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CP&DR News Briefs February 6, 2017: Bay Area Sprawl; Obsolete Freeways; L.A. River Revitalization; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Feb 6, 2017

San Francisco’s Greenbelt Alliance released At Risk: The Bay Area Greenbelt, which found that 293,100 acres of farmland and natural spaces are eligible for development in the next few decades. The report predicts that much of this development could be inefficient sprawl development. Of those lands, 63,500 acres—99 square miles—are at high risk, meaning they face development within the next 10 years. Contra Costa County has the most vulnerable land to potential development, with Santa Clara County close behind. The goals of the reports are not to halt development, but instead persuade local governments to approve responsible and sustainable development in urban areas. These studies look at city and county plans, zoning, and development proposals across the region. The risks to losing these greenbelt lands include loss of region’s farmland and ranch land that contribute to a $6.1 billion agricultural economy, lands that catch and filter rain to be stored as groundwater, and loss of forests and wetlands as carbon sinks. The previous At Risk report came out in 2012; that report estimated the number of acres of open space under threat was 29,700 acres greater than this year’s number.

Three California Freeways Have ‘No Future,’ Says Congress for New Urbanism
The Congress for the New Urbanism released a report, Freeways without Futures 2017, to identify urban freeways that should be torn down. A panel of national transportation experts identified ten U.S. highways as candidates for teardown based on their negative impacts, possible benefits of removal, and the political feasibility of such a project. Three of the ten obsolete freeways are in California. report identified I-280 in San Francisco, an elevated highway that cuts off Mission Bay and other neighborhoods from downtown; I-980 in Oakland, which separates downtown Oakland from West Oakland; and Route 710 in Pasadena, which is a stub of long-planned but now moribund extension intended to connect the 210 Freeway to the 10 Freeway. There is some degree of local support for demolition of all freeways in the report. CNU advocates removing freeways to fight pollution, ease traffic, and improve walkability and health.

Los Angeles Acquires Key Parcel along River
The Los Angeles City Council voted, 11-0, to approve the purchase of 41 acres of property at the center of plans to revitalize the LA River. This parcel, G2, will “create much-needed public open space in the middle of the city, provide extensive habitat restoration, and serve as a key access point for local communities to connect to the river” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. The land cost $59.3 million and was purchased with a $25 million funding from the state. The site is heavily contaminated from its previous use by Union Pacific; the city must first clean the soil, restore habitat and add public improvements which is expected to cost $252 million. The entire 11-mile revitalization project was expected to cost $1 billion three years ago, but now has jumped to nearly $1.6 billion. (See prior CP&DR coverage)

Chumash to Annex Land in Santa Barbara County, Prompting Lawsuit
The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs gave the green light to the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians to annex 1,390-acres of land near its reservation, greatly expanding it from its current 138 acres. Santa Barbara County and several Santa Ynez organizations have complained that a 143-home development proposed by the Chumash on the annexed land would deprive the county of $311 million in property taxes over the next 50 years, change the rural character of land, and has not adequately addressed environmental consequences and mitigations. The County supervisors voted, 3-2, to sue the BIA as soon as this decision was made.

Amendments Filed in Lawsuit over High Speed Rail Bonds
Opponents of the California High Speed Rail have filed amendments to a lawsuit filed in December in Sacramento Superior Court alleging that the California legislature violated state constitution when it passed a law last year amending and modifying the $9-billion bond act that voters approved in 2008. The plaintiffs argue the bond act, AB1889, never gave the legislature the authority to alter it. Kings County, the City of Atherton, and several other opposition groups, and John Tos, a farmer, brought the lawsuit. After AB1889 was passed and signed by the governor, the rail authority put together two funding plans. One plan provided $7.8 billion for rail construction from Merced to Shafter and the second provided $819 million to electrify Caltrain, which will eventually connect to the train. However, neither of these plans is part of an operating high-speed rail system which is what the bond act is supposed to pay for.

