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CP&DR News Briefs April 17, 2018: San Diego RTP Suit; Los Angeles Housing; Funds for Homelessness; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Apr 16, 2018
The San Diego Association of Governments agreed to settle the remainder of a lawsuit challenging the environmental review of its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan adopted in 2011. SANDAG prevailed at the California Supreme Court on a key issue of the dispute, but has now agreed to pay $1.7 million attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs (Cleveland National Forest Foundation, Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and others). San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan and its EIR in 2015, has superseded that plan and has received no legal challenges. In March 2015, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, focusing on the issue of whether the EIR for a regional transportation plan must include an analysis of the plan’s consistency with the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals in Executive Order No. S-3-05 to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. In the ruling released last summer, the court concluded that SANDAG properly conducted the GHG analysis in the environmental review and “sufficiently informed the public, based on the information available at the time, about the regional plan’s greenhouse gas impacts.”

Los Angeles County Faces Loss of 11,000 Affordable Units
According to a draft report released by the California Housing Partnership Corporation, Los Angeles County is at risk of losing roughly $3 billion worth of affordable housing over the next five years. The report found 11,000 units countywide that are at risk from being converted from affordable housing to regular apartment rentals. Many of the apartments that are in areas that are gentrifying or close to transit, have found landlords more willing to opt to get out of the affordable housing business, especially as properties age and become more expensive to maintain. However, with Prop HHH, 24 projects with 1,800 units have been approved so far which will construct more affordable units. LA City Council recently approved a linkage fee with the money going into an affordable housing fund. Federal resources are disappearing, specifically low-income housing tax credits. According to CHPC President Matt Schwartz, LA County saw a 21 percent decline in tax credit funding for new affordable housing developments in 2017. CHPC is expected to present recommendations to the LA County Board of Supervisors and lobby the state legislature and governor’s office for more investments in affordable housing.

Big City Mayors Clamor for State Funds to Combat Homelessness
Mayors from California’s 11 biggest cities have formed a coalition to lobby in Sacramento for Assembly Bill 3171, which would allocate $1.5 billion from the state budget to cities addressing the growing homelessness crisis. California’s homeless population is around 134,278 according to 2017 statewide counts- and increase of 16 percent from 2015. Many cities across the state are using money from their own general funds and voter–approved ballot measures to provide shelter and services, but are asking for state funding. AB 3171 was authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and is scheduled for its first legislative hearing before the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on April 25. Some of the cities included are San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Sacramento, and San Francisco.

SANDAG Study Projects Major Housing Shortfall
SANDAG officials unveiled estimates they’ll use to update the region’s growth forecast and found the county will fall 152,000 homes short of what it will need by 2050 even if San Diego cities build all the housing they expect to allow over the next three decades. SANDAG staff concluded city and county plans permit 357,000 more units between now and 2050, falling far short of the 509,000 additional homes SANDAG estimates the region will need. SANDAG conducted an analysis of existing housing stock in San Diego County and found about 57,000 homes, or nearly five percent of the total stock in the region, are either vacation or second homes, and are often vacant. These types of homes can exacerbate the housing crisis because they are unavailable to people who work and live in the region, or would like to. This is part of the county’s regional planning agency effort to project how many homes the region needs to build by 2050 to keep up with demand. The new analysis suggests the county has nearly double the number of homes unavailable to residents than it has been able to permit over the last three years. The research relied on census tract-level vacancy rate estimates from the 2010 census, population projections from the state Department of Finance, and regional land use information from the San Diego County Assessor’s Office. 

Settlement Reached over Amador County General Plan 
After nearly two years of litigation, the Foothill Conservancy and the County of Amador settled over the terms of the county’s General Plan. Under the settlement, the county will consider code amendments to better protect homes from wildland fire areas; reduce likelihood of agricultural lands conversion; preserving wildlife, aquatic resources, and water quality; require applicants for commercial projects of 5,000 square feet or more to conduct an economic impact analysis; as well as ordinances to protect rural scenic quality along county roads, establish design standards to protect community character, and limit light pollution.

Google’s Downtown San Jose Plans Taking Shape 
A top company executive at Google told the Mercury News that the company is nearing ownership of enough downtown San Jose properties and parcels to create a “viable” transit-oriented development near Diridon train station. At the recent meeting of the Station Area Advisory Group, the first major presentation of its development philosophies and plans were shown. Google and its development ally Trammell Crow have spent at least $221.6 million buying properties on the western edge of downtown San Jose, beginning north of the SAP Center and reaching south nearly to I-280. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Quick Hits & Updates
The Town of Windsor approved, 4-1, its 2040 General Plan update, General Plan EIR, and Statement of Overriding Considerations. The EIR revealed two impacts that were significant and unavoidable: agriculture and transportation/ traffic.  If fully built out, the General Plan would result in conversion of farmland however the loss of land is less than was written into the previous 2015 General Plan.

