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CP&DR News Briefs September 11, 2017: SACOG 'Civic Lab;' San Jose Flooding Assessment; L.A. Fair Housing Plan; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Sep 8, 2017
The Sacramento Area Council of Governments launched Civic Lab, an initiative that takes local teams through workshops with local and national transportation and technology experts to spark innovative solutions to regional and local transportation challenges, as well as pilot testing technology-based solutions. At the program’s launch, 130 city and county elected officials and staff, nonprofits, startup innovators, and service providers came together to learn about disruptions in transportation and smart mobility through technology. Civic Lab is accepting applications until Sept. 15 and teams must be led by a public agency. “Civic Lab gives us the opportunity to solve transportation issues through testing and piloting projects in rural, suburban, and urban communities. With innovative thinking and pilot testing, there might come some failure, but with failure, we grow and learn. Civic Lab is the place for local governments to explore the possibilities of smart mobility and new technologies,” said aid Brian Veerkamp, El Dorado County Supervisor and SACOG Board Chair, in a statement.

San Jose Considers Aftermath of Coyote Creek Flood
The City of San Jose and emergency management consultant Witt O’Brien’s released a report on why the city failed to notify 14,000 residents about the flood threat in February of this year. The report gives the city an “A” for response but “F” for foresight. After Coyote Creek flooded in 1997 the city was advised to install a universal alter system to notify residents, but that never happened. The warnings that did go out were on social media sites, but low-income neighborhood of Rock Springs whose residents speak primarily Spanish and Vietnamese did not see these messages. One reason for the lack of response was the emergency management director position was vacant and had been for months. However since March the city has hired Ray Riordan as the emergency management director, implemented a three-tired warning system, and deployed an L-RAD (long-range acoustic device) that can notify people farther away.
Los Angeles Releases Fair Housing Plan
The City of Los Angeles released an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) Draft Plan that identifies issues, develops strategies to reduce existing barriers, and outlines recommendations to promote fair housing choice and foster inclusive communities throughout the city. The draft AFH includes HUD and local data and input from hundreds of people. The city is looking for public review until Sept. 29 and a public hearing will be held Sept. 14. The public hearing will also be available on webcast but registration is required prior to the event. A final AFH Plan will be developed based on input gathered from the public comment period and the final document will be presented to City Council and the HACLA Board of Commissioners in early October.
Brown Releases Cap-And-Trade Spending Plan
Gov. Jerry Brown released a $1.5 billion expenditure plan to allocate the 40 percent of cap-and-trade auction monies that are discretionary. Like in previous expenditure plans, 60 percent of the revenue from auction sales go to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) and the remaining 40 percent are appropriated by the legislature on an annual basis. Cities and other local governments can apply for GGRF-funded programs. Gov. Brown has proposed $350 million for CARB and other local air districts implementing the new air monitoring and quality program established by AB617; roughly $550 million will go to low-carbon transportation. 

Quick Hits & Updates
The City of Long Beach Planning Commission asked staff to conduct additional outreach on the new Long Beach 2040 General Plan Land Use and Urban Design Elements. The policy document plans to create places residents, businesses, and visitors have been looking for in the city: 21st century approach to achieving big city opportunities without losing benefits of compact neighborhoods. Some of the goals of the document are to reduce the number of residents (76 percent) who currently commute out of Long Beach for work and to encourage larger open spaces.
BART's Livermore Extension Project has released its Draft EIR. Public review period has been extended to Oct. 16 and included two public hearings in late August. BART is preparing the CEQA documents and BART Board of Directors will consider the Final EIR and the alternatives evaluated.

Developer Urban Commons has released the latest renderings of the 65-acre Queen Mary Island entertainment complex with stores, restaurants, sports venues, and entertainment facilities. The $250 million project is expected to drive nightlife in that part of Long Beach and fund repairs for the 81-year old cruise liner. The ship needs around $289 million in repairs over the next several years.

A new study from Apartment List, a rental site, shows that 77 percent of Los Angeles renters plan on relocating to a different city. The researchers found many young people move to Los Angeles with plans to stay for a short period after college or graduate school, with plans to move when ready to settle down. In LA, 49 percent of renters listed affordability as their main reason for moving with 20 percent saying better job opportunities and one percent weather. A surprising finding of the study is that renters are no longer interested in moving to San Francisco because of the high cost of living.

Los Angeles City Council’s Arts, Entertainment, Parks and River Committee is considering an agreement between the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would allow for preliminary studies and pre-construction work on the 11-mile LA River. Under the agreement, the city’s engineering department could begin designing a 500-foot terrace along the western bank of the river from North Main Street to East Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in downtown LA. The Army Corps is asking for the design agreements to be signed by Oct. 1, and then engineering and design work would begin immediately but take about 4.5 years depending on funding.

California’s cap-and-trade program results are the “strongest result we’ve seen” according to Chris Busch of Energy Innovation research firm. Busch attributes the strong sales to lawmakers extending the program, but also says the state has more credits available than companies need and that companies will quickly buy allowances because they are expecting much higher prices in the future. This could create less incentive for businesses to cut GHG emissions in the future. The state will receive about $640 million from August’s auction for clean energy programs and the high-speed rail project.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors released their $22 billion, 20-year capital plan. The plan includes a $2.5 billion underground light-rail tunnel, $90 million for streetcar expansion, and solar panels on bus yards. Other highlights include decreasing investment in the taxi industry from $90 million in 2015 to $60 million, upgrading 23 red light cameras and adding 10 more, new light-rail cars, enhancing disability access to trains, and 3D scans of maintenance facilities and trackways. The plan is not a budget, but instead a wish list as a first step in laying out the agency’s needs.

