Posts tagged with "NIMBYism":

Renters’ group SFBARF sues City of Berkeley for halting housing development

The San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation (SFBARF) is suing the Berkeley, California City Council over allegations that the body has repeatedly violated California’s Housing Accountability Act (HAA), a 1982 piece of legislation that compels municipalities to “not reject or make infeasible” housing developments that help meeting housing needs. As is well-documented, the San Francisco Bay area—and not to mention, pretty much the entire state of California—is suffering from a prolonged and detrimental housing affordability crisis, a phenomenon that has been compounded by the heavy-handed influence that single family homeowners wield over the approval of new housing projects in low-density neighborhoods. In a civil court filing with Alameda County, SFBARF—and the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education fund (CaRLA), a statewide nonprofit founded to ensure compliance with HAA that has joined SFBARF in the suit—alleges that the Berkeley City Council has violated HAA by rejecting the application for a new three-family development at 1310 Haskell Street. The development aims to replace a dilapidated single family home with three new single family units. The R-2A zoned parcel, the suit alleges, was being developed in compliance with “all applicable, objective general plan and zoning standards and criteria, including design review standards” and even had a use permit issued for the new development. Problems arose when unhappy neighbors appealed the project to the City Council, which then voted to scuttle the project’s previous approvals. According to the suit,
Under the HAA, if a proposed housing project complies with a city’s general plan and zoning standards, the city may not disapprove or condition the project at a lower density unless it provides written findings supported by substantial evidence that the project would have a specific, adverse impact upon the ‘public health or safety’ that cannot be mitigated.
A later City Council meeting rescinded approvals for the project for good, as City Council members argued that because the project required a demolition permit to remove the existing residence, HAA did not apply. The demolition permit, the City Council argued, constituted a discretionary approval that voided the HAA “general plan and zoning standards” requirement mentioned above. The City Council then, the suit alleges, continued to pursue this course of action despite the Berkeley City Attorney's opinion that approvals like demolition permits were in fact covered by HAA’s broad scope and authority. The suit alleges further that rather than enforce HAA legislation, the Berkeley City Council instead changed course on the project due to Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) outcry, a course of action HAA was explicitly designed to prevent. The suit is the second attempt by SFBARF to “sue the suburbs” to comply with HAA legislation. A previous suit against the community of Lafayette was settled in May 2017. For now, the case will continue to make it’s way through the court system unless the City Council changes course.

Los Angeles rejects major anti-development measure

Los Angeles voters resoundingly defeated a proposed initiative that would have strictly limited new construction in the city yesterday, dealing a death-blow to the region’s nascent Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) movement. The measure, known popularly as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, but represented on the ballot as Measure S, went down in defeat after garnering only 31.2% of votes cast. The initiative, which proposed freezing development in the city for two years on projects that require discretionary approval by city agencies, was widely denounced across the city’s pro-development and pro-housing communities as a project-killer that would have not only halted the continued development of market-rate projects across the city but would have also ground to a halt much of the development associated with affordable, supportive, and transitional housing projects, as well. The initiative was strongly opposed by city leadership, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The pro-Measure S campaign courted controversy in recent weeks as it sent out misleading campaign materials to city residents implying that the mayor was actually in support of the initiative. Campaign organizers—the initiative was almost entirely funded by the Los Angeles AIDS Healthcare Foundation—also sent out English language mailers styled after eviction notices that caused caused confusion and panic among the city’s non-English-speaking communities. Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and anti-Measure S advocate, told The Los Angeles Times, “Defeating Measure S has spared our city from a future that would've meant fewer jobs, fewer funds for critical public services, fewer new homes for those who desperately need them, and even less affordable rents.” Measure S stoked much anxiety among the development community and forced developers of several projects to rush ahead with formal filings with the city to prevent being precluded from moving forward should the initiative have passed. Now that Measure S has been soundly defeated, however, developers can likely take a breath. Voters also approved Measure H, a ballot initiative aimed at raising Los Angeles County’s sales tax by half of a percent in order to fund the development of new units of transitional and supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals. Plans for the measure have yet to be worked out, but advertising for the initiative indicated that the increased funding would help transition 45,000 families into stable housing and prevent an estimated 30,000 more families from losing their dwellings through new housing assistance. The passage of Measure H—passed with 67% of voters supporting the measure—follows the success of the City of Los Angeles’s Measure HHH during November’s election. That measure called for the city to raise $1.2 billion in bonds to build 10,000 units of new supportive and transitional affordable housing across the city. As the favorable news for Measure H came across the wires last night, Phil Ansell, head of L.A. County’s Homeless Initiative told the Los Angeles Times, “Measure H revenue will enable the most comprehensive plan to combat homelessness in the history of Los Angeles County.” Last night’s results, coupled with the passage of Measure HHH and Measure M, a county-wide transportation initiative aimed at vastly expanding the region’s public transit system, indicate that Los Angeles is embracing urbanism and densification with a renewed vigor. The success of these measures—and the dismal failure of Measure S—indicates to city leaders what many have known for long, that Los Angeles is vastly under-developed and is in serious need of increased transit-oriented development, especially affordable housing. Signs point to L.A.’s mayor supporting the popular calls for urban investment. Following Garcetti’s re-election win last night, the mayor told local affiliate NBC4, "We always have to ask: What voices aren't we hearing? Who don't we see? Who feels defensive right now? And stop thinking about the most powerful man in the country and start thinking about the most vulnerable people in our city."

What does Frank Gehry have planned for Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip?

