MTC’s Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) approved a resolution to place a $4.45 billion package of transportation projects known as Regional Measure 3 (RM3) on the June 5 ballot. If approved, these projects would be financed by a $1 increase in tolls on the seven state-owned toll bridges. The major projects in the RM3 expenditure plan include expansion of BART’s railcar fleet, extension to Milpitas and East San Jose, further extension to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara, extending Caltrain to downtown San Francisco, expanding transbay bus services, constructing freeway connectors throughout the Bay, widening certain corridors, expanding San Francisco’s Muni metro railcars and Ferry fleet. RM3 would also provide $50 million for planning and preliminary engineering of a second rail tube connecting he East Bay and San Francisco, $150 million grant to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to regional transit hubs, and to close gaps in the San Francisco Bay Trail.
Legislators Seek Audit of High-Speed Rail
Sen. Jim Beall (San Jose), chair of the state Senate transportation committee, and Assemblymember Jim Patterson (Fresno) submitted a letter asking for a comprehensive review of the California High-Speed Rail program. This letter marks the first time that a leading Democrat has supported an audit of the program since the state auditor looked at the project in 2012. The request comes a week after the rail authority disclosed its main consultant, WSP, was forecasting the cost of building the first 119 miles of rail line in the Central Valley would jump up to $10.6 billion from the original $6 billion estimate. Construction is currently running about seven years behind schedule. In the letter, Beall and Patterson ask for an examination of contract costs, change orders, economic effect to communities, the use of small businesses and environmental outcomes that result from the project’s “green construction practices.” While Patterson, former mayor of Fresno, has been a critic of the project, Beall cited many benefits of HSR but wants the state to look for efficiencies and saving to speed up construction and cut costs.
Steinberg Calls for Development Fund for Sacramento
In his first State of the City address last week Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg proposed a multibillion-dollar fund that would pay for local infrastructure, affordable housing, arts and culture amenities, as well as incentives to attract new industries to the city. He said the money could come from a new sales tax or selling off some of the 4.5 million square feet of vacant land the city owns. The city has a one-half percent sales tax that funds core city services that will expire next year, and city officials are expected to ask voters to renew the tax on the November ballot. However, Steinberg’s remarks indicate the city may ask voters to increase the sales tax to 1 percent and make it permanent to fund his plans. Steinberg said he will hold four public workshops over the next 45 days to discuss the idea and plans to provide specific plans by the beginning of summer.
Vernal Pool Conservation Plan Approved in San Diego
San Diego City Council approved, 7-2, a habitat conservation plan that comes after 12 years of negotiations over development of vernal pool habitats. The plan strikes a deal between environmentalists and developers over biologically-rich vernal pools and clarifies how developers can build on land with such pools. Vernal pools only exist for a few weeks or months each year, almost always in the spring, and are most prevalent in Mira Mesa, Kearny Mesa, and Otay Mesa. Supporters of the deal say the rulebook strikes the right balance between protecting the environment and allowing developers to confidently move forward with projects. Opponents of the plan feel that more should be done to protecting the remaining three percent of the county’s vernal pools, 97 percent have been destroyed by farmers and developers.
Small Growers Fear Industrial-Scale Marijuana Cultivation
California Growers Association, a group of marijuana growers in the state, filed a lawsuit in Sacramento to block state rules that they fear could lead vast farms to drive smaller cultivators out of business. The group argues the current state regulations would allow businesses to acquire an unlimited number of certain growing licenses, creating large operations that would have a devastating effect on smaller businesses. The lawsuit says those rules conflict with state law that intended the new cannabis market to be built around small-and medium-sized growers.
CARB Holds SB 375 Workshops, Jan. 30 - Feb. 13
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is holding workshops on SB 375 Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection program and proposed updates to regional passenger vehicle GHG emissions reduction targets for California’s Metropolitan Planning Organizations. The workshops will have CARB staff presenting revisions to the October 2017 Staff Report, sharing feedback received at the December 2017 Board Meeting, presenting initial concepts for updates to the technology methodology for SCS evaluation, and guidance on quantification of strategies. The workshops will be held January 30 in Fresno, February 5 in Los Angeles, February 6 in Sacramento, and February 13 in San Diego. The Sacramento workshop will also be webcast live.
