Lawmakers get creative in tackling state housing shortage

Some novel approaches to tackling California’s housing crisis are continuing to gain traction in the state Legislature this year.

Take AB 73 by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco. This bill, supported by the California Apartment Association, would incentivize local governments to zone for more housing.

The bill seeks to spur the creation of housing on infill sites around public transportation by providing incentives to local governments to complete upfront zoning and environmental review and rewarding them when they permit the housing.

“As you know, California is in the midst of an unprecedented housing crisis caused by a severe lack of new housing construction at all levels of affordability,” the California Apartment Association says in a letter supporting the legislation. “This housing shortage costs the California economy between $143 billion and $233 billion per year.”

AB 73 now heads to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.

Another innovative bill still making its way through the Legislature is SB 35 by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

This bill would create a streamlined approval process for housing in cities that are not meeting their housing goals.

“SB 35 will make it easier and faster to build housing throughout California and will stop the obstruction of housing that is all too common in California,” Wiener said in a news release.

Under SB 35, cities lagging behind their housing goals would need to streamline the developmental review process for housing projects that meet certain criteria, such as affordability, density and zoning standards.

Streamlined projects would be approved “by right,” meaning they would move forward without a drawn-out review process.

SB 35 won approval from the full Senate earlier this month and now awaits a hearing in the Assembly’s Committee on Local Government.

“A major impediment to the construction of more housing is an overly burdensome local approval process and resistance by local no-growth advocates,” CAA says in a letter supporting SB 35. “In addition, excessive litigation through CEQA process significantly increases the time and costs of constructing new housing.”

Another innovative approach to streamlining the approval process comes from Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside. Under SB 540, cities would identify locations for new housing, adopt specific upfront plans, conduct necessary environmental reviews and foster public engagement.

“SB 540 will help local governments do their part by establishing a process they can use to speed up the permitting of housing,” CAA said in a letter supporting the bill. “It also provides a stream of no-interest loans to help local governments with their efforts to do proactive planning, paving the way for new housing.”

The bill is now awaiting hearings in the Assembly Local Government and Natural Resources committees.

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Are You Properly Maintaining Your Homeowners Association?

How is your homeowners association holding up? Do you have buildings in need of repair? Has the HOA board set aside funds for inevitable future repairs? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then it’s time to find out. Why? Because it’s the Board’s job to protect and maintain the association and keep it safe. Sometimes, the safety of lives is even at stake. You don’t want to wait for something bad to happen before taking action, like one homeowners association did in Florida. Read more in the article excerpt below.

Posted by:

Why You Should Care About Another HOA’s Balcony Collapse

In this week’s tip, we talk about what you should do in the wake of the February collapse of a second-floor, wood balcony of a condo association in the Florida panhandle.

Thankfully, the incident caused only injuries, not fatalities. But 11 people harmed is nothing to dismiss, even if it didn’t happen in your community. It’s still smart to understand how condo associations can get to this point and what to do to prevent it from happening in your association.

“I think this serves as a great example for those associations that are deferring maintenance,” states James R. McCormick Jr., a partner at Peters & Freedman LLP in Encinitas, Calif., who represents associations. “This could have been the result of improper or faulty construction. But if this balcony fell as a result of deferred maintenance, we as an industry should use it to encourage associations to avoid this type of disaster in the future by performing proper maintenance.”

What steps should you take? Here are the first two of five:

  1. Don’t have a reserve study? Do one now. “First of all, have a reserve study with a site visit to have someone visibly inspect these types of components,” advises Mary Arnold, CMCA®, AMS®, the Austin, Texas-based national director of training and community association management support at RealManage, an association management firm headquartered in Dallas, Texas, that oversees properties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and Texas.

“That way, you can plan for maintenance,” says Arnold.

  1. Check your local and state regulations.

[Continue to original article]

reserve study is an important tool to do a sort of safety check within your community – it’s also the law in California (Civ. Code §5550). It is crucial to keep you on track with maintaining your community. If the reserve study is not realistic, reserves are not being funded properly or the HOA board is choosing to defer maintenance, your association can be put at great risk. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

The best solution is prevention. Safety in a homeowners association is best achieved by Board members fulfilling their responsibilities to protect, maintain and enhance the Association, obeying the laws, and staying compliant. An HOA manager and reserve specialist can help by conducting a reserve study, periodically doing walk-throughs of the Association, and looking for issues that may become safety hazards.

Are Cool Pavements All They’re Cracked Up to Be?

The unexpected consequences of reflective paving

Asphalt Concrete is the most common pavement material, but its dark color absorbs heat.

