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Metro Board July Updates: Joint Development, Bike-Share, and More

Today’s monthly Metro Board of Directors meeting saw the chair transition from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Incoming Chair Ridley-Thomas expounded on his priorities for the current fiscal year. The July board meeting did not feature any major controversies, but there are a number of items likely to be of interest to SBLA readers.

Expo phase 2 test train. Photo via Santa Monica Next

Expo phase 2 test train. Photo via Santa Monica Next

Rail Lines Opening 2016: Metro CEO Phil Washington gave a brief update on the status of the extensions of the Gold and Expo Lines. Both of these projects are nearing completion. They are both being built by Construction Authorities, who will finish their work, then turn the project over to Metro for testing and, then, operation. Washington reported that Gold Line Foothill Extension construction is expected to be complete in September, while Expo Phase 2 construction is expected to be complete in mid- to late-October.

Bike-Share: With bike-share opening in Santa Monica, downtown L.A. and Long Beach this fiscal year, and other places interested, Metro is still working out if and how the agency needs to enforce or incentivize interoperability. Differences were evident in the debate at last month’s board meeting.

County Supervisor Don Knabe strung together multiple apt cliches urging Metro not enforce bike-share vendor conformity in a “my way or the highway” approach because “one size does not fit all.” Garcetti, on the other hand, asserted that a single countywide system “funds well,” meaning that it could attract lucrative countywide advertising sponsorship. Duarte City Councilmember John Fasana expressed “misgivings” over the current two-vendor implementation underway, suggesting that he thought it might be better for Metro to “buy out” systems being implemented by Long Beach and Santa Monica.

Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian pointedly asked Metro staff how cities like his should approach implementing bike-share, asking if Glendale should “refrain from an RFP (Request for Proposals)?” Staff recommended cities contact Metro, pursue funding together, and work things out on a case-by-case basis.  Read more…

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Proposed Metro Joint Development Policy Updates A Step In Right Direction

Metro is revising its joint development program to better foster transit-oriented affordable housing. Image via Metro [PDF]

Metro is revising its joint development program to better foster transit-oriented affordable housing. Image via Metro [PDF]

Today, the Metro Board of Directors’ Executive Management Committee approved changes to the way the agency partners for development on Metro-owned land.

In the past, Metro joint development was often called “TOD” for Transit Oriented Development. Under new CEO Phil Washington, praised for his commitment to joint development when he led Denver RTD, TOD has given way to “TOC” Transit Oriented Communities. Today’s new policy was likely molded by Washington, but the changes have been underway since the middle of last year pursuant to a 2014 motion introduced by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and others.

While Metro has partnered to successfully develop housing and retail above many of its stations, from Koreatown to Hollywood to Pasadena, development has perhaps not been among the agency’s genuine priorities. Some proposed projects, including a private multi-story parking structure proposed for Mariachi Plaza, have been controversial. With new state funding, including the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program, and a new TOC-minded CEO, future joint development at Metro sites is looking more promising.

The changes to Metro’s Joint Development Policy include:

  • Setting an overall goal for 35 percent of joint development housing to be affordable housing. Past Metro projects completed have 31 percent affordable housing overall.
  • Allow discounts on the price of Metro-owned land to incentivize affordability. The discount would be equal to the percentage of affordable housing developed, up to a maximum 30 percent land discount. This is a new policy, and part of the above-mentioned Garcetti motion. (Maybe Metro could up this to 35 percent to match their stated goal above? -JL)
  • In order to accommodate full environmental reviews, Metro is extending the duration of its Exclusive Negotiating Agreements (ENAs.) ENAs used to be approved for six months, and were often extended. Now they will now start at 18 months, still with possible extensions.
  • Revisions to the policy language describing the agency’s outreach processes, fostering “meaningful site-specific outreach” and “increased transparency.”
  • Earlier emphasis on joint development projects providing first last miles facilities, such as walkways, bike parking, etc.

For additional details, Read more…

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Interview with L.A. THRIVES “We’re Committed To Equitable TOD”

There’s a relatively-new player on the scene in pressing for preserving and building affordable housing along Southern California transit lines: L.A. THRIVES. It’s a coalition effort, comprised of organizations and individuals with great track records on making L.A. healthier and more livable. Our interview was conducted over email in late April.