Caltrans Offers $40 Million in Planning Grants
Caltrans released its 2018-2019 Grant Application Guides and call-for-applications for the traditional State and federal funding, as well as grant funding from SB1, the Road Repair & Accountability Act of 2017. A total of $40.8 million is available for transportation planning projects statewide, with $29.5 million for Sustainable Communities Grants, $4.3 million for Strategic Partnerships Grants, and $7 million for Adaptation Planning Grants. Grant applications are due February 23, 2018 and announcements will be made in May. More information on applications, timelines, and much more information can be found on the website.
Quick Hits & Updates
Oakland City Council passed the Uniform Relocation Ordinance, which creates a schedule of relocation payments that will increase every year based on the Consumer Price Index fluctuations. The first schedule would require landlords to pay $9,875 to those evicted from three or more bedroom units, $8,000 to renters evicted from two-bedroom units, and $6,500 to people evicted from studio or one-bedroom units. Additionally, households with low-income, elderly or disabled people, or those with minor children would be entitled to an additional $2,500 per unit.
Gail Goldberg, executive director of the Urban Land Institute’s Los Angeles chapter, announced her retirement effective at the end of January. Goldberg served in this position for six years. She previously was planning director in Los Angeles and, before that, San Diego.
A plan to cap the Santa Monica Freeway to link the city’s downtown and Civic Center with a park atop a deck is finally poised to move forward. The Gateway Master Plan is set to head into the process early this year according to a report from the City Department of Planning and Community Development. The plan is included in the department’s list of recommended priorities. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it is giving San Francisco $9 million more than it did last year to help boost housing for homeless people. In all, San Francisco won $41.5 million in homelessness grants, more than any other California county except Los Angeles, which won $109.4 million. Alameda County was awarded $35 million and Santa Clara County $22 million.
Rental site ApartmentList released its results from its latest renter confidence survey. San Francisco received an F grade in affordability but a B+ grade overall. San Jose respondents also gave their city an F in affordability and Oakland a D. However, while 45,000 responses came in nationwide only 148 for San Francisco, 105 for San Jose, and 60 for Oakland. As Curbed points out, the survey only includes residents of these cities, those forced to relocate because of the housing crisis since 2016 were not part of the survey.
Los Angeles City Councilmembers are calling for a Climate Emergency Mobilization department which would radically reduce GHG emissions. According to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s sustainability plan, LA reduced its emissions 20 percent between 1990 and 2013 and is aiming for a 45 percent cut by 2025.
Gov. Jerry Brown made two key appointments to the High-Speed Rail Authority: Washington DOT engineer Joseph Hedges to the chief operating officer position and DMV veteran Pamela Mizukami as chief deputy director. Both positions have been vacant for months.
Palo Alto City Council sent comments on Stanford University’s proposed expansion to Santa Clara County, which has final say over the project. Palo Alto says the University should include some affordable housing and funding for transit improvements. The comments on the draft environmental review of the expansion are due February 2. The university’s 2018 general use permit, if approved by the county, would allow it to continue developing its property through 2035.
However, former San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio has gathered the 585,407 signatures needed to qualify an initiative to repeal the gas tax for the November ballot. If the measure passes, it would roll back SB 1’s hike on fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, as well as require a public vote for any such increases in the future. SB 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act, is projected to raise roughly $5.4 billion a year for highways to roads to bridges to public transit to sidewalks.
According to Kevin Guy, Director of the San Francisco Office of Short-Term Rental Administration and Enforcement, Airbnb and rival home-stay sites have lost thousands of hosts as a deadline for the companies to kick off unregistered hosts approaches. In 2015, San Francisco strengthened registration requirements and rental limitations. The STR companies sued the city, but a settlement was reached in May that required the sites to register all hosts in phases starting in September. The city said 2,168 hosts had met its requirements to offer temporary rentals, representing a small fraction of the 8,453 Airbnb listings the city observed in August.
Sacramento City Officials will eliminate one of the three lanes on J Street in Midtown to make space for a separated bike lane and to slow traffic to make pedestrians and cyclists feel safer. The “road diet” represents the most dramatic step in the city’s effort to make midtown more pedestrian and bike-friendly. The parking lane will be moved out toward the street, and will act as a buffer between cyclists and moving traffic. This project is part of a larger $1million street repavement project on J Street, funded in part from the state’s 2017 gas tax increase.
LimeBike has launched its dockless bike sharing program in Burlingame California and CSU Northridge. In Burlingame, the system will include 200 GPS –enabled smart bikes throughout the city for $1 with 5 free rides to all city residents through the end of February. LimeBike has placed 400 bikes on CSU Northridge’s campus for a rate of $0.50/half an hour and 10 free ridges through January.