This past Saturday, May 12, 2018, Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran and Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Nathan Ho moderated Housing Tour 2018, for the sake of better acquainting local residents with Transit-Oriented Development (TOD).
TOD’s all about maximizing the value of the areas surrounding public transportation. The idea is to position homes, stores, other businesses, and leisure spaces close enough to public transport to diminish people’s reliance on private cars. Cities that embrace and implement TOD do so in pursuit of sustainable growth, on a variety of levels…
The lessening of private car reliance is good for the environment. People’s resulting use of their own two feet in the course of transit is good for their bodies and health. And the concentrated presence of residences, retail shops, parks, and other leisure outlets in convenient spaces removes economic pressure from ordinary citizens, allowing them to devote more funds to their housing needs. Meanwhile, the increase of public transportation usage in an active TOD model pipes sustained, healthy revenue into public transportation, and thus public services that go back to the people.
It’s a multitiered win-win, with a particular emphasis on reducing housing cost pressure and actually introducing affordable housing into the cluster of TOD features, the better to alleviate an urgent problem in the Bay Area and many other parts of the state and country.
Prior to the tour, Mayor Tran and Mr. Ho led a panel discussion about TOD, featuring Kiyomi Honda Yamamoto of Greenbelt Alliance, Louis Mirante of California YIMBY, Abigail Thorne-Lyman of BART TOD Program, Paul Ring of The CORE Companies, and Konstantin Voronin of Republic Urban.
It was noted by Ms. Yamamoto that the farther people dwell from their jobs, the longer their commutes, and thus the worse the environment, along with the state of traffic and commuters’ general quality of life. TOD is marked by a conscious value system devised to ease such chain reactions of challenges. “I personally spend quite a bit of time working on affordable housing,” she said, citing how her Alliance fields pitches from developers, and focuses on affordability, convenience of access, and other TOD-intensive factors. “If it’s something our board thinks is a great fit, we will go out and advocate for that.”
Mr. Ho shared that he and his wife could personally relate to widespread concerns regarding the affordable housing crisis, being at the older end of the millennial generation: “We don’t want to be those millennials living at home,” he said, adding, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” But he did say, “We wanted our parents to enjoy their grandkids and not be their live-in babysitters.” Fortunately, they have been able to work out a reasonable independent living situation, though Mr. Ho acknowledges that many others haven’t.
Mr. Mirante spoke of controversial California Senate Bill 827, which received a surprisingly robust rash of nationwide Internet commentary prior to dying in committee this past April. The bill marked an attempt to lower rents by allowing for housing of up to four or five stories in pre-established residential zones around the state, within a TOD context. It was divisive, however, largely due to the perception that it stood to take power away from local governments, in terms of their ability to control and regulate the kinds of housing present in their communities.
“We’re bringing the bill back in a different form,” Mirante said.
Later in the morning, the event’s main attraction, the tour, was carried out to grant local residents and officials a close look at Apex Apartments (1102 S. Abel St.) and the upcoming affordable TOD Housing near to it.
The panel discussion had been solutions-oriented, yet marked by a clear acknowledgement of how challenging the region’s affordable housing crisis is. Conceptualizing solutions is one thing; implementing them is another story.
The City of Milpitas, however, is hopeful to stay active on the implementation side.