Professionals, representing architectural, engineering, transportation, entitlement, development and various consulting other firms, plus cities and agencies, attended the Urban Land Institute’s program on transit-oriented development (TOD). About 100 people gathered in the morning at the Santa Ana Country Club in Costa Mesa, CA, to talk about a subject that the ULI has been focusing on in the region since 2006, at a time when finding local consultants and developers in the County, who knew the ins-and-outs of designing and building a TOD, was non-existent.
ULI Member Matt Shannon, Managing Director of Urbanus Group, co-chaired the committee that organized the program. Shannon set the stage sharing the results of a ULI Study, called Reality Check 2.0 and the MyPlaceOC.org website used for conducting that study. “The population of Orange County is aging out of the workforce and the millennial generation is leaving OC,” said Shannon. “What is understood is that the economic health of OC is dependent on reversing the exodus. Reasons for this demographic leaving varies but high on the list of qualities desired were better multifaceted transit, diverse housing opportunities, and walkable communities.” These factors set the tone for the presentations that followed. Highlights of those presentations are listed below.
Jennifer Bergener, director of Rail and Facilities, OCTA and Managing director, LOSSAN
• Gave a brief overview of the life and death of past rail transit in southern California and the failure to resurrect a fully connected rail transit through the Centerline Project (Measure M1). Primary reason cited for the Centerline failure was lack of political will at the local level.
• The functioning of inter-county rail transit (LOSSAN), which has multiple owners, has been greatly improved by creating a Board of Directors for LOSSAN and making it a joint powers authority (JPA) that will have local control but still funded by the State. OCTA was awarded the management of the JPA, which creates a single point of contact to help improve services, operations, connectivity and marketing for all transit owners. Take-away: this approach is a ground up process which has been far more successful in developing new projects than the way Centerline was promoted. New Measure M2 projects in the pipeline designed to connect to the LOSSAN backbone are the Anaheim Rapid Connector and Santa Ana-Garden Grove Streetcar.
Miguel Pulido, Mayor of Santa Ana
• Expanded on the development of the Santa Ana-Garden Grove streetcar, which has an alignment route selected through local participation.
• Suggested that the area around the intersection of Raitt and Santa Ana Boulevard where the street car would go and the Willowick golf course may be areas of opportunity for TOD.
• Hopeful that this project will spur further transit development and connections.
Greg Angelo, Director of Countywide Planning/Development – Real Estate, Metro
• Outlined the transit projects under construction and spoke about the process for development of surplus property acquired for the alignment of fixed transit lines, always as joint development/TOD projects. Process involves community input first.
• Primary objectives for development of surplus property is to use transit for at least one trip and include an affordable housing component.
• Agency always enters into long term ground lease for development, 55 year term used the most.
• Agency is rather hands off when it comes to entitlement – developer is on their own but they try to work financial terms to accommodate entitlement process.
PANEL DISCUSSION HIGHLIGHTS
Moderator, Steve Gunnells, PlaceWorks, reiterates the structural workforce problem presented in the Reality Check 2.0 study (millennials leaving) and asks what the public sector should do to help. Selected response highlights from each panelist:
Rick Cole, Deputy Mayor, City of Los Angeles
• Recalled the history of Pasadena and the commitment the City made in the 90s to change to a transit oriented and pedestrian community. OC has to make the same kind of commitment.
• Help the general public not living in TOD areas understand how they will benefit from less traffic in their communities and that density will be more appropriate there as well if directed to a TOD area.
• Create intimate open spaces rather than large plazas that seldom work.
• TOD will be most successful if it is oriented for people – “make great places not just projects”.
Kacy Keys, Sr VP, J.H. Snyder Company
• For a successful TOD project start with public sector support and then get community on board.
• Developers need CEQA reform to reduce processing time and need to have public sector help with that.
• While Metro likes to use long term ground leases, most developers will shy away from them.
• Parking is still an issue with TOD but expects that over time that will lesson.
Pam O’Connor, Council Member, City of Santa Monica
• Expressed how Santa Monica is getting prepared for transit lines even before they are built by getting the planning in place first. The planning is not just for the ¼ mile radius from the transit stop but for all multi-modal methods to get there (bike paths, walkways, etc.).
• Sell the community on TOD by developing great places that would appeal to all the community not just those living nearby.
Neal Payton, Principal, Torti Gallas and Partners
• 6 things that the public sector can do to help TOD: have a parking strategy, have a specific plan with program EIR in place, give a density bonus for affordable housing, have a template for pedestrian friendly and public realm (i.e. form based zoning), land assembly for catalytic projects, and be an instrument of change and innovation.
• Fixed transit (as opposed to rubber tire transit) provides more stability for development because the route won’t change.
• To make mixed use (TOD with retail) be more successful, be careful to place parking at transit stops in such a way to force people through the retail.