APA Conference 2013: Invigorating Sessions and Audiences

This last Sunday (April 14th) I blew through Chicago to attend the American Planning Association’s big annual conference. I had the privilege of being on two panels, one of which was organized by John Beutler from Calthorpe Associates and also featured that rock star Jeff Tumlin. This session was about why job location is important to regional planning and what we can do to make more pedestrian/transit friendly employment districts. I talked about why employment locations matter and why regions should work to prevent employment sprawl. John gave a very clever presentation demonstrating how things would look if we treated pedestrians like cars, i.e., privileging the pedestrian and subjecting the cars to all of the absurd things we make pedestrians  do to walk from point A to point B. Can you imagine that? Jeff then showed that if you can’t take the jobs to the transit, companies can provide their own transit. He used the company Genentech and its South San Francisco campus as a really excellent example. Overall, I ended the hour feeling that we did a good job of “making the case” and the audience seemed really engaged.

My other session, organized by David Dixon from Goody Clancy and Kaid Benfield from the Natural Resources Defense Council, addressed the issue of planning for smart growth in low income communities. I won’t summarize the content because Jared Green provides an excellent recap on The Dirt (be sure to check the post out). However, beyond the excellent content, I was very impressed by the diversity of the audience. There were many more young people of color in this session than I’ve seen in practically any conference session I’ve ever been to. It was thrilling to see the next generation of planners vote with their feet for equitable planning by showing up in such large numbers for this session! Keep it up!

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TOAH Gets EPA Honorable Mention

Earlier this month, the Bay Area Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Fund (TOAH) was an honorable mention recipient of the 2012 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in the category of Programs and Policies. We are especially excited about this because SE had a major role in making the TOAH possible. Back in 2009, working with our CTOD  partner Reconnecting America, Strategic Economics made the case for why a property acquisition fund should be established in the Bay Area and provided the Great Communities Collaborative with initial ideas on fund organization.  The Bay Area MTC then committed ten million dollars in grant funds to the creation of acquisition loan fund and in the spring of 2011, TOAH began making loans.

To date, the fund has provided loans for a 153-unit high-rise for low-income families located in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco that is two blocks from a major BART rail station, and for a 64-unit building for seniors citizens of San Jose that is close to a VTA light rail station that has plans to provide free transit passes for all residents.

You can read the full EPA honor article here, and check out the units that TOAH has funded here.

Reaping Success with Multicultural Marketing

If you were house-hunting, how important would characteristics like the number in the address or a stairway oriented towards the front door be for you? If they could make or break the deal then you are like the many residents of Artesia Square who positively responded to MBK’s culturally specific designs and marketing. As Teresa Burney explains in Feng Shui Focus, developer MBK quickly filled units in their work/live development in large part because they modified units and shaped their marketing to explicitly appeal to Asian buyers. Actions MBK took included modifying floor plans to align with the principles of Feng Shui, removing the number 4 from addresses for its similarity to the Chinese word for death, and hiring associates fluent in languages such as Korean and Cantonese. Will the prevalence of multicultural marketing like this grow? It seems to have worked well for the Franklin 88 condos located near Oakland’s Chinatown, and is akin to the strategies developers employ to lure Gen Y renters, so I suspect it will. Your thoughts?

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