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Today’s must-read: Richard Florida on the shape of things to come

Submitted by on 1, March 9, 2009 – 6:45 am6 Comments

This past weekend I had the distinct pleasure of reading more than four paragraphs of something that wasn’t specifically about Alameda. (Hey, keeping you informed is a big job.) Wouldn’t you know it, though, Richard Florida’s cover story in the latest Atlantic Monthly, “How the Crash Will Reshape America,” addresses something very pertinent to us on this little Island: housing development.

Basically, he says America needs to stop far-flung, low-density suburban sprawl and replace it with development that sounds an awful lot like what’s being proposed at the Point – especially in talent-heavy places like the Bay Area that he says are poised to thrive. Per Florida:

If there is one constant in the history of capitalist development, it is the ever-more-intensive use of space. Today, we need to begin making smarter use of both our urban spaces and the suburban rings that surround them—packing in more people, more affordably, while at the same time improving their quality of life. That means liberal zoning and building codes within cities to allow more residential development, more mixed-use development in suburbs and cities alike, the in-filling of suburban cores near rail links, new investment in rail, and congestion pricing for travel on our roads. Not everyone wants to live in city centers, and the suburbs are not about to disappear. But we can do a much better job of connecting suburbs to cities and to each other, and allowing regions to grow bigger and denser without losing their velocity.

Florida, incidentally, is the author of “The Rise of the Creative Class.”


  • Jayne Smythe says:

    Yes, but in the same issue, here is an article about squatters in San Bernadino, which seems a more likely scenario in a financial climate where developers have no money with which to build and more free-standing buildings become vacant as the days pass.


  • DL Morrison says:

    Studies have shown that we could all make better use of the space in our homes, and I'll bet that's especially true in a city like this one, with all these rather large old houses which probably aren't getting full use — that is, their index of occupy-ability hasn't been maximized. Studies have shown that several people sharing a home can make far more efficient use of utilities and resources, and for that matter ABAG and even the state Legislature are now pushing for home-sharing as the next big step in meeting this century's challenges.

    Anyway, in the spirit of "think globally, act locally", I think I'll do my part by moving in with you. I don't know how much space I'll need, and right now I don't think it will be too much, but I guess we'd better keep it open-ended. I think bunk beds are the way to go, plus I'll need space in the kitchen and the bathroom and in the livingroom too, which you're required to make available because everyone has decided that you should. This is a big problem and you'd better get going because somebody needs to take care of this…

    Okay, so we need to "pack in more people" and fill the urban/suburban/whatever cores, because it's "smart" and all the studies and the academics and the never-ending supply of earnest planners all dedicated to the latest planning orthodoxy are convinced that this is very important. Okay, then why don't we all share in this burden?? Why don't ABAG and the State Legislature make this a regional priority with a contribution in some form from every city in the region?? Instead it becomes, "This is very important and we very earnestly believe that you need to fix it".

    Let's face it, it's politically easier to coerce a few cities into complying by whatever means than it is to coerce the whole region, but as a matter of fairness, the whole region is responsible for this, and as a matter of reality the great majority of cities in the Bay Area probably aren't contributing anything to solving this problem. Why shouldn't they?

    • ABAG actually has something called a regional housing needs determination where they do list out the number of homes, at four separate income levels, that they think each city in the Bay Area should be in a position to provide in order to meet anticipated need. (If I'm not mistaken, it's the same process that takes place through similar regional agencies across the state.) I say "be in a position to provide" because the RHND doesn't require cities to build housing, just to create the conditions (eg making land available for housing through zoning it as residential, for example) necessary for the housing to get built. That's part of what motivates these updates to the "housing element" of our general plan – we need to list out the ways we are making it possible for additional housing to exist. If you're interested in more information on this and the complete rundown of housing need by city, click here: http://www.abag.ca.gov/planning/pdfs/SFHousingNee

  • DL Morrison says:

    Yes, that's true, ABAG assigns housing goals to every city in the region, and they recently decreased the housing goals for cities farther out from the urban core, and significantly increased the housing goals for cities closer to the urban core, such as Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda. That's why I'm saying that they've increased the demand for high-density housing in certain communities without providing any kind of incentive or making any real demands on all the other Bay Area communities. The State Legislature is applying pressure as well — that is, with regard to cities such as Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda.

    See the statistics in this 2006 article from the Berkeley Daily Planet:

    "The basis of the quotas is set by ABAG’s Housing Methodology Committee, which Poschman [planning commissioner] said “is totally dominated by the outer rim” of communities outside the region’s urban core.

    “ABAG’s stakeholders (in the committeee include) the Green Belt Alliance, which believes that if you build studio apartments in Berkeley, people will not want three-bedroom homes in Antioch,” he said.

    ABAG also determined that new housing should be built near rail transit, further increasing the impact on Berkeley, and effectively “railroading” the city, the commissioner agreed.

    The net impact is to more than double the demand on the city [of Berkeley] for new housing.

    By comparison, the figures have dropped from peripheral jurisdictions like Antioch (4,459 to 2,300), Dublin (5,436 to 3,437), Pleasant Hill (714 to 592), Pleasanton (5,059 to 3,685) and San Rafael (2,090 to 1,490).

    Oakland saw the largest increase in actual numbers, (7,733 to 17,088), and San Leandro also more than doubled, from 870 to 1,903."

  • David Howard says:

    all of which, ignores, of course, that Alameda is an island, and the tubes are already at capacity – around 3550 vehicles per hour in the peak a.m. hour, for a capacity of roughly 3800 vph, and SunCal wants to add at least 1,700 vph, plus 12 buses in that commute hour. This will increase auto congestion in the west end, typically Alameda's low-income minority census tracts.


    The ferry is good to take to work if you live in San Francisco. But if you take BART to work, you probably drive to BART. And if you work in points east or south, you probably drive. Ask your friends and neighbors where they work and how they get there. You'll be surprised that so few of them fit into SunCal's framework.

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