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CP&DR News Briefs November 13, 2017: Salton Sea Restoration Plan; City of Industry Land Purchase; S.F. Rent Control, and More

Noemi Wyss on
Nov 12, 2017
The State Water Resources Control Board approved a $383 million plan to slow the degredation of the Salton Sea in the next decade. Funding is still unclear but the plan has support from major water agencies, environmental groups, and residents living in urban and rural areas near the lake. The plan would create a smaller, but more sustainable lake as San Diego’s regional water agency will stop sending water to the lake end of this year. This means no water deliveries from the Colorado River, shrinking the lake at an even faster rate. The plan calls for preserving 29,800 of the 48,300 acres as ponds in part to abate toxic dust storms that would arise if more of the lakebed was exposed. The plan includes annual targets for completion beginning with 500 acres in 2018 and 4,200 acres in 2028. Timothy Krantz, professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that the plan’s provision “are only band-aids to a very serious environmental disaster….Our models at the Salton Sea Database at the University of Redlands indicate about 90,000 acres (140 square miles) of lake bed exposure over that same period. The state has set aside $80 million for the project, out of $380 million needed. (See prior CP&DR coverage here and here.)

State to Allow City of Industry to Purchase Land for Solar Farm
California Department of Finance will not challenge the City of Industry’s purchase of nearly 2,500 acres of ranch lands alongs the edge of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Orange counties. This allows the city to move forward with plans to build a massive solar farm on the Tres Hermanos ranch. The property is located within the cities of Diamond Bar and Chino Hills, and the two cities asked for a review following the approval of the discounted sale of the ranch by the Oversight Board of Los Angeles County. According to the two cities, the land was appraised at a maximum value of $122.5 million and was sold to the City of Industry for $41.7 million.Diamond Bar and Chino Hills both filed lawsuits last month alleging Industry and the Oversight Board failed to follow the state’s plan for redevelopment properties dissolved in 2012 leading to a shortchange on property tax revenues from the ranch.

Study Blames Rent Control for High Housing Costs in S.F. 
According Stanford economists Rebecca Diamond and Tim McQuade, rent control policies in San Francisco may have fueled gentrification. The study, The Effects of Rent Control Expansion on Tenants, Landlords, and Inequality: Evidence from San Francisco,found that occupants of rent-controlled apartments built before 1980 are 20 percent more likely to stay than other renters which makes it seem as though it allows and encourages long-term residents to stay. However, Diamond explains to SFGate “Rent control exacerbates the housing shortage by pushing landlords to remove supply of rental housing” meaning the rental market will make all rents more expensive by causing landlords to remove supply of units. This eventually led to more owner occupied and high-end new construction rental housing which likely fueled gentrification in the city. The study found landlords with property in desirable neighborhoods were more likely to evict tenants, use buy-outs, or the Ellis Act. According to SPUR, a local advocacy organization, San Francisco has 172,000 rent-controlled units which comprises about 75 percent of the city’s rental stock. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

SCAG Envisions 1 Million More Residents of L.A. County
The Southern California Association of Governments released its projections for the region’s population growth at the 16th annual Mayoral Housing, Transportation and Jobs Summit. Los Angeles County will experience growth of more than one million people over the next 20 years, increasing concerns about the housing and transit crisis in the region. Multiple measures have been passed at the local and state level to raise billions of dollars for new housing, transportation, and environmental projects in the region. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has also committed the city to construct more than 100,000 new residential units by 2021.

Officials Wary of GOP Tax Plan’s Impact on Housing Production
The recent GOP federal tax proposal, if passed in its current form, would have a disproportionate impact on California. It would take away tax exemptions that generate $2.2 billion annually for affordable housing construction and led to roughly 20,000 homes last year in California. Like many other states, California relies on federal tax breaks to finance affordable housing projects. Throughout the state, roughly 90,000 affordable units were expected to be built as a result of a $4 billion statewide housing bond (pending voter approval in November 2018) however with the tax proposal that number would be cut in half. “The newly released House Tax Reform bill would be catastrophic for affordable housing in California,” wrote Tia Boatman Patterson, executive director of the California Housing Finance Agency, in a recent statement. 

Sandbag Board Discusses Reform Measures 
The SANDAG Board recently discussed its "Plan of Excellence," focusing on a comprehensive effort to improve SANDAG operations while incorporating the changes to the agency required by the passage of Assembly Bill 805. The board’s three-member Independent Examination Subcommittee – Vice Chair and Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus – will go over the proposed approach (called the Plan of Excellence), which addresses input from prior Board reform discussions, recommendations from the Hueston Hennigan LLP report, and a variety of other sources. The meeting also included items on several important topics, including the Implementation of AB 805’s requirements, progress to date on the agency’s 7-Point Data Accuracy and Modeling Work Plan, and an update on the recruitment efforts for a new executive director to lead the agency.

