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Sustainable Communities

TM

Vol 1, No 2 • March/April 2011 • www.p4sc.org • $12

Rental Housing:

NMHC Predicts Rising Demand

IN THIS ISSUE

California’s “anti-sprawl” planning process gets underway.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 22 The battle over high-speed rail . . . . . . . . . . . p. 26 Regional Focus: North Carolina.. . . . . . . . . . . . p. 34 Weatherization races the clock. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 44


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Contents MARCH/APRIL 201 1

44

6

Departments

2 Letter from the Editor 4 Letters to the Editor 5 New Directions 6 Around the Nation

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37

• Florida • Illinois • Oregon • Georgia

8 Land Planning & Design

Features

10 Green Building & Design

Duany sees decline in strict green building standards

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Multifamily Making a Comeback:

26 Transportation &

Doug Bibby and the National MultiHousing Council see a boom in apartment development coming in response to rising consumer demand.

20 Finance: The Obama Administration’s plans to reform the housing finance system call for winding down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and cutting back FHA single-family programs. But FHA rental housing programs would be strengthened and expanded.

22 California: Regional planning organizations hit high gear in public discussion of land use and transportation planning under the state’s “anti-sprawl” legislation (S.B. 375).

12 Urban Planning & Design APA president sets new direction

Development:

Federal funding for high speed rail development sparks debate. Find out why three governors rejected the federal money and what advocates and critics are saying about the issue.

37 Cities See High Value

in “Complete Streets” Find out how cities are making their streets much more vibrant and active without spending a lot or hurting traffic flow.

44 Financing Energy Efficiency:

On the Cover: As president of the National Multi-Housing Council, Doug Bibby advocates in Washington for rental housing, making a strong case for the benefits to community sustainability of properties like the 2400 M Apartments in Washington, D.C., a project of Equity Residential. Photo by Dennis Whitehead

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Time is running out for spending $5 billion appropriated for the Weatherization Assistance Program. Will the money be spent before the March 2012 deadline? How much will go to improve the energy efficiency of multifamily housing? Find out with our in-depth report.

March/April 2011 • Sustainable Communities

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Sustainable Communities

Letter from the Editor

TM

Vol 1, No 2 • March/April 2011 • www.p4sc.org

America’s Choice

Sustainable Communities Magazine 6i-2

By Andre Shashaty

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ith the presidential election of 2012 entering its early stages and budget battles raging in Washington, Americans must choose sides. Long-term thinking has never been popular in American government, least of all if it promises to hurt the profits of any entrenched interests. The Obama Administration challenged that paradigm. It won federal appropriations to fund programs and investments that will make our communities more sustainable over the long run. A key part of its economic stimulus package was a renewed investment in America’s passenger rail system and other intracity transit programs. Billions of dollars were appropriated for these programs, including the beginnings of a high-speed passenger rail network in California, New York, Illinois and other major markets. Now, with the economy recovering and the scent of political opportunity in the air, Republicans in the House are attacking on a broad front, targeting spending for grants for regional planning, energy conservation, and Community Development Block Grants, among other domestic programs. But the pivotal issue in the fast-escalating political warfare in Washington will be the fight over what kind of wheels to subsidize: steel or rubber. Republicans in Washington and new Republican governors in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin are trying to choke off proposed funding for passenger rail, especially the high-speed variety. They have framed this in terms of deficit reduction. Hogwash. They are quite happy to spend billions on roads and bridges but would “zero out” trains and mass transit. They ignore the near impossibility of spending enough on roads to serve an increasing population without massive congestion, the wackiness of a gas tax frozen at 1993 levels and the sheer insanity of depending so heavily on foreign oil. (We take for granted that they don’t consider air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions to be a problem.) The coming 20 months will have reverberations on our country for decades to come. If Republicans take the Senate or White House, they will finish what the House is starting now. They will not just terminate Obama’s initial steps to reinvest for the long-term, they will wipe out any sign that they ever existed. We have to fight back, and we must fight especially hard on the threshold issue of transportation. We must follow the lead of people like Christine Kehoe, the California state senator who represents San Diego. Defying powerful political forces, Kehoe has introduced a bill (S.B. 468) that would require mass transit to be improved in coastal communities before the state could add lanes to nearby freeways. If we follow Kehoe’s lead, the Obama initiatives will survive and our oil-addicted country will be on a new path. If not, just imagine what the history books will say about the choices we made in this pivotal decade. Make your voice heard in the coming political battle. And if you are not already a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, please join today and help us make America sustainable, one community at a time. Learn more at www.p4sc.org.

Editor and Publisher Andre Shashaty, andre@p4sc.org Office & Member Services Manager Carol Yee, carol@p4sc.org Art Director Kay Marshall, kay.marshall@earthlink.net Advertising & Conference Sales Manager Wendy Chaney, wendy@p4sc.org Assistant Editor Megan Truxillo, megan@p4sc.org Board of Directors Rev. Betty Pagett, Community Acceptance Strategist Todd Sears, Vice President of Finance, Herman & Kittle Properties Patrick Sheridan, Senior Vice President for Housing Development, Volunteers of America Dianne Spaulding, Executive Director, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California Leadership Advisory Board Richard Baron, Chairman and CEO, McCormack Baron Salazar Doug Bibby, President, National Multi Housing Council Henry Cisneros, Executive Chairman, CityView; former secretary, U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development F. Barton Harvey, Former chairman and CEO, Enterprise Community Partners William C. Kelly, Jr., President, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) Kerry Mazzoni, public policy consultant, former state legislator and former California Secretary of Education Nicolas P. Retsinas, Director, Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University Caleb Roope, President/CEO, The Pacific Companies Mitchell Silver, PP, AICP Director Department of City Planning for Raleigh, N.C. Sustainable Communities Magazine is published by Partnership for Sustainable Communities (“PSC”) is a private nonprofit organization incorporated in California. It is not affiliated with the United States federal interagency “Partnership for Sustainable Communities,” which is a venture between HUD, DOT and EPA. PSC is not supported by government funding. It depends entirely on membership dues and charitable donations to cover its costs. To make a donation, go to www.p4sc.org and click on the “donate now” button at the top of your screen in the green bar on the left. To join our cause, click on “become a member” also in the green bar.

900 Fifth Ave, Suite 201, San Rafael, CA 94901 415 453 2100 ext 302 www.P4SC.org Printed on SFI Certified 10% Recylced Paper with vegetable and/or soy based inks. At Least 30% Certified Forest Content

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Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011


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L ETTER S TO THE EDITOR

To the editor: Congratulations on publication of the premier issue of Sustainable Communities magazine. On behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, I commend you and your colleagues for putting out a package of very informative coverage on a wide range of important issues related to sustainability.  There is a great deal happening here at HUD to promote sustainability, and we appreciate your coverage of our activities.  However, the department and the Obama Administration are just starting what is a very long and challenging process. Changing the approach and focus of government takes hard work. Achieving coordination of federal transportation, housing, development and environmental programs in pursuit of sustainability is a long-term project.

We must overcome many challenges, including political opposition and budgetary constraints. We look to the Partnership for Sustainable Communities as a critical supporter of the federal government’s interagency partnership.  We wish you good luck in attracting government officials and real estate professionals to join your organization.

Shelley Poticha Director, Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities US Department of Housing & Urban Development

To the editor: As executive director of the FormBased Codes Institute (FBCI) I joined the Partnership for Sustainable Communities as a member because I am impressed by the quality and range of the articles in this first issue. As you may know, FBCI

is a not-for-profit organization whose members are leading practitioners in urban planning, design and law. In addition to our educational outreach through courses, webinars, our website and annual awards for well-crafted and adopted formbased codes, our members also operate much as a think tank - discussing how to improve and further the practice of FBC. As a leader in the movement to create walkable, mixed-use and sustainable places, our organization offers a wide range of information on cutting edge issues in urban design and regulation, including sample form-based codes. I invite your readers to visit our web site at www.formbasedcodes.org/ I wish you success with your fine publication.

Carol Wyant, Executive Director Form-Based Codes Institute

Housing that makes sense. Today and tomorrow.

34NORTH

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Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011

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N E W DIRE C TIO N S

Census Shows Population Growth Still Centered in Sun Belt Initial results from the 2010 Census show a continuation of a long-term shift in the U.S. population from the north central states to the Sun Belt. The 2010 census revealed a total U.S. population of 308,745,538 a 9.7% increase from the population of about 281 million in 2000.

seats in the House include Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. States expected to gain seats in the House include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington. The growth of the nation’s foreignborn population is one of the most important trends, according to findings from the 2010 Census and the

The fastest growing states, with growth of over 20% since 2000, were Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Texas and Utah. However, in Arizona and Nevada, the rate of growth actually slowed from 2000 to 2010 compared to the blistering pace set in 1990 to 2000. The only places that actually lost population during the last ten years were Michigan and Puerto Rico. However, the relative increases and decreases in population are reflected in the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives. States expected to lose one or more

American Community Survey. The data shows that 38,500,000 people, or 12.5 percent of the population, were foreign born in 2009. The percentage of the population that is foreign born has grown significantly since the low point in the 1960s. Much of the growth is attributable to increases in the Hispanic or Latino population. In California, for example, this segment increased 37.6% over ten years to 27.8% of the population, while the non-Hispanic, non-Latino population increased only 1.5% to 62.4% of the state’s population.

Affordable Housing Subsidies Under Siege Sponsors of subsidized housing are still fighting hard in Washington, D.C. and state capitols to try to fend off cuts in government support. However, they are also preparing for a worst-case scenario in which funding cuts make new development infeasible for some time. Development of new affordable housing has relied heavily on the use of federal low-income housing tax credits, which attract private equity investment to eligible projects. Projects also depend on “soft” secondary financing and government grants. But state and local budget problems are forcing severe cutbacks. In California, for example, Gov. Jerry Brown has shut down most new state funding for affordable housing. He also proposed to close down the state’s redevelopment agencies, a key source of funding for affordable housing. At press time, advocates were struggling to preserve some redevelopment agency funding for affordable housing but the outlook was uncertain. In Washington, the House of Representatives was seeking deep cuts in federal housing and community development programs, as well as elimination of funding for regional planning grants to promote sustainable communities. The funding cuts are so severe that some housing advocates fear a long-term reduction in the capacity of nonprofit community-based development groups. Bigger organizations are changing their focus from development to acquisition of existing properties and management of their current holdings. There is a risk that layoffs and shutdowns will lead to a reduction in development capacity, making it harder to restart affordable housing development when government funding starts to flow again. ❧

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A RO U N D THE N ATIO N

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1 Florida Florida Long Range Transportation Plan Calls for High-Speed Rail Despite Florida Governor Rick Scott’s concerns, far-sighted Floridians continue to consider high-speed rail as an integral piece of Florida’s transportation future. A statewide high-speed rail system is part of Florida’s recently released 2060 Florida Transportation Plan, the state’s long-range transportation plan. The Florida Department of Transportation, in conjunction with numerous government, civic and private partners developed the 2060 Plan in a lengthy year-long, public process. Partners included 1000 Friends of Florida, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Florida League of Cities. The plan, setting out transportation policy and goals for the next 50 years, is the first of its kind in the state. Ambitious plans include developing and operating a statewide high-speed and intercity passenger rail system connecting all regions of the state and linking to public transportation systems in rural and urban areas. The 2060 Plan also commits Florida to make transportation

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decisions that support and enhance livable communities. “In a state like Florida, a narrow peninsula with substantial wetland and other undevelopable areas, development of train-based alternative infrastructures to roads and highways will help to protect our environment and concurrently will grow new economies, better community patterns and likely will be viewed as wise decision-making by future generations,” said 1000 Friends of Florida, member of the 2060 Plan Steering Committee. The 2060 Plan, including its call for high-speed rail, ties transportation to the probable future development patterns in the state: “Higher density, mixed use urban development and rural employment centers – connected with multimodal transportation corridors and separated by open spaces – will be a key emphasis of development over the next 50 years.” To view the 2060 FTP in its entirety visit http://2060ftp.org/.

2 Illinois Advocating for Urban Agriculture in Chicago

Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011

courtesy wikimedia

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Chicago residents may soon see a renaissance in community gardening and urban agriculture: New zoning provisions, under consideration by the Chicago City Council, would add community and commercial agriculture to the zoning code, allowing these uses by right in many parts of the city. “For centuries, Chicago’s fertile land has been used to grow fresh produce and create employment opportunities. But today, city government stands in the way of a renaissance of local food production by limiting the size and revenue potential of these enterprises,” said new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in support of the zoning. Urban agriculture makes a vast contribution to sustainable commu-

▲ Urban garden in Chicago

nity development, by greening often blighted or vacant urban spaces, providing access to locally grown produce and ensuring food security for many low-income persons. Although not prohibited outright, city zoning has stifled efforts by urban agriculturalists by requiring exhaustive red tape to open community gardens or commercial farms and limiting the ability to sell produce directly to consumers. When Growing Home, a non-profit organic farm, hatched plans to move its operations into the city, it took two years and designation as a “technical institute” to fit within zoning laws.


3 Oregon

4 Georgia

Expansion of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure is getting a boost in Oregon, where San Francisco company ECOtality, Inc. began widespread installation of residential EV chargers last month. A massive roll out of residential chargers is part of the company’s plan to install over 1,100 public charging stations in the state, building a network of chargers down the I-5 corridor. “We expect most of our customers to charge up their electric vehicles at home so today’s residential charging station installation marks a major milestone in putting in the necessary infrastructure to support our EV-driving customers,” said Joe Barra, director of

Controversy in Atlanta Over Transportation Sales Tax A proposed one-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects in Atlanta has the public, and many in government, up in arms. The ballot measure, proposed for the August 2012 election, will ask voters in a 10-county Atlanta region to approve a one-cent sales tax increase to pay for the construction and operation of a specific list of transportation projects. It isn’t the penny increase that has citizens upset, but a perceived unfairness in the distribution of transportation taxes in the region and how transportation projects are chosen. In two of the counties asked to vote on the transportation tax, Fulton and Dekalb, residents already pay a penny more in sales tax than other counties to fund Metro Atlanta’s Rapid Transit Authority, MARTA. MARTA is the only major transit system in the country that lacks dedicated funding: It relies solely on the penny taxes from these two counties for its operation. A funding scheme, that has left MARTA in financial straits. Last April, facing a $120 million shortfall in revenue, MARTA employees painted red Xs on 30% of the busses serving the city, to represent the 30% cut in service MARTA would need to enact to make up the shortfall. In short, MARTA, along with the rest of the transportation system in the state sorely needs funding. But the referen-

▲ ECOtality charger installed in the garage of an EV Project participant.

business model and program development at PG&E. The installation is part of the “EV Project,” a program to build EV infra-

dum expressly excludes funding from the new tax going to MARTA, because the tax is meant to fund new transit projects outside of metro Atlanta. This has residents of Fulton and Dekalb, already subsidizing MARTA to the benefit of residents in other coun-

courtesy wikimedia

structure in 18 cities nationwide. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through a federal stimulus grant of $114.8 million, made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). For more information on the EV Project and ECOtality chargers, visit www.ecotality.com.

