Local voters in California gave oil a split decision on Tuesday. Voters in La Habra Heights shot down an anti-fracking ballot measure, while voters in Hermosa Beach rejected a ballot measure that would have permitted E&B Natural Resources to construct 34 onshore wells in the city. Meanwhile, Redondo Beach voters rejected a development plan that would have included razing the power plant that has long occupied a critical spot near the beach.
By a 5-2 vote, the California Supreme Court has issued a complex ruling that tends to support CEQA exemption for a large house in Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley (Logan).
Monday’s opinion is largely favorable to computer industry pioneer Mitch Kapor, founder of the Lotus software company, and Freada Kapor-Klein, who have been trying since 2009 to build a large house in the Berkeley hills. Their proposed single-family house and garage together would measure nearly 10,000 square feet, on a lot that is itself much larger, but that is situated on a steep slope reached by a small road. Berkeley applied two categorical exemptions from CEQA to the project: single-family and infill. Project opponents argued that the house was so big that it presented "unusual circumstances" and should be denied the safe harbor of a categorical exemption. Among other things, the issuance of the ruling will permit another CEQA “unusual circumstances” Supreme Court case to move forward.
CP&DR News Briefs, March 2, 2015: Google Presents Plan for New HQ; SF May Outsource Affordable Housing; Fresno Approves Water Plan; and MoreBy Matthew Hose on 28 February 2015 - 4:46pm
Google unveiled a “whimsical" proposal for a massive new headquarters in Mountain View designed by architect Frank Ghery.
Considering their importance, the public hasn't heard much about Friends of Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority and Kings County v. Surface Transportation Board. The two cases, respectively before the California Supreme Court and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, could end California environmental review of public rail projects in California – most notably the High Speed Rail project and might indirectly affect private rail operations including oil trains.
The cases shaped up this winter into tests of whether the Surface Transportation Board (STB) can block environmental reviews of rail projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The STB and two state rail agencies contend that CEQA review crosses onto the STB's exclusive regulatory turf under the 1995 Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), 49 U.S.C. §10101 et seq.
CP&DR News Summary, February 24, 2015: Home Values, Rental Rates Rise; Sacramento Streetcar Moves Forward; Shared NFL Stadium; and moreBy Matthew Hose on 23 February 2015 - 11:57am
A new report [pdf] released by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that California’s housing market continues to recover from its low at the beginning of 2012. Median home values in the most populous counties have increased by 39 percent since 2012, though they remain 20 percent lower than they were at the market’s peak in 2006-2007. The report also shows that the housing recovery has caused a problem for some less affluent residents, as “increasing prices place housing out of reach for many Californians.” It finds that homeownership rates in California have fallen more sharply than the rest of the nation, with California falling to 53.8 percent as compared with a 64.7 percent nationwide.
Another report released by NYU’s Furman Center describes the percentage changes in rental populations in major US cities from 2006 to 2013. Los Angeles and San Francisco rank among nine cities where more than 50% of the population rents, as of 2013. San Francisco scored in the top five increasing rental populations, with 22% more San Franciscans renting since 2006; Los Angeles’ rental population increased by 11%.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen a lot of moves that suggest it may be time to change the way California funds transportation, including the following:
- Board of Equalization Member George Runner has been touting a 21% cut in the gas tax as part of the “fuel tax swap” formula from a few years ago.
- A committee headed by former San Diego City Councilmember Jim Madaffer is looking at how to implement a mileage tax as an alternative to the gas tax.
- Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins has proposed a $52 annual fee on most drivers as a way to raise almost $2 billion for road repairs.
In the ever-lasting debate over sprawl, the most enduring argument centers on the definition of sprawl itself. The latest entrant is, perhaps, the oldest entrant: density.
As reported by Richard Florida in his CityLab column this week, NYU doctoral student Thomas Laidley has introduced a new method to measure sprawl. Laidley's "Sprawl Index" uses the following methodology:
"Laidley uses these aerial images to estimate sprawl at the Census block level, the smallest level available, estimating the share of metro population in those blocks below three key thresholds: 3,500, 8,500, and 20,000 persons per square mile. His index is based on the average of these three values, with higher scores reflecting higher levels of sprawl."
A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the City of Sacramento’s ban on camping in public parks – and allowing only limited camping on private property -- may move forward because the plaintiffs have stated a valid equal protection argument, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled.
In response to concerns about the homeless, Sacramento adopted an ordinance banning camping on public property and in public parks and permitting camping on private property for only one consecutive night. In 2009, the city cracked down on a group of homeless people who were camping in a fenced lot on private property with the property owner’s permission. Several times in September of 2009, the homeless people were arrested and their belongings were seized even though they were camping on private property.
CP&DR News Briefs, February 15, 2015: S.D. Fights $271 Million Stadium 'Claw-Back;' Sacramento Arena EIR Questioned; Bill Would Streamline CEQA; S.F. Street Trees; and MoreBy Matthew Hose and CP&DR Staff on 16 February 2015 - 10:20am
The demise of redevelopment may leave the city of San Diego with a monstrous bill: $271 million to cover the development of its downtown stadium, Petco Park. When the stadium’s financing plan was approved in 1998, general obligation bond funds were to be routed through the Center City Development Corp., one of the city’s redevelopment agencies.
CP&DR News Briefs, February 9, 2015: California's Share of Obama Budget; Transbay Mello-Roos Protests; SLO Quarry; and MoreBy Matthew Hose on 9 February 2015 - 2:28pm
President Obama’s proposed 2016 budget, announced last week, includes several nods to development and transportation in California to the tune of over $1 billion.
LOS ANGELES--State-level policymakers have engaged in more than their share of debates over the future of smart grown in California this year. They've debated level of service vs. vehicle miles traveled. They've debated the neediness and definition of disadvantaged communities. They've clamored for cap-and-trade funds. They've tried to reform CEQA and get rid of CEQA (well, not quite).
My dearest San Jose,
Last week's UCLA Extension Land Use Law and Planning Conference included a session on updates from the faraway land of Washington, D.C. Federal policymakers ended the year with a few new developments, and continued policies, that may be of interest to planners. This summary comes courtesy of Steven Preston, planning director for the City of San Gabriel, who collaborated with staff members at the American Planning Association's Washington office.
Consider this headline, which accompanied a recent Citylab article on a townhouse development in Echo Park: “In Los Angeles, Density That Doesn't Overwhelm.” It doesn’t take much to unpack that statement. It implies that density is inherently overwhelming.