Banner from L.A. THRIVES website

Banner from L.A. THRIVES website

Tell our readers a bit of your individual backgrounds.

I’m Jeff Schaffer, vice president and market leader for Southern California for Enterprise Community Partners. I’ve spent the past 25 years in local and international community development work, with a consistent theme of addressing the housing needs of low-income people.

And I’m Beth Steckler, deputy director at Move LA, and I’ve been working on housing affordability, land use and transit expansion in Los Angeles for about 20 years.

L.A. THRIVES logo

L.A. THRIVES logo

What is L.A. THRIVES?

We’re a handful of groups working to make communities in LA County better places to live – especially lower-income areas. Our acronym stands for Transit, Housing, Resources, and Investment for a Vibrant Economy. We’ve got a couple of local foundations (California Community Foundation, and Liberty Hill), the local offices of two national community development powerhouses (Enterprise Community Partners and Low Income Investment Fund) and three groups working on transit expansion (Move LA), housing affordability (So. Calif. Assn. of Non-Profit Housing), and health (Prevention Institute).

Officially, we’re committed to equitable TOD, which is shorthand for transit-oriented development that prioritizes investments in affordable homes, that protects the social fabric of neighborhoods, and makes it easier for residents to walk, bike, and take transit to shops and services.

Together we’ve been breaking down silos by bringing together, in the same room, people from all kinds of groups working locally on these issues, from the Planning Department at the city of L.A. to Metro to community groups like SAJE and L.A. Voice. We’ve discovered that we’ve got a lot of common agendas, but also different perspectives on how to make communities better. And, we now have a website and blog to help get our ideas out into the world.

How did L.A. THRIVES get started?

After the passage of Measure R in 2008, we came to recognize that this huge investment – unprecedented in the whole country – in the expansion of the region’s transit system was silent with regard to the type of communities that would be built along the new transit corridors and the impact to the people already living there. L.A. THRIVES came together around a shared agenda of ensuring that people of all income levels have the opportunity to live along these new transit corridors, with access to jobs, education, healthy foods, safe and walkable streets, and all the amenities that make for healthy and thriving communities.

How do we get our act together as a community to make sure that the transit expansion has many winners and as few losers as possible? What do we need to do so that transit brings our communities a shared prosperity? A great example of reaching across silos to bring shared prosperity is the way Metro is dealing with the huge number of construction jobs created under Measure R. First, they are all good jobs, all union jobs. Second, ten percent of the work is being done by people that have a hard time finding work even in a great economy – people who are homeless, no GED, getting welfare, criminal history, veterans, etc. It wasn’t transportation planners at Metro who came up with this idea, it was the unions and LAANE working with community-based job trainers like PV Jobs.

Why is affordable housing near transit important? Why not just build lots of housing and let the market decide?

It’s important to have affordable rents near stations because most transit riders are low income – three quarters with incomes below $25K. If we ignore this reality we risk two things: huge social disruption in “hot markets” as people lose their homes and, pushing our riders away from the very transit they are using.

Building lots of housing is important and we need to do that. But we need more because we have a basic disconnect: new apartments rent for $2,200, affordable to someone in the $80-$90K bracket which is way more than our transit riders have. If we just let the market decide then we could end up with a bunch of luxury TOD apartments filled with people who own a couple of cars and like to drive. At L.A. THRIVES we think we need to work across silos to effectively address this kind of displacement.  Read more…

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Metro Takes Another Step Forward in Effort to Build and Preserve Affordable Housing at Transit Hubs

The map of potential transit-oriented affordable housing sites. Source: Metro

The map of potential transit-oriented affordable housing sites (blue dots). Click to enlarge. See the original, here, on p. 24. Source: Metro

In case you haven’t heard, we’re in a bit of an affordable housing crunch.

According to the L.A. Times, “the city recently estimated that 82,000 additional affordable units will be needed by 2021.”

Non-profit developers have been aware of this problem for some time. Approximately 8000 families applied for the 184 units of affordable housing that the East L.A. Community Corporation has built in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles recently. 1500 families vied for a spot in the 60-unit residence on Whittier Bl. built by the Retirement Housing Foundation last March. And RHF was expecting as many as 2500 applications for the affordable, 78-unit senior residence set to open next door. More than 1000 families applied to live in a 90-unit residence in Macarthur Park built by McCormack Baron Salazar on land owned by Metro. And these figures likely don’t include the folks who are desperate for housing but do not earn the minimum amount required to qualify for consideration.