© ECOtality, Inc.

Mayor Emanuel hopes the new zoning will help provide fresh produce to the 600,000 Chicago residents who live in neighborhoods that lack access to fresh food. For details on the proposed zoning change see the Advocates for Urban Agriculture’s website at http://auachicago.wordpress.com.

▲ Atlanta’s MARTA

ties, unhappy with the new tax. South Fulton Commissioner William Edwards said he’ll “absolutely” campaign against the sales tax going on an August 2012 ballot, unless the Legislature alters the law. He wants lawmakers to rethink having Fulton and DeKalb residents, already paying a penny tax for MARTA, paying the additional tax without reaping the benefits of the additional funding. MARTA General Manager Beverly Scott predicts, without solid support in Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb, the new sales tax “is not happening, it won’t pass.” One proposal for remedying the law is to create a new regional transit authority, vesting operation and funding within one agency, as opposed to the current multi-agency regime. “We need a regional transit coordinating agency to provide for greater efficiency, help prioritize our transit needs and coordinate how we can best meet those needs on a regional basis,” said Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson. There are many supporters of such a regional agency, including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who has suggested the need for regional transit legislation in the past. ❧

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L A N D P L A N N I N G & DE S I G N

GROUNDBREAKER:

Construction Commences on Innovative Green Multifamily Building in British Columbia By Megan Truxillo

©cressey development group

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aking advantage of the many parks and public facilities built for the 2010 Olympic Games, construction has begun on a new “green” multi-family building in Vancouver, British Columbia’s False Creek neighborhood. Slated for completion in July 2012, the James at False Creek is already 60 percent sold, according to developers the Cressey Development Group. With 155 units ranging from 553-1449 sq. ft., the James boasts a number of innovative features that make it a supergreen development. The architects, Rafii Architects of B.C., have won a number of awards for their multi-family developments in Canada and the U.S.

▲ The James rooftop deck

Brownfield Redevelopment The James development is part of the larger brownfield redevelopment of the False Creek neighborhood that began in the 70’s. The James’s namesake, James S. Doherty, was a well-respected industrial figure in False Creek. Until the 50’s, the False Creek neighborhood was the industrial heart of British Columbia, when industry left and the area deteriorated. The city government, with little public input, hatched a plan to raze the brownfield site for freeway expansion. Fortunately, long-sighted activists fought the expansion, saving False Creek from a concrete future. Through careful planning, False

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Creek became a vibrant mixed-use waterfront community. Southeastern False Creek, home of the James, is the last piece of the neighborhood to be developed. It received a boost in 2010, as the host of the Olympic’s “Athletes Village.” Fully developed, Southeastern False Creek will house 16,000 residents.

Low Environmental Impact Design The James is following a Leadership in Environmental Design (LEED) silver standard in its design and construction. Residences offer Energy Star rated appliances, careful water efficiency management indoor and out, and high quality building envelope design to minimize heating and cooling costs. To keep electricity use to a minimum, units are designed to maximize

Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011

the use of natural light, an important feature in the often-overcast region. Whenever possible, building supplies are sourced locally and from recycled materials. In addition, a minimum of 50 percent of construction waste will be recycled. Low-toxicity paints, sealants and adhesives will be used throughout the building. To further minimize environmental impact, the Southeast False Creek Neighborhood Energy Utility (NEU) generates the energy for the building. By utilizing economies of scale, the NEU can adapt to using a wide variety of renewable “waste energy” options that would otherwise not be available to an individual building heating system: NEU uses sewage heat recovery to supply approximately 70% of the annual energy demand, eliminating 60% of the carbon emissions associated with heat-


ing buildings. You can learn more about the NEU on the City of Vancouver’s website, www.vancouver.ca.

Cressey chose the Southeast False Creek neighborhood, in large part because of its close proximity to shops, restaurants and public transportation -- many of which, were built for the 2010 Olympic Games. Within walking distance of the development are multiple grocery stores, restaurants and parks. The site also sits minutes from a streetcar, bus, Aquabus and Canada line stop, connecting to downtown Vancouver, Cambie village, the Airport and B.C. suburbs. Canada line is B.C.’s fully automated rapid transit light rail system. For residents that own cars, the garage offers electric vehicle hookups. And to facilitate residents choosing to live car-free, COOP vehicles are provided.

Green Space An innovative feature of the building is its massive 5,000 sq. ft. green roof. The roof, fully landscaped, will offer a chil-

©cressey development group

Transportation & Pedestrian Oriented Development

▲ Front of the building showing the main tower and townhouses

dren’s play area, outdoor kitchen and community garden plots. A large glass observatory will also make up a portion of the roof, allowing residents to enjoy the roof during the winter months. For more information on the James, visit their website at www.jamesliving.com. ❧

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G REE N B U I L DI N G & DE S I G N

California:

Duany Predicts Decline of LEED Standards

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harlotte, N.C.–Decrying the high cost of “optimization” of development in a lean time, Andres Duany called for a return to common sense development principals that harken back to the 19th Century and predicted declining use of the LEED standards for building efficiency. Speaking at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference here, Duany took aim at one of the banes of the modern developer’s existence—excessive regulation of development, particularly the high cost of certification of buildings under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. The Miami-based new urbanist architect said infrastructure and permitting are “fantastically expensive.” He blamed this primarily on “optimization,” that is, the practice of imposing increasingly detailed and strict regulations in an effort to take development from merely good to nearly perfect. He took a swipe at city emergency services officials for wanting too much optimization of roads. But he saved his strongest words for green building certifiers. He criticized green building standards that don’t give points for low cost approaches like passive solar heating, but encourage developers to buy expensive windows to make sure that “not an atom of air escapes.” “Environmentalism got addicted to optimization and we can’t afford it,” Duany said. “It’s absurd what you have to go through to get LEED certified. It will crash on its own. It already is.” “It costs more to get a project certified under the LEED for neighborhoods (LEED-ND) program than it does for me to design it,” he said.

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Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011


Top 10 States for LEED Green Buildings

Andres Duany is saying what many developers undoubtedly believe: The increasing demands of meeting LEED and other standards and certifications for green buildings has become way too expensive. Duany believes current green building certifications are too focused on expensive, over-engineered measures and don’t give fair value to low-cost and traditional techniques, like those in evidence at Seaside, Florida, designed by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co.

Washington D.C. leads the country, with 25.15 square feet of LEEDInternational Monetary certified commercial Fund Headquarters in D.C., Gold LEED Certified and institutional green building space per person, according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) report. USGBC compiled the top 10 states for LEED certified buildings per capita based on the 2010 census. “Using per capita, versus the more traditional numbers of projects, or pure square footage, is a reminder to all of us that the people who live and work, learn and play in buildings should be what we care about most,” said Scot Horst, USGBC senior vice president of LEED. “2010 was a difficult year for most of the building industry, but in many areas, the hunger for sustainable development kept the markets moving.” The top states, including Washington D.C.: • Washington D.C: 25.15 sq. ft. per person • Nevada: 10.92 sq. ft. • New Mexico: 6.35 sq. ft. • New Hampshire: 4.49 sq. ft. • Oregon: 4.07 sq. ft. • South Carolina: 3.19 sq. ft • Washington: 3.16 sq. ft. • Illinois: 3.09 sq. ft. • Arkansas: 2.9 sq. ft. • Colorado: 2.85 sq. ft. • Minnesota: 2.77 sq. ft.

Duany is a principal of the firm Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), and was co-founder of the Congress for New Urbanism with his partner Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. He called on the green building movement to adopt a dual approach, with one set of low tech standards and one set of high tech standards. “There are many low costs ways to get 85% of the benefit of today’s standards. We need $45 windows, not $250 to $300 windows,” he said. Duany half-jokingly called for creation of a “LEED Brown” rating, in addition to the current silver, gold and

platinum ratings. He suggested this could give builders credit for using traditional but low cost measures that are not easy to quantify or certify. He described these steps as “the original green,” and “what we did when we didn’t have money.” He said that high-density development in urban locations which entails less reliance on private cars should get a free pass on any green building standards. “Don’t make apartment dwellers install solar power,” he said. They are doing their part just by living densely and driving less.” He ridiculed the notion that single-family homes would ever lose popularity or that they should be squeezed out by public policy. But he did suggest that they be subject to more efficiency requirements to compensate for the inherent inefficiency of this use of land. Duany also had choice words for government land use and building officials. In New Orleans, he said that government standards for rebuilding added costs that just about exactly offset the amount of assistance the government was going to provide, so “no one can rebuild.” What does Duany like these days? “Slow development,” which he defined as working up to appropriate density in a gradual way, likening it to how towns were developed in the 1800s. He spoke of the benefits of one-floor retail, with no housing above it, and of walk-up apartments, both of which he said are highly efficient. ❧

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U R B A N & RE G IO N A L P L A N N I N G

Blazing a New Trail for City Planners Silver brings new agenda to presidency of APA

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hen Mitchell J. Silver takes over as president of the American Planning Association this spring, don’t be surprised if the planning profession starts to enjoy a little higher public profile. During his two year term, Silver wants to correct obsolete notions of what planners do, including negative views held by people who remember the days of federal Urban Renewal projects and controversial uses of eminent domain powers for commercial redevelopment. He believes that planning has evolved and now encompasses many cutting edge concerns like environmental justice, new urbanism, Mitchell J. Silver reduction of sprawl, and most recently, the idea of the “smart regions.” Silver wants to explain the value of planning in preserving communities for future generations. “We are guardians of the future. We must be concerned that future generations have clean air, clean water and a good economy.” He said planners need to deal with demographic trends, including the aging of the Baby Boom generation and the increase in the proportion of singleperson households. Nor can they ignore climate change, aging infrastructure and the globalization of the economy. Planners should think of themselves as more than regulators implementing codes. Silver believes planners should be concerned with “the experience of place.” He said, “we are not just planners or regulators, we’re experience

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builders. We are in the business of creating great places.” As planning director of Raleigh, N.C., Silver has guided the city through a comprehensive planning process that tries to maximize the economic returns from creating great places. Before moving south, he was deputy director in the Office of Planning in Washington, D.C., and prior to that, he held several high-level planning posts in New York City. Silver says the biggest challenge for planners now is to adapt their ideas and approaches to a new generation. He believes that the Baby Boom generation’s influence is waning and that the Millennial generation should figure much larger in how we shape our cities. This is the generation that is aged 15 to 28 today, he said. They prefer an urban lifestyle, they are environmentally conscious and to a large extent, they are single, he explained. To this generation, place matters, not just jobs, which represents a major change from their parents, and especially their grandparents. As Silver pointed out, the Millennials are just as likely to choose a community to live in based on its quality of life as on the availability of a job. “We as policymakers had better understand this market, because that’s who we are planning for. If you want to hold on to your young people, you better be smart,” he said. Silver believes that good planning requires looking at land as a commu-

Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011

nity’s most important asset and making the most of it. The first step is to do a land capacity analysis and assess the supply and demand balance. Then they need to to maximize the return on that asset by making strategic investments in infrastructure. “Land has value, and you can steer public invest to enhance land value to help your tax base,” he said. Rather than have 150 acres of single-family homes, you can have a few acres of high density development that yields a higher return on investment, he said. Silver cautions that the idea of sustainability should not be interpreted as favoring urban areas over suburban or rural areas. “While the United States will continue to grow and urbanize, planners must not forget that some people will choose to remain in suburban and rural areas for their own lifestyle choices. Planners and policy makers have figure out how to connect these places and their economies.” As APA president, Silver will be representing 43,000 members who live in 80 countries. “Those planners represent communities of every type imaginable,” he said. “Too often, sustainability has been mostly about the environment and the economy (to a lesser extent) in urbanized areas, with equity a distant third. I am concerned with how we can grow to ensure that ALL communities (urban, suburban and rural), protect the environment, better link our economies so we can all prosper, and strive for improved equity and fairness for all,” Silver said. “That in my opinion should be the role of sustaining communities. That is what I will be spending the next two years talking about.” ❧


CALIFORNIA

Smart Planning Helps Cities Adapt to Climate Change

Diablo Nuclear Power Plant, San Luis Obispo County- the plant and the infrastructure upon which it depends are directly exposed to the impacts of coastal storms, flooding and erosion, which will be exacerbated by sea level rise.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

support and that’s really important. I don’t think we would have pursued this without local champions,” said Kate Meis, project manager with the Local Government Commission. The first phase of the group’s work entailed a detailed modeling of climate change impacts on the region, including expected temperature increase, precipitation increase or decrease and sea level rise. Under the models, the expected future of the county includes:

By MeganTruxillo The debate about climate change is over as far as planners in many U.S. cities are concerned. Instead of being caught unprepared, cities and counties across the country are taking action to plan for the effects climate change may have on their regions.

I

n California, the County of San Luis Obispo is leading the effort to quantify and prepare for climatic impacts, hoping to avoid some of the estimated $300 million to $3.9 billion climate change effects will cost the state annually, according to U.C. Berkeley researchers. Armed with a hundred thousand dollar grant from the Kresge Foundation, the non-profit Local Government Commission (LGC), in partnership with the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy and the County of San Luis Obispo, is undertaking an effort to explore strategies to address effects of climate change on six key areas: water, health, infrastructure, agriculture, coastal marine and tourism.  LGC chose to work with San Luis Obispo in part due to the local jurisdictions’ commitment to developing climate action plans. “We knew there was political

• Hotter, drier, and longer summers; • Accelerating sea level rise; • Eroding coastal bluffs; • Lower groundwater recharge rates; and • Stress to water and flood infra structure.