Reflective pavement can go a long way toward reducing the urban heat island effect, but the embodied energy and emissions in some materials may present unexpected drawbacks, according to new research from the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The research team conducted lifecycle assessments of conventional and cool pavement materials and simulations of building energy consumption to examine the environmental impact of each material’s full lifecycle. Asphalt concrete, the most common material used for pavement, is dark and has a low albedo (a measure of solar reflectance). Cement concrete is lighter, and thus has a higher albedo, but it requires a high-temperature process that is considerably more energy- and carbon-intensive than making asphalt from petroleum. Albedo affects buildings by reflecting more or less sunlight to them and by changing the outside air temperature, though a higher reflectance is generally considered a positive as less heat is absorbed.

The researchers also compared the two types of concrete to reflective coatings as well as pavement that includes industrial waste products like slag and fly ash as a way to replace some of the energy-intensive cement in concrete. The energy and emissions associated with each pavement type’s materials and construction were paired with a regional climate model and simulated building energy consumption to determine the likely impact on buildings. The team was surprised to find that in most cases, the extra energy embodied in the cool material far outweighed the energy savings from increasing the albedo.

“Over the lifecycle of the pavement, the pavement material matters substantially more than the pavement reflectance,” explains Ronnen Levinson, a researcher in Berkeley Lab’s Heat Island Group. “I was surprised to find that over 50 years, maintaining a reflective coating would require over six times as much energy as a slurry seal. The slurry seal is only rock and asphalt, which requires little energy to produce, while the reflective coating contains energy-intensive polymer.”

Solar powered air conditioning is finally here, and it’s totally boring

by Lloyd Alter 


Video screen capture EcoWorld

Instead of fancy new technology, it’s all about combining improved efficiency with low cost solar panels.

For over a decade we have been writing about how solar powered air conditioning was the holy grail. AC is a huge energy suck and is needed most when and where the sun shines brightest. We have looked at absorption technologies and all kinds of fancy solutions and alternatives to traditional AC units.

But it turns out that solar powered AC is not some new technology, but simply a result of grinding out improvements in existing heat pump split units, combined with the continuing drop in the price of conventional solar panels, with a dollop of building energy efficiency improvements that reduce solar gain and resultant cooling loads.

That’s how we get to the EcoWorld Solar Hybrid Air Conditioner. Australia’s Renew Magazine calls it much more sensible than all the complicated solar powered absorption designs:

It simply uses a dedicated 1kW solar PV array to drive the air conditioner, greatly reducing the energy required from the grid. In full sun, the unit can draw as little as 30 watts from the grid while producing its rated 3.5 kW cooling/ 3.8 kW heating capacity.

EcoWorld claims that you can “stay cool or warm without the huge energy bills. Use it more often without regrets.”

passive vs grandmaPassive house or Grandma’s house?/Public Domain

What is so cool about this (sorry) is how it is not a revolution but an evolution. For years we went on about designing our homes so that we could live without air conditioning like Grandma did, which is hard when Grandma didn’t have a choice, and when we live in a warmer, more crowded world.

Now we know that a combination of solar panels, better mini splits and radical building efficiency can keep us comfy all year round.

Tags: Air Conditioning | Australia | Solar Power

5 Answers Your Property Management Visitors Must FIND on Your Website

By  –

Websites on the Internet have an average conversion rate of two percent. What does that mean? It means that 98 percent of website visitors are not doing what you want them to do – like filling out a form on your website to learn more about your property management services.

It’s up to you, to grow your property management business, to make sure visitors can quickly find the information that matters to them so they choose your company over your competitors. At Fourandhalf, we’ve worked on hundreds of high-converting property management landing pages and we’re excited to share the 5 details you need to have on your website to convert more visitors today.

What Do You Do and Why You’re Special

People searching for property management services can still end up on the wrong page. It seems obvious, but make it easy for people to see exactly what you do (property management) and where you service (whatever city of market you’re in). This is as simple as displaying at the very top of your home page: “[Area you service] Property Management.”

Next, you need to demonstrate what makes you special. The best way to do this is by addressing the pain point that matters the most to your clients. Ask yourself, “What’s my customer’s morning thought?” As this will help you pinpoint your customer’s biggest headache when it comes to property management.

Once you are able to identify the issue, you’ll be able to position yourself as the company that solves that problem. This can be as simple as a tagline:

Case Study #1Tough Time Placing Tenants

Gulf Coast Property Management learns after speaking with new prospects that the main challenge for Bradenton landlords is placing a tenant.

Notable QuoteI’m not able to find a qualified tenant to my rental property. 

The Solution: Mention the average amount of time it takes for you to rent out a property.

Good Property Management Tagline

Case Study #2: Burned By Bad Service 

Hampton & Hampton learned that many of their clients are coming to them after a bad experience with other property management companies.

