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CP&DR News Briefs November 27, 2017: Urban Greening Grants; Oakland Economic Development; State Green Buildings; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Nov 27, 2017
The California Natural Resources Agency announced the 39 winning green infrastructure projects through the state’s Urban Greening Program (pdf). The $76 million in funding for the winners is funded through the Cap-and-Trade program and supports projects that reduce greenhouse gases and convert built environments into green spaces. There were winners from 19 of the counties throughout the state, however Los Angeles County had 13 winning projects. Projects in disadvantaged communities received 92 percent of the funding. A few of the winning projects include: Alameda County received $4.1 million for the “San Leandro Creek Urban Greenway”, City of Richmond was awarded $4.1 million for “Greening the Yellow Brick Road”, and the Trust for Public Land received $3.7 million for the “Zamora Park Renovation Project”.

Oakland Releases Economic Development Strategy
The City of Oakland released its Economic Development Strategy for 2018-2020. Mayor Libby Schaaf’s letter in the beginning notes the decrease in unemployment rate, commercial vacancies being filled, business and tourism thriving, and construction of residential and office space. However, the rents are increasing, cost of business is going up, congestion is worsening, and “the pressure of outside forces changing the Oakland we love.” The report shows an increase in educational attainment from 2000 to 2015, more than 10 percent decrease of unemployment black people between 2013 and 2015, and 43 percent of businesses owned by women and 51 percent by people of color. The city saw a spike- over 1500- in multi-family residential building permits in the first quarter of this year, but it dropped to around 800 permits in the second quarter. The report shows more than 3,006 housing units are currently under construction with another 8,990 units approved. Oakland is prioritizing development of two dozen of its properties to create 2,300 homes, 4,000 construction jobs, and 3,700 permanent jobs in the next three years. The goal is to “make Oakland an easy, efficient, and prosperous place to do business, and to reduce racial disparities and help all Oaklanders achieve economic security so that everyone has an opportunity to thrive.”

LAO Questions Efficacy of Statewide Green Building Program
According to a new report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012 executive order directing about 8,000 state departments buildings to offset their energy use dramatically drives up cost of construction while delivering uncertain environmental benefits. These “zero net energy” projects tend to include features that limit energy use while generating power through solar panels. The analysis found the ZNE status can add 17 to 29 percent to the projected cost for some buildings. The report also states the cap-and-trade program is more efficient and less costly as a solution for the state to reduce GHG emissions. The LAO Report concluded the state departments should conduct a cost-benefit analysis before proceeding with zero net energy projects. The Brown administration contends the ZNE designs will save money over time in energy costs. Since the directive, the state has completed nine ZNE projects with another 22 under development.

State Releases Initial Rules on Cannabis Businesses
The California Department of Health, Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Bureau of Cannabis Control released new temporary rules that regulate who can legally sell and deliver marijuana to how it must be packaged and transported. Big farms may still be located in Mendocino and Monterey, and small delivery services can operate legally. Business cannot be located within 600 feet of schools. But pot cannot be transported in self-driving cars or bicycles and is banned in strip clubs. These guidelines come in less than six weeks before the sale of recreational marijuana becomes legal on Jan. 1. State agencies are working on more permanent rules next year. Here are the different sets of regulations: Bureau of Cannabis Control regulations (PDF)Department of Food and Agriculture regulations (PDF)Department of Public Health regulations (PDF). (See prior CP&DR coverage.) 

City of Irvine Clashes with Orange County over Homeless Shelters
Orange County Supervisors have rejected a proposal to create emergency homeless shelters on 108 acres of vacant land next to the Great Park and instead approved, 4-1, a project to build a hotel, office space, and market-rate housing. The county says the proposed project would generate much-needed revenues to fund public services. County officials say 15 percent, or approximately 300 of the 2,000 proposed homes, would be affordable. However no members of the public spoke in favor of the project and urged the supervisors to delay a decision until it resolves concerns for Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County’s distribution center access or builds a homeless shelter or affordable housing. The City of Irvine City Council voted to sue to stop the county form moving forward with its plans. The food bank has also hired its own attorney to challenge the environmental analysis. One of the central disputes in the case is whether the county overstepped Irvine’s authority to regulate commercial land developments within the city. 

Appeal Court Updates Ruling on 2011 SANDAG Transportation Plan
The California Court of Appeal issued its revised ruling this week on a challenge to the 2011 environmental impact report prepared by SANDAG for its federally-required Regional Transportation Plan of 2011. The Court of Appeal revised ruling follows a July 2017 California Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of SANDAG on the key element of the original Court of Appeal ruling in 2014. The Supreme Court ruled that SANDAG properly conducted the greenhouse gas analysis for the 2011 environmental impact report. The original petitioners, the Cleveland National Forest Foundation and others, asked the Court of Appeal to reissue its earlier decision incorporating the Supreme Court’s ruling. 

Study: Gold Line Extension Worth $2.6B to Inland Empire
According to a study released by Beacon Economics, the 12.3-mile extension of the Gold Line light rail from Glendora to Montclair in San Bernardino County will provide a $2.6 billion economic boost to the region. The $1.5 billion project includes six new stations and is slated to break ground in December and be completed around 2026. The study found the project will generate more than 17,000 jobs, $1 billion in labor income, and nearly $40 million in tax revenue to LA County. Once service begins, the project is expected to benefit the county annually by more than $52 million in economic output, $17 million in labor income, $800,000 in tax revenues, and 277 jobs. The study also notes the project has spurred $1 billion in private investments in residential and commercial development near the future Montclair station. However, the nine years of construction will cause dust, detours, and delays in six foothill cities. 