Based on the result of the modeling, the group held workshops with the public and local leaders to formulate an adaptation planning strategy for the county. The result of these workshops is the Integrated Climate Change Adaptation Planning report, available on LGC’s website, www.lgc.org. Adaptation strategies range from reassessing coastal land use policies, to avoid building in areas under threat of sea level rise, to bolstering wildfire management planning in the region and shoring up groundwater supplies. The group hopes that “by identifying and addressing underlying vulnerabilities early, decision makers in San Luis Obispo can increase the resilience of both the community and the resources it depends on to climate change.” ❧

March/April 2011 • Sustainable Communities

13


Housing Demand 66% of new households will rent, NMHC predicts As new lifestyles tilt balance toward sustainability

Located within a short train or ferry ride from lower Manhattan, The Pier in Jersey City, N.J., exemplifies the kinds of properties that Equity Residential develops: Close to transit and jobs and on infill site in existing urban areas.

W ▲ Community facilty at Northpark Apartments in Burlingame, Calif., a property of Equity Residential

By Andre Shashaty

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Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011

hen George W. Bush was president, homeownership rates reached a record high of 69 percent, and everyone from the White House to Congress on down to local officials sucked all the political advantage they could get from the growing ranks of young homeowners. Apartment operators wondered how it came to pass that a young family could get a mortgage even if they could not qualify for a lease. Single-family cul de sac subdivisions sprouted in outlying areas of every U.S. city with a pulse. What a difference a few million foreclosures makes. Today, the homeownership rate is dropping and rental housing is making a comeback that could last for decades. It’s about time, according to apartment owners and their association, the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC), which has been arguing for years for government policies that value rental housing. “The single-family housing meltdown confirms that homeownership alone is not sufficient to meet our housing and community needs,” said Doug Bibby, NMHC president.  “We need a more balanced housing policy— and that policy needs to begin with ensuring a consistent and abundant capital flow to rental housing.” The shift toward rental housing dovetails perfectly with the preference of many mayors and city planners to see growth channeled into transit corridors and infill locations, as opposed to development of singlefamily homes in subdivisions far from services or jobs. “Not only do apartments offer housing to a wide range of households,”

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Bibby, “they can also help us meet >> said critical national goals like reducing green-

PHOTO: Dennis Whitehead

prime years for renting. “We have reason to believe that this generation of young house gasses, growing more sustainably people will rent for longer than and creating mixed-use, pedestrianearlier generations,” said Bibby. friendly communities.” “Not only have they seen firstNMHC says the nation is experienchand that owning is not a can’ting a boom in renter households that will miss investment, they’ve also continue for years to come. “We saw a learned through the recession surge of 2.7 million renters from 2005 to that they need to be more mobile 2007 alone,” Bibby said. “Between 2008 to respond to changing economic and 2015, nearly two-thirds of new houseopportunities and not be burholds formed will be renters. That’s 6 mildened by owning a house.” lion new renter households,” he stated. Immigration is another factor driving future rental demand Homeownership Not a because immigrants rent for a Can’t Miss Investment long time after arriving in the This is partly because of a change in U.S. Eighty-two percent of im▲ NMHC President Doug Bibby attitudes about the financial benefits of migrants who have been here for ownership. Until the recent spike in forefive years or less rent, and 71% of those here for 10 years or less rent, according to Bibby. closures, a large percentage of home sales were premised on the idea that buying was a financial investment, not just a way Demographic Change to obtain shelter. That is shifting dramatically as more and more households make housing choices based on lifestyle or Thanks to an enormous wave of immigration in the 1990s even environmental factors, and no longer assume that own— the largest ever — one in five heads of U.S. households is now ing is a good investment. either foreign born or the native-born child of an immigrant. These housing choices are largely a function of changing There is also a dramatic change in what constitutes the “typidemographics, according to NMHC. The aging members of cal” American household. “For generations, married couples with the Baby Boomer generation are increasingly opting to trade children dominated our housing markets and they caused the in their suburban houses for apartments as they age and suburbs to grow explosively. But now they are less than 22% of their children move away from home, NMHC said. According households and that number is falling. By 2030, nearly threeto Census data, 75 percent of all seniors will change housing quarters of our households will be childless,” Bibby said. type between ages 65 and 80. “In fact, between 2000 and 2040, fully 86% of our houseA more powerful force for rental demand is the Echo hold growth will be households without children,” Bibby said. Boomers, that is, the children of the baby boomers. By 2015, “That’s a profound change that has serious implications for the kind of housing we need. Our future society will be domithere will be 67 million people aged 20-34 years of age, the

Declining Home Ownership Rates

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Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011

US household growth projections


nated by single people, unrelated actually produce net revenue (profits) people living together, couples for the U.S. government.  They pose changing demand, without children and empty nestno risk to the taxpayer.  But they—and household composition ers, and these households are much the nation’s supply of workforce rental more likely to choose the flexibility, housing—stand at risk of becoming a convenience and superior locations collateral victim of the single-family offered by rental housing.” meltdown.”  To meet this future demand “Over the past 40 years, there have requires a fundamental re-thinking been numerous occasions when the in how we approach housing in this private sector has been unable or uncountry. To meet emerging housing willing to finance multifamily loans,” he demands, half of all new homes built continued.  “A federally backed secondbetween now and 2030 will have to ary market with an explicit federal govbe rental units, according to Profesernment guarantee is absolutely critical sor Arthur “Chris” Nelson, director to our industry’s continued health.” of Metropolitan Research at the UniWithout the two federal mortgage versity of Utah. firms, from 2008 through 2010, there The multifamily industry will would have been widespread foreclohave to get busy to meet that projected demand. New sures of otherwise performing apartment properties because apartment construction set an all-time post-World War II low owners would have had no capital source to refinance maturin 2009 at 97,000 new starts. Construction levels in 2010 ing mortgages, according to NMHC.  were predicted to be even lower. “At the current rates of Bibby said that 90% of apartment loans purchased by starts and completions, we’re not even building enough to Fannie and Freddie are for properties targeted to people earnreplace the units that are lost every year to old age,” according the median income. “Fannie and Freddie’s multifamily ing to NMHC. lending is the government’s most efficient way of producing workforce housing,” he said. ❧

If It’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix it

Ironically, most casual observers see the current oversupply of vacant single-family houses because of the foreclosure crisis, and assume that the U.S. has a housing glut. That’s not true, Bibby said. “We do indeed have a glut of single-family houses, but on the apartment side we are heading toward a shortage as early as 2012. The shortage of affordable rental units is particularly acute.” NMHC is calling for federal, state and local policies that encourage the development of compact, sustainable housing located near transportation and employment centers. Bibby lauded the efforts of HUD and other federal agencies to coordinate housing and transportation to give Americans more affordable housing near jobs and transit. Bibby said that the Obama Administration’s proposal for changes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac single-family finance programs appears to move government policy away from an overreliance on homeownership. But he expressed concern about the plan’s lack of specificity about the future of Fannie and Freddie multifamily finance programs. (For details, see separate story.) “We urge policymakers to be very cautious and not cause unintended consequences by trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist in Fannie’s and Freddie’s multifamily business,” Bibby said. “Their multifamily programs are not broken.  They have default rates of less than one percent and they

FHA INSURES LARGEST “GREEN” RENOVATION The largest “green” transaction done with Federal Housing Administration insurance was closed recently by CWCapital LLC, a full-service, national lender to the multifamily and healthcare real estate industries. The loan was for $36 million to finance renovation of The Fay Apartments in Cincinnati, Ohio. The loan will support a 30-month renovation of the Fay Apartments between October 2010 and March 2013. Details of the renovation project include the demolition of 17 buildings, reducing the number of units to 703, and the implementation of “green” features for all units, such as energy efficient windows and doors, eco-friendly carpet and new HVAC systems. The loan represents both the FHA’s largest Markto-Market transaction as well as its largest “green” transaction closed to date, according to CWCapital. To complete the financing, CW worked collaboratively with Cincinnati-based CMC Mortgage Services Inc., who had initiated the finance project before enlisting CW to complete the deal and assume servicing responsibilities upon the loan’s closing.

March/April 2011 • Sustainable Communities

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Apartment Firms Embrace Sustainability, Green Building Replacing Light Bulbs Equity’s vast portfolio requires lots of lighting, so it has realized substantial reductions in energy use simply by replacing incandescent bulbs with LED or fluorescent lights. For the lighting in common areas and health clubs at its properties, it is installing occupancy sensors and daylight sensors to reduce energy use when there’s natural light or no one in the space. “LED technology is fabulous,” George said. “The fixtures last for 20 to 30 years, eliminating the need to stock replacements and the cost of labor to change ▲ Pool and spa area at The Crossing Apartments in Anaheim, Calif., developed by bulbs. Plus, they produce better light SARES•REGIS Group. The new apartment community boasts in its marketing of using recycled materials, offering a healthful indoor environment and its location on quality and use less power.” a sustainable site. Quoting from its promotional material for leasing: “Being ecoEquity is planning its first round of sofriendly is a no-brainer at The Crossing. We built in some incredible and innovative lar energy installations this year, includgreen perks for you to enjoy without even lifting a finger (how cool is that!)” ing photovoltaic and thermal hot water systems. Two are in New Jersey and one is in northern California. George said New Jersey and northern nergy and water-efficient buildings and sustainable deCalifornia are two areas where solar makes the most sense bevelopment practices are rapidly becoming standard procause of rebate programs and the high cost of electricity. Other cedure among leading providers of apartments installations are slated for properties in southern California and “We are very focused on sustainability,” said Alan the Phoenix area. George, chief investment officer and executive vice presiThe primary application for solar is for common area utilident of Equity Residential. “Sustainability is the right thing ties, as well as at properties where there is master project-wide to do, and it’s also a way of increasing the profitability of our metering as opposed to individual meters in each unit. company,” said George. Like other apartment owners, Equity is debating what to do The Chicago-based, publicly traded company owns 470 about energy saving measures for individually metered units, apartment properties with 130,000 units. Equity is making where savings accrue to the tenants, not the owner. sustainability a factor in all of its major decisions, and that’s Still, he said the firm is making in-unit upgrades that benefit been very well received by employees and customers alike, tenants. As part of its routine upgrades, it is now installing dual George said. flush toilets, and programmable thermostats. “Residents will In southern California, SARES•REGIS Group is pursuing give you credit for that in some way,” he said. “You can’t quansustainability and green building, both for its apartment tify it, but it’s the right thing to do.” properties as well as its commercial real estate ventures. The firm helps tenants be mobile without owning cars by “Before there was even a notion of passing S.B. 375 (Califoroperating Zipcar car sharing programs at some of its properties. nia’s anti-sprawl legislation) we always targeted transportaThe firm expects to acquire properties with a total value of tion corridors and infill locations,” said Mike Winter, senior around $1 billion in 2011. It looks for large projects in urban areas vice president in the company’s Multifamily Development that are near services and transportation. Years ago, Equity foDivision. It calls itself “the largest privately held developer cused on garden apartments that were more isolated in suburof green apartments in Southern California.“ ban areas but has since sold most of those assets, George said.

E

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Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011


California Greening

veloping designs and going through checklists to see what features and SARES•REGIS Group sees the incornew technology makes the most sense. poration of green building standards For example, new water-saving toilets, into state and local building codes as faucets and shower heads get tested by a positive development, according to staff members or in construction trailers Winter. The changes mean that private, to see if they are good enough to be put third-party certifications may no longer in a new project. be needed for new projects, which can Lenders are not particularly impressed reduce the company’s cost for consulby green features, focusing instead on a tants and certification fees. project’s financial feasibility. But the firm’s Given the difficulty in getting debt fiinstitutional investors like the green qualinancing these days, he said it’s prudent to ties of its buildings, Winter said. reduce the “soft cost of being green.” The In addition to energy and water-efficosts associated with getting a green cercient construction, the firm is making a tification from a private agency have been ▲ Alan George, chief investment major push to develop infill projects near as high as $100,000, he said. officer and executive vice president of jobs and transit. The company owns or manages Equity Residential In 2010, it opened Westgate Apartments 16,180 rental apartments and 15 million in Pasadena, a “green” transit-oriented square feet of office and industrial space.  It has more than 4 community of 480 apartment homes. million square feet of commercial and industrial space in Located in Pasadena’s historic district and two blocks from the entitlement process and 1,962 residential units in prethe Del Mar Station of the Metro Gold Line, Westgate offers a construction and development. clubhouse, resort-style pool and spa, five themed courtyards Winter said the firm does not see much potential in inand a fitness center.  SARES•REGIS developed it in a joint stalling solar panels, partly because it doesn’t project an venture with Equity Residential. adequate savings in utility costs to justify the cost, but also From a planning, design and sustainability perspective, because low-rise structures often don’t have enough roof this development is transformational,” said Winter. space to accommodate solar. Winter said new residents at Westgate are attracted by The company spends a great deal of staff time dethe combination of the property’s greenness as well as its easy access to transportation corridors, key job centers, shopping, dining and entertainment.  “It adds up to create a textDefend Sustainablity: Join PSC book example for the new-era of modern With budget battles raging in Washington, D.C. and many state capitols, urban planning and design,” he said. the community sustainability movement faces severe setbacks. In addition to Metro Gold Line rail If you care about making communities sustainable, now’s the time service, additional transit services servto act. Take a moment now to become a member of Partnership for ing Westgate residents include MTA Sustainable Communities®. Go to www.p4sc.org and click on “become a Metro Bus Lines with routes throughmember” in the green bar at top, or call 415-453-2100 x 302. out Los Angeles County, the Pasadena ARTS Bus System and Foothill You pay just $79 for an entire year. You will be supporting a good Transit. There are 174 bicycle parking cause, and you will receive these practical tools you can use immediately spaces clustered near elevator lobbies to advance your organization’s goals: throughout the subterranean garage. • Receive six issues per year of Sustainable Communities magazine, The development has two dedicated the only magazine focused on planning and community development with charging stations for electric vehicles. sustainability in mind. Westgate Pasadena is SARES•REGIS • Get access to our unique, 24/7 online Land Use Research Library Group’s second smoke-free, transit• Free access to premium content on our web site, oriented community.  It also opened • A free listing in our membership directory and The Crossing in Anaheim, a community • A 25% discount on The San Francisco Conference on Sustainable of 312 apartments that received LEED Housing and Community Development” slated for Sept. 19-20 Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. ❧

