Playing With Politics

A Blog on Law, Politics, Planning, Development, and Other Vices

Posts Tagged ‘Berkeley’

CiviLogica

Posted by Roobs on July 15, 2011

CNN reported on the state of California back on June 27th.  The report was somber, claiming that California’s ills are the cause of some basic woes, such as the housing crisis and the loss of jobs and our infamously difficult to run state legislature.  It does, nevertheless, do a poor job at actually analyzing what is actually causing many of California’s ills.  Enter a new blog called “CiviLogica”.  The inaugural post of this new blog takes on CNN’s report and identifies how they got it wrong.  But the post also does an excellent job of reviewing the underlying issues that face our great state.  Here is a quick clip from the post but I definitely recommend you link over and read the full post for yourself.

Recounting the net loss of California residents to other states, the article next considers the very real and ongoing crisis of California’s middle class. It rightly places some blame on the cost of housing, but punts on the question of why housing costs so much in the first place. What the article fails to explore is how the high cost of California housing is in large part a product of downzoning, NIMBYism, tax policy, and sprawl-type models of development. California’s most economically successful urban centers have been rendered unable to keep pace with their commensurate housing demand because of low-density zoning and the unremitting difficulty of building infill housing. In addition, by increasing the relative attractiveness of sales taxes as a revenue stream, Prop 13 has discouraged residential development for over 30 years. Meanwhile, sprawl has lead to increased land, infrastructure, and service costs, thus contributing to both higher housing costs and the loss of California’s farm and wild-lands. In apparent ignorance of this obvious cause, the piece mourns the loss of Orange County’s orchards to drab, monotonous housing tracts, but then fails to consider the alternatives. It bemoans long, smoggy commutes, but doesn’t pause to wonder why so many people have to drive or what can be done about it. This avoidance of deeper issues is something of a pattern.

Visit the site: CiviLogica

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Measure R: Giving Berkeley What It Wants

Posted by Roobs on November 3, 2010

This past Tuesday, Berkeley voters overwhelmingly passed Measure R, the controversial city measure that called for greener and denser development around transit in Downtown Berkeley.  Measure R passed with 64% of the vote.

Supporters stated Measure R is the greenest direction for Downtown Berkeley because it increases Downtown’s density.  And by pushing green building standards and encouraging new residents to live near transit, it will help achieve Berkeley’s Climate Action plan passed last year. Opponents, however, argued that Measure R is too vague and doesn’t go far enough to ensure affordable housing.  They also protest the increased height limits.

I previously wrote a post, Understanding Berkeley’s Measure R, that went over many of the opponents claims and found them to be largely unfounded, if not flat out false.  As it turned out, Berkeley voters did understand Measure R.

Measure R repeated part of the Downtown Plan the Berkeley City Council had approved last year. This plan was later rescinded after Councilmen Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington–the only council members who voted no on the original plan–led a controversial, though successful, signature gathering campaign to place the council’s decision on the ballot.  Measure R came to exist after the City Council scrapped the original plan and are  now tasked to create a new one.   With Measure R now in place, the Berkeley City Council has a clear direction of what the voters want to see out of their Downtown.  But some opponents are downplaying the passage of Measure R.

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Understanding Berkeley’s Measure R

Posted by Roobs on October 27, 2010

Measure R is about environmentalism but it is also about understanding how planning and development work to improve communities

Residents in the City of Berkeley will be asked this November to vote on the direction of their Downtown… again.  Like most issues in Berkeley, this measure is the subject of some controversy.

The fight between environmentalists and their opponents over how to plan the development of Downtown Berkeley has gone on for years, with affordable housing and the height of future buildings being two subjects of contention.

On one side, supporters of Measure R include environmental groups like the Sierra Club and The League of Conservation Voters, 7 of the 9 City Council members, as well as organized labor and a range of planners and economists, including former Labor Secretary to the Clinton Administration, Robert Reich. Supporters argue that Measure R is the greenest direction for Downtown Berkeley and that by increasing Downtown’s density, it will help achieve Berkeley’s Climate Action plan passed last year.

On the other side you have the opposition–which includes two council members, The Berkeley Daily Planet—a local news website, and the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, argue that Measure R is too vague and doesn’t go far enough to ensure affordable housing.  They also protest the increased height limits.

To understand why Measure R is on the ballot, you need only know that this measure repeats a part of the Downtown Plan the Berkeley City Council had approved last year. This plan was later rescinded after Councilmen Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington–the only council members who voted no on the original plan–led a controversial, though successful, signature gathering campaign to place the council’s decision on the ballot.  As a result, the City Council scrapped the original plan and are  now tasked to create a new one.   It comes as no surprise that both Arreguin and Worthington are the only two council members opposing Measure R and actively seeking its defeat this November.

In the end, whether Measure R is good or bad comes down to density, environmentalism and an understanding of how planning and development works.

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Posted in Economic Development, Politics, Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

NIMBY Say What?