Notable Quote: I can’t seem to find a good, professional property management company.

Solution: Mention your experience and the accreditations that you have achieved.

Good Property Management Tagline 2

Chances are, this copy is already on your website! Don’t hide the juicy stuff that can really draw your visitors in. If you are able to connect your clients’ pain points to your solutions, then you will be the company that gets the phone calls.

What You Offer

Can visitors quickly understand what you offer? Show them how they can engage with your services so they not only know what you do, but how it will benefit them. Real Estate Connections does a great job in showing what they offer to landlords and owners.

Why Are You Trustworthy?

Give your visitors’ confidence that you are qualified to help them! Validate your work by including testimonials and reviews that you have generated on the internet. This will give visitors peace of mind that you’re a company people like to work with. Reference the associations you’re active in. When you’re affiliated with professional organizations, you’re demonstrating that this is your passion and your focus, and you’re dedicating your life to being a better property manager rather than someone that is just chasing a quick buck.

Independence Realty does a great job in letting their customers speak for themselves. Their use of Fourandhalf’s Managed Reputation widget has translated into new business for Independence Realty by allowing them to showcase their best reviews. Show your reviews, affiliations, and credentials, it will go a long way in getting that owner phone call.

What Do You Want Them To Do?

This is an area people tend to forget. You only have a limited amount of time with your website visitors. You are taking them on a journey, so remember to tell them what you want them to do. It is as simple as asking them to book a free consultation. You want visitors to provide their information, and you need to make it easy for them to do so. You can’t have visitors getting so far into your page and then not knowing what to do.

Bonus-Tip: What Can They Do If They Are Not Ready to Buy?

Not every landlord on your site is ready to buy; they may be visiting sites for research. So, you want to give that landlord a reason to visit your site again. This is why creating blogs and articles is so valuable. Blogs giving your best advice in handling rental property in the area gives landlords a reason to visit your site. If you want to get advanced, include free downloadable materials, such as a free e-book or a free rental analysis from sites like Rentometer or RentRange so that you can stay in touch with them when they are ready to buy property management services.

Your website is useless if it’s frustrating to navigate. Make sure your visitors can find what they need immediately, and give them a good reason to contact you. If you have any questions on how your website can help you grow your property management business, please contact us at Fourandhalf.

About Nitu Sidhu

Nitu brought to Fourandhalf a Google AdWords certification where he began working on client’s PPC Campaigns. A year later, he eventually led a team of three in working with over 180 clients on hitting their marketing strategy. Today, Nitu works on taking care of Fourandhalf’s own marketing initiatives.

Building a Model to Help Restore Oroville Dam’s Shattered Spillway

Anyone who contemplated the wreckage of the Oroville Dam’s main spillway back in February — either while water was pounding down the shattered concrete structure or when the flow was stopped later and the enormity of the damage was fully visible— probably had this thought cross their mind: “That is going to be tough to fix.”

Officials with the California Department of Water Resources were apparently thinking something similar. They got in touch with researchers at Utah State University as part of the process to figure out just how to approach the job of rebuilding the 3,000-foot-long concrete chute.

The department hired the university’s Water Research Laboratory to create a scale model of the spillway to help assess its condition after it breached and broke apart and to test concepts for its reconstruction.

“When we were contacted back in February, DWR had no idea what was feasible in this construction season,” Michael Johnson, an associate professor of hydraulic engineering at Utah State, said in an interview Thursday.

Michael Johnson, a faculty member at Utah State’s Water Research Laboratory, alongside the lab’s scale model of the Oroville Dam spillway.The model was created to help California water officials plan for rebuilding the partially destroyed structure. (Utah State University)

“They realized they may have to run this thing again this year, before it’s finished. So part of our work was evaluating conditions for this coming season,” Johnson said.

To do that, Johnson and a team of fellow researchers, engineers and technicians built a 1:50 scale model — essentially, a replica that’s 1/50th the original’s size — of the wrecked spillway. To create the very realistic 3-D model, Johnson says, the team used lidar (light detection and ranging) data from the Department of Water Resources.

The lab has since created a version of the model that depicts an intact spillway. The purpose of Spillway Model 2.0 is to test design features under consideration for the rebuilt structure.

Among those features being examined on the model: aerators for the surface of the concrete chute that are designed to prevent or dampen some of the destructive effects of water that prototypes suggest can move down the steeper sections of the spillway at 130 feet per second — nearly 90 mph.

The Department of Water Resources and its contractor on the project, Kiewit Infrastructure West, have outlined a spillway rebuilding plan stretching over two construction seasons.

