The American Planning Association announced five National Planning Excellence Awards and sixteen National Planning Achievement Awards, six of which went to people or programs in California. The late Margarita Piel McCoy won the Planning Excellence Award for Pioneers. She was the first woman appointed to a full ventured position in planning at a major university and the first department chair, at Cal Poly-PomonaT The award for Best Practice-Gold went to the Spanish Planning Committee (SPC) for the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning. The SPC consists of 16 planners who routinely review and translate documents and provide live interpretation services during public hearings and community meetings. The Best Practice-Silver went to San Francisco’s Accessory Dwelling Unit and Unit Legalization Program. Because of the San Francisco program, ADUs cost on average one-third of a typical unit in new development, and ADU owners can recoup the costs in a few years. Since March 2018, 1,200 new ADUs were in the housing pipelines. Sea-Level Marin Adaptation Response Team from the Marin County Community Development Agency won Gold for Environmental Planning for a board game and community outreach related to climate change. San Francisco’s Street Air won Gold for a Grassroots Initiative, which was led by three high school students that studies street design and air pollution levels on Columbus Avenue in downtown SF that led to a short documentary film. The City of San Jose was awarded Silver for its Public Outreach in the creation of a video tutorial, "Designing an Addition to Your Single-Family Residence.”
Environmentalists Sue Trump Administration to Protect Waterways
The Center for Biological Diversity is suing the Trump Administration for violating the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act that was passed more than nine years ago by Congress. The Act requires the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to draw up plans for designated waterways that won’t impede water flows, protects plants and animals from harm, and provides recreational opportunities. About 100 miles of these waterways are in Inyo, Ventura, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties. According to the Act, the managing agency must develop a plan for managing the rivers within three years. The lawsuit is focusing on eight rivers in Southern California and claims the agencies “unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed” compliance with the law. The following waterways all received wild and scenic designations from Congress: Amargosa River in Inyo and San Bernardino counties; Owens Headwater and Cottonwood Creek in Inyo, Piru Creek in Ventura County; North Fork of San Jacinto River, Fuller Mill Creek, and Palm Canyon Creek in Riverside County; and Bautista Creek near Hemet.
U.S. Sues California to Lift Restrictions on Sale of Federal Lands
The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit in Sacramento suing to reverse a state law that seeks to keep the federal government from selling any of the 45.8 million acres of property it controls in the state. The lawsuit is the latest effort from the federal government to roll back California’s strict environmental protections as the Trump administrations plans to open more lands in the west for mining, drilling, and other interests. In October, after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to cut protections for 10 national monuments in the state, California legislators passed a law, the Public Lands Protection Act, that gives the state lands commission the power to block the sale, donation, or exchange of federal lands. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement announcing the lawsuit, “The Constitution empowers the federal government- not state legislatures- to decide when and how federal lands are sold.” However, author of the bill Sen. Benjamin Allen (D- Santa Monica), argues the law didn't actually prevent any sales, just that the state wouldn't recognize the deed of sale as legal unless the Lands Commission approved it. Allen said, “We’re not trying to seize the land, we’re not trying to take the land. Ninety-nine percent of the land sales the federal government wants to do will be just fine. What we want to do is protect against the more extreme cases that have been threatened.” Last month, the Trump administration sued to block three California state laws saying they were an unconstitutional attempt to thwart enforcement of federal immigration laws.
Study Lauds Fruitvale Station TOD for Promoting Social Equity
Researchers from UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative issued a study contending, among other findings, that the Fruitvale BART station is a prime example of successful transit-oriented development without resulting in gentrification. In the mid- 1990s the Spanish-speaking community development organization, Unity Council, opposed the plans to place a parking garage adjacent to the Fruitvale station and after a decade of debate, ultimately ended up taking over the project’s development. The transit village now is home to a charter high school, senior center, public library, pediatric clinic, union office, Clinica de la Raza, restaurants, housing, and a weekly farmers market. The study from UCLA identified 12 other census tracts in the Bay Area and 12 elsewhere in California with similar demographic composition, household income, and average rent in 2000 before the transit village was constructed. Using the census data, they looked at how those neighborhoods changed in 15 years. Fruitvale saw higher growth in household incomes compared to similar neighborhoods in both the Bay Area and the state, along with more residents graduating from high school, and getting bachelors degrees. Over the 15 year period, Fruitvale lost only one percent of its Latino population, four percent of its black residents, less than one percent of its white residents, while gaining six percent of new Asian residents. Rents in Fruitvale increased higher than the Bay Area on average, with an 83 percent increase, compared to 71 percent in similar Bay Area neighborhoods, and 66 percent in similar California neighborhoods outside the area.
Cap-and-Trade Annual Report
California Climate Investments released its 2018 Annual Report to the Legislature of Cap-and-Trade Auction Proceeds. The Annual Report describes the status of funded programs and lists the projects funded. The report highlights AB 398 which clarifies the continuation of the Cap-and-Trade Program post 2020 and that the Legislature has appropriated nearly $6.1 billion to State agencies from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). The document highlights the thirty programs that received monies from the fund. The report highlights projects such as the Urban Forestry Outreach in Imperial Valley and the UC Cooperative Extension to Technical Assistance to Farmers in Fresno County. Nearly $615 million or 31 percent of cumulative implemented funds have been awarded to projects located in disadvantaged communities and 51 percent of funds (over $1 billion) to projects benefiting disadvantaged communities.
