One of the highlights of our Zoomposium on Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity last month was a presentation by Peter Calthorpe, renown architect, urban planner, a founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism, and co-creator—with Joe DiStefano—of UrbanFootprint, a web-based urban planning and mapping platform.
Peter and Joe have used this tool to evaluate the housing potential along El Camino Real, a 45-mile mostly commercial roadway through the heart of Silicon Valley, in an effort to address California’s housing crisis. Their investigation, which was expanded to cover the five-county inner Bay Area, helps inform the increasing interest in using stretches of commercial boulevards that aren’t thriving—especially now given the interest in online shopping and concerns about the coronavirus—to provide mixed-income multifamily housing near jobs in walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented neighborhoods in California.
The video of Denny Zane's conversation with Peter is here and begins a little more than 28 minutes in. Peter's PPT is here, and below are excerpts from what he said:
“I have never seen a challenge as big as the one we’re facing with the housing crisis in California. We need systemic change if we are going to deal with the escalation in housing prices for working-class and low-income people who are being pushed out on the streets. It’s a tragedy of epic proportions, and the time has passed for incremental and piecemeal approaches. People are afraid of infill development because of the traffic it will create, and they don’t believe expanding the transit network will solve the problems—which is where Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity come in. . .Read more
Metro CEO Phil Washington made it clear at our Zoomposium on Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity that because voter-approved Measures R (2008) and M (2016) made Metro probably the most well-funded transit agency in the U.S., Metro is not just about mobility anymore, and not simply a big transit construction program. The agency is, in Washington’s words, “about investing in communities, delivering jobs, training programs, small business assistance programs—as well as new transit lines.” You can listen to the July 16 Zoomposium here (Phil's conversation with Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane begins about 7 minutes in.)
He noted that LA County’s predominant infrastructure investments in the past have been mostly to construct freeways with the goal of providing more mobility—investments that in the end have in large measure divided us. The Measures R and M era of investment is doing something different, he added, funding construction of new transit lines with the goal of providing access to opportunity—education, jobs, healthcare—to “uplift disadvantaged and low-income communities.”
Other topics he addressed: Safe streets, a 10-minute walk to the bus/train, equity and the impact of Metro's investment in communities, Metro's investment in housing affordable to households earning less than 60% of AMI (35% of 4,500 units), $75 million for active transportation, bus rapid transit, electrification of Metro's fleet and the jobs this will create, and a bright future.
“COVID-19 has demonstrated that people are willing to drive less, and to walk and bike more, so we’ve begun supporting communities through grant programs to pilot safe streets and provide more space where people can be outdoors as we shelter in place. COVID-19 has shined a light on the most pressing issues we face as a region, has made us see that burdens are not shared equally. We’re seeing that black and Latino communities are suffering from the virus at higher rates, that blacks and Latinos living in low-income communities and people with poor health are the most vulnerable to the pandemic. And we’ve seen that economic repercussions have only increased the need for affordable housing and policies to stabilize these communities.”
A 10-MINUTE WALK
“Equity is the most central part of the solution, not only to our recovery from COVID-19 but to the broader picture at Metro: The majority of Metro riders are from lower-income households. Metro has the highest percentage of low-income riders in the U.S. Chicago, my hometown, comes in second. But while we have the most low-income riders we also have the lowest fares among systems of our size. And our goal is to ensure that all residents are within a 10-minute walk of a transit stop—we made that very clear in our long-range transportation plan.”
Addressing CA's Affordable Housing Crisis, Traffic Congestion, VMT, Air Pollution & the Climate Crisis
Move LA’s policy brief on affordable housing (click here or below) proposes a program the state Legislature and local government agencies could approve to help address California’s affordable housing crisis while also helping to reduce traffic congestion, vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
We believe that the crux of the state’s housing crisis is the specific and severe shortage of below-market-rate housing affordable to low- and moderate-income renter households. We also believe that expanded market-rate development, while perhaps important for other reasons, will not contribute in a significant way to solving this crisis of affordability.
And to address both our air pollution and climate challenge we recommend that: Affordable housing development should be a priority near transit service and should include safe and robust pedestrian and bicycle access as well as significant urban greening.
As a result of our affordable housing shortage, 1.7 million renter households with low, very-low and extremely-low incomes pay more than half of their incomes for housing. Another 1.2 million renter households—again, almost all low-, very-low, or extremely-low income—pay more than 30% of their limited incomes for housing.
Many of these households are families of color. This intolerable situation is a key driver of homelessness, which leads to reduced educational achievement among children who live in these households as well as increased medical problems among household members. This situation is also related to greater exposure to and worsened outcomes for the coronavirus.
