Hawthorne not ready to green-light dense apartment building near SpaceX, Amazon



An extremely dense apartment building proposed for a site near SpaceX’s rocket manufacturing headquarters and a new Amazon delivery hub in Hawthorne provoked passionate arguments from supporters and critics this week before city leaders sidestepped a final decision.

After residents debated the issue for an hour Tuesday night, the City Council decided to more thoroughly study the proposal before revisiting the project on Sept. 26

“Approval of this project would set a precedent which would open the door to other developers who will seek to obtain density similar to this project,” resident Andrea Santana said. “The complex would place 274 rental units on less than 3 acres of land. It would increase traffic and congestion along already congested Crenshaw Boulevard and 120th Street.”

Virginia-based Blackwood Real Estate argues that the development is a perfect example of the kind of transit-oriented housing development needed across the region. It would be on Crenshaw Boulevard between El Segundo Boulevard and 120th Street, just south of the 105 Freeway.

“This is the type of high-quality housing we’ve been waiting for,” said resident Jason Gromski. “This is resort-style living, transit-oriented, popular with young professionals. We shouldn’t be held to the sins of the past and hold ourselves down.”

‘More traffic’

The six-story apartment project would include one ground-level restaurant and a public plaza. But, among other diversions from city code, its commercial portion would be only 8 percent of the overall development rather than the 40 percent required for mixed-use developments.

“I hate to rain on the parade but I disagree with this project,” resident Leatrice Tanner Brown said. “Just consider there is going to be so much more traffic and so many more people here.”

Dubbed the Green Line Mixed-Use Project because it’s a half-mile from a Metro transit facility, the site also is walking distance to Hawthorne Municipal Airport, Target, Lowe’s, PetSmart, 9 to 5 Seating, and other commercial and industrial businesses. The rear abuts active railroad tracks and the Dominguez Channel.

“I’ve long said to members of this council that area needs some type of development and I welcome this project,” said the Rev. John Jefferson, pastor of Del Aire Baptist Church. “Our community needs a complete overhaul and makeover.”

SpaceX officials, however, said the industrial location is not suitable for housing.

“While we do believe there is an absolute need for affordable housing in the city of Hawthorne, we do not think that this specific site is the place for it,” said Brett Horton, SpaceX’s senior director of facilities and construction.

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Amazon is now completing its delivery hub — a warehouse and shipping facility — at Crenshaw and El Segundo boulevards.

Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, whose district includes Hawthorne, Los Angeles International Airport, and Inglewood, sent a representative to express her support at the meeting.

“At this critical moment during our regional housing crisis, I applaud your vision in moving this project forward,” Burke wrote in a letter to council members. “Being less than one-half mile from Crenshaw Line station, projects like (this) allow for less vehicle traffic and more utilization of light-rail alternative transportation.”

New standards

The city’s Planning Commission approved the plan in July on a 3-1 vote.

But Planning Director Brian James has carefully outlined its dramatic changes from existing policy — triple the amount of density allowed, smaller unit sizes and balconies, reduced parking spaces and exposure to noise and odors from nearby industry.

“There’s been talk about a transit-oriented development,” James said. “These are basically employment or housing centers within walking distance of a transit station — it’s not just housing near transit. It can be jobs or a mixture. The goal is to increase mobility.

“The question you need to ask yourselves is: Is this project an acceptable trade-off for the loss of industrial-designated lands and the economic loss those represent,” James said.

Though the routine sounds of truck traffic, overhead aircraft, and trains aren’t the most welcoming neighbors, Blackwood officials said it’s the way of the future for dense urban areas.

“The arts district in Los Angeles is probably one of the most expensive places to rent in L.A. right now,” said Blackwood representative Gilad Ganish. “It’s a cool mix of restaurants, breweries, industrial, commercial, creative and residential. This is an area very similar in characteristics.”

But former Mayor Larry Guidi said all the round-the-clock trucking operations nearby would make for a terrible place to live.

“If you had any common sense, you would know that’s an industrial zone,” Guidi told the council. “SpaceX is against it. Our mozzarella factory has no interest in it. You need to stop it. You need to end it.”

Developer perks

To sweeten the deal, Blackwood has promised to pay for at least $100,000 in public art projects along Crenshaw, near the 105 Freeway. The company also said the project would generate $400,000 in city revenue annually and $11 million over 20 years.

New residents would be offered two years of free Metro passes and Zipcar car-sharing services. The address also would be a designated pick-up and drop-off zone for ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber.

“I would not be speaking against this project if it was (houses), but these are apartments,” said resident Mario Chiappe. “The problem we have here is mainly from high-density apartments. We have 82 police in this city. So what do you expect with this development?”

Councilwoman Angie English said the proximity to industry shouldn’t be a concern.

“If people are looking at the area for a potential lease or potential living, they would make their due diligence by looking at where they’re at with regard to the rail right next to them and any other issues,” English said. “I’m sure these people would know whether or not this is a fit for them.”

Greenlight is gone, dev money the new Steam curator

Valve is ditching Greenlight, the vote-based system that for the past five years has been the way smaller developers get games onto Steam.

