The Nature Conservancy acquired the Cojo-Jalama Ranches through a $165 million gift from a couple who has long sought to protect the stretch of Santa Barbara County coastline from development. The property consists of roughly 24,000 acres, stretching south of Vandenberg Air Force Base along the coast and several miles inland; it includes Point Conception. It will be renamed the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve, founders of ESRI, who donated the money. The twin parcels contain oak woodlands, coastal prairies, beaches, and up to 50 rare and endangered species. The Nature Conservancy intends to maintain the cattle operations on the property and keep it closed to the public while it conducts an 18-month study of its resources.
Controversial Sacramento Development to Proceed on Wetlands
The Sacramento Planning Commission approved, 3-1, developer Angelo K. Tsakopoulos’ controversial plans to develop open space in Sacramento County’s vineyard area that residents believed would remain a protected wetland preserve. Silver Springs Lot P is owned by Tsakopoulos but in 1991 the county enacted strong protections that would ensure the property north of Elk Grove would remain a nature preserve. Residents say they purchased large $1 million homes because of the location adjacent to a 91.5 acre open space preserve. AKT Development plans to build 46 homes on half-acre lots with 50 acres remaining as permanent preserve with walking trails and maintenance for invasive species. The project must still have approval from the county Board of Supervisors and be signed off by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Long Beach Ramps Up Urban Agriculture Program
The City of Long Beach is giving vacant lot owners tax incentives by entering a contract with the city to use empty lots for agricultural purposes for five years. The Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Program is also being applied in San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, and Santa Clara. The goal of the program is economic growth, community development, access to local organic produce, and improving of deteriorating air quality. In the Long Beach program, vacant lots must be between 0.10 and 3 acres in size, have no habitable structures, and comply with zoning codes. While the program has many benefits it needs a community-minded property owner with a vacant lot and no plans to develop in the next five years paired with a sophisticated urban farming nonprofit. It is estimated the starting capital is around $15,000 to $20,000 to cover soil remediation, fencing, water access, security and other operating expenses.
UCLA Luskin Releases Policy Briefs on L.A. Housing Crisis
UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs has released a series of policy briefs surrounding affordable housing stock in the region. One brief finds that some low-cost housing has been lost in Los Angeles that majority of new multifamily units (both market rate and affordable) have been replacing single-family homes or on land not previously used for residential development. The study also found most of the new multifamily housing was not being built on the wealthier Westside but mostly in central and south Los Angeles. Another looks at repealing Proposition U, which in 1986 cut the floor area ratio (FAR) in half for most of the city’s commercial and manufacturing-zoned land. LA City Council has included two new Residential Accessory Services (RAS) zoning designation to facilitate housing development with ground floor commercial uses but these RAS zones are rare. The study suggests the value of each commercial parcel is lower due to diminished development potential. (See prior CP&DR commentary.) The final brief looks at opposition to new housing throughout the state and the importance of addressing opposition to new and affordable housing and density. The study found many neighborhood councils in LA cite “lack of engagement with the community”, “neighborhood character” or “too much density” as reasons to oppose housing projects. The recommendations for addressing housing opposition problems are enhancing and enforcing existing housing laws, making the planning process more inclusive, and shifting the scale of land use decisions from local to regional/state.
Quick Hits & Updates
Two San Francisco supervisors have introduced a measure for the June ballot that would split the existing San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency into two departments. The proposal would split parking and traffic management from Muni, and hopefully help address concerns of the city’s allegedly mismanaged transit policies.
Del Mar City Councilmember Terry Sinnott was unanimously elected as the new board chairman of SANDAG. Sinnott roused controversy recently when, in a brief interview after his election, he declined to acknowledge the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity and the burning of fossil fuels. SANDAG is currently conducing a nationwide search for a new executive director.
