The Lewis Center at UCLA released research suggesting that new housing developments in Los Angeles are, in general, not displacing older, affordable units, as many critics of market-rate development claim. The research looked at records of new multifamily development between 2014 and 2016 and found 13,749 units opened in 971 multifamily developments across Los Angeles. The researchers randomly selected 104 developments to conduct in-depth analysis. The analysis showed that more than 13 times as many units were constructed across the city than were demolished, and 22 percent of the new units were affordable. According to the findings, new multifamily developments are replacing single-family housing, and many new multifamily developments are being built on vacant lots. However, the majority of the single-family houses being demolished were in South Los Angeles neighborhoods and not the Westside.
OPR Releases Annual Survey Results The Office of Planning and Research has released results of the 2017 Annual Planning Survey, distributed to all cities and counties in the state and provides the latest information on local planning activities, the status of city and county general plans, and an important local perspective on issues of statewide concern. In 2017, a total of 348 of the 540 cities and counties (64 percent in California completed the Annual Planning Survey. This includes 302 of the 482 cities (62.6 percent) and 45 of the 58 counties (77.5 percent). The survey asked agencies to report on whether their plans address issues such as health, aging, greenhouse gas emissions, access to food, and other pressing issues. This year, in addition to posting the full results of the APS, OPR provided an overview of transportation, land use, climate action planning, water conservation, in-fill, and open space. The survey also includes information on how local governments track progress on general plan policies.
Orange County Clashes with Cities over Homeless Housing Plans
The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted, 4-0, to scrap a plan to relocate 400 homeless residents. Earlier in March, Irvine and Laguna Niguel each voted to sue Orange County and Huntington Beach officials opted to explore legal options of their own to shut down a plan approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors to erect temporary tent cities for four hundred homeless people. U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter insisted the Board find a more permanent solution for the homeless recently relocated from the Santa Ana riverbed. According to the plan, once the county’s stock of temporary shelter beds are filled, the next two hundred people would go to temporary tent-like structures at a 100-acre site adjacent to the Great Park in Irvine, once those fill up the next 100 people would be sent to an abandoned landfill area in Huntington Beach, and the next 100 people would go to a county owned parcel in Laguna Niguel next to City Hall, a library, and a daycare. Laguna Niguel residents are concerned their city would end up being the No. 1 choice because Irvine’s litigious community would immediately file a lawsuit and the “methane-filled” Huntington Beach site would be found unreasonable. Supervisor Bartlett (Laguna Niguel district) said she and Supervisor Michelle Steel (Huntington Beach district) would introduce an agenda item that the 400 people be moved to the El Toro Marine Base site.
Amazon Fulfillment Center May Not be Boon to Fresno
The City of Fresno affirmed a package of economic incentives last summer to locate an Amazon fulfillment center in the southwest corner of the city. The package will be worth up to $30 million over the next 30 years and the center will employ 1,500 workers when it opens later this year. A Washington, DC think tank, Economic Policy Institute, recently published a report that found on average, “Amazon’s fulfillment centers are ineffective at providing net job growth.” While the county gains roughly 30 percent more warehousing and storage jobs it loses jobs in other industries and merely shifts the composition of employment. The EPI economists explain that either the jobs created in the warehouse and storage sector are offset by job losses in other industries or the employment growth generated by Amazon is too small to meaningfully detect in the data. The researchers assert that rather than providing millions in tax rebates and other economic incentives to lure Amazon in hopes of stimulating job growth, local governments should invest in early-childhood education and infrastructure which have been proven to spur long-term economic development.
Agricultural Plan Seeks to Preserve Farmland in Bay Area
The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority recently released the the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan, billed as an innovative approach to agricultural preservation that will reduce future conversion of local farmland. The plan, with support from cities of San Jose, Morgan Hill, Gilroy and the county, will map agricultural lands in Santa Clara Valley for conservation and identifying the regional GHG reduction potential. Santa Clara County has 24,000 acres of farmland that generates 8,100 jobs and $830 million in economic output. However, in the last three decades the County has lost 21,171 acres of farm and rangelands to development. The State launched the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program I 2015, which provides cap and trade funding to protect agricultural lands in order to reduce GHG emissions to meet California’s climate change goals.
San Diego to Account for Wildfires in General Plan
In the wake of a horrific fire season, the City of San Diego is adding policies aimed at preventing massive wildfires to its general plan. The policies will be part of a new wildfire planning section and will cover everything from brush management guidelines to the use of fire-resistant building materials in dangerous areas. Many of the rules would only apply to homes located on the edges of canyons or where suburban neighborhoods bump up against undeveloped wilderness. The state Board of Forestry and Fire Protections approved the plans in January, the Planning Commission unanimously approved them last week, and the City Council is scheduled to okay them this spring. City officials say many of the new policies have already been in place but new state law requires all California cities to add them to their general plans. The website of the city’s Fire-Rescue Department provides residents with many tips for preventing wildfires and includes a how-to video on brush management.
Contentious Brisbane Development May Go to Voters
A battle over housing is brewing in Brisbane and will likely go to voters. The Brisbane City Council unanimously approved a housing development along the Baylands with as many as 2,200 units and 4 million square feet of commercial space. Councilmembers at the March 22 meeting said they felt pressure to build housing as a means of alleviating the regional housing affordability crisis but also said they are concerned about the project proposing to build on contaminated land. City officials will return with a proposed General Plan amendment that would allow between 1,800 and 2,200 housing units and up to 4 million square feet of commercial space. At the next meeting there will be a discussion about environmental remediation requirements and a fiscal impact analysis of the project. The project is most likely slated to become a ballot referendum, allowing voters to determine whether development is allowed at the site.