But even as the need for affordable housing grows, the city’s ability to provide and maintain it has declined significantly. Since 2008, funding for the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) has dropped from $108 million to approximately $26 million. And, despite Mayor Eric Garcetti’s vocal support for affordable housing, no new funds were allocated to the AHTF in the last budget. While L.A. will likely receive some of the (anticipated) $130 million in funds set aside for affordable housing from the first year of cap-and-trade, the funds will first need to be divvied up among municipalities across the state.

Which is why it was heartening to see the Metro Board move forward on its plans to set aside at least 35% of units built on Metro-owned land for affordable housing and to establish a fund to assist non-profit developers in building or preserving affordable housing on privately-owned land near transit.

It’s not a panacea, as discussion of the 30-page staff report assessing the viability of the plan made clear. And there is much left to be done in the way of hammering out funding structures and sources for the loan fund or the criteria for discounts on Metro-owned land to entice developers to build affordable units. But it is a step in the right direction. Read more…

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Finally Given a Platform, Boyle Heights Speaks Out on Metro’s Mariachi Plaza and Affordable Housing Plans

Irwin Plata speaks about the importance of cultural markers in communities while Stephanie Olwen awaits her turn to speak. Both are students at YouthBuild in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Irvin Plata speaks about the importance of cultural markers in communities while Stephanie Olwen awaits her turn to speak. Both are students at YouthBuild in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Accused of smirking her way through Metro’s heated community meeting on the fate of Metro-owned properties in Boyle Heights by an agitated attendee, a clearly flustered Jenna Hornstock (Metro’s Deputy Executive Officer of Countywide Planning) had had enough.

“It’s hard to stand up and say, ‘We screwed up!'” she said of feeling like she had been on an apology tour since last November, when Metro bypassed the community engagement process and announced they were seeking to grant Exclusive Negotiated Agreements (ENA) to proposals for Mariachi Plaza and affordable housing projects at 1st/Soto and Cesar Chavez/Soto.

Agreeing that the community had indeed been overlooked, Hornstock declared to the packed house at Puente Learning Center that she was not smirking. Rather, she was trying her best to absorb the pain and heartfelt concerns of residents who feared being displaced — both culturally and economically — from their community.

But as residents continued to hammer her about the fact that implementing federal housing guidelines — the calculation of rents using the Area Median Income of L.A. County ($81,500) and the use of federal funds to build the sites — would harm the community by both pricing out area residents and opening up the applicant pool to folks from outside the area, she couldn’t help but throw up her hands.

“I don’t know what we should be doing,” she said citing the very real economic dilemma affordable housing proponents and projects face. “If developers can’t fund projects, they won’t build them.”

That dilemma is precisely why people seemingly counterintuitively cry “gentrification” when told affordable transit-oriented housing projects are coming to their communities.

In the case of Boyle Heights, for example, the median income is $33,325 — far below L.A. County’s median. And because it is the median and not the average, the number of households earning less than $40,000 per year is nearly three times that of those above the threshold.

Screen grab from the L.A. Times' neighborhood guide indicating ~16,500 homes are below $40,00 per year. Source L.A. Times.

Screen grab from the L.A. Times’ neighborhood guide indicating ~16,500 households in Boyle Heights earn below $40,000 per year. Source L.A. Times.

The majority of Boyle Heights residents would easily meet the first set of qualifications by falling below the maximum income limits set (calculated using percentages of the county AMI) on affordable units.

The problem is, as well over 9,000 households earn below $20,000 a year, a great many of them will struggle to the meet minimum income limits and the resulting rents developers may set for the apartments (see a sample set of requirements from the East L.A. Community Corporation below). Read more…

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Editorial: Four Ways To Encourage Transit-Friendly Affordable Housing

Metro should pursue joint development beyond the five rail lines under construction, including sites like this bus parking on Wilshire Boulvard just east of the Vermont/Wilshire station. Image via Google maps

Metro should pursue joint development beyond the five rail lines under construction, including sites like this bus parking on Wilshire Boulvard just east of the Vermont/Wilshire station. Image via Google maps

I’ve been thinking about Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent motion to help Metro partner on joint development of affordable housing near stations. Also, Garcetti-ally L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell expressed support for reducing parking requirements in new affordable housing developments along transit corridors, to “help lower construction costs and therefore rents.”

