable housing and homelessness advocates, who felt that the large companies headquartered in Seattle are partially responsible for its tight housing market, saw the move as adding insult to injury. Microsoft, which is headquartered in neighboring Redmond, wouldn’t have been hit with the head tax, but the initiative sparked a dialogue between Microsoft and the business-led group Challenge Seattle. The plan, which is still being finalized, sprung out of their conversations last summer on how to close the gap in affordability in housing across the region. The $500 million will be doled out as a series of grants that Microsoft is calling “targeted investments," across three stratified tiers. The company will load $225 million at a lower-than-market rate to spur the construction of middle-income housing across six cities to the east of Seattle: Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton, and Sammamish. Microsoft will be lending an additional $250 million at market rate to support the construction of low-income housing across King County. The remaining $25 million will be distributed as grants to combat homelessness in and around Seattle. As part of its announcement, Microsoft revealed that $5 million of its grant will be going towards Home Base, a program that provides legal aid to families facing eviction, and another $5 million will be used to support a new joint agency being formed between Seattle and King County to tackle homelessness. Rather than using that money to solely build housing, which Microsoft expects would only generate about 1,000 new affordable units, the tech company claims that its targeted investments have the potential to spark development of “tens of thousands” of new units. While the company doesn’t expect to make much of a return, it plans to repeat the process and reinvest the money after being repaid. While this is Microsoft’s largest philanthropic gift to date, the company’s motives likely aren’t entirely altruistic. As the New York Times noted, the company is currently riding high with nearly $136 billion in cash on hand and is in the process of renovating its 500-acre Redmond campus. Supporting the region’s housing stock is a boon to lower-income residents, but will also provide a long-term solution for potential employees the company continues to woo as it expands.
With a long history of mass-produced housing experiments going back to the 1920s Sears, Roebuck & Co. mail-order homes, and the post–World War II suburban mass- housing experiments, California has a rich legacy of prefab hits—and misses. In recent years, a new generation of builders has arrived on the scene seeking to surpass this legacy by exploiting emerging mass-customization techniques and new technologies to streamline production. But these aren’t your grandparents’ prefab units. The days of rigid space-age designs are long gone, replaced by new designs that instead focus on diverse aesthetics and material flexibility. These new designs tend toward a pervasive adaptability that not only bolsters their widespread appeal but also helps builders meet the onerous local design restrictions that define many California communities. LivingHomes, based in Santa Monica, California, offers a variety of factory-made designs for single- and multifamily units, including models designed by prominent architects and firms such as Yves Béhar, Ray Kappe, and KieranTimberlake. LivingHomes’ designs are built by its spinout firm, Plant Prefab, which focuses on construction and assembly. Founder and CEO Steve Glenn is hoping Plant Prefab will lead the way in creating a national network of home-building factories where “homes are built like airplanes” rather than as one-off works, as is currently the case. Plant Prefab bills itself as the nation’s first sustainably minded home factory, and recently garnered a $6.7 million investment from Amazon, which is looking to expand the market for the company’s Alexa smart home technologies. Seattle-based Blokable, on the other hand, pursues vertically-integrated projects with the help of their in-house development team’s business model, which seeks to treat “housing development as a service.” By controlling planning, design, and production, Blokable is able to offer turnkey development services for local nonprofits and other housing providers at a lower cost. The firm offers standardized building systems along with customizable windows, doors, and finishes in order to meet a variety of price points. Blokable has begun the development process for a 64-unit housing complex in Edmonds, Washington. The project is a partnership between Blokable, the City of Edmonds, and the nonprofit Compass Housing Alliance. At the smaller end of the building scale, Gardena, California–based Cover is working to boost the availability of backyard Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in Los Angeles. Owing to a 2016 state law that legalized these backyard structures, Cover has developed unique zoning analysis software that can give potential clients a view of what type of ADU they can build. Cover offers sleek custom designs and uses its own modular building systems, fabricating units in a new factory in southern L.A. County. While many of these outfits are relatively new, legacy prefab designers are also making strides. Office of Mobile Design (OMD) principal Jennifer Siegal has been working at the intersection of portable architecture and housing for over two decades, pioneering a distinct approach to modular design that is flexible enough to include additions to existing buildings, as well as develop modular commercial structures. Siegal recently partnered with builder Bevyhouse and premium kitchen designer Tortoise to develop her own line of prefab ADU models and is also currently working on a modular design for the Sanderling Waldorf School in Carlsbad, California. If OMD’s continued experiments in non-housing prefab building types are any indication, factory-made structures of all types could soon make their way off the assembly line and to a community near you.