Addressing the housing affordability concerns of these families is a significant equity and racial justice issue, and impose serious social costs as well as significant financial costs on the public. California’s senior population is especially at risk of intolerable housing cost burdens.
Our first foray into virtual programming was a huge success with our "Zoomposium" on Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity. With 600+ unique viewers and 13 panelists that included CEO, founders, executive directors, and industry leaders, we had a robust conversation on a strategy to address the housing crisis without displacement, gentrification, and neighborhood disruption.
The conversation started with presentations on opportunities to build transit and affordable housing by Metro CEO Phil Washington, UrbanFootprint co-founders Peter Calthorpe and Joe DiStefano, and Southern California Association of Governments Executive Director Kome Ajise. Vince Bertoni, Director of Planning for the City of LA, spoke about opportunities related to the built environment, as well as the history of redlining and top-down decisions made by the City of LA; and Metro's Countywide Planning and Development Senior Director Lauren Cencic spoke about Metro's vision for countywide Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Other speakers and topics included:
- Dr. Destiny Thomas addressed the issue of equity vs. justice and how we must not only address equity in the current system but replace an unjust system that resulted in the current inequities in housing, transit access and municipal services.
- Nancy Pfeffer highlighted the challenges of bringing much-needed housing, public infrastructure, and public transit to the resource-poor Gateway Cities.
- Tunua Thrash-Ntuk discussed the lack of funding and financing for affordable housing and the necessary conversation around minority ownership along these corridors.
- Joan Ling spoke about the incredible funding gap we have to actually build all the affordable housing we need so that residents are no longer rent-burdened and aren't being displaced or made homeless by rising rents.
- Romel Pascual talked about the joy he's witnessed during CicLAvia's events in so many LA communities, and how our quality of life is improved when streets are no longer just to serve cars but also serve people who can enjoy and thrive in their communities.
- KeAndra Cylear Dodds offered her perspective on equity and how Metro's evaluation of transit projects can both help and harm those who live in the communities where they are built.
- Cecilia Estolano provided a sum-up, saying that a more just and equitable society providing opportunity for all those in need must involve less D.A.D. (Decide, Announce, Defend) planning from government agencies and more M.O.M (Meaningful Organizing and Mobilizing).
We want to thank our fiscal sponsors: Community Partners, the Durfee Foundation, LA Metro, the Southern California Association of Governments, and UrbanFootprint. CLICK BELOW for links to the PPTs by the six speakers listed at the top of the page.
Presentation Slide Decks
- Phil Washington - Metro Update
- Peter Calthorpe - Scenarios Concept and Analysis (Part 1)
- Joe DiStefano - Scenarios Concept and Analysis (Part 2)
- Kome Ajise - SCAG Presentation
- Lauren Cencic - Countywide Bus Rapid Transit Vision & Principles Study
- Nancy Pfeffer - Arterial Corridors
Please consider joining Move LA’s “Zoomposium” TOMORROW (July 16) at 3 p.m. for a conversation with local leaders about a program we believe will help address our long-time need for affordable housing in transit-served, walkable, bikeable neighborhoods in LA County.
We are suggesting this could happen in places that haven’t been seriously considered before—underutilized stretches of the county’s many commercial boulevards.
Identifying appropriate sites for development is a major challenge to constructing new housing. Finding land along these urban boulevards would mean we wouldn’t need to upzone residential neighborhoods for more development and would also help avoid displacement.
UrbanFootprint co-founders Peter Calthorpe and Joe DiStefano will use their urban planning software to show us the possibilities along what we are calling Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity (read more about this on our blog). Email [email protected] if you have questions. Register HERE.
Globally, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, and nationally, the challenge to ensure racial justice, are all challenges that present us with generation-defining choices.
Locally, our need to provide sufficient affordable housing without displacing current residents and to end homelessness also presents us with generation-defining choices. And, as noted on Metro’s The Source blog this week, mobility in LA County is “at an intersection” and the choices before us "could be generation-defining.”
Black Lives Matter and the rising up for racial justice has brought a “renewed focus on the failures of our public systems, the disparate outcomes they produce, and the power structures and privileges that entrench them,” Nolan Borgman wrote on The Source.
Transportation is at an intersection, he also noted, because four months after the coronavirus forced California and LA County to virtually close down our economy, traffic is greatly diminished and many more people are walking and biking.
In this context, we offer a proposal we call “Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity” to help address the challenges before us, especially the need for affordable housing and for ready mobility.
Please join us, an impressive roster of speakers, and 400 registrants next Thurs., July 16, at 3 p.m. for a Zoomposium to discuss creating Boulevards of Opportunity. You can see who will be speaking, find more info, and REGISTER HERE.Read more
We’ve told you about our program to re-imagine stretches of commercial property along some of LA County’s underutilized boulevards—we call them “Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity”—with the addition of high-quality transit, especially bus rapid transit (BRT), and new moderate-density neighborhoods comprised of mixed-use, mixed-income, multifamily development.