A new report this week, joins previous reports with similar findings: Los Angeles is one of least affordable places to live in the U.S., second only to Honolulu.

So, I figure it is time to offer some of my sage advice.

I don’t know that Garcetti, O’Farrell, Metro, or city departments need my advice, but I’ll go ahead and offer four suggestions on how Southern California can foster transit-oriented affordable housing. None of these are easy. They would involve different governmental agencies operating on different timelines. But perhaps a number of these measures could combine over time to overcome some of our systemic biases for sprawl and against infill transit-oriented development (TOD) and make a dent in L.A.’s affordable housing shortage.

1. Additional Metro Joint Development Sites

Garcetti’s motion [PDF] to the Metro Board of Directors encourages housing at Metro owned-sites on the five new rail lines under construction. These are good places for affordable housing, but there are a lot more joint development sites among Metro’s holdings. It is possible that some projects that I am not aware of could already be underway at some of these sites. Here are three categories of additional Metro site that come to my mind:

  • Existing stations: Just in my Koreatown neighborhood, I’d like to see joint development of affordable housing on top of the Vermont/Beverly and Vermont/Santa Monica Blvd/LACC Red Line stations. These aren’t big vacant lots (like some of Metro’s Boyle Heights vacant lots, currently in early development stages) so housing would likely be directly over the station portal, similar to Hollywood/Western Red Line Station.
  • Existing transit parking lots: I think that there are fairly low-hanging fruit opportunities for development at the stations that are at the end-of-line until further extensions open: Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line station and Culver City Expo Line Station. I know Metro tried and failed to jointly develop the San Fernando Valley Red Line parking lots, in part due to excessive replacement parking requirements. It’s going to take some creative architect/developer to balance some needs for parking at these sites (in the short run.) They’re not going to go from 100 percent parking to 100 percent housing overnight, but they should remain under consideration for future joint development, ideally, mixed-use affordable housing with retail.
  • Existing Metro bus parking areas: It bugs me that, on prime mid-city real estate on Wilshire Boulevard at Shatto Place, immediately east of the busy Vermont/Wilshire Red Line station TOD, Metro has a large bus layover surface parking lot that appears 95 percent empty 95 percent of the time. It looks as though Metro employees park cars there, too. Yes, Metro needs bus parking in this area and I expect that bus parking inside a building isn’t easy; it’s going to need high ceilings, large turning radii, etc., but it is not rocket science. The Wilshire surface lot could be jointly developed as affordable housing on top of Metro bus parking, hopefully with walkable, maybe retail, frontage on Wilshire. There’s another similar bus parking site at 6th Street and Oxford, just around the corner from the Wilshire/Western Purple Line station.

2. Separate “Un-Bundle” Parking from Housing

Right now, when someone rents or buys housing in Southern California, the price automatically includes a couple of parking spaces. Whether you use them or not. For homebuyers, this can mean $20,000-$30,000+ per parking space. This parking is “bundled” with the cost of the housing. Cities can un-bundle the parking, with individuals and families renting/purchasing only as many parking spaces as they actually use. Un-bundling is L.A. City policy in some areas, mainly the recently-approved Cornfield-Arroyo Seco “CASP” plan area north of downtown L.A. Un-bundled parking is a staple in adaptive re-use projects downtown, too. If you live in a building that doesn’t have parking, and you need parking, then you rent parking space nearby.

Read more…

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Garcetti Motion Encourages Affordable Housing At Metro Stations

California's Strategic Growth Council has awarded the city of Los Angeles a half-million dollar grant for a study that will make it easier to build infill housing in Transit Priority Areas, similar to this transit-oriented development above the Metro Red Line Wilshire/Vermont Station. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

A Metro motion passed today should help the agency play a significant role in joint development of affordable housing at Metro stations, similar to this housing at the Wilshire-Vermont subway station. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Earlier today, the Metro board of directors passed a motion [PDF] encouraging Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) and affordable housing.

The motion may give some indication of where the board’s newest chair, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, hopes to take the agency. Garcetti has been a vocal proponent of siting affordable housing along transit lines. Garcetti authored the motion and shepherded its passage in the face of concerns expressed by other Metro boardmembers.