March/April 2011 • Sustainable Communities

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Fannie Mae headquarters

END OF AN ERA:

Pulling the Plug on Homeownership’s Life Support By Andre Shashaty

C

ongress created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make sure there was enough liquidity in the banking industry to provide a steady supply of mortgage lending at reasonable rates and terms. Now, in the aftermath of the mortgage meltdown, with the two agencies guaranteeing 90% of all home loans, the Obama Administration wants the government to reduce its financial support for the mortgage market. To make a long story very short, the administration is engaging Congress in a political dance that will probably end with Fannie and Freddie closing their doors in several years, and the federal government limiting its role to that of a guarantor of pools of home mortgages, rather than its current role as a buyer and securitizer of individual loans. The impact of the changes could be profound. Most analysts agree that home loans with fixed interest rates and long terms will be harder to get and more expensive. That will mean a reduction in the number of households that can buy homes and an increase in the number who must rent. There is some prospect that the changes will steer residential development back toward rental homes at higher densities than the single-family subdivisions that sprouted up during the last wave of easy mortgage money. The biggest unanswered question is whether households denied the safety of long-term fixed rate loans will once again find a ready supply of short-term, adjustable rate loans – the exact same kind of financing that caused the nation’s foreclo-

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Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011

sure crisis in the first place. The Obama plan talks in general terms about preventing predatory lending and requiring more “transparency” in how private market players do business, but it falls far short of a detailed plan with a clear chance of controlling the mortgage market. The long and very uncertain process of revamping the federal government’s role in housing finance began in February, when the Obama Administration released its 32-page report to Congress on “Reforming America’s Housing Finance Market.” The Obama proposal is very general, but it sets a clear direction: Federal backing for home loans is going to be cut back, but federal support for financing apartments will continue and might even be increased. The Administration wants to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and shrink the government’s current footprint in housing finance on “a responsible timeline,” which could be as long as ten years. The Republican leaders in Congress say they want to do many of the exact same things, but faster. They want to phase out Fannie and Freddie in four years.  Currently, the U.S. government guarantees more than nine out of every 10 new mortgages.  Both Obama and the Republicans say they want to bring the private sector back as the primary source of mortgage credit and make it bear the burden for losses.  What will be put in place after Fannie and Freddie are


wound down? The report offers three possible scenarios. One assumes that home loans will be entirely a private sector business with no federal backing. One assumes the market will be private, unless there’s a major credit market crisis requiring emergency federal intervention. The third option is some sort of mechanism in which the federal government will insure pools of loans to make an active mortgage securitization market possible. This is the option that allows some hope for continued availability of long-term fixed rate mortgages on a significant scale at a reasonable cost and is considered most likely to be enacted, The Obama report is vague as to timing, but it is expected to move this year to reduce the number of loans eligible for purchase by Fannie and Freddie, and to jack up the pricing for such loans. The plan also calls for increasing required down payments so that any mortgage that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee eventually has at least a 10 percent down payment. The administration proposes to make changes to FHA single-family programs to ensure that, as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shrink, the private sector – not FHA – picks up their market share.  The administration will do that by increasing mortgage insurance premiums and reducing the maximum mortgage amounts FHA can insure.

Financing Apartments The Obama report takes care to exempt financing for apartments from the end game for Fannie and Freddie. But even there, it hedges quite a bit. “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac developed expertise in profitably providing financing to the middle of the rental market, where housing is generally affordable to moderate-income families. As we wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it will be critical to find ways to maintain funding to this segment of the market.” Does that mean Fannie and Freddie will continue to exist and continue to do multifamily finance or that some other federal program will fill the gap that will be left when they are “wound down?” No one knows. The report is clear about the need for strong multifamily programs within the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). It promises an effort to “explore ways to provide greater support for rental housing.” It hints at the idea that FHA might absorb Fannie and Freddie’s multifamily staff, saying “one op-

tion would be to do so by expanding FHA’s capacity to support lending to the multifamily market. Key to this would be utilizing existing multifamily expertise so that FHA and other entities continue the industry’s current best practices and retain valuable human capital.” It goes on to suggest some possible “reforms,” such as risksharing with private lenders, to reduce the risk to FHA and the taxpayer, and programs dedicated to “hard-to-reach property segments, including the smaller properties.” It remains to be seen whether the Administration is just recycling old ideas or whether it really intends to make significant new efforts in these areas. The Mortgage Bankers Association of America and many other policy analysts believe FHA needs to be more autonomous to be more effective at innovation. One long-standing proposal is to make it a governmentowned corporation, free from the staffing and budgeting constraints of the federal government. What’s missing from the Obama proposal is any specific effort to steer the mortgage market toward a more supportive role in encouraging community sustainability. There’s been lots of talk about the need for a “location efficient mortgage,” that is, a type of loan that is underwritten to reflect the benefits of buying a house close to one’s job to reduce commuting time and costs. But the closest this report comes to suggesting any effort to innovate is this: “We must design access and affordability policies that are better targeted and focused on providing support that is financially sustainable for families and communities.” The Obama administration had a great opportunity to start a discussion about how mortgage finance practices, including FHA programs, can help lead to land use patterns and development practices that are economically and environmentally more sustainable. One can only hope that the report is just an opening gambit, and that the administration will soon put forward more specific ideas and policy proposals. Some critics are much tougher on the Administration. As one very well-informed observer of the finance scene put it, the reduction in government backing for home loans will put home buyers at the mercy of private lenders moreso than they have been for many years. They are handing the entire home finance system over to the same folks who screwed home buyers in the first place – the banks. “It’s stunning,” this observer said. ❧ March/April 2011 • Sustainable Communities

21


California vs. Sprawl:

The Battle Begins Planners confront the puzzle of how to grow sustainably as first specifics emerge from state’s ‘anti-sprawl’ law

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or a preview of the challenges faced by the 18 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) across the state of California in implementing Senate Bill 375, the state’s socalled “anti-sprawl” law, look no further than the Association of Bay Area Government’s (ABAG’s) “Initial Vision Scenario.” Two years ahead of the due date for the Bay Area’s final 2050 Regional Transportation Plan, scheduled for April 2013, the Initial Vision Scenario is a first-shot at identifying how, through land use and transportation planning, the Bay Area will accommodate a growing population while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks. “The release of the Initial Vision Scenario provides a starting point for conversations with local governments and Bay Area residents about where new development should occur, and how new long-term transportation investments can serve this new growth,” said ABAG in a press release. The Vision Scenario demonstrates just how hard it will be to turn a meticulous planning process into results, in the form of reductions in per capita emissions from use of private vehicles. ABAG candidly admits to two fundamental challenges for the region. First, the scenario’s projected impact on how much people drive is insufficient to achieve the state-mandated 15 percent per capita greenhouse gas reduction by 2035. Secondly, the scenario assumes a functioning, and even expanded transportation system, at Hasan Ikhrata, SCAG Mike McKeever, SACOG Ezra Rapport, abag the same time pointing out that the current Bay executive director chief executive officer executive director Area transportation system is unsustainable, with operators unable to afford continuation of serdo it. But we don’t want that,” said Ikhrata. “We will meet the vices at the current level. state GHG reduction goals.” In Southern California, public transit is a relatively new inIkhrata knows that congestion pricing and other measures novation, and the Southern California Association of Governto make it more costly to drive are a “hard sell” for the politiments (SCAG) is not relying too heavily on it to meet its GHG cians that run the cities in the region, but he promises that reduction goals. A massive expansion of the region’s commutSCAG will “put them on the table.” er light-rail and subways is one element, but SCAG is also purSan Diego, the first California region scheduled to complete suing compact land use and development strategies, as well a Sustainable Communities Strategy in October of this year, as ideas for making it more costly to drive private vehicles. adopted a preliminary plan for further developing its 2050 ReConfronting the economics of driving and parking private gional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Stratcars is absolutely essential to meeting the goals of S.B. 375, egy last October. The “hybrid scenario” emphasizes transit, said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of SCAG. “You can have rail/freight and highway improvements, as opposed to focusing a fantasy plan, that’s one way to do it. The law allows you to

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efforts in one area. Unlike ABAG’s Vision Scenario, the “hybrid scenario” is projected to achieve the state mandated 13 percent reduction by 2035, and actually surpass it by 5 percent.

Accommodating a Growing Population The San Francisco Bay Area is expected to grow by over two million people by the year 2035. Assuming a strong

A Primer on SB 375 SB 375, passed in 2008, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by coordinating land use, transportation and affordable housing planning. The law is part of California’s efforts to meet its AB 32 greenhouse gas reduction requirements: A law that requires California to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Here is how it works: Emissions targets: The California Air Resources Board sets greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets from vehicles for each of the 18 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in the state. The targets range from a 7-8% reduction by 2020 to a 13-16% reduction by 2035. Sustainable Communities Strategies: These emissions reduction targets shape Sustainable Communities Strategies that all 18 California regions must prepare. The SCS must show how each region will reach emissions reductions targets by putting housing, stores, jobs and transit closer together, reducing sprawl and vehicle miles travelled (VMT).

economy, the scenario estimates an additional 1.2 million jobs by 2035 and the need for 903,000 more housing units than currently are available. To accommodate this growth, “the Initial Vision Scenario makes the most of the Bay Area’s existing infrastructure,” explained MTC Planning Director Doug Kimsey. “It projects that 97 percent of all new households will be accommodated in already urbanized areas, and particularly in cities where residents have access to frequent public transit service. Under this scenario, 70 percent of the growth, or 632,100 new households, will go into places that have been designated ‘close to transit’ by local jurisdictions.” Specifically, ABAG forecasts 32 percent of the new growth will occur in San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. With 17 percent occurring in medium-sized cities like Fremont, Santa Rosa, Berkeley, Hayward, Concord and Santa Clara. The scenario does meet affordable housing targets, ac-

Regional Transportation Plans: The Sustainable Communities Strategy will be part of the next round of federal Regional Transportation Plans. Herein lies the power of SB 375: money. Federal regulations require that Regional Transportation Plans be internally consistent—so the funding outlined in a plan must be consistent with the plan’s Sustainable Communities Strategy. That is, transportation funding will have to be designed to achieve GHG reduction goals. Regional Housing Needs Allocations: SB 375 also affects the process by which regions ask local jurisdictions to plan for housing. Each region must plan to provide enough housing to match anticipated population and job growth in the area, and in all economic brackets. Based on the projected need for additional housing, jurisdictions must re-zone to allow for housing projects to meet the future need. CEQA Streamlining: There will be some relief from California Environmental Quality Act requirements for projects that are consistent with the region’s Sustainable Communities Strategy.

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commodating all the projected housing need by income level.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions The scenario only results in a 12 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks by 2035. This falls short of the state-mandated 15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It also assumes expanded public transportation. So, although slating only 3 percent of growth for greenfields is a start, over the next two years ABAG and MTC will need to come up with additional strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the area. For the full text of the Initial Vision Scenario visit www.onebayarea.org.

Southern California’s Approach SCAG is the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization, representing six counties, 190 cities and more than 19 million residents. Like other MPOs, SCAG is working hard to gather public —continued on page 40

California Senator Fights Freeway Expansion State Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) has introduced Senate Bill 468, which would require completion of existing mass transit projects and setting aside funding to improve local roads before any freeway expansion projects could occur in coastal cities. The bill is rare in its simplicity. The bill would apply statewide, but it takes dead aim at a proposed I-5 expansion in San Diego County from La Jolla to Oceanside, estimated to cost $4.5 billion and adding up to six new lanes to the already eight-lane highway. The expansion project already underwent a lengthy public comment period, drawing thousands of comments from interested cities, environmental groups and citizens critical to the expansion. Many comments echoed the sentiment in Kehoe’s bill: limited transportation dollars should fund public transit not more roads. Others expressed concern over the environmental implications of the project, including the health impacts on citizens living near the freeway. “There are better ways to move people through coastal communities than by only widening freeways,” said Kehoe. “Improved transit service costs less, lowers pollution, and reduces congestion. Better transit should precede freeway expansion.”

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Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011

Citizens Weigh in on As California regional planners gear up to start writing the Sustainable Communities Strategies required under Senate Bill 375, the public is getting its say. Surveys, hearings, workshops and other consultations are underway throughout the state.

Conducting Surveys The region with the earliest deadline to complete its strategy is the area served by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). In a survey of 1,200 residents of the 18-city region, SANDAG asked the public to weigh in on development of the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan. The survey revealed that 36% of residents ranked public transit as the highest priority for future improvement and investment, followed by 31% for major roads and 29% for freeways and highways. The three factors that respondents felt should carry the most weight when policymakers are developing transportation policies and plans are: • Reducing traffic congestion (74% extremely or very important); • Ensuring that the transportation system supports the needs of the local economy (73%); and • Improving the safety of the transportation system (64%). Reducing VMT & GHG Emissions: Among all residents surveyed, 63% stated that they were aware of the new legislative requirements pertaining to GHG emission reductions from cars and trucks, whereas 36% confided that they were not aware of the new requirements and 1% were unsure. When presented with 10 different strategies for reducing GHG emissions from cars and trucks, residents of the San Diego region were most supportive of the following: • Making road improvements that reduce bottlenecks and improve traffic flow (88%); • Expanding programs that encourage telecommuting and flexible work hours (87%),; • Improving the transit system so that it attracts more riders (84%); and • Concentrating new housing near existing employment centers and areas that are well-served by transit (82%). Overall, less than one-third of respondents supported fee-based strategies to reduce driving, including establishing parking fees in urban and commercial centers (30% support), increasing the gas tax (24%), or


How to Implement ‘Anti-Sprawl’ Law establishing a new fee on miles driven per vehicle (21%). Personal Behavioral Changes: Approximately half (51%) of San Diego residents indicated that, realistically, they are willing to reduce the amount that they drive during the next six months. Approximately 45% indicated that they were not willing to make this change, whereas 2% indicated that it depended on other factors and 1% refused to answer the question.

