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CP&DR News Briefs July 24, 2017: Newhall Ranch Approvals; Fossil Fuel Companies Sued; State Names 14 Arts Districts; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Jul 24, 2017
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors certified a revised environmental impact report and approved two subdivisions in Newhall Ranch, the controversial master-planned community northwest of Los Angeles. The EIR was revised in response to a 2015 Supreme Court decision ruling that an earlier version of the document did not properly account for greenhouse gas emissions and threats to native fish. The project, developed by FivePoint, has been rebranded “Netzero Newhall” and includes a range of features designed to lessen the development’s environmental impact. These are the first major approvals for the project, which has been in development for over a decade. Both were approved in 4-0 votes. Members of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment had planned to speak out during a public hearing at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting. The group is concerned over environmental changes made for the 21,500 units proposed as Newhall Ranch development. The group had asked the board to hold off certifying the plans for two housing tracts, which would make up 5,500 residences, until the public has more time to review changes made to the EIRs. The recent changes made include adding electric car chargers in garages and two bridges that would go over the Santa Clara River. (See pior CP&DR coverage.)

Coastal Counties Sue Fossil Fuel Producers over Climate Change
Marin County, San Mateo County, and the City of Imperial Beach are suing 37 oil, gas and coal companies for allegedly knowing their fossil fuel products would cause sea level rise and coastal flooding and failing to reduce GHG pollution. The suit continues that although there was a narrow window to take action, the companies engaged in a “coordinated, multi-front effort” to discredit scientific evidence and “persistently create doubt”. The counties are looking for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and disgorgement of profits and lawyers’ fees. Marin County Supervisor Kate Sears says the lawsuit has similarities to what state attorneys did with the tobacco industry in the 1990s. The group Sher Edling will be representing the counties.

Arts Council Names 14 Cultural Districts Statewide
The California Arts Council announced 14 districts that will serve as California’s inaugural state-designated Cultural Districts that highlight thriving cultural diversity and unique artistic identities across the state. The cultural districts in the San Diego Region include Balboa Park, Barrio Logan, and Oceanside. In the Deserts Region there is only the BLVD Cultural District in Lancaster. The San Francisco Bay Area Region has the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District in San Francisco, Downtown San Rafael Arts District, Rotten City in Emeryville, and SOMA Pilipinas. The Los Angeles Region has Little Tokyo and San Pedro Waterfront Arts, Cultural & Entertainment District. Other Cultural Districts throughout the state include Eureka, Grass Valley-Nevada City, Redding, and Truckee. These 14 districts will receive the designation for five years and receive benefits such as technical assistance, peer-to-peer exchanges, branding materials and promotional strategies.

Santa Clara’s Proposed CityPlace Garners Key Support
A trio of environmental agencies have accepted Related Co.’s plans for CityPlace, $6.7 billion mixed-use complex with up to 1,680 housing units across from Levi’s Stadium on a former landfill. The company's massive technical document, which includes elaborate safety systems to block the escape of methane gas and other dangerous vapors and prevent groundwater contamination from the landfill, was accepted by environmental overseers Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health, California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (also known as CalRecycle) and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. The project would also include 5.7 million square feet office, retail, and a hotel. The City of San Jose sued the City of Santa Clara last year because of the imbalance between jobs and housing units. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Environmental Groups Sue over Proposed Border Wall
The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity filed suit against the federal government in District Court early July over the environmental resources at stake if Trump decides to build his 14 miles of double-layer border fence. The proposed fence would stretch inland from Imperial Beach through a sensitive salt marsh, which is home to the Quino checkerspot butterfly and vernal pools. The lawsuit claims that the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection failed to prepare and publish legally required environmental impact analyses for the project. The Center also alleges violations of the Freedom of Information Act because the Center’s attorneys did not receive responses for FOIA request in the legally required timeframe. The government has until early September to respond to claims in the lawsuit.

Bay Area Bike Share to Rebrand, Expand 
San Francisco’s Bay Area Bike Share has been rechristened Ford GoBike and is planning a massive relaunch of 7,000 bikes throughout the region. East Bay already received its first phase of 450 bikes at 43 stations in Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville. GoBike is a public-private partnership between Motivate and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission with Ford as the title sponsor. To ensure more equity in the program, GoBike launched a $5, first-year annual membership for low-income residents, cash payment options for residents without credit cards, and a commitment to playing 35 percent of the stations in “communities of concern”. The group TransForm conducted outreach and created a report called OakMob 101 (Oakland Mobility) and found of survey respondents, 33 percent did not have access to a bike at home.