The motion helps Metro to play a greater role in fostering affordable housing at its rail stations and along its transit corridors. There are six components to the motion; the agency will: (full text in this PDF)

  1. Inventory current and potential future joint development sites along Metro’s Gold, Expo, Crenshaw/LAX, Regional Connector, and Purple Lines.
  2. Partner with local cities and L.A. County to work together to invest in transit corridor sites, potentially leveraging municipal housing funding.
  3. Set a goal that a minimum 30 percent of Metro’s jointly-developed housing will be affordable housing.
  4. Allow property value discounts to incentivize affordability.
  5. Collaborate on the creation of a Countywide Transit Oriented Affordable Housing (TOAH) loan fund.
  6. Establish a TAP purchase program for residents of joint development housing.

The motion directs Metro CEO Art Leahy to report to the board in February 2015 with a preliminary assessment of the above. From its preamble, the motion readies Metro to support the region in taking advantage of new State of California programs that will grant cap-and-trade funds to promote Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC.)

The motion was approved at last week’s executive committee meeting, so it could have sailed through this morning without debate. Boardmember Diane DuBois removed the item from the meeting’s consent calendar. Though DuBois ultimately voted in favor of the motion, she offered a long list of concerns, including: Metro shouldn’t “dictate” affordable housing goals, Metro doesn’t have authority over land use, affordability targets will discourage development, existing TAP outlets are sufficient, and affordable joint development is “diverting transit dollars.”

Overall, Dubois’ comments encouraged Metro to tightly focus on its mission to provide transit, hence joint development would merely “generate value” that the agency can use to fund transit.

The motion was then defended by its co-authors, Garcetti, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Garcetti-appointees Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker and Mike Bonin. Garcetti cited a recent report showed that L.A. City has the least affordable rental housing market in the nation.

Councilmember Bonin stressed that Metro does have significant influence over development, and that it was a “moral imperative” to play a role in addressing the great need for affordable housing. Overall, Garcetti and these co-authors affirmed that Metro’s mission does extend beyond the strict boundaries of its stations, and that the agency plays a big role in the quality of life in transit-adjacent communities.  Read more…

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More Housing, Less Sprawl: Tackling Los Angeles’ Affordable Housing Crisis through Smart Growth

It is no secret that Southern California is currently facing one of the worst housing crises it has faced in more than half a century.

Eric Garcetti is a long-time believer in density built around transit. Photo:##http://endinggridlock.org/blog/congratulations-to-las-next-mayor-eric-garcetti##Angelenos Against Gridlock##

Eric Garcetti is a long-time believer in density built around transit. Photo:Angelenos Against Gridlock

That’s the point Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti drove home Wednesday at the Los Angeles Business Council’s annual Mayoral Housing, Transportation, and Jobs summit.

While it isn’t a revelation to most that it’s getting harder and harder to be poor or even middle class and afford to live in Los Angeles County – especially in westside cities like Santa Monica – it was refreshing to hear Garcetti address the root cause of this crisis: a lack of new housing being built.

But even more refreshing was to hear Garcetti, who currently chairs Metro’s Board of Directors, talk about making sure new housing – especially units affordable to low and middle-income residents – gets built next to the region’s expanding transit system.

At the summit, Garcetti announced his plan to increase L.A.’s housing stock by 100,000 new units by 2021. At the same time, he announced his intention to bring a motion before the Metro board to “analyze affordable housing preservation and construction around our transit system, from using MTA-owned land and targeting transit-pass programs.”

Does that mean we may see some of those sprawling surface parking lots redeveloped into places where middle- and low-income residents – many of whom rely on public transit for their daily commute – can live?

Studies have shown that lower-income residents will leave their cars at home 50 percent more often than wealthier residents if they live within a quarter mile of reliable public transit.

Placing affordable housing near transit is a major tool in combating these issues, which is one reason why State Senator Darryl Steinberg fought for a generous portion of the California’s cap-and-trade money to be used to subsidize transit-oriented development.