Quick Hits & Updates
The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation's new Food Truck Index, “Food Truck Nation,” highlights the more than $2.7 billion industry across cities in America. The report complied the rules governing food truck in 20 American cities and surveyed 288 food truck owners to strengthen the findings of the index. Los Angeles ranked 8th as friendliest to food trucks with relatively light regulatory burdens, but higher costs to operate than most other cities. San Francisco ranked 18th and among top five for most difficult cities for food trucks with 32 separate procedures to obtain permits and licenses with a minimum cost of $3,481.
Former Sacramento Kings co-owner Gregg Lukenbill, a member of the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, says his group and others will contest any city effort to rip out train tracks in order to make room for a 4.5-mile recreational trail along an old and unused rail line that stretches through South Land Park. The line was last used by trains carrying farm products in 1978. The city is applying for regional bikeway funds this summer in the hopes of breaking ground in spring 2020.
The San Francisco Examiner reports that in the two years since a law to encourage accessory dwelling units passed, only 23 new units have been built while 109 permits have been issued in the city. While advocates say ADUs can be an affordable way to help solve the housing crisis, the process is complicated and expensive.
LA Metro has begun exploring whether some of its properties, including bus yards and Metro stations, could be used to provide services for homeless people. Metro Board of Directors asked the agency to prepare a list of properties that could accommodate showers, storage for belongings, parking lots where people could sleep in their cars overnights, or other facilities. Nearly three out of 10 riders told the agency that they stopped taking transit because they felt unsafe and the county’s rising homeless population has become a major concern for the agency.
The board of the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District rejected a nonbining letter of intent to purchase water from the Cadiz Inc.’s proposed project water-mining project in the Mojave Desert. The company is looking to pump as much as 16.3 billion gallons of groundwater a year and pipe it across the desert to sell to cities in Southern California. Board member Bryan Urias said lobbyists working for Cadiz have repeatedly contacted him trying to influence his vote. Originally the water district had decided to explore the Cadiz project as an option, but after the vote the board decided to take no action.
The Oakland A’s are proposing purchasing the entire Oakland Coliseum site from the city and Alameda County. While the team isn’t committed to the Coliseum location, they don’t want another buyer snatching up the site. The A’s are proposing buying the site in exchange for paying off the city and county’s roughly $135 million in outstanding debt on the stadium and Oracle Arena.
Orange County released a new Declaration on Housing which proclaims the county “is experiencing a substantial shortage of housing, which is creating a significant negative impact on household budgets and the quality of life of its residents, as well as diminishing out county’s workforce.” County staff have been directed to work with stakeholders to collaborate and prepare a report detailing how Orange County can facilitate the construction of housing under half a million dollars. The deadline for the report is June 11.
The California Transportation Commission allocated $50 million in state funds to the Riverside County Transportation Commission to launch environmental studies to build tolled express lanes on the 15 Freeway corridor between Cajalco Road in Corona and Highway 74 in Lake Elsinore. The state agency also awarded $47.6 million to the I-15/ French valley Parkway interchange in Temecula, and $2.9 million to the I-15/ Railroad Canyon Road interchange in Lake Elsinore.
Angelo Tsakopoulos, a prominent Sacramento real estate developer, contributed $2.02 million to his daughter Eleni Kounalakis’s bid to become California lieutenant governor. The California Fair Political Practices Commission said there’s nothing wrong with the financial arrangement (the money was contributed to an independent expenditure committee). Kounalakis has served as US Ambassador to Hungary in 2010 and worked in the family business, AKT Development, for nearly two decades.
Cisco Systems Inc. announced it will donate $50 million over five year to address the growing homeless problem in Santa Clara County. The donation will go to Destination: Home, a public-private partnership that focuses on getting housing for the homeless as the first step in addressing other problems related to health, addiction, family estrangement, and joblessness.
Los Angeles World Airports is looking for proposals to redevelop 93 acres just north of LAX and Westchester Parkway. That is approximately one-third of the 340 vacant acres it is eventually planning to develop with a mix of offices and shops, plus green space and pedestrian areas. One of the vacant parcels is zoned for office space but could also be used as recreational space while the other is zoned for low-density, landscaped office campus.
BART General Manager Grace Crunican sent a letter to Bay Area legislators saying VTA and BART have reached an agreement on recommending building one tunnel instead of two for the long-awaited San Jose BART extension. Originally BART wanted a twin bore for safety reasons while VTA wanted a single bore because it would cause less disruption to downtown businesses and cost less to build. The two boards are set to meet this month to discuss the multi-billion-dollar project.
According to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), 53 percent of Californians still support high-speed rail despite the increase in cost and delays. The numbers are up from 48 percent in favor last year. In the Bay Area, 61 percent are in favor of the project.
Two Bay Area developers, AGI/KASA Partners and Blake Griggs, are the last two teams facing off to develop a hotly contested 6-acre housing site in South San Francisco near the city’s BART station. The two groups have submitted proposals that could bring more than 800 units on a city-owned vacant piece of land near El Camino Real. City Council is expected to select a wining developer next week.
Officials of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California had a board workshop last week in which they outlined ways the agency could finance the construction of two giant water tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The state’s large agricultural irrigation districts have not committed to these future water purchases, meaning MWD and ratepayers from LA to San Diego could be stuck with a roughly $11 billion bill for the project. MWD’s board already voted last fall to invest $4.3 billion in the twin tunnel project.