The San Francisco Planning Department presentedthe results of the 2016 Commerce and Industry Inventory to the Planning Commission. Between 2015 and 2016, the city added 27,048 new jobs but the number of building permits declined two percent. While the city did not tally the number of actual new units added, the U.S. census estimate says the city added roughly 2,600 new homes meaning one new home per every 10.4 new jobs.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and East Bay Congressman Mark DeSaulnier are promoting a new vehicular and rail crossing over the San Francisco Bay. The two suggest the effort be undertaken under Regional Measure 3, a $4.5 billion measure that the MTC hopes to place before voters next June. A 2012 MTC study shows the cost of putting a vehicle-rail bridge from near SFO to the southern edge of San Leandro at $12.4 billion and three different alignments of a new BART tube would be roughly $8.2 billion to $11.2 billion. The Bay Area Council and Silicon Valley Leadership Group say they’re focusing on first passing Regional Measure 3.
The Santa Rosa City Council will consider an immediate ban on evictions of low-income residents while the state of emergency remains in effect. According to Santa Rosa housing officials, since the fires, 15 residents paying federally subsidized rent have been issued 90-day eviction notices. The Council has the ability to pass the measure as an “urgency” ordinance, meaning it would only take five votes to pass and would go into effect immediately.
The NRDC filed suit against the cities of Pasadena and Murrieta for their failure to comply with the state’s Water Conservation Landscaping Act. The lawsuit alleges both cities failed to adopt new landscaping standards by December 1, 2015; issued permits for hundreds of units and associated landscaping since then without applying the state-required standards; and failed to submit required reports to the state on the content and enforcement of their local landscape requirements.
According to a survey by the San Francisco Transportation Authority, a majority (70 percent) of San Francisco voters think businesses including Uber, Lyft, and food-delivery services, should pay more taxes. The poll is an effort to figure out how to pay for an estimated $22 billion in transit and street improvements which are needed between now and 2045 according to a mayoral transportation task force.
Santa Rosa City Council members are in a 3-3 deadlock on changing the zoning of a 40-acre Fountaingrove commercial property to allow for 237 new homes. The area was decimated by the fire in October and half of the councilmember are worried about putting future residents in harm’s way. The other councilmembers say the entire city is in an earthquake danger zone but that disasters are a fact of life. The council is hoping to get some more information to help decide how to treat new housing request in burn areas and will come back to the issue in February.
A new BART station in Richmond opened recently. The station includes new pedestrian and bicycle-friendly entrances. Part of the new entryways function is to extend the Nevin Avenue Streetscape project, completed earlier this year, as a pedestrian-friendly connection between BART and the Civic Center. The area is also part of the TOD downtown plan with between 900 to 1,000 new housing units planned in the near future within walking distance of the station.
Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu effectively killed an effort to put a one-mile stretch of Sixth Street between La Brea Avenue and Fairfax Avenue on a “road diet”. Numerous neighborhood organizations and safe streets advocates are discouraged by the statement and efforts to make LA streets safer. Ryu said in a statement that his office will move forward with adding left-turn pockets at some intersections, peak-hour left-turn restriction at Burnside Avenue, and several crosswalks.
Scotts Valley acting community development director, Taylor Bateman, refused to consider an application saying the developer’s concept proposed too much housing and conflicted with the general plan. The project proposed 44 apartments, eight town homes, and 24,891 square feet of commercial space. The developer Granum Partners and land-use consultant Charlie Eadie are appealing the decision to the city Planning Commission.
Garden Grove City Council approved, 6-0, a development agreement for a 769-room three hotel resort on 5.18 acre property on Harbor Boulevard. Land & Design and the American subsidiary of the Shanghai Construction Group paid $852,571 in fees. The city is giving the site to the developer, paying up to $250,000 in improvements to the site, and giving tax subsidies worth at least $17.6 million. The final vote was to set a five-year deadline for the developer to complete construction of the project.
The City of San Diego and San Diego County Water Authority are closing in on a deal to construct a giant new hydroelectric facility in East County. The $1.8 billion project would make enough green energy to power 325,000 homes. The two agencies are looking for a private developer to shoulder much of the cost and risk. The final deal would require approval from San Diego City Council and isn’t expected until the spring.
The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space Agency Board of Directors unanimously granted property rights at Mount Umunhum to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. The cultural conservation easement provides permanent rights recorded on the deed to the 36 acres that once was occupied by the Almaden Air Force Station to the tribe. The tribe will be allowed to build a garden in a flat area and can hold up to six ceremonies a year on the summit where the public is excluded. Additionally the tribe can apply to build a roundhouse for educational and ceremonial purposes.