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CP&DR News Briefs November 20, 2017: ULI Global Awards; Gnatcatcher Habitat; Irvine vs. Orange County; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Nov 20, 2017
Two California projects are among the 13 worldwide winners of the Urban Land Institute’s 2017-2018 Global Awards for Excellence. The Emeryville Center of Community Living and Half Moon Village in Half Moon Bay received the awards, along with six other winners from the United States. The Emeryville project is a $96 million center that brings educational, health, family and recreational services into one site. The Center includes STEM classrooms, dedicated community multiuse space, daycare, family wellness center and health and dental clinic, library, commons, cafeteria, performance space, kitchens, swimming pool, studios, ad athletic fields. The Half Moon Bay project transforms an underused site into an innovative community for seniors with 160 affordable rental homes to low-income seniors and gardens, patios, bocce court, fitness center and community rooms. The Awards for Excellence program, established in 1979 and subsequently expanded to a global program, recognizes real estate projects that achieve the highest standard of excellence in design, construction, economics, planning, and management. The criteria for the awards include leadership, contribution to the community, innovations, public/private partnerships, environmental protection and enhancement, response to societal needs, and financial viability. 

Environmental Groups Sue to Protect Coastal Gnatcatcher Habitat
A lawsuit was recently filed to secure the coastal California gnatcatcher’s position on the federal Endangered Species List in light of new scientific evidence of its scarcity. In 2014, federal officials were presented new biological data indicated the gnatcatcher, a type of shorebird, does not belong on the Endangered Species Act list, and therefore its habitat is protected. The report concluded the bird was not an imperiled subspecies living only in Southern California but actually was part of a larger and healthy species found throughout Southern California to the tip of Baja, Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the findings in 2016. Advocates for the gnatcatcher’s listing, including a group of homebuilders, submitted the petition are suing the officials to force them to reconsider. Represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, the group argues the first review was cursory, biased and lacked transparency, and that the peer-review research deserves objective analysis.

Irvine Sues Orange County over Development Near Great Park
The Irvine City Council voted unanimously to sue the County of Orange over the development plan for the 108 acres south of the Great Park. The County Board of Supervisors certified, on a 4-1 vote, the project’s environmental impact report for up to one million square feet of office space, 2,100 homes, 200,000 square feet of retail, and a 242-room hotel. Irvine Mayor Don Wagner calls it an “ill-conceived project”. Councilman Jeff Lalloway said the county is violating a 2003 agreement when the Great Park land was transferred to Irvine but the 108 acres south were kept. Lalloway said housing, office, and retail development were never in the agreement as it was meant for government and institutional uses. Typically land developments must be approved by the city they are located in, but the county claims it’s exempt under “sovereign immunity”.

San Jose to Maintain Current Rent Control Increase
The San Jose City Council voted, 6-5, to maintain the current cap for the nearly 45,000 rent-controlled apartments instead of tying the rent increases to inflation. The city currently limits the rent increases to no more than five percent each year. However, hundreds of renters urged the city to tie rent hikes to the Bay Area consumer price index- which has ranged from 2.1 percent to 2.8 percent in the last five years. The City Council also rejected Councilman Don Rocha’s plan to add 11,000 duplexes to the properties subject to the rent control law. The City Council approved a registry to track rents in rent-controlled units and a proposal to allow renters to add new tenants to their leases without fearing eviction.

USC Analysis of Expo Rail Line Wins National Award
USC Price School of Public Policy Professor Genevieve Guiliano and two PhD students were awarded the 2017 Chester Rapkin Award by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) for their work analyzing the LA Metro Expo Line’s impact on transit ridership and traffic. The study looked at transit, freeway, and arterial data to explore the impact of the Expo Line on transit ridership, freeway traffic and arterial traffic within the corridor the line services. The research found a new rail line does not divert enough passengers from cars to make a significant difference. However, benefits include increasing transit accessibility and person throughput within high-demand corridors, but the effects on roadway traffic are small and localized.

Landlords Flout S.F. Affordable Housing Program 
An investigation by KPIX in San Francisco found dozens of cases of landlords violating a city program and renting out their below-market-rate (BMR) units at full prices. In one cases, a homeowner posts ads for the BMR property on Craigslist while living in a $1.5 million home in another part of the city. Another owner of a BMR property rents out her unit for $149 a night on Airbnb while living in a multi-million dollar condo in the new Millennium Tower. Director of Homeownership and Below Market Programs for the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, Maria Benjamin, told KPIX, “the amount of people misusing the system are so small compared to the people using the system for its purpose.” The city attorney is prosecuting three cases involving alleged BMR cheats and the Mayor’s Office of Housing is investigating approximately 40 cases, roughly 1 percent of the BMRs in the city.