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CP&DR News Briefs January 23, 2017: San Diego Forest Conservation; Qualcomm Stadium Redevelopment; L.A. Ballot Measure Economic Impacts; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Jan 23, 2017

The Sierra Club, Cleveland National Forest Foundation, and Save Our Forest and Ranchlands filed a lawsuit in the San Diego Superior Court against San Diego County. The lawsuit argues that the county adopted an amendment to the Forest Conservation Initiative based on faulty environmental analysis and that it failed to identify opportunities to minimize the impacts of the new plan. The original Forest Conservation Initiative was approved by more than two-thirds of county voters in 1993 to protect the Cleveland National Forest from piecemeal development. The initiative included a clause requiring voter approval of any zoning changes within the protected area protected until early 2011. The county now seized the opportunity to allow further development in the forest by passing the most recent amendment. Those in favor of the zoning change said it will alleviate the serious housing shortage in the region. The Sierra Club’s ultimate goal is not to approve any large-scale development in open spaces until the county’s climate action plan is in place.

Developer Floats Concept for Qualcomm Stadium Redevelopment
With the San Diego Chargers moving to Los Angeles, stakeholders in San Diego are considering how Qualcomm Stadium can be redeveloped. Community members in Mission Valley say the stadium could be used for education by a university, or by the city in something that will help residents. Others say it could house a Major League Soccer team. JMI Realty, described as the “frontrunner” by NBC 7 TV is envisioning a mixed use, transit oriented development project that is self-contained and does not create burdens in terms of traffic and environmental impact to the community. JMI’s conceptual rendering for the project includes housing, science, research labs, and a much smaller stadium for San Diego State University. JMI is heavily involved in the redevelopment of the area around San Diego’s downtown baseball stadium.

Study Describes Economic Impacts of L.A. Ballot Measure
A new study shows that Los Angeles’s Measure S would put a $2 billion dent in the local economy, put 24,000 people out of work, cut $70 million from city funds, and slow housing construction. On the March ballot, Measure S, knows also as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, would place a two-year moratorium on buildings requiring zone changes or general plan amendments. Those in favor of the measure say it would fix the “pay to play” system and only affect 5 percent of new construction. The study, conducted by Beacon Economics, found the moratorium would cost nearly 120,000 jobs in a decade, $19.3 billion in ten years and block 45 new single family homes and 2,800 apartments. (See prior CP&D coverage.)

Report Warns of 50 Percent Cost Overrun for First Segment of High Speed Rail
The initial 118-mile segment of California High Speed Rail could cost $3.6 billion more than previously estimated, accoring to a new report. This 50 percent increase. The Federal Railroad Administration’s risk analysis projects that the bridges, viaducts, trenches, and tracks from Merced to Shafter could cost between $9.5-$10 billion, compared to the original $6.4 billion. Additionally, the HSR Authority anticipated completed the Central Valley track by this year, but now isn’t scheduled to complete until 2024. The report is a “confidential-draft deliberative document for internal use only” and was presented by senior FRA executives to CHSRA officials in Washington late last year. FRA Chief Executive Morales said the estimates are based assumptions that the authority wants to verify, and he assured the construction will cost less than the risk analysis indicates.

Faulconer Outlines Land Use Goals in ‘State of the City’ Address
In this the annual State of the City address, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed an array of policies related to land use: a hotel tax hike to pay for a convention center expansion, more homeless programs, increased spending on road repairs, expanded density bonus program, a revitalization of Balboa Park, and a boost in the city’s technology industry. The hotel tax would increase from 12.5 percent to 16 percent, with majority of the money going to the convention center and the remainder to homeless programs and road repairs. Faulconer said he is confident a ballot measure with multiple initiatives that poll well with voters will be able to get the two-thirds support required for approval. The mayor mentioned affordable housing as one of the main problems in San Diego.

Sacramento Gives Boost to Rail Depot Redevelopment
The Sacramento City Council has dipped into its Innovation and Growth Fund to add $2.4 million the rehabilitation of the historic Sacramento Valley Station. This project will serve as an Amtrak depot, as well as office space for startups and high-tech companies, retail outlets, cafes, rooftop terrace and brew pub. The project was expected to cost $30 million but has already grown to $36.5 million due to unexpected issues in construction phases. The project ran into difficulty while looking for tenants of the 29,000 square feet of available space. All the interested tenants said they wanted the city to pay for additional improvements to make the spaces move-in ready; these costs weren’t in the budget, as tenants often absorb these costs. The Innovation Fund provides financial incentives to help entrepreneurs, startup companies, and tech companies in Sacramento. The depot should be completed next month.