We've learned from Curbed LA that Frank Gehry is designing a large mixed-use development on LA's Sunset Strip called 8150 Sunset. Located on Sunset and Crescent Heights Boulevards, the project will be located on the site of an old estate nicknamed the "Garden of Allah." (The lot now contains a strip mall.) According to its Draft Environmental Impact Report (PDF), the new complex, consisting of two buildings sitting on a raised podium, will include 249 apartments, about 100,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, and a large central plaza. Updated plans and renderings are set to be released this spring, according to developer Townscape Partners. A group called Save Sunset Boulevard is fighting to block the project, calling it a "hideous monstrosity," and attacking its EIR. Among other things the association, which is represented by anti-development lawyer Robert Silverstein, called out the project's potential to add to congestion, dwarf local historic buildings, block views, and waste water and other resources. The glitzy Sunset Strip has become an architect magnet, drawing Lorcan O'Herlihy and SOM (Sunset La Cienega), Ian Schrager, CIM, and several more. It's also been a graveyard of sorts, felling projects by Eric Owen Moss, Hodgetts + Fung, Kanner Architects, and others in recent years.

It’s Official: Citi Bike To Open in New York City on May 27

The big biking news this week is that the first phase of New York City's Citi Bike bike share system will finally launch on May 27th to program members (and to everyone else the next week), and New Yorkers' enthusiasm (and a little controversy) is mounting. Some New Yorkers, over 8,000 according to Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Kahn (with more than 4,000 of them in the first 24 hours), could not wait to start pedaling and have already signed up for annual memberships. Meanwhile, malcontents from across the City have spoken up in attempts to stop Citi Bike from rolling onto their blocks. Following initial delays from a malfunctioning electronic system, last fall's Hurricane Sandy caused damage to some of the docking stations stored at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, forcing the DOT to delay and downsize the first phase of the program from 420 stations to 330 around Brooklyn and Manhattan. Once the second and third phases are rolled out, however, there will be a total of 600 stations and 10,000 bikes available throughout New York City, rounding out what will be North America’s largest bike share system. Not only will the system provide healthy transportation alternatives for thousands of New Yorkers, but it will also create 170 jobs and generate $36 million in economic activity annually, the NYC DOT claimed in a press release. Despite general enthusiam for the program, a few disgruntled citizens have been stirring up controversy throughout City. One outspoken Fort Greene resident recently pasted fliers on newly installed docking stations, claiming that Citi Bank advertising and commercial activity have no place landmarked residential blocks. In nearby Brooklyn Heights, the co-op at 150 Joralemon Street is bringing a lawsuit to the DOT for blocking their garbage collection. Meanwhile in TriBeCa, the New York Post reported that a lone restaurateur held a street-side sit-in to protest the installation of a bike station in front of his French Bistro. In the West Village, a co-op on Bank Street filed suit against the City after a station was installed directly in front of its entrance, citing it as a threat to public safety. While the suit was dropped, part of the bike rack was removed and replaced by a mysterious, massive stone bollard, WNYC reported. City Comptroller John Liu has also raised safety concerns, arguing for mandatory helmet laws in a press release. Liu also raised the issue that the bike share program could result in an increase of legal claims against the City, but overall, his message was positive. Bike advocates have been shooting down criticism of the program through social media, and the Brooklyn Spoke blog launched the tongue-in-cheek Bike Share Criticism Challenge taking aim at the most common criticisms. During the first week of operation, only those with a 95$ annual membership will be able to ride, but by June 2 daily and weekly passes will also be available. Check the station map to find the bike share station nearest you, and the price guide to see you’re your ride is going to cost you.

Dislocation, Dislocation, Dislocation

The mood was decidedly anti-Wall Street among the crowd who gathered on April 28 for the final lecture in Access Restricted, a series sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council exploring the relationship between finance and city design. We were packed into one of the Street’s oldest strongholds: 48 Wall St., the site where Alexander Hamilton established the country’s first bank in 1789, though the current building dates from 1928. As the sun set, we were told we would be taken up to the cupola for a rare view of “twilight on Wall Street,” prompting one audience member to call out, “Is that metaphorical?” to widespread titters.
Delivering the culminating lecture was Tom Angotti, professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College and author of the recent book New York for Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate. He opened with harsh words for the financial sector bonuses that inflate New York’s real estate market, not only because of the macroeconomic instability that creates, he said, but also because it drives poorer residents out of their neighborhoods. The result is a city divided by race and class, and what he jokingly referred to as the real three principles of real estate: “Dislocation, dislocation, dislocation.” Angotti was only slightly easier on the city government, whom he indicted for their passive approach to planning. “The city planning department doesn’t believe in planning. Right now, as far as I can tell, they believe in zoning,” he said. “But zoning is mostly a reactive tool. It reacts to development.” Communities themselves have tried to fill that void There have been over 70 plans submitted by New York City communities, and they tend to come from neighborhoods with two features, a strong real estate market and a large poor and minority population. Despite the stereotype of community members as knee-jerk NIMBYs, the plans don’t all follow the narrative of Community vs. High-Rises. One of the most well-planned proposals, according to Angotti, was drafted by residents of the “blighted” South Bronx in 1993 when the city announced its intention to fill their neighborhood with plots for one- and two-family homes. Apartment buildings were more familiar and in character with the neighborhood, the community argued. But out of those 70-plus community plans, only 10 have successfully emerged from the wringer of the community boards, borough president, City Planning Commission, and City Council. And even making it through that lengthy process of approvals is far from a victory, Angotti said. The city council frequently ignores or even undermines the community plans that they officially approve. “I think there’s a lawsuit in the works,” he warned.