Tenants' rights are top of mind in New York City right now in a big way. As affordable housing stock increases throughout the five boroughs, it seems as though the city government is taking a lead on ensuring the safety and financial wellbeing of local residents. Today in his sixth annual State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order to establish the new Office of Tenant Protection, a group that would act as a liaison between different housing and building agencies in the city. It will launch at the end of this year and receive an operating budget of $450,000, according to The Real Deal. Once up and running, the office will review city data and tenant complaints in order to determine which landlords need more oversight. In some cases, the city will be able to assume control of buildings entirely. “When a landlord tries to push out a tenant by making their home unlivable, a team of inspectors and law enforcement will be on the ground to stop it in time,” said de Blasio in his address. “If fines and penalties don’t cut it, we will seize buildings and put them into the hands of a nonprofit that will treat tenants with the respect they deserve.” The plan is part of a set of initiatives the mayor is touting to make New York the #FairestBigCity in the nation. In recent years, the city has set up similar offices dedicated to helping tenants, such as the Office of Tenant Advocate, which came online in mid-2017 and is operated through the Department of Buildings. As New Yorkers experience serious disturbances or harassment from construction, they can call upon the OTA for assistance. The city's Department of Housing Preservation and Department now provides equal help through the new Tenant Anti-Harassment Unit. In addition to these new direct-help government groups, de Blasio announced in December a multi-billion plan to fix and preserve the struggling New York City Housing Authority, an agency that had a particularly bad year providing quality affordable housing for its low-income residents. Other steps outside the mayor’s office are being taken to crack down on private and public tenant protection. In November, the New York City Council began reviewing 18 big bills to halt abusive practices made by local landlords regarding bad buyouts, false documentation, and incorrect permit filing. Learn more about the individual bills here.
Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) is bringing over 2,000 units of affordable housing to the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, via a partnership with the Christian Cultural Center (CCC), an influential neighborhood church, and the Gotham Organization. The ten-acre development will be anchored by community services geared towards current residents in a neighborhood that's been in developers' crosshairs since a 2016 rezoning. Over the next decade-and-a-half, the team plans to deliver an "urban village" in the shadow of Starrett City, the country's largest federally-backed affordable housing complex. In addition to 2,100 apartments spread out over nine buildings, the new development will include performing arts center, medical services, a site for vocational training, retail space for local entrepreneurs, as well as athletic facilities and over two acres of public space. The plot, now used for parking on worship days, is owned by CCC. Groundbreaking is slated for sometime in the mid-2020s. "When we traditionally think about infrastructure, it’s transportation and utilities," said PAU Founder and Principal Vishaan Chakrabarti, in a press release. "Today, we know that for a community to succeed it needs access to a broader infrastructure of opportunity—open space, education, health care, child care, social opportunities, and culture. Each of these things is considered in the plan that we have prepared with Gotham to advance Rev. Bernard’s vision for a sustainable and equitable community." The reverend Chakrabarti references is Rev. A.R. Bernard, leader of CCC's 45,000-member congregation. Although his church and its future development sit about two miles south of the recently-rezoned area, the idea for the development came about as a way to protect the largely working-class community the church serves in the face of rampant developer-driven speculation in the neighborhood. East New York is second only to Long Island City, Queens, in the number of residential permit approvals last year, according to The New York Times. As local developers line up to build in East New York, it'll be a busy next decade for PAU, too. The New York firm was tapped to master plan Sunnyside Yards, the pasta tangle of rail lines in Queens that could be largely decked over for up to 24,000 apartments and companion facilities.
After eight years of negotiations, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved the Central SoMa Plan on December 4, paving the way for a massive density increase, transportation improvements, and infrastructure investments in the heart of the city. The final plan for Central SoMa (South of Market), an area bounded by 6th Street to the west and 2nd Street to the east and Townsend Street to the south and Market Street to the North, ended up at over 1,600 pages (available here). The resultant “eco-district” is aiming to be socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable by 2040, in part by ensuring a diversity of businesses call the neighborhood home. Among the many changes, heights of 400-feet-tall are now on the table for certain developments. The plan allows for an additional 8,800 units of housing—33 percent of which must be affordable—as well as office space for up to 32,000 new jobs. $600 million will be allocated towards transportation infrastructure improvements, including mass transit options, sidewalks, and bike lanes. $64 million will go towards neighborhood schools to accommodate the influx of new residents, and an additional $185 million will go towards improving the area’s existing parks and public spaces, as well as the construction of new civic spaces. $100 million will go towards social programs and the upkeep of the neighborhood’s historic buildings. An unspecified amount of funding will be set aside for stormwater management and projects that will improve air quality, and the plan requires that Central SoMa transitions to non-greenhouse gas-based energy sources. Green roofs and walls will also be required. Hotels, retail, and entertainment options will be incentivized, and the plan looks to include light manufacturing in an Urban Mixed Use zone, which will create a buffer between the residential district and the Eastern Neighborhoods. Such an ambitious zoning update naturally met resistance. Before the December 4 vote, four lawsuits against the project had to first be dismissed by the Board of Supervisors. Community groups took the city to task over fears of gentrification and concerns over increased air pollution owing to the forecasted increases in traffic. A third group, the developer One Vassar LLC, filed a motion because they felt the plan wouldn’t increase housing enough in proportion to the amount of expected office space. Now that the Central SoMa plan has essentially been approved, height limits in the area will gradually rise over the next 22 years, first to 85 feet from the current 30, then to 130 feet, and finally 400 feet.