Holding Public Hearings In addition to opinion surveys, regional planners are hitting the road to conduct public hearings. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), which handles planning for the 9 counties and 101 cities around San Francisco Bay, is planning extensive public consultations over the next two years. In March, ABAG released its Initial Vision Scenario, which identifies “growth opportunity areas” in the region. The purpose is to start a dialog about where growth should occur.

housing needs allocations assigned by ABAG. A supporter of affordable housing development referred to the “environmental injustice” caused by the lack of housing for low-income people. He said more housing must be provided in the county. Under S.B. 375, transportation planning is linked more closely to planning for affordable housing. ABAG, like other regional planning organizations, makes regional housing needs allocations for each community in the region. The allocations now in force are for housing elements for 2007 to 2014. The next set of allocations, and the first that are required to dovetail with the S.B. 375 panning, will be for 2014 to 2022. One commenter talked about rising gas prices and how it was getting harder for Marin County employers to count on workers driving in from outlying areas in the east and north parts of the region. “Dispersing population in an era of rising gas prices no longer is a workable strategy,” he said, calling on ABAG to look at housing and transportation costs together.

Looking at Precedents

▲ Michael Rex comments at hearing

At a recent hearing before the Transportation Authority of Marin County (TAM), ABAG officials talked about the steps they are taking to write a Sustainable Communities Strategy for the region. They fielded a wide range of questions and heard a cross section of viewpoints. A recurring theme from the county officials and advocates present was the challenge of providing work force housing near jobs. An opponent of affordable housing said ABAG should not require her town to zone for more high-density housing projects. She said the town does not have sufficient city staff or sufficient infrastructure to meet regional

SB 375 created a state-mandated approach to planning for specific state-determined GHG emission reduction goals. It also linked transportation and housing planning. But planning organizations in metro areas, including San Francisco, generally have done previous plans that looked at land use and ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the Marin County hearing, the most recent San Francisco area transportation plan was called into question. In 2009, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) adopted the Transportation 2035 Plan for the San Francisco Bay Area, which specifies how some $226 billion in anticipated federal, state and local transportation funds will be spent in the nine-county Bay Area over 25 years. The plan included a program of incentives for cities and counties to promote future growth near transit in already urbanized portions of the area. It also included a Transportation Climate Action Campaign to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. The plan called for expanding carpool lanes into a Regional Express Lane Network that continues to grant carpoolers and buses free access to the lanes but permits solo drivers to pay to use available space in the carpool lanes for a price. The goal was to use the money to finance completion of the planned express lane network sooner and fund other mobility improvements like more express bus and rail services in the region’s most heavily traveled corridors. —continued on page 40

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Federal Funding For High Speed Rail Development Republicans take the offensive against high-speed rail—Governors’ rejection of grants triggers spirited debate

T

PHOTO: courtesy amtrak

he U.S. has lagged behind other developed nations on high-speed rail for years, and now it is falling behind developing nations as well. A new crop of Republican governors and the GOP leadership in the House of Representatives wants to keep it that way. Newly elected Republican governors in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin have loudly rejected federal funding for highspeed rail that was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The money earmarked for those states will be spent in regions that want the projects. The House Republicans now want to block Obama administration requests for $1 billion per year in additional funding for its ambitious rail development plan. If they succeed, the states that have accepted the ARRA funding could find it very hard to proceed with their plans. The Obama plan looked at the $8 billion provided in the ARRA as a down payment “to jump-start a potential world-class passenger rail system and sets the direction of transportation policy for the future.” “High-speed rail will modernize America’s valuable transportation network, while reinvigorating the manufacturing sector and putting people back to work in good-paying jobs,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The administration sees high-speed rail as the key to providing transportation for a growing population without massive congestion on our roads, and with less pollution. Republicans and the Tea Party activists who drive Republican positions are in a budget cutting frenzy, at least when it comes to domestic programs supported by the Obama Administration. But the governors who have rejected rail funding are slightly more pragmatic, saying there are too many unknowns and too many risks in the projects pursued by their predecessors. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio Governor John Kasich believes “there are too many unanswered questions about how many people would ride the train, how fast it would

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go and how much it would cost the state at a time when it is facing an $8 billion budget shortfall -- and that he has his own job-creation agenda to pursue.” Kasich told the feds he would rather use the federal funds approved for Ohio’s Cleveland to Columbus to Cincinnati rail line for freight rail or highway infrastructure. His request was rejected. In Florida, incoming Governor Rick Scott rejected federal funding for a line from Tampa to Orlando primarily because


of concerns about the state’s liability for costs not covered by federal funds. Ironically, the move came just a few weeks after the state adopted a 50-year transportation plan calling for high-speed rail (see Around the Nation). Wisconsin’s new governor, Scott Walker, is getting media attention for trying to curtail state workers’ bargaining Republican Governors rights. But he also rejected previously approved federal money for passenger rail service from Madison to Milwaukee to Chicago. His position on high-speed rail is simple: the

Scott Walker — WI

tion of the money rejected by Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. Other states are actively working on longer term plans for high-speed rail. As California Governor Jerry Brown put it: “High speed rail is a clean, fast, accessible alternative to air transportation and long in-state automobile trips. This

Who Rejected Federal Funds for High Speed Rail

Rick Scott — FL

John Kasich — OH

will create jobs and bring our communities closer together.  As our airports and highways become more crowded, the need for high speed rail becomes even more acute.” The debate over the Obama plan illuminated some deepseated positions on both sides of the discussion. Pro-rail groups focus almost entirely on perceived benefits of managing congestion and pollution. Opponents hammer away at the probability the projects will have construction cost overruns and that operational budget will run deficits. They do not want taxpayers to be burdened with those costs. The following excerpts from various articles and blogs will give readers a taste of the arguments pro and con for high-speed rail.

U.S. Dept of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Excerpts from his statement announcing the $8 billion investment in passenger rail.

rail money should be used for roads and bridges for vehicle traffic. “I believe it is a grave mistake for the federal government to insist on building an unwanted passenger rail system at a time when our roads and bridges are literally crumbling,” he wrote in a letter to LaHood. Meanwhile California, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, North Carolina, Vermont, Missouri and New York are forging ahead with plans for high-speed rail and will absorb the realloca-

With this historic $8 billion investment by President Obama, we are jump-starting American High-Speed rail. The bulk of the awards go to new, large-scale high-speed rail programs. In total, 31 states and the District of Columbia will receive awards. In addition to 13 corridor investments, we are also awarding several grants for improvement projects and planning. These efforts on existing routes and emerging corridors will lay the groundwork for future high-speed and intercity rail development.  We will make passenger rail more efficient, providing better service in travel markets across the country. • High-speed rail travel offers competitive door-to-door trip times

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PHOTO: California High-Speed Rail Authority

improve existing track, repair tunnels and bridges, and increase the speeds of lines already serving passengers. We can’t just put faster trains on old tracks and send them across bridges that need repairs. So, with these targeted investments, passengers will see many benefits in the near term. High-speed rail corridors will offer competitive door-to-door trip times. From Los Angeles to San Francisco, a 2-hour 40-minute comfortable ride from city center to city center will replace a 6-hour trek of fighting traffic to get out of one downtown and fighting traffic to get into another. High-speed rail will create jobs now and for the foreseeable future. We have commitments from over 30 companies in the rail business to create or expand U.S. rail manufacturing should they be awarded contracts for portions of this money. These companies know high-speed rail, and they could become partners to those awarded rail grants. What kind of jobs? Planning rail networks; designing, producing, and laying miles and miles of track; building, installing, maintaining, and operating equipment; constructing or upgrading stations, tunnels, and bridges; operating the routes. It’s pretty clear we’re talking about a lot of jobs--tens of thousands. And let’s be clear about this: that $8 billion will do its job-creation work right here in America. High-speed rail reduces oil use and the environmental costs of the mobility we prize so dearly. I’m an old-fashioned guy who grew up in the Midwest--I love cars. But let’s be realistic; cars are the least efficient method of travel we have, even with our fuel-economy standards. Rail ridership takes cars off the road. The interstate highway system that we take for granted today did not materialize overnight. It has taken over a halfcentury, and we’re still building onto the network. But, the point is that today we can take it for granted. Our highways take us where we need to go, and the nationwide coast-to-coast system has been a model for the rest of the world. And President Obama’s vision for high-speed rail mirrors that of President Eisenhower, the father of that Interstate highway system. 

▲ California High-Speed Rail

• It reduces congestion on key routes between cities • It reduces transportation emissions • And, most of all, it creates the jobs of the future, the jobs America needs right now I am very proud of what our transportation infrastructure helps us achieve every day. Moving hundreds of millions of people and millions of tons of goods from place to place. It’s amazing. But it’s not good enough. It’s the infrastructure of a previous century, one with plentiful energy and no sense of the role carbon emissions play in our health and the health of our planet. And it’s not adequate for the growth of our nation’s population, its commerce, its mobility. We need an expansive, safe and energy efficient rail transportation network. We need to generate economic development. We need to reposition our infrastructure for the 21st century. We’re connecting cities that are too close for efficient air travel but--with the highways connecting these cities nearly choked beyond capacity--too far for productive road travel. Cities like St. Louis and Chicago. We know that people already want to travel between these cities; we’re here to begin making that downtown-to-downtown travel significantly easier, faster, and more productive. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before we received many more applications than we had funds to distribute. States and regions and communities across the United States are clamoring for high-speed service. But some areas are just not ready. In some areas, investments to lay the groundwork for increasing the speed and reliability of current service have been deferred and deferred. Today we’re fixing that. We’ve made awards to states to

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Florida Governor Rick Scott: Statement on why he rejected federal high-speed rail funds After thoughtful consideration, Governor Rick Scott informed U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood of Florida’s decision to reject President Obama’s Tampa to Orlando high-speed rail project.

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• First – capital cost overruns from the project could put Florida taxpayers on the hook for an additional $3 billion. • Second – ridership and revenue projections are historically overly-optimistic and would likely result in ongoing subsidies that state taxpayers would have to incur. (from $300 million – $575 million over 10 years) • Finally – if the project becomes too costly for taxpayers and is shut down, the state would have to return the $2.4 billion in federal funds to D.C. The truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits. Historical data shows capital cost overruns are pervasive in 9 out of 10 high-speed rail projects and that 2/3 of those projects inflated ridership projections by an average of 65 percent of actual patronage. It is projected that 3.07 million people will use the train annually.  Keep in mind that Amtrak’s Acela train in Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore only had 3.2 million riders in 2010. And that market’s population is 8 times the size of the Tampa/Orlando market. President Obama’s high-speed rail program is not the answer to Florida’s economic recovery. We must make investments in areas where we will get a return for the shareholders – Florida’s taxpayers. Rather than investing in a high-risk rail project, we should be focusing on improving our ports, rail and highway infrastructure to be in a position to attract the increased shipping that will result when the Panama Canal is expanded when the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama are ratified and with the expansion of the economies of Central and South America. It is absolutely critical that we make smart investments with taxpayer dollars, whether state or federal, and I believe our state will be better served by spending these funds on projects that will benefit Florida and not turn into a spending boondoggle.

Reaction to Gov. Scott’s decision to reject federal funding Andy Kunz, president of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association in Washington, D.C. As the leading organization advancing high-speed rail in America, the US High Speed Rail Association must respond to Governor Rick Scott’s unfortunate decision to cancel the Tampa to Orlando high-speed rail project. In making his decision, Scott relied on a controversial report on the Tampa-toOrlando project published in January by the libertarian Reason Foundation. A key adviser was Robert Poole, a founder and transportation director of the Reason Foundation, and

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Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011

PHOTO: WTSP.com

decision to reject the project comes down to three >> mainMyeconomic realities:

▲ Demonstrators in Florida showed support and opposition to a proposed high speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando.

member of Scott’s economic transition team. The Reason Foundation is by no means an unbiased organization, as it receives funding from major conservative and corporate donors including oil and highway interests, and it’s consistently opposed to high-speed rail as a transportation alternative. Scott cited figures and projections pulled directly from the Reason Foundation report, using its false comparisons with other rail projects to justify his decision. Scott said, “capital cost overruns … could put Florida taxpayers on the hook for an additional $3 billion,” but he provided no evidence for this astounding number that more than doubles the capital costs. The number is from the Reason Foundation report, a comparison with the estimated cost per mile to build a segment of California’s highspeed line, which is 111 percent higher than the cost per mile to build the Tampa-to-Orlando line. However, the building costs of the two projects are hardly comparable because the California project has difficult right-of-way, land-use and terrain issues. The Tampato-Orlando line has a long-established right of way on the Interstate 4 median with accommodations for high-speed rail that have made it the most cost-effective and viable project in the nation. Scott also stated that “ridership and revenue projections are historically overly optimistic and would likely result in ongoing subsidies that state taxpayers would have to incur.” He again relies on the Reason Foundation report, which compares the annual ridership projection of 3.07 million with Amtrak’s Acela train, serving only 3.2 million per year in the Northeast corridor, with a total population eight times larger than the Tampa-Orlando market. This is another false comparison because Amtrak’s total ridership in the Northeast corridor is more than 12 million per year, and additional ridership is constrained by commuter trains in the corridor with an annual ridership of 250 million.