California Supreme Court justices unanimously denied a ruling by a state appeals court that said Oakland was violating a state law, enacted in 2010, that requires cities to set up independent appeals boards to hear property owners’ challenges to their penalties, or let their City Council itself hear the appeals. The court said the state law was intended to direct a property owner’s appeals “outside the enforcing agency” rather than having them heard by an officer chosen by the “very enforcing agency whose decision is being appealed.”

A coalition of environmentalists, including the Sierra Club, has filed a complaint with state water officials seeking to force the Santa Clara Valley Water District to protect endangered steelhead trout in the Guadalupe River. The group is claiming SCVWD has not released enough water from its dams into the creeks that feed the Guadalupe and that the concrete barrier the district built on the upper river roughly 50 years ago to diver water to recharge underground aquifers is killing the fish.

Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell overturned the City of Los Angeles's approval of a 27-story apartment tower in Koreatown and is ordering a full environmental impact report for the 269-unit residential project. Judge O’Donnell says more study is needed to assess the tower’s effect on traffic, public safety services, and land use patterns. In the four-page ruling, O’Donnell wrote the city did not obtain input from the city’s police and fire departments and the school district,  Caltrans, and other agencies expressed concerns about car trips generated by the project.

San Luis Obispo City Council unanimously passed a new policy that will increase development fees for larger-scale homes but drop for smaller buildings. The new general cutoff for fee reductions is homes built under 1,400 square feet, though fees related to water and wastewater are lowered for homes under 1,200 square feet. Under the existing fee program, two new single-family homes of 1,100 square feet and 1,800 square feet would both be charged $38,617. The city’s new development impact program is expected to generate $146 million.

According to a Chapman University poll, 59 percent of Orange County residents support rent control, which is a major disconnect between local attitudes and laws. Only one of OC’s 34 cities, San Juan Capistrano, has any form of rent control, and its limited to mobile homes. The rest of the local city councils have repeatedly rejected calls for rent control in recent years.

Urban land Institute Los Angeles has named Marty Borko its new executive director. Borko left his post as principal at Gensler architects in LA to command the day-to-day working and long-range planning of one of ULI’s largest and most active regional chapters.

The City of San Diego has purchased a former indoor skydiving facility for $7 million. The three-story downtown building will be re-outfitted as a “housing navigation center” to help connect homeless people with supportive services. The 26,000 square foot center is part of a multi-pronged, multi-jurisdictional response to the housing crisis in the region. If everything goes according to plan, the center will open August 1.

The Coastal Commission is poised to approve a $1.45 million settlement with the owner of an oceanfront apartment complex in Pacifica that the agency says failed to properly maintain a seawall and public access stairs to the beach, then illegally graded a public beach and covered it with giant boulders. Under a state law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014, the commission was given the authority to issue fines of up to $11,250 a day for people who block public access to California’s beaches.

Alameda County supervisors agreed to negotiate the sale of their share of the Coliseum complex to the City of Oakland in the hopes of keeping the A’s in the city. Because the city controls land use at the site, supervisors say it makes sense for Oakland to become the sole owner and bargain with the A’s for the property. In addition to keeping the A’s in Oakland, supervisors hope the sale of the Coliseum will spur development around the area.

Los Angeles lawmakers tentatively backed new rules that would bar residents from renting out a house or apartment to night-to-night guests if it is not their primary residence. This rule is meant to prevent homes from being turned into “de facto hotels." The draft regulations would also cap rentals at 120 days annually, but hosts could get city permission to exceed the cap if they are in good standing. 

MTC, Muni, BART, Golden Gate Transit, and Caltrain are proposing a 20 percent discount to low-income riders in an effort to make public transportation fares more affordable. If the plan is enacted, anyone with an annual income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level: $24,280 for a single person, $32,920 for a couple of $50,200 for a family of four would be offered the discounted fares. The proposal will be discussed at the next MTC committee hearing.

Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a $4.9 billion elevated train that will bring passengers in and out of Los Angeles International Airport's central terminal area and carry them to a car rental facility, ground transportation hub, and a station on the Metro Crenshaw Line. The project will break ground this year and is expected to being service in March 2023.

Oyster Point Development CEO Chau Wu asked that its application to add housing to a previously approved project in San Francisco be put on hold. The proposal to build as many as 1,200 housing units on the waterfront at Oyster Point faced opposition from South San Francisco’s powerful biotech industry. Genentech and the California Life Sciences Association has argued that the two uses--life sciences and housing--are incompatible and adding several thousand residents could hamper the research and development.