S.F. City Attorney Clarifies City’s Take on Upland Ruling
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera recently released a memo contending that half the vote plus one will be enough to pass taxes via voter approval in the city. This comes after a recent state Supreme Court ruling, in which citizen-instigated ballot initiatives to raise taxes now only need a simple majority to pass instead of two-thirds. Last year, a ballot measure was put to voters to divert a portion of San Francisco’s hotel-tax revenue to pay for arts program and homeless family services won well over half the vote (63.7 percent), but not the two-third majority that was the standard for twenty years. Economics professor at UC Berkeley, Alan Auerbach, said Herrera’s conclusion will certainly mean be more initiative-based tax proposals, which can be good and bad. (See prior CP&DR coverage here, here, and here.)

Quick Hits & Updates

The Strategic Growth Council will host workshops to provide researchers and community members an opportunity to learn about the newest grant program: Climate Change Research Program, and the component of the Draft Research Investment Plan, as well as provide feedback to SGC staff. Written comments will be accepted until December 15. SGC will host three public workshops in Oakland Monday November 27,  Fresno Tuesday November 28, and Los Angeles Wednesday November 29.

San Jose City Council is discussing a proposal to create a vacant storefront registry to spur property owners to clean up or lease blighted buildings downtown. The city’s code enforcement division would manage the program and charge $202 every three months for a building that remains empty. The vacant building monitoring program focuses on neglected and abandoned properties, but not storefronts specifically. Under the current rules, building owners do not have to enroll in a registry when their property becomes vacant. The pilot program will focus on downtown, but the hope is to eventually expand citywide.

San Jose metropolitan area had a 19.2 percent increase in median cost of a home to $1,049,000 and the number of homes for sale in October fell by 51.6 percent. This new analysis from Redfin shows the severe lack of supply in housing in the area. The three most competitive markets in the U.S. for single-family homes, condos, and townhomes are San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. In these three cases 78.6 percent, 76.3 percent, and 63.7 percent of homes are selling above asking price.

LA Metro CEO Phil Washington acknowledged the importance of a Metro rail station in the downtown Arts District, but said unless there is a financial miracle, the area won’t receive a station. Metro studied the idea of erecting a station at either Third or Sixth streets because of the rush of housing development in the area. The priority for Metro in the Arts District is preparing for the coming Purple Line Extension, slated to be opened in 2024.

The third annual Schroders Global Cities 30 Index reports that Los Angeles is ranked first as a "hot spot" for global real estate investors. Other cities include New York, London, and Chicago. Last year LA was sixth place, but the good weather, entertainment industry and “silicon beach” has increased demand for office space and residential property. The city has proven to be the best long term value for fixed asset investment.

The Oakland A’s have hired Sasaki, Snøhetta, Studio T-Square, and HOK to design the stadium at Peralta Community College and integrate it into the surrounding neighborhood. The goal is the new stadium will help catalyze investment along Lake Merritt without alienating the existing community.

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission voted, 4-2, to rename Herman Plaza on Market Street to reflect changing attitudes towards redevelopment  Justin Herman led the Redevelopment Agency in the 1960s and was linked with the city’s urban renewal and slum clearance projects that displaced thousands of residents and small businesses.  

Developers of a 20-story apartment tower in Hollywood announced that they would voluntarily make all 210 new units rent-controlled to cap rent increases at three percent per year. The project will demolish a cluster of low-rise apartment buildings and therefore the developer has also announced all tenants from the older buildings will be able to move into a “comparable unit” in the new project and pay the same rent. The project is expected to begin construction in 2019 and be completed in 2022.

As part of San Francisco's Vision Zero strategies, Mayor Ed Lee is asking the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority to create a “rapid response team” to enact immediate safety improvements in areas where traffic fatalities occur. According to data from the city, traffic deaths have not decreased significantly in the city since Vision Zero framework was adopted. There were 31 deaths in 2014 and 2015 and 30 deaths in 2016. 

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has filed an application with LA officials seeking approval to begin digging within city limits to construct a tunnel underground that would whisk commuters from San Fernando Valley to the Westside through a tunnel parallel to the 405-freeway. The project would be funded entirely by private money and would allow cars, pedestrian and cyclists to use the system.

Uplift Inglewood, an advocacy group, is pushing to get a rent control measure on the city’s ballot in 2018. While many cities across the state are facing escalating housing costs, Inglewood has a new NFL stadium due to open in 2020, which is expected to further raise rents. Housing activists are also pushing for rent control initiatives in Pasadena, Glendale, and Long Beach. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand and Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn announced preliminary plans to close the AES power plant and redevelop the 50-acre site to create a coastal resort and public park. In 2015 voters in the city decided against closing the power plant because a project with 600 residential units and a hotel would have risen in its place. Hahn says developers and officials would have to alleviate community concerns around traffic and development in an already dense area.

The San Diego City Council was set to finalize a $5.85 million deal to build over 100 low-income homes on city-owned property in southeastern San Diego when a board member of San Diegans for Open Government said there was a potential conflict of interest. The group is worried one of the Civic San Diego board members, Phil Rath, has been a registered lobbyist on behalf of the nonprofit developer Affirmed Housing Group since 2013. The City Council will now review the allegations in the letter before making a decision on the project.