S.F. Controller's Report Analyzes Inclusionary Housing Policies
San Francisco City Controller Ben Rosenfield released a report on the affordable housing required by developers. The analysis found developers could afford to rent up to 18 percent of new apartments and sell up to 20 percent of new condominiums at below-market prices without jeopardizing overall housing production. The city currently requires 25 percent to get approval for new construction, but the number had been 12 percent in the past. Mayor Ed Lee says this will lead to more dense housing and he supports legislation set between 16-18 percent for rentals and 18-20 percent for condominiums.

Quick Hits & Updates

The Strategic Growth Council (SGC) has released the draft agenda for its upcoming Transformative Climate Communities Stakeholder Summit on Feb. 10 in Sacramento. The daylong event that is bringing representatives from public agencies, community-based organizations, businesses, foundations and other sectors together to discuss how we can bring about equitable community transformation through integrated climate investments.

The Sacramento Kings released plans for a 170-unit development a few blocks from their new Golden 1 Center arena. The team purchased the $5.9 million block as part of the deal made in 2014. The project will also include 20,000 square feet of retail, affordable units, rooftop gathering spots, and renovation of the historic1909 Bel-Vue apartment building. The Kings with CFY Development plan to break ground on the project in 2017.

A handful of cities in Orange and San Diego counties have formed the Concerned Coastal Communities Coalition to unite as a bigger political voice on state and federal issues. Members include Carlsbad, Dana Point, Del Mar, Encinitas, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Oceanside, San Clemente, and Seal Beach. Currently, the coalition is focused on San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station decommissioning, protecting coastal beaches and identifying opportunities to offset costs that are exclusive to coastal cities.

Sacramento councilman Allen Warren is introducing a proposal to construct a homeless camp for the chronically unsheltered. The city currently has a camping ban that he is hoping to lift by using a vacant field he owns and running service for a few hundred thousand a year. Warren is hoping this area could give them a place to stabilize their lives with counseling and other services, and mandating they contribute hours to the upkeep of the camp and surrounding area. Mayor Darrell Steinberg has indicated that he would rather focus on indoor triage center and federal funded housing vouchers for finding permanent homes.

City Councilmembers and planning commissioners in Eureka have met for the second time to update a draft of the city’s 2040 General Plan. The city is currently focusing on its mobility elements and has pledged to update “incomplete roads” or those that were constructed without enough access for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as more freight and passenger rail service.

FS Investors of La Jolla unveiled a proposal for a $1 billion redevelopment of the Qualcomm Stadium site. The proposed project includes a privately financed 20-30,000-seat football and soccer stadium, 55-acre park, housing, and commercial buildings. The group leading this proposal is planning to apply for the MLS expansion franchise and start a campaign to get official approval for this project- either through City Council or a public vote.

The sinking Millennium Tower in San Francisco has passed city inspection and is deemed safe for occupancy, despite evidence of strain on the building’s foundation and electrical systems. Various repairs have been fixed already or are currently being resolved. However, homeowners who are part of a lawsuit are waiting for results from a geotechnical study.

Fearing a federal crackdown on undocumented immigrants, two Los Angeles City Council members are pushing forward an ordinance that would decriminalize sidewalk vending. Currently, selling foods or goods on the sidewalk can lead to misdemeanor charges. In the new rules, the city would eventually issue vending permits, however this could take months to figure out the details.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-Chula Vista) has proposed a bill that would require the California State Coastal Conservancy to create a program to add to the number of low-cost hotels, motels, and hostels in coastal areas. Equitable access to coastline for low-income Californians has emerged as a major concern for the Coastal Commission. According to the commission “affordable” accommodations only make up 5 percent of the rooms available in coastal areas.

According to the Consumer Price Index, Southern California rents increased by 4.7 percent in 2016 versus 3.9 percent in 2015. A major for these rent hikes have been because employment has increased before local developers could add to the housing supply.

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