The reality is, Garcetti said, that without growth, especially near transit, the region’s problems will only get worse. While the housing crisis may be evocative of the post-war era, regional leaders seem to realize that sprawl – the answer to our mid-century housing crisis – is not the answer today. (In case you didn’t already realize it, sprawl is really bad for people, the environment, and the economy.) Read more…

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Guest Editorial: Dreaming Big About Rail Lines, Grand Boulevards, Bus Rapid Transit and Measure R2

The proposed Lorena Plaza development. Source: ACOF.org

The proposed Lorena Plaza development. Source: ACOF.org

(Move LA’s mission is to build a broad constituency that will advocate for the development of a comprehensive, diverse, robust, clean and financially sound public transportation system for Los Angeles County. Denny Zane is the executive director. Gloria Ohland is the policy and communications director.)

More and more people — from elected officials to bike and pedestrian advocates — are talking about projects that could be funded if a transportation sales tax measure is put on the November 2016 ballot.

Most recently, for example, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian stood in front of the TV cameras with a host of heavy-hitting transportation leaders from San Fernando Valley to advocate conversion of the super-successful Orange Line to light rail, and an extension to Bob Hope Airport, then Glendale, then Pasadena.

Other cities and their councils of government are dreaming big as well.

It’s all possible if voters have the opportunity to approve the right measure. Move LA is using a “strawman” proposal of funding ideas to gin up a “let’s dream big” conversation about the sales tax, which some are fondly calling “Measure R2” in acknowledgment of its predecessor — the Measure R half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2008 that is building the five new rail lines underway now.

The proposed 45-year half-cent sales tax “strawman” could generate $90 billion for transportation. The centerpiece is, as it was in Measure R1, significant expansion of the rail system. But we have another favorite in our strawman proposal — a transformational “Grand Boulevards” program. We propose taking 5-10 percent of the $90 billion for cities and councils of governments to invest in reviving and reinventing several-mile, multi-community-long stretches of maybe 15-20 arterials around L.A. County as transit-oriented boulevards that promote economic development as they pass through more than one community.

This money could fund both conventional and sustainable transportation improvements, from repaving and signal synchronization to clean, green, cool, and complete streets with more bus service,  better bus stops with real time arrival info, and wider sidewalks and bike lanes. It could fund landscaping and other community improvements that would make the boulevards appealing places on which to live and shop, and there would be incentives for transit-supportive mixed-use community development. Funding it could help leverage and implement L.A. Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets program!

It’s important to remember that this is a transportation sales tax and must be used for transportation purposes. But what if 30 percent, a significant share of the funding in the Grand Boulevards program, were set aside in a competitive pot for cities willing to promote transit ridership by permitting moderate-density mixed-use transit-oriented development (TOD) along these grand boulevards?

This extra funding for transportation projects could be made available to those cities willing to permit apartments over shops and other housing that’s affordable and appealing for young people, aging Baby Boomers and others who want to be able to live without a car — and who can do that because it’s easy to walk and bike and take transit instead. Read more…

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Steinberg: CA Cap-and-Trade Must Fund Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing

Negotiations over the California state budget are producing dueling proposals on how best to spend revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program.

steinbergatMacarthur

Senator Steinberg proposes affordable housing as a greenhouse gas reduction strategy. Photo courtesy TransForm.

While Governor Jerry Brown continues to call for a third of the cap-and-trade funds to go to CA high-speed rail, Senate President ProTem Darrell Steinberg last week expanded upon his alternative proposal to spend a larger share of the revenue on affordable housing and transit at the local and regional level.

State cap-and-trade funds are collected under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, A.B. 32. The law provides a way for companies to meet a state-mandated cap on greenhouse gas emissions by buying “pollution credits” produced when others exceed emissions reductions. Estimates vary on how much revenue the program will generate, but it could produce billions each year between now and 2020.

Standing in front of an active construction site for new housing units near Oakland’s MacArthur BART station last Thursday, Steinberg called for permanent sources of funding for affordable housing, mass transit, and sustainable communities development. The Senator argued that  California is facing a “catastrophic funding crisis” as affordable housing bonds run out, and noted that the transportation sector is the state’s biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Californians are logging more vehicle miles annually than ever before,” Steinberg said.

Behind him, a forklift raised a load of lumber high up in the air, with an attached sign reading, “At least 972 lbs of CO2 emissions reduced every day.” That’s the amount by which  the housing project, which will provide 624 housing units next to the BART station, is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to other housing developments. Of those apartments, 108 will be leased at below-market rates. Read more…