Replacing Greenlight in autumn of this year is Steam Direct, which allows anyone to post a game to Steam, provided they fill out some paperwork and pay an as-yet undetermined fee.

The fee is intended to reduce spam submissions, and it can be recouped by a developer if its game sells.

The company is consulting with developers and studios about an appropriate fee, and so far responses have been as low as US$100 and as high as US$5000.

“There are pros and cons at either end of the spectrum, so we’d like to gather more feedback before settling on a number,” said Valve.

According to the company, its goal is to provide developers and publishers with a more direct publishing path, and to connect gamers with content they will enjoy.

Greenlight helped lower the barrier to publishing, and delivered many great new games to Steam, it said, citing the 100-plus Greenlight titles that went on to make at least US$1m.

“Many of those would likely not have been published in the old, heavily curated Steam store,” said Valve.

“One of the clearest metrics is that the average time customers spend playing games on Steam has steadily increased since the first Discovery Update.

“Over the same time period, the average number of titles purchased on Steam by individual customers has doubled,” it added.

“Both of these data points suggest that we’re achieving our goal of helping users find more games that they enjoy playing.”

Valve added that it wants to make Steam a welcoming environment for all developers who are serious about treating customers fairly and making quality gaming experiences.

“When we consider any new features or changes for Steam, our primary goal is to make customers happy. We measure that happiness by how well we are able to connect customers with great content,” it said.

“We intend to keep iterating on Steam’s shopping experience, the content pipeline and everything in between.”

The reaction on Twitter to Steam Direct has so far been mixed. While some are keen to see Greenlight go, it seems using a submission fee as quality control isn’t popular.

Valve Software to Shutter Steam Greenlight Program for Indie Game Developers


Valve Software announced yesterday that it will end the Greenlight program, which allowed community members to support the addition of independent games to the Steam online games marketplace. The move aims at giving developers and publishers “a more direct publishing path” on Steam.

Greenlight, which Valve described as part of Steam’s gradual transition “from a tightly curated store to a more direct distribution model,” gave gamers greater access to independent titles, and Valve says that more than 100 Greenlight titles have sales of $1 million or more. Steam, which debuted 13 years ago, was one of the earliest places where games could be purchased for download, and has arguably remained the most important sales platform for PC games.

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Greenlight promised to give smaller developers access to that market, but it has been persistently troubled. As detailed by Kotaku, by relying on users to upvote games they wanted to see on Steam, Valve inadvertently pushed developers to curry public favor, including by giving away free copies of games in exchange for votes. At the same time, Valve’s lax internal quality control still meant many Greenlight games were low-quality ‘shovelware.’

In Kotaku’s words, while Greenlight was intended to be the backbone of a symbiotic community, in practice, it “subtly pits users and developers against each other in a relationship that’s turned toxic.” In one particularly notorious incident, the developer Digital Homicide became the target of a group of activist Steam users who worked to have its games removed from the service. Digital Homicide filed an $18 million lawsuit against that group, alleging its members had crossed the line between activism and harassment.

Steam will not be reverting to its old walled-garden approach. In place of the complex Greenlight voting system, it will begin charging developers a flat fee to have their games listed on Steam. The new system, called “Steam Direct,” is projected to go live in Spring of 2017. Steam is weighing how high to set its publishing fee, which they say could be anywhere from $100 to $5,000. While a higher fee would help filter out low-quality games, it would also be a major barrier for many legitimate developers, particularly those outside the U.S.

 

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Valve Software to Shutter Steam Greenlight Program for Game Developers

Valve Software announced yesterday that it will end the Greenlight program, which allowed community members to support the addition of independent games to the Steam online games marketplace. The move aims at giving developers and publishers “a more direct publishing path” on Steam.

Greenlight, which Valve described as part of Steam’s gradual transition “from a tightly curated store to a more direct distribution model,” gave gamers greater access to independent titles, and Valve says that more than 100 Greenlight titles have sales of $1 million or more. Steam, which debuted 13 years ago, was one of the earliest places where games could be purchased for download, and has arguably remained the most important sales platform for PC games.

Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter.

Greenlight promised to give smaller developers access to that market, but it has been persistently troubled. As detailed by Kotaku, by relying on users to upvote games they wanted to see on Steam, Valve inadvertently pushed developers to curry public favor, including by giving away free copies of games in exchange for votes. At the same time, Valve’s lax internal quality control still meant many Greenlight games were low-quality ‘shovelware.’

In Kotaku’s words, while Greenlight was intended to be the backbone of a symbiotic community, in practice, it “subtly pits users and developers against each other in a relationship that’s turned toxic.” In one particularly notorious incident, the developer Digital Homicide became the target of a group of activist Steam users who worked to have its games removed from the service. Digital Homicide filed an $18 million lawsuit against that group, alleging its members had crossed the line between activism and harassment.

Steam will not be reverting to its old walled-garden approach. In place of the complex Greenlight voting system, it will begin charging developers a flat fee to have their games listed on Steam. The new system, called “Steam Direct,” is projected to go live in Spring of 2017. Steam is weighing how high to set its publishing fee, which they say could be anywhere from $100 to $5,000. While a higher fee would help filter out low-quality games, it would also be a major barrier for many legitimate developers, particularly those outside the U.S.

