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CP&DR News Briefs February 5, 2018: SB 35 Streamlining Cities; $140 Million in TCC Grants; Car-Buying Boom; $20 Billion Shortfall for SANDAG; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Feb 5, 2018
The California Department of Housing and Community Development released a list of cities and counties that are subject to streamlined housing development through Senate Bill 35, adopted last year as part of the legislature's 15-bill housing package, because they fail to make sufficient progress toward meeting their housing need. For a proposed development to qualify for expedited development approval in a jurisdiction that is subject to SB 35 the project must be located on an infill site, follow residential and mixed use zoning law, and dedicated at least 10 percent of housing units for lower-income residents if the jurisdiction has not made sufficient progress toward their above-moderate income housing need, or at least 50 percent of housing units for lower-income residents if the city or county has not make sufficient progress toward their very-low and low-income housing need. Most of Santa Clara County and Orange County, San Francisco, Oakland, parts of Marin County, and San Diego are included in the greater than 50 percent affordability. Sacramento, West Sacramento, and most of Los Angeles County are included in the greater than 10 percent affordability.

SGC Approves $140 Million in Grants
The Strategic Growth Council (SGC) unanimously approved $140 million in competitive grants to assist community-led initiatives to combat climate change in the state’s most disadvantaged communities through the Transformative Climate Communities program. The City of Fresno received $70 million for the development of affordable homes near the high-speed rail station; a new Community College campus; electric vehicle, vanpool, and bike sharing programs; and urban greening projects in the most historically disadvantaged communities within the city. Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles was awarded $35 million to fund the construction of affordable homes as part of the Jordan Downs redevelopment, numerous new green spaces, and plans to improve home energy efficiency and renewable energy use. The City of Ontario will receive $35 million to focus on its historic downtown core revitalization project. The funds will go towards improving public transportation, bike lanes and sidewalks, building affordable homes, promoting energy efficiency, enhancing food security, and providing new green spaces to improve health and quality of life. These three cities will invest in 44 unique climate projects, reducing an estimated 117,412 metric tons of GHG emissions. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

S. Calif. Transit Ridership Drops amid Boom in Car-Buying 
A report released by the Southern California Association of Governments and the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies found a dramatic increase in private automobile ownership in Southern California is the main cause of an overall decline in transit ridership. The study found that the six-county SCAG region added 2.1 million household vehicles between the years 2000 and 2015, a car increase that nearly quadruples the rate of the preceding decade. The number of vehicles added nearly matches the growth in population during those years. Between 2000 and 2015, private vehicle ownership dramatically increased among households in the SCAG region, from 1.7 to 2.4 vehicles per household. The study also considered factors including transit service quality, fuel prices, neighborhood change and the rise of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, but found that the region’s higher number of cars was the root of transit ridership’s downward trend. Vehicle ownership was also shown to have risen among demographic groups that have traditionally been the highest users of transit, including low-income and foreign-born immigrants. The report suggests that discretionary riders remain an untapped source of transit riders. 

SANDAG Infrastructure Plan Faces $20 Billion Shortfall
A study commissioned by the San Diego Association of Governments projects a $20 billion decline in sales tax revenue collected for roads, highways, and public transit over the next forty years as more San Diegans shop online and spend their income on housing and health care costs. Transnet, the half-cent sales tax for transportation, is expected to bring in $19.2 billion over the next four decades down from the estimated $39 billion. The report also found that earlier forecasts significantly overestimated population and income growth. SANDAG has completed 33 percent of the 48 major capital projects with another 28 percent in progress. The agency starts an overhaul of its long-range spending plan and these revelations likely mean that officials have to make some difficult decisions about prioritizing available funds and potentially nixing some projects that were promised to taxpayers.

38 State Agencies to Collaborate on Resilience
The state’s Natural Resources Agency released the “Safeguarding California Plan: 2018 Update,” which lays out a roadmap for the state agencies' plans to protect communities, infrastructure, services, and the natural environment from climate change impacts.The plan includes 69 recommendations across 11 sectors and more than 1,000 ongoing actions and next steps developed by scientific and policy experts across 38 state agencies. Some projects and actions planned include Caltrans assessing transportation vulnerability, the Electric Program Investment Charge in Los Angeles region studying grid vulnerability, and building drought resilience in Tulare County.

Applications Accepted for Urban Greening Grants
California Natural Resources Agency opened its solicitation period for the Urban Greening Grant Program.Eligible urban greening projects will reduce GHG emissions and provide multiple additional benefits, including, but not limited to, a decrease in air and water pollution or a reduction in the consumption of natural resources and energy. Eligible projects will result in the conversion of an existing built environment into green space that uses natural and green infrastructure approaches to create sustainable and vibrant communities. Monies will be reserved for disadvantaged communities. The application is due April 11, 2018. Eight workshops will be held across the state with formal presentations and breakout sessions to help and guide those preparing grant applications. The workshops will be held Feb. 14 in Sacramento, Feb. 15 in Lynwood, Feb. 22 in Indio, 27 in Oakland. Visalia will be March 2, Redding Mar. 5, San Diego Mar. 8 and Ontario Mar. 12.