A technician welds a section of Utah State’s Oroville spillway model. (Utah State University)

In the first season, which began in late May and is slated to last through next November — later if weather and reservoir conditions allow — crews will demolish and rebuild most of the lower section of the damaged concrete chute.

At the same time, workers will undertake a second massive project to reinforce that unpaved hillside designated as the dam’s emergency spillway. A 1,730-foot concrete weir at the top of the slope and adjacent to the main spillway is designed to allow uncontrolled flows down the slope from Lake Oroville to the Feather River. The slope eroded rapidly when water flowed over the emergency weir in February, threatening to undermine the weir and unleash a catastrophic flood.

To try to stem erosion in the event the emergency spillway is pressed into service again, DWR’s plan calls for building a huge “cutoff” wall on the slope beneath the weir. The water agency has said that work should be finished by November.

In the second construction season, contractors will rebuild the upper portion of the main spillway chute and build a massive concrete “splash pad” below the emergency weir — another step intended to prevent erosion.

Utah State’s project is not the first time hydraulic engineers have created a model to test the design of the Oroville Dam Spillway.

If you’ve dipped your toe into the history of the dam since February’s crisis — wondering, for instance, exactly what the engineers who designed the complex had in mind when they decided to create an emergency overflow down a bare hillside — then you may well have stumbled onto a document labeled HYD-510.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation produced the 189-page paper in 1965 to summarize the results of spillway design testing it had performed at the request of the California Department of Water Resources, which had puzzled over how to configure the structure.

Just as a reminder, major dams need spillways to regulate the levels of the reservoirs behind them. They allow excess water to flow at a controlled rate through or around dams and prevent reservoirs from flowing over the top of the dam itself. In the case of an earthen embankment dam like Oroville, an overtopping event could erode the dam, undermine its structural integrity and lead to collapse — a calamity.

The design of the spillway at Oroville presented some special challenges, though not necessarily unique ones, because of the sheer size of the dam (you’ve read by this time that it’s the nation’s tallest) and the reservoir it would create as it held back the waters of the Feather River watershed (the reservoir, Lake Oroville, is the second-largest in the state; when it’s full, it holds enough water to supply about 7 million California households for a year).

Now back to HYD-510.

The report describes the process of testing conducted at a Bureau of Reclamation lab in Denver, and it’s full of details that might never occur to the casual spillway-watcher.

For instance, how much water the main spillway and the nearby emergency spillway were designed to handle, and under what conditions. One of the big areas of inquiry was how different configurations of the the channel outside the massive spillway gates would affect the speed and turbulence of the flow heading into the spillway’s concrete chute.

More than 50 years and one major spillway crisis later, Utah State’s researchers are revisiting many of the same problems.

Partners in the program achieve benchmarking and energy efficiency improvements

Starbucks incorporated metering in its stores, along with weather-based lighting and HVAC, reducing utility costs by 6%.

Since its inception, the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge has helped businesses and organizations hold themselves accountable with the goal of making buildings 20% more energy efficient. By expecting partners to measure and share energy usage data, many partners are well on their way to this goal and 18 have achieved their portfolio-wide goal.

In the 2017 Better Buildings Progress Report, the program shares its partners’ successes – namely that they have produced savings of 240 trillion BTUs and $1.9 billion in cumulative energy and cost.

One company highlighted in the report, Starbucks, saw significant improvements through power metering. Metering systems allowed Starbucks to measure the performance of equipment and customer comfort in its stores. It also used local weather conditions to set in-store temperatures and lighting, reducing utility costs by an average of 6%.

“Through the Better Buildings Initiative, hundreds of leaders from the public and private sectors are demonstrating innovative approaches and deepening American investments in critical building infrastructure,” says Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “By planning ahead and investing in cost-effective energy efficiency strategies, partners are bringing better buildings to our communities and improving the everyday places Americans live and work, while creating new and lasting jobs.”

The report also commended the Wendy’s Company for its benchmarking efforts, as it began actively recruiting franchisees to join the Better Buildings Challenge. For those that joined, Wendy’s offered technical and benchmarking support through a third party to support franchisees with energy efficiency. One such franchisee now features all LED lighting and efficient HVAC equipment, which has yielded significant energy savings.

Moreover, the program has helped boost the widespread adoption of metering practices. Two of the Better Buildings Challenge’s specific actions include:

  • Holding an Energy Management Information Systems workshop with over 30 program stakeholders. Hosted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, participants learned more about submetering, occupant engagement and M&V 2.0.
  • The Berkeley Lab’s Center of Expertise for Energy Efficiency in Data Centers published metering guidance that helps data center operators identify what they need to make better energy efficiency decisions for their facilities.

To read the report, visit