Smart growth news – February 1, 2012

National News:

Transportation bill throws bones to GOP base
Politico – January 31, 2012

No earmarks, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, cutting Amtrak’s budget, forcing approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and ending mandatory spending on bicycle and pedestrian paths — what’s a diehard Republican not to like?

LaHood announces fourth-round funding of TIGER program
Jacksonville Business Journal – January 31, 2012

The next round of TIGER funding, called TIGER 2012, will make $500 million available for surface transportation projects having a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area or region.

Obama to Detail Housing Refinance Plan
Time – February 1, 2012

Obama on Wednesday was to draw attention to a proposal he outlined in his State of the Union address to allow homeowners with privately held mortgages to take advantage of record low rates, for an annual savings of about $3,000 for the average borrower. Obama was detailing his plan during a visit to a northern Virginia community center.

Chart of the Day: A Nation of Renters
The Atlantic Cities – January 31, 2012

Renting is on the rise – the number of housing units occupied by renters rose by 749,000 in the last quarter of 2011, according to the Commerce Department. According to this graphic, renters have surpassed buyers. Home ownership rates are also falling, at its lowest level since 1998.

Local News:

Foes threaten legal action to derail downtown streetcar project
San Antonio Express News – January 31, 2012

A 2004 VIA campaign brochure, labeled “Keep San Antonio in Motion!” explained why voters should approve a ¼-cent sales tax increase to fund creation of the ATD, which would pay for transportation projects for VIA, the city and the Texas Department of Transportation. It also included a note, in bold, italic type that “these funds would not be used for light rail or for projects on toll roads.”

Quirk proposal aimed at preserving open space
Baltimore Sun – January 31, 2012

The proposal would establish a Neighborhood Commons Overlay District, limiting the uses of open space inside the Urban Rural Demarcation Line (URDL) in Baltimore County that separates its least and most developed areas.

Cities can spend redevelopment money on housing
North County Times – January 31, 2012

Cities that had community redevelopment agencies eliminated by the Legislature would be able to spend the money they had set aside for affordable housing under a bill that passed the state Senate on Tuesday. Lawmakers acted as time ran out for the roughly 400 agencies, which were created after World War II as a way to help blighted neighborhoods.

Economic outlook brightens for San Diego County, index says
North County Times – January 31, 2012

The move to apartment construction dovetails with the focus that city planners and activists have placed on “smart growth,” which emphasizes placing residents in highly dense clusters of apartments and condos, served with mass transit.

In Atlanta, Housing Woes Reflect Nation’s Pain
New York Times – January 31, 2012

A sprawling Southern metropolis, Atlanta has become one of the biggest laggards in the economic recovery. In November, prices of single-family homes were down close to 12 percent compared with a year earlier, the largest decline among major metropolitan areas, according to data released on Tuesday in the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. Home prices regionally are now below their levels of 2000, making Atlanta one of only four metro areas to have experienced such a slide. The price of entry-level housing in the area — the lowest tier of the market, valued at just under $96,600 — fell by close to a third last year.

Landowners fight eminent domain in Pa. gas field
Wall Street Journal – January 31, 2012

A pipeline operator assured federal regulators it would minimize using eminent domain against private landowners if given approval to lay a 39-mile natural gas pipeline in northern Pennsylvania’s pristine Endless Mountains.

Downtown on the Rise
Atlanta Intown – February 1, 2012

Downtown Atlanta continues to grow and evolve as evidenced by the slate of projects – big and small – under way right now.

Opinion and Editorial:

Hard to see just one vision for growing Bay Area
San Francisco Chronicle – February 1, 2012

As nine counties that encircle a vast estuary, yes. As the domain of obscure regulatory agencies, you bet. But as a single interwoven region where 7.3 million residents feel a shared stake in something much larger than themselves, the ties are harder to see. This troubling realization hit me last week while I was trying to prepare a set of remarks billed as “A Vision for the Bay Area.” The audience was the Contra Costa Council, a gathering of business and political types that sought a tweedy generalist to kick off a panel on regional planning.