Environmental Group Sues over Proposed Carpool Lanes in Sacramento
The Environmental Council of Sacramento is suing Caltrans over plans to build carpool lanes on Highway 50 in downtown Sacramento saying the state failed to analyze health impacts on local residents from potential increased vehicle emissions. Caltrans chose not to conduct a full environmental review because it did not expect significant environmental issues. ECOS argues the freeway expansion would lead to a significant increase in vehicles on the freeway and instead encourages Caltrans to turn one of the existing lanes into a carpool lane. Caltrans plans to begin construction in 2019 for the $187 million project if it can obtain the funds. For the first part of the lane expansions between Watt Avenue and Sunrise Boulevard, the two groups settled out-of-court and Caltrans agreed to spend $7 million on improvements to the Sacramento Regional Transit light-rail line.

Quick Hits & Updates
The Fremont City Council backed away from pursuing rent control measures after weighing options and hearing from dozens of landlords and tenants. The council did not vote on any of the three rent-control options that were presented. Landlords said rent control measures make it more difficult to evict problem tenants while those in favor say the city has taken too long to tackle renter protections. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

The state has finalized its environmental review of the California WaterFix. The project still needs a number of other permits and financial support before construction can begin.

Present to voter-approved Measure JJJ, the Los Angeles Department of City Planing has drafted a proposed Value Capture Ordinance to link approval of certain discretionary entitlements that allow for consideration of increased density or floor area ratio (FAR) with affordable housing requirements. Currently, affordable housing requirements are only imposed on residential development projects proposing more than 10 units that requireapproval of a general plan amendment, zone change, or height district change.

The Coastal Commission unanimously approved an agreement to end beach sand mining in Monterey County. This decision ends the last operation of its type in mainland US. Instead of facing court battles, Cemex agreed to stop extracting sand from 400 acres of beach in the city of Marina by Dec. 31, 2020. The settlement also requires Cemex to sell the site at a reduced price to a nonprofit organization that would preserve the property and provide public access.

The Department of Housing and Community Development is awarding (pdf) $36 million to 64 cities and 31 counties across the state for the Housing-Related Parks Program. The program’s funds will go towards creating or improving parks and is funded through Proposition IC, the Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2006. This will be the last round of funding, as the grant funds have been used over the last seven years for a variety of projects such as community centers, parks and recreation facilities, playgrounds, and improvements to existing parks.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed controversial legislation, SB 106, allowing cities in Marin County to continue to impose strict limits on the number of new homes built in their jurisdictions, regardless of Regional Housing Needs Allocation numbers. The sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), says it allows for more affordable housing because smaller buildings would lower construction costs.

San Francisco officials have requested the City Attorney’s Office to look into legislation that would allow the city to impose a vacancy tax, similar to Vancouver's, on property owners who “warehouse” their valuable residential and commercial units. Commissioners remark that more units seem vacant and that the city lacks data on numbers.

According to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, San Jose is the least affordable city in the US and 5th least affordable in the world. Los Angeles comes in 8th and San Francisco 9th in the 10 least affordable cities in the world.

The first phase of the new Jordan Downs public housing complex is set to be finished next year with 115 new apartments. However, a report shows the city’s 17-month effort to clean up the former industrial property had failed as toxins were detected below the surface in groundwater and soil vapors. Of the 21 lots only one poses health risks and that area will require vapor barriers and to be deed-restricted to commercial uses. 

Orange County Great Park will open the long-awaited first phase of the 194-acre park Aug 5. The available amenities include a 2,506-seat soccer stadium, six soccer fields, 25 tennis courts, and five sand volleyball courts on 53 acres. The new sports park is part of the 713 acres FivePoint is building for the city in exchange for approval to build more than 4,600 homes adjacent to the park. 

Transbay Joint Powers Authority voted to let San Francisco-based Salesforce put its name on the transit center opening next year. The 25-year $110 million sponsorship agreement will change the name of the facility to the Salesforce Transit Center and place the company’s name or logo on as many as 177 signs throughout the building. The station is adjacent to the new Salesforce Tower. 

Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners approved plans this week to renovate two terminals and lease a future terminal to Southwest Airlines. This future terminal will be sandwiched between Terminals 1 and 2 and cost an estimated $490 million to build and open in 2020. Delta Air Lines will spend up to $1.9 billion to upgrade Terminals 2 and 3.

The City of Huntington Beach has unveiled its General Plan Update through 2040. Residents and city officials will review and discuss the document in the upcoming months and it will be presented to the City Council Sept. 18.