Steam Direct is better than Greenlight, but the size of its fee will make or break it

Steam Greenlight sucks as a way to decide what goes on Steam. It makes earnest developers pay to engage in a popularity contest that’s easily gamed, and so I’m happy that after years of Valve itself saying it isn’t working, Greenlight is finally going away. When Steam Direct appears later this year, every game will have a simple path onto the biggest PC game distribution platform—so long as the developer can put up a fee. Valve hasn’t settled on a number, but says it’s considering suggestions between $100 and $5,000.

If the fee lands at $5K we’ll end up with devs crowdfunding their submission fee, which would just be an outsourcing of Greenlight.

Instead of vetting every submission (Steam 1.0) or having the community vote (Steam 2.0), the barrier to entry becomes capital. What a tricky thing to balance. If the fee is too low, I’ll be throwing up a Flappy Bird clone as soon as possible, suckers. But if it’s too high, solo and small indie developers could be locked out. If it’s $5K, for instance, we’ll end up with devs crowdfunding their submission fee, which would just be an outsourcing of Greenlight that also funnels money to Valve. 

At least Valve says the fee will be “recoupable,” though it hasn’t decided exactly how. Valve employee Alden Kroll says in that the fee will likely be returned to the developer “after the game hits some modest revenue target.” If that’s the case, Valve wouldn’t keep the fee, just its take of the revenue—that’s nice, but developers would still have to deposit that money and potentially lose it if their game is unsuccessful. (Unless Valve plans to refund and delist failed games?)

The , which serves the same quality control purpose, is $100. It goes to charity and allows a developer to put up as many games as they want to be voted on by the community. So if you want a rough idea of what a $100 Steam Direct fee would look like, just imagine that is currently for sale on Steam. And why shouldn’t be on Steam?

And you’re on Steam! And you’re on Steam!

Jim Sterling’s paints an ugly picture of what to expect, but despite the worry that Steam will be flooded with the 30 scatalogical Flappy Bird clones I intend to submit this spring, I hope Valve errs low with the fee and focuses on making its discovery tools more robust. Promote the good stuff above the chaff, but don’t prevent good-intentioned developers from getting on the platform at all.

Greenlight really hasn’t turned Steam into the iOS App Store, anyway. There are some truly awful games lurking in the bowels of Steam’s discovery tools, but for the most part my experience with the store has been positive. It’s much more vibrant than it was five years ago, when it was only publisher-supported games and a few indie darlings.

Meanwhile, while Steam’s been fussing with Greenlight, new platform has risen up to serve us heaps of niche and experimental games—there is no fee or review process to get on the platform—many of which might have just been lost in the Greenlight churn. That community is great and it rules that they today, but I doubt the same thing would work well in the more profit-driven waters of Steam. It’s cool that itch.io creators will have a simpler way to bring their games to a new audience if they want to, though. (Unless they are our own James Davenport, who shouldn’t put his game about teeth on Steam.)

Steam could do with an injection of experimental weirdness: Greenlight has made it more diverse, but it’s that’s worth our attention. (Not that it ever will be, and competing stores are good, but more options for creators is good too.)

Itch.io has cultivated a great community of indie developers.

An argument against Steam Direct, or at least a low fee for it, is that more isn’t necessarily better. A common criticism of Steam, or just general anxiety about it, is that its rapidly growing library is burying good work that might have sold well on the platform five or more years ago. Steam Direct may exacerbate that issue, but I don’t support gating out developers who have less capital so that a smaller group of better-off developers have a greater shot at success. The question of how much an independent developer should expect to make from their game—and whether the huge number of competing indie projects is dooming good work to obscurity—is separate from the question of who deserves access to a popular platform.

I don’t support gating out developers who have less capital so that a smaller group of better-off developers have a greater shot at success.

Besides, we need to lose this false idea that Steam is where all buying decisions are born. As Evan in 2015, “Millions of people now operate massive engines that promote discovery: YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, Twitch, websites like ours—all resources that didn’t exist in anywhere near the same form even three or four years ago.”

I use Steam a lot. My friends use it, so I can easily play games with them, it’s convenient, and it works well. All I really want is for there to be lots of good games on it, and a lower fee helps ensure that good games aren’t left out.

That’s not to say I’ll be happy if the same policy attracts more cynical, exploitative crap. In my ideal world, honest creators who make a real effort are rewarded with visibility while the 135 scatalogical, pro-fracking Flappy Bird clones I’m definitely putting on Steam this year are rejected and someone eggs my house. But since Valve refuses to be the arbiter of what goes on Steam, only one of those things can be true.

I think Valve should do a little more active quality control, but if laissez faire is how it’s going to be, I prefer Steam Direct’s ‘pay a fee, get on Steam’ plan to Steam Greenlight’s ‘pay a fee, maybe get on Steam’ plan—at least so long as the fee doesn’t lock out small developers who may be working with no budget in their spare time.