Posted by Roobs on September 10, 2010

Just the other day at the website: Next American City, Yonah Freemark, an Urban Leaders Fellow, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, wrote a column talking about one of my favorite subjects: The East Bay Bus Rapid Transit project.  As readers will have figured out, I am very much in favor of this project and have written two posts about the issue: Why Berkeley is Wrong on BRT and Why Councilman Arreguin is Wrong on BRT

I take issue with Freemark’s columns, specifically his most recent entitled “Opposition to a Bus Rapid Transit System is More than Just NIMBYism“.  The biggest and most frustrating part is that many of the arguments against BRT in the East Bay are either false or based off false assumptions that do nothing to further legitimate debate.

In his three part column (currently at two),  Freemark quotes former Berkeley Willard Neighborhood Association president, Vince Casalaina and both seem to suggest their biggest concern is with greenhouse gases.

“If you’re going to put a quarter of a billion dollars into it,” he said, “It better do something about greenhouse gases.” Casalaina points out that the diesel bus line could actually reduce ridership on the mostly parallel BART rail line, which is electrically powered and therefore arguably cleaner.”

The part about this criticism I never truly understood is that, in the same breadth that many critics of BRT use to say that they care about the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, they also say the one thing they are most afraid of losing is “driving lanes”, the ability to drive your car and park when going to the stores they are trying to protect.

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Caldecott Tunnel 4th Bore

Posted by Roobs on August 10, 2010

Does Directional Traffic Congestion Affect Local Business Development?

A couple weeks ago, a friend made an interesting statement as we left an Oakland bar.  He said that he did not support the 4th bore of the Caldecott Tunnel, bringing the current three 2-lane tunnels to four.  He believes that the 4th bore is actually bad for Oakland business.

My friend stated that a 4th bore only benefits the reverse commute, meaning traffic headed into Contra Costa County and not Oakland.  Therefore, by making it easier to get to cities like Walnut Creek, we are taking away business from Oakland.  He was essentially making a direct correlation between directional traffic congestion and business development.

I thought a little about his statement and told him I disagreed and thought there was nothing terribly bad with the fourth bore project.  We pretty much left it at that and I didn’t think much of it until today.

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Posted in Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Uncertainty for North Oakland, Berkeley Transit

Posted by Roobs on July 19, 2010

Over the weekend I joined many Democrats in San Jose for both the CDP’s and CYD’s Executive Committee Meetings.  While there, I met up with a representative of AC Transit at the hotel bar (because that is really where the business of the Democratic Party goes down).

After overhearing a conversation I was having about the recent BRT debacle in Berkeley, The AC Transit rep came over and we talked a bit more on the subject.  Once we moved past our shared frustration with the politics of Berkeley, I asked him what the future of transit was looking like for Berkeley and North Oakland.  His up-front honesty was refreshing but also troubling given his comment.  He told me that AC Transit’s BRT route will terminate somewhere in Oakland.  Period.  Whether that be in Downtown Oakland or at MacArthur BART station is still up for grabs but nevertheless, Temescal and Berkeley will be left out of BRT and all of its glorious economic and street-scape benefits.

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Confessions of a Third Generation Latino: Dreaming California

Posted by Roobs on June 23, 2010

This is the final post in my series “Confessions of a Third Generation Latino”

Throughout much of this series of posts has been a common theme that i would hope is fairly obvious.  That is, the struggle between myself as a third-generation Mexican finding comfort and brotherhood amongst other generation of Mexicans and Latinos in general.

Because of how i grew up and the socio-economic status of my family, i never truly felt accepted by my fellow Latinos and, therefore, have never truly felt comfortable in situations when i am immersed in that culture.  This was never a question of whether one view is objectively correct over the other; whether or not i represent the better or worse half of American society mixing with Latino culture.  If anything, i would argue that i am far from the ideal.  Generally speaking, i am a Mexican who is, by and large, not that Mexican.  I don’t speak Spanish and don’t really engage in any of the traditional customs of Mexican culture.  I have a decent, though not great, understanding of Mexican history but also love the history and exploration of Mexican cuisine.  So who am I? Is it somehow appropriate that when I’m with a group of more “traditional” Mexicans that when i say “i’m third generation”, they give a collective “oh” as if it is somehow self-explanatory?  Where are we to go from here?

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Posted in Race & Identity, Third Generation Series | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Why Councilman Arreguin is Wrong on BRT

Posted by Roobs on June 18, 2010

This is a follow up to my previous post “Why Berkeley is Wrong on BRT

Councilman Arreguin collecting signatures against Berkeley's Downtown Development Plan. Yea, we fought on that one too.

Somewhere along the line, you would think that the constant barrage of facts and studies would prove some point.  Whether you are for or against something, the general train of thought is that the “correct” argument is the argument that has the most support (data, literature, etc) behind it.  Bus Rapid Transit is a positive thing for the neighborhoods and cities it serves.  There are numerous examples of BRT all around the country and the world.  BRT is nothing new and has been around for decades.  So you would think when Berkeley was asked to consider studying the construction of a fully tricked out BRT system they would take to heart all these examples and past literature and data to make an informed decision.  But Berkeley has its own rules and so does Berkeley City Counciman Jesse Arreguin.

Not since John Kerry’s infamous flip-flop during the 2004 presidential campaign against George W. Bush have we seen an example of moving back and forth on the same issue as we see with Councilman Arreguin on BRT in Berkeley.  Except in this case, Councilman Arreguin first didnt vote for anything, then indicated he would vote for it before finally voting against it.

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