Why boulevards? Because they offer significant opportunities for affordable housing without the displacement of current residents or businesses. Displacement is a major challenge when housing is built in existing neighborhoods, but most boulevards aren’t zoned for much housing. We believe that wherever there are homes or businesses, however, they must be protected.
Protecting against displacement and building robust affordable housing will help ensure that this development helps remedy rather than exacerbate historic racial injustices and concerns about equity. Building these neighborhoods near transit also addresses the problem that the people who ride transit the most are often priced out of neighborhoods with high-quality transit.
Join our online Boulevards of Equity & Opportunity Zoomposium JULY 16 at 3 p.m. to talk with an impressive line-up of transportation & affordable housing experts re: if, how, why & where Boulevards of Equity & Opportunity are feasible. REGISTER HERE. Speakers include Metro CEO Phil Washington & UrbanFootprint co-founders Peter Calthorpe & Joe DiStefano. All speakers are on the registration page.Read more
The world has become more challenging for all of us these past several years, especially recently. Move LA started building a campaign in 2007 to address LA's then soul-crushing traffic congestion. But we did not know then how deep our community's affordable housing crisis would be become nor how severe would become our crisis of homelessness. We knew climate change would be a generational challenge, but we did not know an IPCC report in 2018 would say we had but a decade to turn things around.
The important question for Move LA now is what can we do, together with allies and coalition partners, to help make progress on important issues related to clean transportation, affordable housing and smart land use over the next couple of years? Below are our priorities for the next decade.
Last week we emailed you about the opportunity expand Bus Rapid Transit in Los Angeles County because it will create jobs, help get our economy moving, and it could just be part of the solution to our impending climate crisis (less than a decade away from irreversible harm).
LA Metro understands all this and has been conducting a “Vision & Principles Study” to develop an overall vision, goals, and objectives for BRT in LA County. They have analyzed the top 30 highest performing corridors (see image) and are working on assessing these corridors to shorten the list to 3-5 priority corridors for recommended BRT implementation. These are in addition to the BRT projects already funded and in planning in the North San Fernando Valley and the NoHo to Pasadena lines.
Please visit MetroBRTstory.com and take 5-10 minutes to complete the survey and provide your input. The survey will be open for responses through May 31, 2020.
The website also provides an incredibly detailed map of corridors analyzed by the Study Team. Your input to the survey and your feedback to the opportunity to expand BRT throughout Los Angeles County will be critical for Metro as they move forward with this important effort.
Los Angeles and every urban area in California is looking for solutions to transportation challenges as well the affordable housing crisis.
Fortunately, a big part of the solution to one—where to build new housing without threatening existing neighborhoods, for example—is part of the solution to the other. These solutions have been taking root here over the past few decades. We need to encourage, even accelerate, them.
Mixed-use development with multifamily housing on commercially zoned land has become popular in many communities in Los Angeles County. We believe that if we are going to help solve the affordable housing crisis in the aftermath of COVID-19, this is the type of development we need to encourage and accelerate by making it easier to build throughout the county, especially along commercial streets well-served by transit.
Many of these streets—or at least stretches along these streets—are in need of revitalization and and redevelopment. We propose enlivening them and giving them new purpose by turning them into “Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity”!
If Metro were to choose a few of these streets for their planned zero-emission bus rapid transit (BRT) projects and work with cities to develop attractive neighborhood plans, these streets are likely to attract investment, development, renters and riders. BRT costs less and takes less time to construct than light rail lines, operates on dedicated lanes so it provides better on-time service than regular buses, and Metro has set aside money to build several BRT lines.
Our goal would be to encourage investment in mixed-income, mixed-use, moderate-density development (maybe 4-5 stories) in order to create these new urban neighborhoods by first improving them with BRT service, making the streets and sidewalks better and safer places to walk and bike, and adding street trees and urban greening—a key ingredient to success. Another key ingredient: new state and local funding for affordable housing (more on that in another email).
We aren’t the only people talking about using what are currently "moderate-density” commercial corridors to address the housing crisis. Peter Calthorpe, renowned architect, urban planner and a founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism, and Joe DiStefano—co-creators of UrbanFootprint, web-based urban planning and mapping platform—used this tool to evaluate the housing potential along El Camino Real, a 45-mile mostly commercial roadway through the heart of Silicon Valley.
Join us on Wednesday, June 10, for a Zoom webinar from 1-3 p.m. with Peter Calthorpe and Joe DiStefano, who will use UrbanFootprint to help us understand the potential for BRT, housing and community development on select boulevards in LA County. Register HERE.Read more