Monday, June 22, 2009

Sacramento Infill Strategy

Back in 2002, the City Council adopted an Infill Strategy with the purpose to removing barriers, promote more quality infill development, and to work closer with the community, developers, and public agencies in Sacramento.

In a recent overview report filed by the cities Infill Coordinator, between the years of 2005 and 2008, infill development in Sacramento had become a much larger share of total developments in the city but it still lags behind greenfield development. The increase in infill development in the City does not appear to stem from dramatic increases in demand or the number of infill developers, but rather an increasingly constrained supply of greenfield land. This has boosted the percentage of infill from 19% in the 2001-2004 period to 43% in 2005-2008 time period.

With growing numbers of local infill developers, increasing demand and a limited land supply, the percentage of infill development is expected to continue to grow. However, infill developers face a number of significant barriers including obsolete infrastructure, high construction costs and land prices, design issues, communityresistance, and a complicated regulatory environment.

The City has made a lot of changes to improve the regulatory environment for infill developers. Changes include the new streamlined MATRIX review process; clearer design guidelines; zoning changes to allow higher density and promote flexibility; fee deferrals and waivers for infill; grant funding for amenities in infill areas; and financial assistance to projects. In addition, the City has begun proactive efforts, such as the Shovel-Ready Sites Program, to invest in infill areas in order to leverage additional private sector investment.

Efforts to promote infill development in the City and the region have increased due to the benefits of this type of development. By placing jobs, housing and services near existing businesses and residents rather than at the City’s edge, the City can help reduce vehicle trips, improve air quality and reduce the long-term cost of having to build and maintain new roads, pipes, and facilities.

Unlike the residential market where a constrained land supply drove an increase in infill activity over the last four years, industrial, office, and retail development was influenced by different factors. Such factors include proximity to consumers, market demand, and ease of access. While non-residential development increased almost 70% in infill areas compared to only 28% in greenfield areas, a breakdown by type reveals a more complex picture.

Between 2005 and 2008, the level of industrial and especially retail development was higher in greenfield areas compared to infill areas. In infill areas, only office development was higher, but that was a result of significant high-rise office projects in Downtown such as the U.S. Bank Tower rather than a widespread increase in infill areas.

Since the 2030 General Plan proposes that two-thirds of all future growth will be infill, the City will be looking at new ways to promote infill development to meet future demand. The risk that the City faces is that if it is not able to increase the supply of infill development, people and jobs may locate in greenfield areas or elsewhere in the region. If more people and employers locate away from urbanized infill areas, our region will see less open space, increased congestion and worsening air quality.

All info above was provided by the City of Sacramento Summer 2009 Infill Report

Saturday, June 20, 2009

2600 Capitol Ave.

By Bob Shallit
Sacramento Bee

A Sacramento development company is celebrating a rare honor: Gold LEED designation for its midtown office complex. The certification – earned for green buildings with high levels of energy savings and water conservation – was awarded this week for the 55,000-square-foot project at 2600 Capitol Ave. Gold is the second-highest of four designations established by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council."To be honest, I didn't think we'd get the gold," says LoftWorks partner Mike Heller. "It's pretty tough to reach … but we just squeaked in."The airy, four-story glass building, finished late last year and now about half-occupied, was designed by the Sacramento-based Lionakis architecture firm.Getting the gold for a private-sector building is rare today, "but it will be the norm pretty soon," Heller says. "Those who don't embrace (green technology) will be behind the competitive eight-ball."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Concept for 8th & K Hotel Design

There appears to be a proposal or two in the works for 8th & K Streets in downtown Sacramento for when the market starts to recover and developers have better access to financing. The architects of Fletcher Farr Ayotte of Portland has recently completed concept designs for a new 409-room Hilton hotel at 8th & K Street along with a seven-story parking garage for the corner of 8th & L Street in downtown Sacramento.

This current proposal really bugs me in that there’s a massive parking garage planned for the corner of 8th & L Street. The hotel tower portion of the proposals decent and it would be great to see Hilton on K Street, but the massive parking garage planned next to the tower would be a horrible mistake devastating another pedestrian friendly corner of the city. This is the same design flaw that was used when the Library Tower was built nearly twenty years at the corner of 8th & J Streets. The Library Tower included an eight story parking garage next to the office tower leaving much to be desired for what could have been an awesome block. This current parking garage proposal only two blocks away from the Library Tower garage and it would be a shame to see another corner in the central city wiped out and turned into another enormous parking structure. I would recommend that the developer somehow tuck the parking into the structure like what has been done with a majority of other high-rises in downtown Sacramento. Incorporating the parking into the structure or underground would make the street appearance of the project much more attractive and would also avoid making the same mistake that the Library Tower made which is now a daily reminder of what poor city planning can produce.

As of now, this is just a concept and has not been through any of the cities Planning or Design Committees where I would hope that they will also see this design error in wiping out another corner of the central city for a parking structure. If this current choice of design is acceptable and built as planned, downtown Sacramento will soon resemble downtown Phoenix where huge parking structures are prominent on every other block.