Quick Hits & Updates
The U.S. Navy is preparing to reexamine potentially toxic soils and buildings at San Francisco’s former Hunters Point Shipyard after finding a pattern of fraudulent manipulation or falsification of data collected by Tetra Tech, a contractor hired to clean up the Superfund site. This time-consuming and costly step will slow the redevelopment of the second phase of the property by at least a year. The 450-acre site is being redeveloped with more than 12,000 housing units and millions of square feet of retail, offices, and research and development facilities. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

The League of California Cities has listed the 2018 statewide ballot measures with language for each measure on their website. The measures include housing bond SB 3, a parks and water bond SB 5, and transportation protection ACA 5. Toolkits for cities, measure language, and description of the ballot measures is available.

The Strategic Growth Council approved the Research Investment Plan for a new program that will focus on developing outcome-based strategies for addressing climate change. The program will receive $11 million in new research funding for programs that show a benefit to disadvantaged communities.

The Natural Resources Agency issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemakingon updated state guidelines for implementing CEQA, including new regulations that would streamline review of projects that improve air quality and public health. Public comments on the proposal are due by March 15 and public hearing will be held in Sacramento on March 15 and Los Angeles March 14.

The Los Angeles Metro Board of Directors unanimously approved a plan to finish public transit through Sepulveda pass, a train from Union Station to Artesia, and the Gold Line extension to Whittier or El Monte by 2028. The plan follows L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Twenty-eight by ‘28” initiative, which includes a big list of goals that will guide Metro’s construction spending and the agency’s search for more funds over the next decade in anticipation of the 2028 summer Olympic games.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has announced a lawsuitagainst the Trump administration for rolling back a fracking rule that he says is designed to protect public health and the environment. The lawsuit says the administration broke the law by not following required procedures including getting public comment. Becerra says his office as filed 25 lawsuits against the Trump administration.

Two bike rental companies, LimeBike and Ofo, were deniedpermission to operate in San Francisco by the cities Municipal Transportation Agency. The dockless bike rental companies say the denial was for “an unnecessarily opaque” permit process that has been unfair, anti-competitive, and works against the interest of city residents. The issue will be discussed by the Board of Supervisors during a hearing on the dockless bike permit process.

City of Sacramento officials intend to purchase river frontage land from private residents to constructa trail along the Sacramento River. It seems unlikely the nine residents will sell their property voluntarily. The city expects to invoke eminent domain. However, Councilmember Rick Jennings noted that the homeowners who purchased their homes adjacent to the river knew about the Sacramento River parkway play that was adopted by city council in 1975.

A $1.9 billion widening of 16-miles of the I-405 freeway in Orange County is about to begin and will be completed in 2023. The plan includes a new lane and a new express toll lane in both directions. The project will also include widening and replacing nearly 20 bridges and renovating various freeway ramps.

City of San Diego is facing a $1.57 billion five-year infrastructure funding gap, growing $310 million from last year. This gap jeopardizes the city’s ability to fix sidewalks, build bike lanes, and keep parks in good shape over the next five years. The city’s long-term infrastructure backlog has been estimated at roughly $5 billion. 

Beverly Hills Unified School District filed a new lawsuit against the Federal Transit Administration and Metro over the Purple Line Subway alignment. The school district is seeking an injunction to ensure the two agencies “conduct a proper environmental analysis, evaluate the serious health effects the Project and associated construction next to campus will have on the students, and prohibit the FTA from obligating federal funds to the project until the agencies have fully complied with federal law.” (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Metrolink has completed a one-mile track extension to connect Santa Fe Depot with the San Bernardino Transit Center. Eastern San Bernardino Valley commuters can connect with the city’s sbX rapid transit line, Metrolink, and Omnitrans buses. The $123 million project bridged the one-mile gap between the two facilities. The next extension will be the future commuter rail to Redlands which should be completed in 2020.

The legislature’s Joint Audit Committee approved the first formal state auditof the high-speed rail project. The decision comes after the rail authority announced the cost of building the first 119 miles of track in the Central Valley has increased by 77 percent over the original estimate of $6 billion.

Some of San Diego’s hotels raised close to $300,000 last year in preparation for launching an initiative that would hike the hotel tax to underwrite a convention center expansion, homeless services, and road repairs. However, just $72,000 of the contributions have been spent, with the bulk going for legal and political consultants, as well as polling. The campaign contribution report released by a coalition of tourism, business and labor interests called “Yes! For a Better San Diego”. More money will have to be raised to finance the signature-gathering effort, which will require collecting more than 100,000 signatures of eligible voters.

City of Fountain Valley City Council unanimously approved the Fountain Valley Crossings Specific Plan which includes the redevelopment of 162 acres of mostly industrial area into a “main street” style hub for residents to shop and dine. The project includes the development of 491 homes, retail, office space, and industrial uses.
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