When it comes to housing reform, California’s new state legislators have hit the ground running. As the state’s new elected officials take office this week, a flurry of housing-related bills have been unveiled that, among other things, aim to further extend the state’s ability to set land use at the local level and streamline market-rate and affordable housing production. The efforts, geared toward developing a comprehensive solution for easing the state’s crushing housing affordability crisis, come after significant legislative gains—and a few stunning failures—made during last year’s session. With Democratic “supermajorities” in both the state assembly and state senate, and a campaign proposal to build 3.5 million new housing units by 2025 from now-governor Gavin Newsom, many are expecting significant legislative progress over the next few months. The stakes are particularly high for the state and its residents. California suffers from some of the highest rents in the country, a phenomenon that has fueled a homelessness crisis in the state. A 2017 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that over 134,000 Californians are experiencing homelessness, the highest unhoused population of any state in the country. Not only that, but the state’s cities also harbor extreme examples of wealth and racial segregation, phenomena that have had deeply negative outcomes for many racial-minority and working-class neighborhoods in terms of social equity, environmental justice, and other metrics. Because the overall residential capacities of California’s cities have been steadily eroded over time through “local control”–driven rezoning efforts and increased parking requirements, the geographic range of affordable and workforce housing is increasingly limited, as well. Further, large swaths of the state’s major cities are zoned exclusively for single-family housing, creating intense gentrification and displacement in the relatively fewer neighborhoods where multi-family housing is allowed while simultaneously pushing new development into “wildland-urban interface” areas most susceptible to fire damage. The result of these converging phenomena is that California is rapidly losing its working class population to other, more affordable states as poverty and sprawl in the state become more deeply entrenched. In recent years, as awareness and political will have begun to coalesce around the housing crisis, piecemeal initiatives have successfully begun to unfold. Below is a brief breakdown of a few of the major proposed housing bills unveiled Monday. A longer list can be accessed here. AB 10: A proposed bill to increase the state’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit by $500 million. AB 11: A proposed bill to reinstate California’s Redevelopment Agencies. Redevelopment Agencies existed in California prior to 2011 and worked across municipal lines to develop affordable housing and other projects throughout the state. The agencies were dissolved by then-Governor Jerry Brown in the aftermath of the Great Recession. AB 22: A proposed bill with potentially far-reaching ramifications that would ensure “every child has the right to safe and clean shelter and that no child should be without safe and clean shelter by 2025.” SB 18: State Senator Nancy Skinner has proposed a bill that would expand tenant protections while also establishing a statewide “Homelessness Prevention and Legal Aid Fund” to aid tenants against eviction and displacement. SB 50: California State Senator Scott Wiener has proposed a new version of last year’s highly controversial State Bill-827. The new measure builds on the previous attempt to lift height and density restrictions for sites located within 1/4- to 1/2-mile of rapid transit and includes advanced protections for existing tenant communities. Significantly, the bill would also induce up-zoning changes for wealthy neighborhoods that are located near job centers. It’s going to be a busy year.
Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs is continuing to refine its plans for Toronto’s waterfront Quayside neighborhood. The tech company released its first look at the mass timber development in August of this year and has now released a more in-depth breakdown of how its 12-acre site will be developed. The latest vision of Quayside comes in advance of a roundtable on December 8 with community members and elected officials, the second-to-last such meeting before the release of the master innovation and development plan in 2019. The new draft site plan, which Sidewalk Labs described as “more Jetsons, less Black Mirror,” has slashed the development’s height and set specific affordable housing and sustainability targets. Quayside, which will be 90 percent affordable in accordance with the area’s existing zoning, is leaning on mass timber for its mixed-use towers. The Vancouver-based Michael Green Architecture was tasked with creating a kit-of-parts that could work with buildings of every scale. Each building will be anchored by an open-air “stoa,” covered walkways supported by rows of V-shaped heavy timber columns. New York's Beyer Blinder Belle is responsible for the project's master planning. Development will now be clustered around 12 mixed-use mass timber towers, with the tallest topping out at 30 stories. The tallest building in the sensor-integrated smart neighborhood was originally supposed to reach 50 stories tall. Sidewalk Labs now expects approximately 5,000 residents to call Quayside home, and have earmarked 20 percent of the units as affordable, and another 20 percent as below-market rate. Fifty percent of the development’s housing will be rental units. On the transportation side, Quayside is positioning itself to connect with Toronto’s light rail network. The neighborhood is also looking into a “flexible street” system that can transition from supporting traditional cars to autonomous vehicles once the technology comes to fruition. Quayside is shooting to reduce emissions over a typical neighborhood by 75-85 percent through a combination of geothermal wells and solar panels. The timber used, all of it locally sourced in a boost to the Canadian lumber industry, will also produce less carbon dioxide emissions overall when compared to a typical concrete-and-steel building. As Engadget noted, Sidewalk Labs has been less-than-successful in its attempts to create a trust to oversee the massive amounts of data the neighborhood would collect on its residents. Last month, the project’s lead expert and consultant, Ann Cavoukian, quit over concerns that the trust would not be able to anonymize the information it was receiving. Following the final roundtables and the approval of a master plan in 2019, Sidewalk Labs expects construction of the project to last three to five years.