PHOTO: WTSP.com

The Tampa-to-Orlando line would run on dedicated tracks with fewer constraints and road crossings, allowing for faster and more-frequent service. The ridership projections are based on traffic congestion on I-4 and Central Florida as a unique tourist destination with 50 million tourists per year. It is interesting to note another conclusion of the Reason Foundation report that, if the Tampa-to-Orlando project were to move forward, the state should ensure that the builder and operator would be financially responsible for all cost overruns and revenue shortages. The business consortiums vying for the project were prepared to do just that, ensuring that Florida taxpayers would not be liable for any future costs for building and operating the system. Scott canceled the project before fielding business proposals and dealt a major setback to what would have been the nation’s first true high-speed rail line. Today’s headlines illustrate the importance of reducing our dependence on unstable foreign oil supplies, with oil prices at about $100 per barrel and forecasts of $5 per gallon for gasoline in the near future. Under that scenario, the Tampato-Orlando high-speed rail line would be a great alternative to driving on I-4 and would provide a model for America of energy-efficient transportation for the 21st century. Florida Sierra Club Gov. Scott’s rejection of federal high speed rail funding is a tragic loss for our state’s economy, especially our tourism industry, and our environment, but a win for Big Oil.  Sierra Club Florida regrets that Governor Scott has said “no” to bringing 21st century transportation alternatives to our state.  This decision maintains Florida’s addiction to oil and sends jobs to other states that will gladly accept our share of high-speed rail funds. Floridians lack transportation choices leaving us to drive our cars and burn oil and pollute our air.  Currently we have congested highways, dirty air and a need to

protect our coasts from oil drilling.  Sierra Club Florida believes that now is the time to invest in and build the foundation for a transportation system that helps move us beyond oil. High Speed Rail would have created jobs and provided Florida with an oil free transportation option.  Governor Scott’s “NO” today means no jobs, no growth, and no movement away from our state’s addiction to oil. While Governor Scott expresses a concern for the operating expenses of High Speed Rail, this decision ignores the on-going boondoggle of spending billions of our tax dollars on ever-expanding roads. In some parts of our state, roads cannot be expanded any further to accommodate growth and seasonal tourism traffic. Despite this tremendous disappointment, Sierra Club Florida will continue the fight for the clean transportation choices that our state needs. Governor Scott has just done all in his power to take away an important choice that would have put FL in the lead.  It’s now up to Floridians to work together at the local and regional level to rise to this challenge.

Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig Excerpts of press release, December 2010 about the signing of a public-private partnership agreement on high-speed rail development to bring Illinois “one giant step closer to achieving high-speed passenger service between Chicago and St. Louis by 2014.” “Clearly, the leadership, perseverance and commitment of Governor Quinn, Senator Durbin, and our private sector partners, has vaulted Illinois into the lead on the development of high-speed rail,” Secretary Hannig said. “This announcement is about more than just an historic achievement for Illinois and the Midwest. It is a celebration of the kind of partnership and vision that is creating jobs now and providing needed access to a crucial regional transportation alternative.” In September 2010, Governor Quinn announced that Illinois had become the first state in the nation to begin high-speed rail construction through an initial agreement to upgrade 90 miles of track between Alton and Lincoln. With the full Cooperative Agreement now in place, construction will continue in early spring from just south of Lincoln to Dwight. This phase of work is expected to conclude next fall. The next step would then be the installation of new, enhanced grade crossing warning protection. The public can expect to enjoy its first taste of 110 mile-per-hour train service when a 20-mile segment between Dwight and Pontiac is completed in 2012. Procurement of new cars and locomotives, as well as station upgrades, will be other facets of the project completed under the Cooperative Agreement.

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a wonderful day for Illinoisans as we celebrate a mile>> stone“It’sachievement towards becoming the first state in the

because I see jobs leaving Ohio, I see resources leaving Ohio, I see vital infrastructure leaving Ohio.  And I see other states being enriched by resources that would otherwise have created thousands of new jobs, revitalized our cities and helped keep our young people in Ohio.  I can’t understand the logic of giving up these vital, job-creating resources to California and other states at a time when so many Ohioans need jobs.”

nation to bring high-speed rail to fruition,” Governor Pat Quinn said. “We applaud the cooperation and hard work of all participating agencies to bring high-speed rail service, thousands of jobs, and economic growth to communities across the state.” “I’m proud that Illinois continues to lead the country in its pursuit of high-speed rail service. This agreement marks one more milestone in our quest to make safe, reliable, high-speed rail service a reality in just a handful of years,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. “ The Cooperative Agreement also outlines current plans for 110-mph high-speed rail service upon the completion of the construction that began in September. The agreement calls for a total of five daily round trips between Chicago and St. Louis, including three daily high-speed round trips in the initial 2014 schedule — and confirms on-time performance expectations of at least 80 percent for the service. Expected reductions in travel time of as much as 48 minutes between

Rail Written off as “Romantic Notion”

PHOTO: flickr.com/photos/auvet/2763300381/

Excerpts from Wall Street Journal op/ed by Wendell Cox, principal of Demographia, a consulting firm based in St. Louis. He served on the Amtrak Reform Council from 1999-2002 and is co-author with Joseph Vranich of the 2008 Reason Foundation study. “The California High Speed Rail Proposal: A Due Diligence Report.”

▲ The train depot in Lincoln, Illinois, will eventually see 18 passenger trains per day.

Chicago and St. Louis are also noted in the agreement, shortening the trip between the two cities to as little as 4 hours, 32 minutes. Amtrak operates passenger rail service along the route in cooperation with Union Pacific, which owns the track. In January 2010, the Obama administration awarded Illinois more than $1.2 billion in federal stimulus funds for highspeed passenger rail projects, including corridor improvements on Illinois’ signature route: Chicago to St. Louis.

Ohio’s Outgoing Governor Reacts to Rejection of Funds Outgoing Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland said: “Today is one of the saddest days during my four years as governor

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Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011

On Thursday the Obama administration awarded $8 billion in stimulus funds to plan and build high-speed rail projects in California and Florida, and for other routine passenger-rail projects masquerading as high-speed rail. This is a political plum to the states that will receive the money. It is also a dream come true for fans of bullet trains in Japan and Europe and the faster, greenhouse gas-belching Mag-Lev (magnetic levitation) lines. But this is not money well spent. Supporters say high-speed rail is a cost-effective, “green” solution to airport and highway congestion. In reality, it is costly to build and operate and has a negligible impact on highway and airport traffic. High-speed rail is driven by little more than a romantic notion to confer a European ambiance on American cities. Proponents also claim that high-speed rail is profitable, but this too is off the mark. Internationally, only two segments have ever broken even: Tokyo to Osaka and Paris to Lyon. Ridership in these markets has been bolstered by high gasoline prices and one-way highway tolls of $40 and $100, respectively. These and other foreign routes have attracted much of their ridership from a strong core of rail passengers that does not exist in the U.S. ❧

For more information: Midwest High Speed Rail: www.connectthemidwest.com US High Speed Rail Association: www.ushsr.com Reason Foundation, lobbies against high-speed rail: http://reason.org


Sustainable Housing & CD Conference Set for September 19-20 in San Francisco “New opportunities to build lasting value”

The San Francisco Conference on Sustainable Housing and Community Development brings together policymakers and practitioners to explore • New directions in urban and regional planning and what they mean for developers • Mixing uses to achieve sustainability, focusing on retail and housing (market-rate and affordable) • Implementation of new green building standards including CALGreen • Financing green building and retrofits and renewable energy for homes • New land use and zoning issues for affordable housing developers • Affordable housing weatherization and retrofits, including state and federal funding programs • New opportunities for commercial

and mixed-use developments on infill locations • Assessing the potential and risks of transit-oriented development, including the challenges of preserving housing affordability while increasing density • Strategies for coping with NIMBY and for winning entitlements • The Green Financing Update: A review of sources & methods of financing and equity syndication trends • Energy and water-efficient building techniques and certifications • Renewable energy generation • Winning zoning, design and parking concessions

The preliminary line up of speakers includes: • Ophelia Basgal, Regional Administrator, U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development • Dana Bourland Vice President of Green Initiatives Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. • Cathy Creswell, acting director, CA Dept of Housing & Community Development • Gary Downs, Nixon Peabody • Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director, Southern California Association of Governments • Tim Kemper, Regional Managing Principal, Reznick Group • David Reznick, principal and chairman, Reznick Group

Save the Date: September 19-20, 2011 And plan now to come to downtown San Francisco, CA For details, go to www.p4sc.org/sfconference Or call 415-453-2100 x 302. To register now, send an email to admin@p4sc.org and put “conference” in the subject line.  Or call 415-453-2100  ext 302.

is the theme of the first annual San Francisco Conference on Sustainable Housing and Community Development, which will take place September 19-20, 2011. “It’s been a challenging time for real estate developers and city officials. Money has been tight, and for affordable housing, resources have diminished dramatically, “ said Andre Shashaty, conference chairman. “But this is also a time of exciting changes in how we plan and develop our communities – a time when we must look to the future and forge new paths to healthier communities and a healthier environment.” The conference combines high-level policy discussions on new directions in policy and new strategies for developers with nuts and bolts sessions on getting deals done, including using new models of public-private cooperation. The big story in California is how to move from the bold environmental visions of A.B. 32 and S.B. 375 to a workable strategy for more compact development, including location of housing affordable to all income groups closer to job centers. Find out how planners, city officials and developers are working together to realize the three goals of • Environmental protection through reduction of private vehicle usage and green house gas emissions • Economic development, including jobs and more efficient use of government resources • Equity for all income and ethnic groups The conference is sponsored by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping city planners and development officials work with private real estate interests to advance smart growth and sustainable development. Cosponsoring is Reznick Group, a top 20 national accounting, tax and business advisory firm. Well known for our depth of knowledge in real estate and tax credit services, we also serve a wide range of industries that include government, healthcare/long-term care, financial services, nonprofits, professional services, renewable energy and technology. Other sponsors include: • Low-Income Investment Fund • Local Government Commission • Nonprofit Housing Asssociation of Northern California

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Focus on North Carolina Raleigh planners serve up higher-density solutions to challenges of growing population, limited land

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aleigh, N.C.–If you haven’t been to North Carolina lately, you might not recognize it. New data from the 2010 U.S. Census shows that North Carolina’s population swelled 18.5 percent over the last decade, making it the sixth fastest growing state. In contrast, the total population of the United States grew at only 9.7 percent during the same period. The state is home to 9.5 million people, putting it among the nation’s ten most populous states. To accommodate the growth, the state’s cities and towns are carefully planning land use, zoning and public facilities investing. Even more noteworthy is the fact that they are coordinating their efforts through the newly created statewide Sustainable Communities Task Force. Here in the state capital, a new comprehensive plan for the next 20 years was recently adopted with the hope of redirecting a growth pattern that had earned the city the nickname “sprawleigh.” The city now has over 400,000 people, and expects to add 120,000 households or 250,000 people by that year. “We realized sprawl was not sustainable,” said Mitchell Silver, planning director. “We realized we needed a new way to deal with growth so we had a serious conversation with our residents.” For one thing, projected increases in vehicle traffic would be difficult to accommodate, and most roads would need to be widened if the previous patterns of development continued. The city also had to look at demographics changes. The most fundamental trend is

PHOTO: JM Turer, Courtesy Wikimedia


A shopper enjoys the pedestrian-friendly shopping on Lassiter Mill Road at North Hills.

the increase in single households. By 2020 singles will surpass families. By 2050, the overwhelming majority of households will be single. And that will lead to a substantial oversupply of single-family homes. Other factors include the rising price of gasoline and the potential for water shortages, Silver said. The first step in writing the 2030 comprehensive plan was to analyze the city’s land capacity. The city has about 20,000 acres of developable land, not counting redevelopment sites. To get the most out of that land, the plan calls for increased density. It identifies 8 growth centers and 12 growth corridors. The plan envisions 60% to 70% of all new growth is to be in designated centers, with only 30% in suburbs. Density is a key method for keeping the tax base stable, Silver said. It would take 600 homes on 150 acres to equal the tax value of one high rise downtown, Silver said. A downtown high rise on 3 acres generates enough taxes to pay off the required infrastructure in 3 years, for an annual return on investment of 33%. “If you don’t support downtown development, you are really saying ‘raise my taxes,’” he said. The 2030 plan was adopted in 2009. The zoning and design code changes to implement the plan are under discussion this year. City leaders are trying to put a halfcent referendum before voters for development of mass transit. Silver acknowledges that there is sometimes resistance to high-density development. To win support, he advises focusing on how a proposed project will look and how it will fit into a neighborhood. His strategy is to mitigate density by careful handling of building frontages, heights and transi-

Facts at a glance:

Raleigh, N.C.

Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina, and the largest city in the state’s Research Triangle, also known as Raleigh-Durham and commonly referred to as simply “The Triangle.” The region is home to North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The U.S. Census Bureau reported Raleigh’s 2010 population at 403,892. This reflects 46.3 percent population growth over the past decade. Raleigh remains the second largest city in North Carolina. Charlotte is the largest city. http://www.raleighnc.gov/

tions to lower-density areas. “Height is the key, along with the transition to neighborhood, so the surrounding blocks are not overwhelmed,” he said. Raleigh has a hybrid zoning code, which combines elements of form-based code with traditional zones for various uses. By frontage, Silver means how the first 100 feet of a parcel will be treated, as well as parking minimums and maximums. In corridors with higher density, the city wants more public transit, more pedestrians and fewer huge parking lots in front of big boxes. One idea is to allow retailers to take corners of their large parking lots and use them for separate retail or mixed-use structures closer to the street frontage. Along with the comprehensive plan, the city is also committed to sustainability. It defines that as including three fundamental principles: economic strength, environmental stewardship, and social equity. According to the city, “a sustainable community is a thriving community; one that provides opportunity for all residents, cares for the environment, and has long-term vision for a prosperous future.” Sustainable Raleigh was created to provide guidance

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for policy development and goal setting for the City of Raleigh based on these principles. The organization partners with local businesses, universities, civic, and non-profit organizations to build relationships, and work collaboratively with all departments within the City of Raleigh in its mission to become a leader in sustainability.

North Hills – A Walkable Mixed-Use Community

▲ North Hills area in Raleigh offers a mix of uses in a walkable urban setting, just the kind of development the city wants to see more of.

North Hills is a successful infill redevelopment project that exemplifies many of the goals for Raleigh’s 2030 plan. In the first phase, a deteriorating enclosed shopping mall was transformed into a bustling mixed-use center. The site was a brownfield, and remediation is nearly complete, according to Kane Realty Corporation, the developer. North Hills now features 100 acres of thriving mixed-use development. Retail, dining, apartments, condos, townhomes and single-family residences are anchored by a luxury hotel, class-A office space and a 14-screen movie complex. Future plans include a continuing care retirement community and another hotel; construction will begin in the fall of 2011.