JMM Research conducted a statewide survey (pdf) of likely voters on behalf of the Advocates for Affordable Housing to gauge voter support for an affordable housing bond that could be placed on the November 2018 ballot by initiative. This memo outlines some key findings from the research. Voters strongly support the concept of a statewide affordable housing bond in an amount between $6 billion and $9 billion. Approval levels are at or near the 60 percent threshold, with less than 35 percent opposed.
The City of Hermosa Beach City Council unanimously approved PLAN Hermosa, a General Plan update and Local Coastal Plan. PLAN Hermosa began in July 2013 and involved more than 30 City Council and commission meetings, workshops, walking tours, and other community engagements.

Uber announced plans to sell the former Sears building in downtown Oakland it bought two years ago for $123.5 million. The company originally planned to place up to 3,000 employees in the building but earlier this year said it would only move a few hundred employees. Uber plans to consolidate most of its local employees in the new headquarters building in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood.

The ride-hailing company stressed its commitment to Oakland and has donated $70,000 to help ensure every graduate of Oakland Unified School District can attend college and has given nearly $30,000 in free rides to a variety of Oakland organizations through its Community Credits Program. (See prior CP&DR coverage of downtown Oakland.)

The City of Fresno City Council approved, 7-0, a 115-acre development project in low-income southwest Fresno. The plans include 55 acres of residential development, 22 acres major retail and commercial development, 9.6-acre park, 2.4 acres for community-oriented retail and offices, and 27 acres reserved for a future satellite campus for the State Center Community College District. Southwest Fresno has between 40 and 60 percent of residents living in poverty. The developer, Sylvesta Hall, grew up in Southwest Fresno.

Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a settlement with Kern County over its practice of dumping treated human waste on Kern County farmland. The legal battle has spanned more than a decade and the settlement will be to “avoid further litigation or controversy”. Kern County will continue to study the impact the dumping has on air, water and soil. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

The Hawthorne City Council voted, 4-1, to allow Elon Musk’s Boring Co. to construct its first test tunnel for electric vehicles. The tunnel will be dug beyond the SpaceX property line extending beneath city streets. The company is monitoring the impact of tunneling and will stop work if the surface ground begins to subside. The tunnel will be 44 feet underground and the work will be done with a tunnel-boring machine. Hyperloop One is in final testing phases of the first fully-built commercial Hyperloop system.

The City of San Clemente sued to overturn the 2016 settlement agreement between the city and the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) over its Foothill-South and Tesoro Extension projects that include toll roads. This lawsuit means TCA has to go back to the drawing board for its toll road extension. The proposed road has roused controversy over the years for its possible impacts on San Onofre State Beach.

Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a measure that would provide tax breaks to property owners who make their land available for farming and gardening. The ordinance is a framework for the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone program approved by the state legislation in 2014. According to Councilmember Curren Price, the measure will put LA’s many vacant lots to better use and provide residents with healthy food options. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Related Companies has filed for building permits for Bunker Hill’s Grand Avenue Project in downtown LA. First proposed in the mid-2000s, the project is designed by Frank Gehry and has two towers. There is a 2018 groundbreaking date but the project was originally expected to begin construction in 2007 and therefore many are skeptical. Construction is expected to be completed by 2022.

San Diego city officials are creating instruction manuals with sample floor plans and other details to help accelerate the construction of granny flats. The manuals are based off similar efforts in Seattle and San Francisco to help homeowners decide whether to build a granny flat in their yard or above their garage, provide cost estimates, and suggest how to find tenants.

San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved a 28-acre mixed-use development project at Pier 70 east of Dogpatch. The project includes 2,150 new homes and millions of square feet of commercial space, but there are still two visions of the plan. The Maximum Residential Scenario has 2,150 residential units while the Maximum Commercial Scenario only has 1,100 units. If given final approval the project would take 11 years to complete, but the first phase would include 900 new homes. The Board of Supervisors will consider the proposal next.

The San Jose City Council approved, 9-2, a pilot program to build up to three tiny home villages for the homeless. Locations are still up to discussion. At the council meeting residents complained that putting the villages next to them would increase crime and reduce property values. As one resident says, “this experiment doesn't belong in anyone’s backyard until the city has run a pilot to ensure this is a manageable, economic and effective solution that is positive and safe.” The council eliminated limitations on keeping the tiny homes away from houses, schools, and parks for now. The homes must be near transit and utilities and at least 0.50 acres or inside a 10,000 square-foot building. Each village will house up to 25 people, but with an estimated 4,000 homeless residents the city needs to find an innovative solution.

SPUR released a report “Room for More” about Silicon Valley’s housing challenges. As rents and home prices increase, the region’s economic growth, diversity and climate are threatened. SPUR recommends San Jose use planning and zoning tools to build 120,000 new units over the next 30 years and find new resources to support affordable housing development. The report has 20 steps that the biggest city in the Bay Area can take to address the housing shortage.