Los Angeles is one of a dozen cities worldwide, including Mexico City, London, Cape Town, and Paris, that are vowing to buy only zero-emission buses starting in 2025 and make entire neighborhoods fuel-free by promoting walking, cycling, and public transportation. The C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration includes 12 cities from around the world. Seattle is the only other city in the group from the United States. The goals are aimed at localized air pollution as well as climate change. The plan echoes one released by the city of Madrid, which envisions a “zero-emissions zone” in the city center where residents, public transportation and zero-emission vehicles can go. The group of cities are committed to eliminating emissions in designated areas of the cities by 2030 and have policies to fight air pollution, improve the quality of life, and help tackle the global threat of climate change.
Humbolt County Adopts New General Plan
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved, 3-1, a new general plan and general plan EIR after 18 years. A decade ago a General Plan Update draft had more housing and less environmental impact but with new supervisors the policies in the GPU changed, as did the ideological makeup of the county Planning Commission, and the guiding principles underpinning the whole process. One of the major changes in the newly adopted General Plan is that new homes will be permitted on resource lands in the county. The county must still modify and update the Local Coastal Plan, which can take six months to two years to receive certification by the California Coastal Commission.
Fresno Restores Fulton Street
The City of Fresno recently celebrated the re-opening of Fulton Street in the heart of downtown Fresno. The project to transform Fulton Mall, which opened as a a pedestrian-only street in 1964 and had fallen on hard times in recent years, into a traditional two-way street began in March 2016. The goal is to make it easier for business to open downtown to bring both vehicular and pedestrian traffic to the area. The city received federal and state grants totaling $20 million to help pay for the revitalization. Construction was supposed to take 14 months but took 19 months, causing businesses in the area to leave or close up for a hiatus until construction was completed. Approximately $5 million was spent to restore 18 pieces of artwork, which are an important part of the historic character of Fulton Street. Mayor Ashley Swearengin called it a signal of the “rebirth” of downtown Fresno.
Controversy Arises over Development of Downtown Laguna Niguel
According to Voice of OC, the Orange County Board of Supervisors killed a contract with a developer of county-owned land, halting development of downtown Laguna Niguel in August. City Councilmembers learned the project was dead at their October 17 meeting, and county supervisors still have not publicly reported their vote two months ago. Laguna Niguel was formed in 1989 but has no downtown area, the proposed project was the Agora Arts District Downtown and the county had a contract with Lab Holding to develop the site until the agreement was terminated. The disagreement is over the original RFP and the requirement of a completion bond, which Lab Holding said was never in the original proposal sent out by the county. Shaheen Sadeghi, founder of Lab Holding, said the financial terms changed significantly and were given 24 months to complete the project. Additionally, the county was splitting financing of the EIR with the city, but Lab Holdings secured its own construction funding and therefore the performance/completion bonds are uncommon for landholders. Fire Watch: 8,400 Homes Burned; 100,000 Residents Displaced in N. Calif.
According to an initial accounting, the recent fires in Northern California have destroyed at least 8,400 homes and buildings, 42 lives lost, and 100,000 people displaced by the fires with many wondering where they will live in the long term. In Santa Rosa alone, 2,800 homes have been destroyed putting added strain on the housing market. That is approximately 4 percent of the city’s 67,000 residential units. As Frank Nothaft, chief economist with CoreLogic explained to Mercury News, “it’s already a tight housing market… and apartments are tough. Rents are up. Prices are up. Rental vacancies are well below the national rates.” Nothaft also explains that rebuilding homes can take longer than usual because of the shortage of skilled construction labor.Tenants Rights Advocates Seek Repeal Costa-Hawkins Act in 2018
Faith-based community organization LA Voice has announced that it will promote a measure that would repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act, the 1995 law that bars rent caps on single-family homes and apartments built after that year. The potential 2018 statewide ballot initiative would allow cities and counties to dramatically expand rent control. The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, a nonprofit community organizing group, is the primary backer of the initiative. Assemblyman Richard Bloom also introduced a bill last year repealing the act but pulled it before a committee hearing because of significant opposition.
Oakland Launches Program to Turn Vacant Properties into Housing
The City of Oakland’s Housing and Community Development Department, Alameda County, and non-profit Hello Housing have teamed up to transform 26 vacant properties into affordable housing for low and moderate-income residents. The group has been working for two years to acquire formerly blighted and tax-defaulted properties and converting them into housing that is safe, healthy, and affordable. The pilot program “Oakland Tax-Defaulted Properties” has multiple goals including creating new affordable housing units, returning abandoned properties to the tax rolls, curbing excessive and continuous city cleanup costs, and enhancing the vitality of Oakland neighborhoods. The 26 vacant sites will become 24 single-family homes that will be sold to low and moderate-income homebuyers earning a maximum of 120 percent of the area median income and two affordable multi-family rental properties. The properties are expected to be completed in late 2018.
Quick Hits & Updates
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee issued an executive directive to speed up approvals and permits for new housing, with a goal of completing 5,000 new and renovated units per year. The order calls for housing projects to be considered for approval no later than six months after they are filed for projects not requiring environmental review, and up to 22 months for more complex projects.
The City of Los Angeles has nearly doubled the number of hotel rooms within walking distance of the LA Convention Center to 4,637 rooms but still needs many more, according to a city study. However, the study concludes LA ranks 18th in the nation when it comes to hotel rooms within walking distance- three-quarters of a mile- of a convention center.
A Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Helen E. Williams sided with the City of San Jose in a dispute over replacement of the Willow Glen Trestle, which the city had permitted for demolition. Friends of the Willow Glen Trestle claimed it is a historical resource. The court acknowledge “practical challenges” of establishing historical status and the analytical gaps when it comes to CEQA protection and transparency to agency decisions on a discretionary historical resource. The trestle was placed on the California Register of Historic Resources list last year, but Judge Williams said that was irrelevant to judicial review of the original demolition approval.
Ed Pope, an army veteran and Irvine resident, has started a petition to overturn the City Council’s decision to swap land at Irvine’s Great Park for a veterans cemetery. In a press release Pope said, “I am outraged by this land-swap scheme that dishonors our veterans and enables FivePoint Communities to extract hundreds of millions of dollars in windfall profits.” The original site would have taken at least $70 million to clean up but funds from the state, Federal government, and the City of Irvine were secured.
Orange County Supervisors unanimously picked a team of developers, operating under Dana Point Harbor Partners, to manage an overhaul of Dana Point Harbor with new shops, restaurants, boat slops, and hotels. The group is seeking $20 million subsidy from the county for the project. The proposed project is estimated to bring in $1.2 billion in revenue over a half-century.
Leading Democratic candidates for California governor assembled at the City Club in San Francisco to discuss housing and climate change, among other topics. Former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former state schools chief Delaine Eastin Eastin both brought up Prop. 13 and how the 1978 measure must be reformed.
A road diet pilot program in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Playa del Rey has ended abruptly, with lanes removed from three roads will be restored, after vehement public outcry. Councilmember Mike Bonin said while road diets worked in other cities, not enough community outreach and public education campaigns over public safety were done to make it an acceptable project to the community. The road diet was part of Los Angeles’s efforts to implement Vision Zero. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)