The development has 900,000 sq. ft. of retail, 700 residential units (all rental), 229 hotel rooms and 450,000 feet of office space. The most recently completed phase was Park & Market, which opened in 2010. Park & Market is luxury apartments above storefront shopping and restaurants with a Harris Teeter grocery store. Also completed in 2010 is the Captrust Tower at North Hills, class A office space with amenities and fine dining on the ground floor. This was a joint project with Kane Realty Corporation and Duke Realty Corporation. ❧

New task force encourages regional cooperation A key part of the movement toward more sustainable communities is regional cooperation and collaboration. This means overcoming the tendency of local governments to compete with each other to attract employers and residents. The North Carolina General Assembly chose to encourage cooperation by establishing a Sustainable Communities Task Force within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. North Carolina is now “the latest state to recognize the connections between cross-agency governance at the state level, coordination with stakeholders at the local level, and sustainable communities on the ground.” The task force’s design makes the connection between land use patterns and a range of sustainability challenges. Members include appointees from the North Carolina Departments of Commerce, Environment and Natural Resources, Transportation, Administration, Health and Human Services and the Housing Finance Agency, as well as representatives from the North Carolina American Planning Association, county government,

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city government, a regional collaborative organization, a sustainability nonprofit, the building industry and the banking industry. With $250,000 in state funding, the 13-member task force is charged with: • Promoting regional sustainability partnerships • Providing technical assistance to state agencies, local government, regional collaborations, and nonprofits • Indentifying and pursuing sustainable development funding • Making recommendations for sustainable development policies and program appropriations to Governor Bev Perdue, members of her cabinet, and the General Assembly • Distributing task force grants to regional sustainable development partnerships • Developing a common local government sustainable practices scoring system • Pursuing opportunities for coordination among state agencies and reduced overlap in the responsibilities of regional entities


Street Wise:

Cities Get High Returns From Low Cost Upgrades

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n a city where people love cars and car racing, you wouldn’t think the idea of pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly “complete streets” would go over very big. But the city of Charlotte has been putting its streets on “road diets” with great success. There is a commitment by the city to use transportation investments not only for mobility, but to create great places. For many years now, the city has looked at streets as more than just a way to get cars from one place to another. “As our director says 13% of all land in Charlotte is made of public streets, so we have an opportunity through streets to create a great public realm,” said Dan Gallagher, AICP, transportation planning manager for the city. Car racing is very popular in Charlotte, and in 2010, NASCAR opened its racing Hall of Fame right downtown. It used to be that people liked to drive down city streets fast as well, but the city’s transportation department is ending that practice one road at a time.

East Boulevard Remake

walk to [the] park or elementary school,” said Gallagher. The city responded. Instead of two lanes in each direction, the road was reduced to one lane in each direction, with a new center turn lane, plus bike lanes, and parking. The city installed pedestrian refuge medians with landscaping at each intersection. As opposed to a continuous median, the pedestrian refuge medians make it easier to cross the street without blocking left turn access to driveways. It also used “pedestrian bulbouts,” which extend the corner sidewalk at an intersection to reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians. Gallagher says the revamped street can accommodate the same traffic volume it did before but at lower speeds, since there is no passing. In addition to making the street easier to cross and allowing bicycle use, the change is also expected to reduce accidents.

PHOTO: Patrick Schneider Photography, courtesy of Visit Charlotte

On East Boulevard, drivers used to exceed the speed limit routinely. Neighborhood residents felt like the fourlane road was a barrier that they dare not cross on foot, forcing them to drive short distances from one side of the district to the other. Input from residents and business owners resulted in a transformative vision for this major cross-town street to become a more neighborhood friendly complete street. “It was considered a divider of [the] neighborhood, people did not want to cross it, and that was a problem. People told us they wanted to March/April 2011 • Sustainable Communities

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The city has completed 19 road diets and has 9 more on the books.

Economy “Complete Street” Charlotte has some advantages over other cities in its ability to innovate. It is a fast growth city with a strong revenue base, so it has not had to cut back on staffing and can still afford capital improvements. East Boulevard involved substantial capital improvements, and the actual roadwork cost about $800,000 for one mile. There is, however, an economy version of the road diet. In fact, many road diets involve nothing more than reconfiguring the lanes through restriping as ▲ East Boulevard part of routine resurfacing projects. Unlike more extensive streetscape projects, street conversions transform a street through new lane markings alone. While the actual curb-to-curb road width does not change, the new lane lines can transform a street to accommodate more users without adding to the cost of normal resurfacing. Typically, the city takes a road from four travel lanes for

Where streets are complete According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, 203 U.S. jurisdictions have adopted policies or have made written commitment to do so. Among the places with some form of complete streets policy are the states of Oregon, California, Illinois, North Carolina, Minnesota, Connecticut and Florida. The City of Santa Barbara, California calls for “achieving equality of convenience and choice” for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and drivers. Columbia, Missouri adopted new street standards to encourage healthy bicycling and walking. And the regional body that allocates federal transportation dollars around Columbus, Ohio has directed all projects provide for people on foot, bicycle and public transportation. The coalition has produced a map that shows where policy change is happening. It can be found at http://www.completestreets.org/completestreets-fundamentals/complete-streets-atlas/ The coalition’s web address is http://www.completestreets.org/.

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cars to three travel lanes for cars, and adds two bike lanes. This makes it easier for motorists and cyclists to share the road, as well as protecting pedestrians by providing a buffer space between roads and sidewalks. The additional 4 to 5 feet of buffer between walkers and cars makes a difference, Gallagher said. It makes pedestrians more comfortable and more likely to walk, he said. Gallagher’s department takes a very methodical approach to road upgrades, conducting surveys and consulting neighborhood residents on its design ideas. It has found that the street layout preferred by most residents, includes a planting strips between the sidewalk and travel lane.

Charlotte’s Urban Street Design Guidelines The changes on East Boulevard reflect a philosophy adopted by the city nearly ten years ago in its Urban Street Design Guidelines. The guidelines state the city’s belief that the safety, convenience, and comfort of cyclists, pedestrians, transit users, motorists, and the surrounding community, will all be considered equally when planning and designing streets. To accomplish this, street planning and design must be a group process to adequately reflect the varied perspectives of the street’s users. Simply put, the traditional method of planning and designing streets only to increase vehicle capacity is increasingly at odds with other, emerging objectives to create more and better land use and transportation choices. While increased connectivity should encourage travel by non-auto modes, all five street types are also explicitly expected to provide, in some form, for all modes. There is a shift in modal emphasis among the street types, with the Parkway


having the strongest automobile emphasis and the Main Street having the strongest pedestrian emphasis. Boulevards, Avenues and Local Streets are expected to provide some balance among the modes.

Buffalo Leads New York Cities on Complete Streets Can economically-challenged rust belt cities gain by redesigning streets to provide more than a fast route for cars? Yes, according to Demone A. Smith, a ▲ La Jolla Blvd. in the Bird Rock neighborhood of San Diego was taken from five lanes down member of the Common Council to two lanes to help create a more successful retail area. The city conducted an extensive public input process with help from consultant Dan Burden, founder of the The Walkable and in Buffalo, N.Y. Livable Communities Institute (www.walklive.org) The roadway design took out 4 signals At his behest, the council and one four-way stop, replacing these with 5 roundabouts. Today pedestrians only cross voted to create a new Complete 12-14 feet, with low vehicle speeds, versus 78 feet with signal designs. Retail life is now Streets Coordinator position, to prospering, and there is no traffic being deflected into the neighborhood. be shared by the City’s Office of Strategic Planning (“OSP”) and which works to create more sustainable, equitable and transit Dept. of Public Works (“DPW”). friendly communities in downstate New York, New Jersey, This new staff position will be charged with implementConnecticut and beyond. ing the City’s Complete Streets Policy, which was adopted in The first fruits of the policy were realized when Buffalo 2008, and regularly interacting with and reporting progress rebuilt the 700 block of Main Street, the design included a meto the City’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Board.   dian strip, bike lanes, new street trees, and a switch from oneBuffalo’s adoption of a complete streets policy put it ahead way to two-way traffic, according to the campaign. of other New York State jurisdictions in remaking its roadFor more info, visit the Tri-State Transportation Campaign ways, according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, at http://www.tstc.org/. ❧

North Carolina goes from good roads to “complete streets” The N.C. Board of Transportation has strongly demonstrated its commitment to improving conditions for bicycling and walking in North Carolina by passing a resolution to make bicycling and walking a critical part of the state’s transportation system. Although the department incorporated bicycle and pedestrian elements — including bike lanes and sidewalks — into many of its highway projects prior to September 8, 2000, this resolution exemplifies the department’s dedication to integrating these elements into its long-range transportation system. It also acknowledges the benefits that bicycling and walking offer: cleaner air, reduced congestion, more livable communities, more efficient use of road

space and resources and healthier people. The resolution also encourages cities and towns across the state to make bicycling and pedestrian improvements an integral part of their transportation planning and programming. The N.C. Board of Transportation approved this policy at the July 2009 board meeting. The policy requires planners and designers to consider and incorporate multimodal alternatives in the design and improvement of all transportation projects within a growth area of a municipality unless certain circumstances exist. The board has had increasingly detailed policies to encourage bicycle use on the state’s roads since 1978.

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CALIFORNIA VS. SPRAWL: THE BATTLE BEGINS —From page 24

input on how to make the region more sustainable. It has held workshops throughout the region. It recently sent a survey to 18,000 residents in the six county region. Hoping for at least a 10% response, results will come out this summer. The region has something no other region can boast – a public transit war chest. A recently approved sale tax measure will generate $40 billion for transportation improvements, of which $30 billion is earmarked for transit. The money will expand a network of light rail, commuter rail and subways that did not exist at all before 1990. However, SCAG is not looking to transit as the primary tool

CHIPPING AWAY AT SPRAWL If you fly into Los Angeles at night, look to the east as you approach the airport in Inglewood. That “carpet of lights” that goes on and on is the second district of LA County. It’s one of the most vivid examples of low-rise sprawl in the region, but Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas wants to change that. The supervisor knows that the expansion of public transit throughout the region represents a great opportunity to create new neighborhood centers. But he sees the potential not just of physical focal points but creation at the same time of civic and social centers for a stronger community. With sprawl, you tend not to have a strong civic, social, and political infrastructure, said Dan Rosenfeld, a top aide to Ridley-Thomas. Rosenfeld is quick to point out that low-density single-family neighborhoods are important and will still dominate the district. Rather, he is looking at increasing density at the intersections of major thoroughfares, primarily for neighborhood centers, with buildings of about 7 stories, with only a few going as tall as 20 stories. He said buildings that up to 85 feet tall are not likely to overwhelm nearby single-family housing. Rosenfeld and the supervisor want to see a height limit and limits on the amount of parking that’s provided in new development to discourage the distortion in transportation choices caused by free or subsidized parking. They also want to see conversion of commercial space to mixed use, generally with housing on top of ground floor retail.

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for reducing the region’s carbon emissions. It sees land use and development patterns as at least equally as important. The problem with transit is that it’s too expensive compared to driving. The answer is to change that equation, according to Ikhrata. “We are not charging the real cost of using our cars. I can park for $5 for all day in downtown Los Angeles. It’s ridiculous,“ he said. Ikhrata went on to point out the biggest challenge of all facing SCAG, ABAG and other MPOs: What assumptions to make about “externalities” that are beyond the control of planners and elected officials alike. For the S.B. 375 process, all the planning requires taking educated guesses about population growth and job creation. It also requires projections about the future cost of gasoline. “When gas hits $5 or $6 per gallon, it will be a different discussion,” said Ikhrata. For its planning, SCAG is assuming gas will cost $5.50 per gallon by 2020 in today’s dollars. ❧

—From page 25

“The MTC plan is a failure,” according to Michael Rex, a Marin County architect and advocate for improved transportation options. Speaking at the TAM meeting, he said the plan ignored the preference of the public for more rail travel options and focused on “tweaking” the region’s freeway system.  MTC did an extensive public outreach survey in preparation of creating their 2035 plan, Rex said.  65% of respondents said extending rail lines should be a high priority.  Only 38% replied that improving freeway performance should be a high priority.   Rex pointed to two charts from the MTC’s own report on the projected impact of implementing the plan. MTC’s objective in the earlier 2005 plan was to reduce vehicle miles travelled (VMT) per capita from 20 miles per day to 18 miles per day. If MTC’s 2009 transportation plan for 2035 plan is implemented, VMT will actually increase to 21 miles per day, worse than today and barely a fraction less than what the current trend projects without the plan. Regarding delays due to traffic congestion, Rex said, the 2005 plan’s objective was to reduce delays from 37 to 32 hours per year, but after implementing the 2035 plan, they project we’ll end up being delayed longer, about 47 hours per year. That’s better than the 73 hours of delay the current trend could produce without MTC’s 2035 plan, but still significantly worse than today, Rex said. “It seems to me that a plan that projects spending $226 billion that results in more vehicular miles traveled and worse delays than we’re experiencing now is a failed plan,” Rex said. He said MTC needs to start over to create a better plan as part of the S.B. 375 process. The question that no one can answer is whether better solutions can be found under S.B. 375 than what regional planners came up with before the “antisprawl” movement became enshrined in state law. ❧


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Cities See Economic Risk of Failure to Develop Transit Options By Andre Shashaty

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ities have many reasons for wanting to encourage more compact land use patterns and more use of transit, including the reduction of greenhouse gases. But many are most concerned with economics. “The economic prospects for communities will start to distinguish between those that are petroleum dependent and those that are less so,” said James Charlier president of Charlier Associates, Inc. (CAI) a transportation planning firm based in Boulder, Colorado. Many cities want to reduce their vulnerability to the economic risk of unpredictable and potentially very steep increases in gasoline prices. “For most of my clients, the story is not climate change, its economics,” said Charlier.

Cost of Gas Drives Housing Choice “Their ability to impact climate change is miniscule. However, their relative competitiveness in their region is something they can do something about,” he said. The current fluctuations in oil and gas prices are only a precursor of things to come, according to Charlier. He believes that “we are very close to being maxed out in our ability to deliver oil to market. Demand is right up against supply capability.” The supply of oil and the cost of gas will affect everyone who has to drive a lot to get to work or school or services, but it will affect lower-income people the most. Communities that are dependent on

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private cars won’t have the adaptability that more urban places do, he said. Job formation will gravitate toward the places that offer transportation options, he said. The demand for gas is dependent on how much Americans drive, which is measured by vehicle miles travelled or VMT. During the recession VMT has declined on a per capita basis.