California Cities Ranked on Pedestrian Danger Index
According to a report from Smart Growth America, between 2005 and 2014 more than 45,000 pedestrians died in the U.S. because of cars. The group examined 104 metro regions and created a “pedestrian danger index.” This index calculated the total number of pedestrian deaths relative to the number of pedestrian commuters in the region. Houston was the least safe largest metro in the country at 15th, Los Angeles was 51st and New York City 95th. In California, Bakersfield was 12th and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario as 18th. The Bay Area did best among California metros, ranking 85th out of 104. The study also reviewed 51 metro areas that had been studied in 2015 and found 18 grew more dangerous with Riverside having one of the largest increases (21.2 percent). The report also found people of color represent only 35 percent of the population but 46 percent of pedestrian deaths.

Infamous Los Angeles Toxic Site Moves Closer to Cleanup
The Department of Energy released a draft environmental impact statement outlining how the agency would move forward with cleaning the soil in Area IV, part of the Santa Susana Field Lab. The approximately 280 acres in the northwestern corner of Los Angeles were once used for testing rocket engines and nuclear power. The agency also presented plans for removing contaminated structures and dealing with groundwater. Options range from doing nothing until the chemical compounds in the soil deteriorate over time, to a strict remediation plan that would clean the soil beyond federal standards. While the latter was agreed upon between the DOE, NASA, and state regulations in 2010, DOE now says those standards may do more damage than good because of the large amount of land that would be disturbed and the large volumes of soil that would be removed. Boeing Co. owns a portion of the site and is committed to cleaning its portion to residential standards and then leaving it as open space.

Oakland Curbs Evictions in Improvised Artists’ Residences
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf issued an executive order intended to ease the threat of eviction for artists and makers occupying improvised residences and work spaces. The City inspectors are ordered to give landlords with illegal units 60 days to come up with safety plans, and more time to make necessary improvements. Schaaf says the city has money from a housing bond and other sources to help landlords pay for safety improvements, as long as the rents remain affordable. A related issue arising is the question of how to legally throw a party in Oakland. The current permitting procedure is considered arcane, with some provisions coming from the Prohibition era. These moves are, in part, responses to the Ghost Ship fire.

Quick Hits & Updates
The California Supreme Court declined to hear a case filed by opponents of the Golden State Warriors’ $1 billion Mission Bay arena. The ruling enables development of the area, which has already broken ground, to proceed unfettered. The alliance of academics, staff and benefactors of UCSF still have a suit pending in Alameda County Superior Court over a memorandum of understanding describing potential traffic problems that could interfere with access to UCSF hospitals.

Researchers at the Chapman Center for Demographics and Policy say Orange County's rising poverty, high housing costs, aging demographics, and falling employment in technology, manufacturing and finance mean the region could be in serious trouble. The report, “OC Model: A Vision for Orange County’s Future,” critique’s the county’s reliance on tourism and real estate, which offer primarily low-paying jobs.

LA Metro is looking into extending the Red and Purple line subway eastward past Union Station to include stations in the Arts District. Metro already owns a large maintenance yard along the LA River, which could be used for one of the new stations. Metro is also planning on building a light-rail line between Union Station and Artesia that could include an Arts District station.

Nearly 20,000 acres of land known as Eagle Mountain may be transferred from Bureau of Land Management to Joshua Tree National Park. This would increase Joshua Tree to 820,000 acres. The mountain provides habitat for bighorn sheep. The proposed acreage is currently part of Riverside County and contains some private property that would either need to be sold or donated to the park.

The Federal Transit Administration announced a $75 million loan to help fund the Van Ness Avenue bus rapid transit project. The Van Ness line is 2 miles down the center median with nine stops from Union to Mission streets. The first phase of construction on the $223 million project began in October and should be complemented in 2020.

The Federal Transit Administration issued a letter announcing its support for the Orange County streetcar to officially enter the engineering phase. The FTA’s current review of the OC Streetcar project focused on ridership projections and benefits to the community, as well as OCTA’s financial commitment to the streetcar project and the agency’s ability to build and operate it. The engineering phase is the final stage before OCTA seeks a full funding grant agreement from the FTA, which could fund up to half of the $298-million OC Streetcar that will run through the heart of the county, serving Santa Ana and Garden Grove.

The City of Vacaville planning staff will present an overview of the city’s General Plan, updated in 2015. This year, the city will update the city’s sphere of influence, amending the zoning map, updating the zoning ordinance to implement General Plan policies, and evaluate the residential design standards for single-family development.