Calthorpe Makes the Case for a Corridor-Based Approach to Affordable Housing

Peter Calthorpe's case study of El Camino Real in the Silicon Valley shows the potential for affordable housing development in the land surrounding side right-of-ways.

1 minute read

September 22, 2020, 12:00 PM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery

Silicon Valley aerial view

Alexey Ulashchick / Shutterstock

In an analysis of parcels adjacent to the El Camino Real right-of-way (ROW), a vast commercial corridor spanning 43 miles in California's Silicon Valley, Peter Calthorpe found a tremendous opportunity for affordable housing development. According to Calthorpe's research, presented here by Robert Steutville, 20% of parcels along the ROW could be used for multifamily housing to support 250,000 additional units. Silicon Valley currently faces a shortage of 600,000 housing units.

"Better use of the 120-foot ROW would convert the current six-lane thoroughfare to one that includes bus rapid transit (BRT), generous sidewalks, and bicycle lanes—while retaining six lanes of through traffic," writes Steutville.

The case study showed a staggering capacity for residential and mixed-use buildings and bus rapid transit. "I think there is something better in the future than straight BRT, which is slow. It is the most affordable and equitable that we can get to right now. But there are autonomous buses coming from China, which will reduce operating expense," says Calthorpe. 

Calthorpe sees affordable land to be among the key advantages of increasing housing in cities. Moreover, the adoption of tax increment financing (TIF) could "pay for transit, enhanced parks and schools, and to subsidize 20 percent inclusionary zoning," according to Calthorpe.

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