Tract-Housing “Nauseates” Millenials However, due to population growth, VMT is still rising overall. Factor in the

demand from the developing countries like China, and the currently known reserves of oil might last less than 40 years, he said. New supplies can be developed but they will be very expensive. Charlier believes city governments understand these trends, and are responding by encouraging walkable mixed use, transit-served urbanism. Another powerful influence is the changing preferences of the new generation of young adults, often called Millenials, Charlier said. This generation is choosing a different, less cardependent lifestyle. Or, as Charlier put it so succinctly, “the idea of a threebedroom tract house in the suburbs is nauseating to most kids.” They are driving less than other generations, and are less interested in even having a driver’s license, he added. “People want to be less car dependent,” he said. “That’s why housing prices in transit-served areas are skyrocketing and prices in edge cities have cratered,” he said. ❧

Graphs compiled by James Charlier of Charlier Associates, Inc. show that vehicle miles travelled declined during the recession and have just begun to inch back up. Gas price increases are likely to contribute to an ongoing decrease in vehicle miles travelled on a per capita basis. However, population growth will mean the nation as a whole will continue to drive more. Another graph shows that domestic oil production, even with the addition of drilling in the Arctic, is projected to remain steady, while oil use for transportation is expected to keep rising rapidly, even with increases in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Looking back to 1955, Charlier’s data shows that vehicle miles travelled in the US have increased at a much faster rate than our population.

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Multifamily Weatherization Hits High Gear DOE targets apartments for 20% of production as spending deadline nears March 2012 deadline. On the other hand, government watchdogs and cautious housing and environmental groups are concerned that the money will be spent in a rush, accomplishing far too little in the effort to cut energy use from millions of aging single- and multifamily homes. The federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) received an infusion of just under $5 billion as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus program. The money has to be completely obligated by September 30, 2010 and spent by the end of March 2012. Success in spending the WAP money has been carefully watched, largely because it represents a one-time cash infusion to upgrade the nation’s housing stock. After the money is gone, the most the Department of Energy (DOE) can hope for is $320 million per year. That’s what the Obama Administration is seeking from Congress. The House of Representatives has voted to appropriate nothing for the program. The program began in 1976 for weatherizing singlefamily homes. Even though it has been allowable to do multifamily projects since 1985, that authority has not been widely used by local sub recipients. Until now. With pressure on to get the money out, more states are working to start or accelerate programs aimed at apartments occupied by low-income households. At press time, states had only spent about half the stimulus money, so they will have to hustle to avoid sending money back to the U.S. Treasury. DOE is saying it expects to spend 95 percent of the money by the deadline based on current rate of spending and production of weatherized units. It has an official goal of 591,000 units, but is hoping to hit 700,000. It expects

Green building gets all the media attention but cutting greenhouse gas emissions from structures depends also on retrofitting existing buildings. Is the $5 billion provided in the 2009 economic stimulus package making a dent in the problem of inefficient buildings? Sustainable Communities magazine takes an in-depth look at the successes and failures of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), especially in regard to multifamily housing.

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ith just about a year left to spend around $2.5 billion in remaining economic stimulus funds, 1,000 state and local administrating agencies are pushing hard to meet goals for retrofitting homes and apartments to save energy. They know the stakes go way beyond just how much they can save low-income families on utility bills. In the current politically charged atmosphere, nothing would please critics of federal spending on economic stimulus more than failure to spend all the money by the

Weatherization technicians repair and seal around windows

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▲ Weatherization technician drilling siding for sidewall insulation

▲ Crew installing a solar panel for a solar hot water system

that 20% of those will be in multifamily properties. (See chart for state-by-state breakdown of spending.) In addition to weatherized units, DOE says it is also creating a new generation of “clean energy workers” and is employing more than 15,000 workers nationwide.  DOE said weatherization assistance reduces energy consumption for low-income families on average 35 percent, saving families on average more than $400 on their heating and cooling bills in the first year alone.  Nationwide, the weatherization of 300,000 homes was complete as of January, saving an estimated $161 million in energy costs in just the first year.  One of the biggest complaints against the program is the failure to use the funds to retrofit significant numbers of federally assisted apartments. A report from National Consumer Law Center lambastes HUD and DOE for not doing a better job to coordinate their policies to facilitate more work on assisted housing. (See box for details.) A handful of states moved quickly to take a proactive approach to using the funds for multifamily, according to the Local Initiatives Support Corp (LISC). This includes Florida which allocated 20% for apartments, Rhode Island, which allocated 33% and New York, which created a 12% setaside. Other states that have tried to encourage use of the program for apartments include Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. Now, more states are joining the effort to get apartments into the mix, according to Doug Gurkin of Edgewater Group Energy Solutions (EGES), based in Spicewood, Texas. These states include South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Michigan, he said. One of the states just getting into the multifamily weatherization business is Michigan, where CLEAResult, an energy consulting firm, has a state contract to work with the state’s 30 community action agencies to get 3,000 apartments weatherized within a year. Gurkin weatherized a 160-unit property in

Holt, Mich., as prototype to help train the staffers implementing the effort. In California, however, low-income housing advocates are disappointed by the programs’ track record. At press time in mid-March, WAP money had been used for only 6,568 multifamily units – of which only 368 are units from projects on the official DOE list of HUD or USDA-assisted properties, according to the state Department of Community Services & Development. There are about 90,000 units of federally assisted rental housing in the state.

Making Strides for Multis In most years, 6 to 10% of WAP production is for units in multifamily buildings. DOE started pushing to do more multifamily units in 2009, when it entered a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Since then, DOE says it has more than doubled multifamily as a percentage of its production, said Bob Adams, a supervisor at DOE overseeing the program. “We feel confident we will surpass 20% of all production being for multifamily in the current program year,” he said. DOE has been criticized for not doing enough to advance the state of the art in multifamily weatherization. But Adams said it is taking important steps in that direction, directing a great deal of training and technical assistance at helping program subrecipients get up to speed on multifamily. It is also creating a multifamily energy audit tool that will work for not just WAP-eligible units but all multifamily units. The work is being done by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It will have different modules for different housing types and variations for different regions. DOE is also starting to put together guidelines on how to do

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Facts at a glance:

Weatherization

Program was created in 1976 and was expanded to include apartments in 1985. An energy audit is done to determine the scope of work for each unit. The grant covers 100% of the cost of eligible improvements. Maximum grant: $6,500 per unit, plus money to address health and safety risks. Common areas are not covered. Usually, master-metered projects can be weatherized if the owner can demonstrate that the cost savings goes to tenants through a reduction of rent. The program can be used for building-wide improvements, like new central heating, if at least 66% of the units are occupied by eligible low-income households.

weatherization for apartments, including work specifications and technical reference standards. He added that DOE is also trying to figure out a way to overcome obstacles to use of the program on housing financed with low-income housing tax credits. DOE sets the general direction and issues regulations, but the program distributes money by formula to 59 grantees, which in turn distribute it to community action agencies, nonprofits and units of local government. Some states have given their housing finance agency primary responsibility for the program but there is a great deal of variation in which state agency is in charge. The program is undergoing its first national evaluation in

▲ Mick Hayes, intake specialist for Edgewater, talks with managers at CopperTree Apartments in Houston, which was weatherized with federal funds.

two decades. DOE is also spot checking 30,000 units to make sure the work is being done well.

Helping Owners Access WAP The increasing effort to spend WAP funds for multifamily could help states get the money out in time. It also presents a great opportunity for owners of properties occupied by tenants earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level, or about $44,100 for a family of four. That’s the maximum a household can earn and still be eligible for a weatherization grant. “With all the differences in the implementation of WAP, one thing remains constant; this is an incredible opportunity for low-income and workforce rental housing to become more

Innovative Approaches Being Tested To improve the state of the art

$4,000 each.  Rick Samson, who

five or six states, all owned or

in building retrofits, DOE awarded

heads SAHF’s energy division, notes

controlled by SAHF members, who

grants for innovation in 2010. An

that “the power of the demonstra-

are national nonprofit developers. 

award of a Weatherization Innovation

tion is twofold.  It would bring energy

SAHF is in the final stages of project

Pilot Program grant of $2.59 mil-

performance contracting into the

selection. Typically all units are as-

lion went to Stewards of Affordable

private affordable housing sector and sisted under section 8 or a project

Housing for the Future (SAHF) for a

it would do so largely with borrowed

rental assistance contract (PRAC)

demonstration that would leverage

funds, making it widely replicable in

and in projects that HUD has certi-

the grant three to one with other

the assisted housing portfolio.”

fied as being eligible or that owners

funds to retrofit 2,500 affordable apartments at a cost of $3,000-

46

There will be a mixture of family and senior properties in perhaps

Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011

will certify under a process recently released by HUD. 


energy efficient,” said Doug Gurkin of EGES. In an effort to utilize WAP funds for his own apartment properties, Gurkin realized how complicated the application process was for multifamily. Now he has completed weatherization for several of his own properties and is working as a facilitator for other property owners who need helping making sense of the program. As DOE acknowledges, only a few states have solid experience making the program work for multifamily. Even in those states, it is still cumbersome, generally requiring evaluation of tenant eligibility and potential improvements on a unit-by-unit basis. Sub-recipients are responsible for allocating the WAP funds at the local level, and have substantial discretion in how they operate and what they require of applicants. There has been some effort at the federal level to streamline use of the program for federally assisted apartments for low-income families. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have provided the Department of Energy a list of properties occupied by residents that automatically qualify by income. Gurkin’s firm has now helped owners of 4,000 units complete weatherization, and has 30,000 more units in the pipeline. He is now working with owners in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York State, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Washington, Minnesota and Nebraska. Gurkin said it is important to note that the tenant is the applicant for this program, not the owner. Income information must be gathered for each tenant on properties not on the HUD or USDA lists. Therefore, unless a majority percentage

Federally Assisted Housing Wastes Energy, Money, Report Says The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) should be able to save $1 billion per year off the energy bills for apartments it owns, according to a new report, “Up the Chimney: How HUD’s Inaction Costs Taxpayers Millions and Drives Up Utility Bills for Low-Income Families.” “In the long run, HUD should be able to reduce its energy

PHOTO: Channing Johnson

▲ New HVAC units for individual apartments and units yet to be replaced at CopperTree Apartments

of tenants agree to provide the required documentation, local sub-recipients cannot perform under the program. Edgewater has perfected a system for getting tenants involved and doing the necessary income and utility spending checks. In Texas weatherization of multifamily properties is paying off for tenants, said Connie Gray, Housing and Energy Director for Programs for Human Services, Inc. in Orange Texas, which is east of Houston and just a short drive to the Gulf Coast. “Through WAP and the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), low-income apartment residents receiving weatherization measures are no longer having to choose between keeping their loved ones cool or warm, or utilizing their money towards food, medicine or even clothing instead.” She said weatherization is reducing their cooling and heating bills and keeping their families healthier and more comfortable while conserving energy at the same time. There is a savings of 25-30% in tenant electric bills, which is a huge recurring benefit. Gurkin’s clients are seeing an average expenditure of $5,900 per apartment.

▲ Charlie Harak

bill by 20%—representing $1 billion in savings that could be redirected to high-priority investments in the affordable housing stock,” said the report by Charlie Harak, Senior Attorney for the Energy Project at the National Consumer Law Center

March/April 2011 • Sustainable Communities

>> 47


>>

(NCLC), where he focuses on issues of concern to low-income energy consumers. The report states that HUD provides housing assistance for more than 3 million American families, 1.3 million living in housing directly owned by public housing authorities (“PHAs”) and 2 million living in privately owned housing where the owner or tenant receives rental assistance from HUD. Many of the buildings are poorly insulated and stocked with antiquated appliances that are in need of replacement and upgrading, says the report. HUD’s annual energy bill for its housing programs easily exceeds $5 billion. Yet in its most recent report on the topic to Congress, it reported shaving off only $33 million of that multi-billion dollar bill, 2/3 of 1%. “Clearly, HUD can do better for the taxpayers, for the lowincome families it houses, and for our warming planet,” the report states. It summarizes the impacts of HUD’s failures to improve the projects as follows: “Whether the housing authority pays some or all of the energy bills, taxpayers lose because money that could be more productively spent on needed capital repairs is being wasted on inefficient consumption of energy. Where the tenants pay the energy bills, they run the risk of having their utilities being terminated for non-payment and living without heat, air- conditioning or electricity—and even being evicted—because the energy bills are unaffordable. And regardless of who pays the bills, we all lose because our dependence on fossil fuels which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental and public health problems is exacerbated.”

Where YOUR STATE STANDS According to DOE, states where more than 20% of the weatherized units are in multifamily properties (or will be soon) include the following: Alaska California District of Columbia Illinois Kansas Nevada New Jersey

48

New York Ohio Oregon Texas Virginia Washington Wisconsin

Sustainable Communities • MARCH/APRIL 2011

The report does give HUD credit for making “some good initial steps” with funding made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA”), but it adds, the funding is time-limited. This paper explores the many ways in which HUD can do better, most of them “free” in the sense that they require no additional appropriations to HUD by Congress—although leadership from HUD as well as technical assistance to subsidized housing owners will surely be required. Seven “free” ways to reduce HUD’s energy bill are delineated, including: 1. Tapping more effectively into the estimated $4.5 billion utility companies and energy efficiency program administrators spend each year on energy efficiency so that a proportionate share of the funding reaches low-income, multifamily housing; 2. Providing ongoing support to subsidized housing owners that will allow them to coordinate better with the existing low- income Weatherization Assistance Pro-gram (“WAP”) which pays for insulation and other energy-efficiency related investments in low-income housing; 3. Better coordination between WAP and HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”) program so that energy efficiency investments can be more easily piggybacked on work already being done on the home through CDBG; 4. Providing assistance to smaller housing authorities so they can utilize “energy performance contracts” that are now almost exclusively used by large, well-staffed housing authorities to improve their energy efficiency; 5. Facilitating greater use of energy efficient “utility allowances,” thereby providing better incentives for housing authorities and private, subsidized owners to invest in energy efficiency; 6. Collecting much better data on energy usage in HUDsubsidized housing; and 7. Setting and attaining energy savings targets for HUD’s housing stock. The paper also recommends that HUD set up an Office of Energy Efficiency to help 3,300 housing authorities and many thousands more of subsidized owners achieve the maximum energy efficiency savings that are feasible and provide tenant education on energy conservation. ❧


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