San Diego Initiates Update of Parks Master Plan
City of San Diego officials launched a three-year effort to update the parks master plan for the first time since the 1940s. The goal for the plan will follow the “smart growth” shift of adding density to existing neighborhoods rather than allowing sprawl outwards. The new plan will re-evaluate how many acres of parkland each neighborhood needs and to distribute parklands more equitably across communities and income levels. The definition of park will likely be loosened to include urban plazas, hiking trails, and some open space areas. City officials say San Diego has approximately 6,200 acres of regional parks and beaches, 3,000 acres of community and neighborhood parks, and an additional 27,000 acres of preserved open space areas. The city also has 57 recreation centers, 17 off-leash dog areas, 13 aquatic complexes, seven skateparks, and three municipal golf courses. However, a recent survey from the Trust for Pubic Land found 23 percent of residents live farther than a 10-minute walk from a local park or recreational facility.
Quick Hits & Updates
The San Francisco Planning Commission is slated to certify the EIR for the Central SoMa Plan on April 12. The Commission could then immediately vote to approve the plan and recommend its adoption to the Board of Supervisors, but an attempted appeal is likely to occur. The plan, as proposed, raises the proposed height limits for numerous neighborhood parcels, add an additional 7,500 units of housing, and enough office space for an additional 45,000 workers.
The California Transportation Commission has adopted its 2018 State Transportation Improvement Program, which will fund over $3 billion in transportation improvements, including new capacity projects over the next five years. More than $2 billion of these funds come from the stabilization of gas tax revenue from the Road Repair and Accountability Act. California Transportation Commission also adopted the 2018 State Highway Operation and Protection program. The four-year program dedicated almost $18 billion for repairs, safety improvements and operational improvements to the State Highway System.
A coalition of citizen groups in Santa Anafiled paperwork last week to put rent control on the city’s November ballot. If the filing complies with the city requirements, Santa Ana will become the seventh city in California, and the fifth in Southern California, where citizens are circulating petitions seeking to limit rent hikes and requiring justification for issuing eviction notices to tenants. Statewide, a ballot drive to repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act is also underway. The City of Santa Ana has created a panel of landlord and tenant advocates to work together on tenant protections. The proposed “Community Preservation, Rent Stabilization and Renters’ Rights Act” would limit annual rent hikes to the rate of inflation or five percent, whichever is lower.
The San Francisco Federal Credit Union filed a lawsuit with San Francisco Superior Court saying SFMTA failed to regulate taxi medallions by allowing Uber and Lyft to take over the taxi business. The credit union agreed to finance the sale of taxi medallions in 2009 in cooperation with SFMTA. The suit is seeking $28 million in damages from the city, claiming that the medallions are now worthless.
A Los Angeles County auditor had a critical review of the fiscal management of the LA Homeless Services Authority. The review found that the authority’s finance operation is understaffed, lacks management oversight and pays its bills too slowly. The homeless authority, which was formed in the 1990s, currently administers about $100 million in funds and is expected to raise about $355 million annually from the quarter-cent sales tax approved last year. LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas filed a motion asking for a report from top officials on “relevant structural adjustments necessary… to improve the outcomes and accountability of Measure H funds.”
The Anaheim City Council approved, 7-0, new rules for permit parking in residential neighborhoods. The changes include shortening the application process to convert a neighborhood to permit-only street parking, addressing concerns that the program favored homeowners over renters, and preventing spillover issues that push cars from permitted streets to nearby neighborhoods. Any city street will now be eligible for permitting. Parking permits will cost $30 for two years, after which the permit will need to be renewed. Each household can purchase up to 100 guest permits each calendar year for $1 each.
Homeowners in Montecito must hold off on additions or rebuilding until FEMA draws a “recovery map” for the area. The owners of 350 homes that were destroyed or badly damaged early January have been advised by the county not to spend money on rebuilding plans until FEMA finishes their work. The study is based on LIDAR data – remote sensing imagery collected by air shortly before the natural disaster- that will help delineate the boundaries of “hazard zones” in Montecito and Carpinteria. Within the hazard zones, FEMA will show the elevations of floodwaters, marking how high the water is expected to rise during a 100-year rainfall. Preparing the maps will likely take three to four months, according to FEMA officials.
A three-judge panel of California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned a Los Angeles County Superior Court that would have prevented demolition of a 1960s modernist bank building to make space for a planned Frank Gehry-designed mixed-use project on the western edge of Hollywood. The court confirmed the city council’s decision to “approve a project that meets the city’s objectives." One of the project’s opponents also declared victory, saying the ruling will force the council to rescind its November 2016 decision to approve the project- and then carry out a formal review of a planned lane closure.
Cannabis technology company American Green bought the old ghost town of Nipton for $5 million last year, and sold it to Delta International Oil & Gas for $7.7 million for exploratory drilling. Phoenix-based American Green said, “Buying and building towns is very cash intensive. Up until now, the cost of attracting capital has been very expensive for our company.” The goal is to create an 80-acre cannabis-themed resort on the edge of the Mojave Desert.