Quick Hits & Updates
San Francisco announced an experimental program to provide ride-hailing services designated loading zones to address problems of double-parking and blocking crosswalks and bike and transit lanes to pick up passengers. Uber and Lyft would be required to use the passenger pickup zone. Clients of the ride-hailing services would receive a text notifications alerting them to the new procedures and giving them instructions. The two companies agreed to give the city the data that will be collected, including trip information.

According to a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, 45 percent of California adults are seriously considering moving away from their part of the state because of housing costs. Meaning only 55 percent of those surveyed are staying put. Additionally 64 percent of adults are in favor of building more housing in their communities, 59 percent believe housing affordability is a big problem in their region, and over 60 percent are in favor of changing environmental regulations and local permitting processes to make housing more affordable.

Ford GoBikes launched in San Jose last week with 34 stations in and around downtown San Jose. The bike share system launched in San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville, and Berkeley, but San Jose has the highest placement of stations in Communities of Concern. The bike-share annual membership is $5 for the first year and has bikes available 24/7 everyday of the year.

A Superior Court jury in Sacramento found, 9-3, that the City of Sacramento did not treat homeless people unfairly in its enforcement of an ordinance banning outdoor camping. Homeless plaintiffs hoped to prove the city violated their constitutional right to equal protection under the law by selectively enforcing the ordinance against those forced to live outdoors. The jury said the city uses the ordinance to protect the public and act on complaints against campers, and has to cite and arrest homeless people who refused to leave illegal encampments.

The Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee unanimously amended San Francisco’s cannabis rules to make it legal to smoke cannabis inside dispensaries. Committee chairman Mark Farrell pointed out the challenge of many tenants having “no smoking” provisions in their leases and nowhere to go. The amendment would take indoor consumption permits out of the hands of public health officials and instead make them the responsibility of the Office of Cannabis. The amendment must still go before the full Board of Supervisors at the November 14th meeting.

Four commercial fishery organizations are suing the California State Water Resources Control Board for failing to maintain clean water and public trust resources in the Delta and Central Valley. The lawsuit contends the Board has failed to list Delta waterways as impaired, and the lack of action is harming the salmon population. The group argues without healthy salmon populations and functional rivers free of toxic pesticides, thousands of coastal jobs are in danger.

Perkins Eastman and Arup have been selected to redesign Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood. The project is organized by Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza and the American Institute of Architects San Francisco Chapter.

The City of Pasadena outlined the citizen-led Connecting Pasadena Project, which highlights the development plans for the 50-acre area next to Old Pasadena downtown that would have been used for the proposed 710-freeway extension. The city is hoping it can reacquire the property once Caltrans officially kills the extension project and transform the area into neighborhoods, parks, and tree-lined boulevards.

The Glendale City Council awarded a contract to begin a feasibility study for a streetcar to connect Glendale and Burbank. The project is estimated to cost between $97 and $243 million for a route of about 9.5 miles.

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and other agencies released a comprehensive flood resilience strategy “RainReadySF” to prepare Bay Area residents and businesses for the upcoming rainy season. The strategy includes planned infrastructure investments and requiring neighborhoods to develop better flood maps, new construction standards in flood areas, and flood-protection requirements for property sales and renovations.

Oakland received a proposal for a 34-story project for downtown with 120,000 square-feet of office space, 185 residential units, and 12,000 square-feet of ground-floor retail. The tower would be the East Bay’s tallest building. The project would be located near the 12th Street and Broadway BART station, and therefore provide office and housing near mass transit.

Anaheim’s ARTIC station has doubled the number of daily trips in the last three years since the transit hub opened, but total ridership is far below projections. Daily weekday trips in 2017 were up more than 80 percent since 2015. City spokesman Mike Lyster said some of the boost in riders could be the addition of Tres Estrellas de Oro, which provides daily trips to and from Tijuana, a service that began in January 2016. City officials are saying the consultants projections were overly optimistic for the public transit project.

The California Coastal Commission unanimously approved a deal that allows the owner of a coastal ranch to fix damage to land developed without permission and transfer 36 acres of coastal property to Santa Barbara County. The ranch land will be used to extend a current public park at Jalama Beach. The settlement is important because the public has been shut out of the public land for over a hundred years. The area is free of urban sprawl, crowds, development, and freeways. The land is part of the 37 square-file Cojo Jalama Ranches, formerly known as Bixby Ranch.

Los Angeles Metro board approved a staff recommendation to study proposed safety improvements that could lead to converting the 18-mile Orange bus rapid transit line to a light-rail line. Agency staff have recommended building an elevated busway bridge. Metro has set aside $286 million for the Orange Line improvements.