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CP&DR News Briefs May 8, 2018: Hunters Point Lawsuit; Sharks Sue BART; SACOG 'Green Region Plan,' and More

Noemi Wyss on
May 7, 2018
Residents of San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood have filed a class action lawsuit against Tetra Tech Inc., the firm contracted by the U.S. Navy to rid the area’s former naval shipyard of radiation. The lawsuit, filed by attorney Charles Bonner on behalf of over 34,000 residents, is seeking $27 billion in damages for “blatant, conscious, callous disregard of Bayview Hunters Point residents live, born, and unborn”. Tetra Tech has recently come under fire for allegedly falsifying testing to suggest that the $1 billion cleanup effort, conducted mostly between 2006 and 2012, had proceeded properly. The property must be remediated in advance of the redevelopment of 500 acres, including over 10,000 homes, according to a master plan approved by the city in 2010. “Tetra Tech stands by its work at Hunters Point. Our work was done properly and to the standard required by the U.S. Navy,” accordingly to a company statement quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle  “We believe so strongly in the quality of our work that we have offered to pay for independent testing to demonstrate the false and misleading allegations, such as contained in this lawsuit, are wrong.” (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

San Jose Sharks Sue over BART Construction
Sharks Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the San Jose Sharks NHL team, is suing Bay Area Rapid Transit and Valley Transportation Authority alleging that they failed to adequately plan for construction impacts and lost parking near the SAP Center. The company’s President John Tortora said, “we are completely supportive of BART coming to San Jose” but is concerned about loss of parking and impacts from construction. Sharks representatives said the wrangling of single- versus double-bore tunneling methods and trying to obtain federal funding quickly, resulted in promises for a construction management plan without many details in the plan itself. VTA and BART are seeking $1.5 billion in federal grants, about one third of the $4.7 billion project cost. The lawsuit asks VTA rescind approval of the project and stop all work until it completes a clearer plan for managing the construction phase and proving it can provide adequate parking for BART riders. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said the city is planning Diridon and downtown “for people, not cars”, although he has not responded to this lawsuit.

SACOG Approves ‘Green Region Plan'
The Sacramento Area Council of Governments board approved the Green Region Plan, which outlines programs aimed at reducing vehicle emissions, and moving towards a zero emission future. The three goals are: bringing existing and new partners together to work on a cleaner regional transportation system, showcase region’s ability to come together and create a zero emission system that the state will help fund, and work with existing efforts at SACOG and around the region to create an equitable approach to meeting air quality and GHG goals. The five program areas are disadvantaged communities; personal vehicles; shared rides and vehicles; public and private microtransit and shuttles; and medium and heavy-duty fleets.

Supreme Court Upholds Ruling Striking Down S.F. Eviction Law
The California Supreme Court denied an appeal filed by tenants rights groups to overturn an ruling striking down an ordinance limiting evictions. The ordinance was approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors and took effect in April 2016. Appellants include groups protect school employees, families with children, and childcare center workers from evictions during the school year in San Francisco. The law requires landlords to wait until summer before evicting families or school employees to remodel the property, convert it to a condominium, or demolish it. Supporters of the measure say most teachers could not afford to live in the city with the districts average income of $65,240 a year and one-bedroom apartments at the median rent of $3,500. The ordinance was in effect for less than five months before Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay overturned it, saying state law barred local governments from limiting the ground for eviction.

Los Angeles’s Rent Burden Remains Worst in U.S.
Los Angeles tops Forbes’s list of worst cities for renters in 2018. The average monthly price to rent an apartment was two-third higher than the national average and rent eats up 41 percent of the local median household income. Vacancy rates are low in LA, 3.8 percent, allowing landlords to raise rents at a much faster pace than in the rest of the country. San Francisco is second on the list with the average monthly price to rent an apartment at $3,288 which eats up 35 percent of the local median household income. Other California cities on the list are San Diego (fourth), Riverside-San Bernardino tied for fifth with Miami, San Jose eighth, Orange County ninth, 11 is Sacramento, and 13 is Oakland. According to a survey released by the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA, residents across LA County are increasingly anxious about the cost of living, with housing the top concern. This is especially apparent in younger residents who must live further from their work to have cheaper housing. The survey calculated the “quality of life index”, which in LA went down to 56 from 59 the year before. Cost of living was the lowest ranked of all nine categories.

Quick Hits & Updates 
The US Supreme Court has asked environmentalists who sued tech financier Vinod Khosla to respond to his appeal. This is the first sign that the highest court might take up Khosla’s attempt to block the public from Martins Beach and potentially rewrite the state’s Coastal Act. While this does not mean the court will hear the case, it is significant and increases the likelihood that the court will take it up. Four of the nine justices must agree to take up a case.

The LA County Transportation Committee approved Metro’s plan to expand the bike share program in the city. The $17.5 million expansion plan would be over two years and add a total of 1,700 bikes in the greater downtown area and Westside. The cost would include capital, operations and maintenance. Around 22 new stations are planned for the USC area and communities along the Expo line. LA would pay 50 percent of the capital costs and 65 percent of the operations and maintenance costs.

Chariot has been issued San Francisco’s first private transit operator permit according to SF MTA. Under the permit, Chariot must share GPS and passenger data with the city. The company has already changed about 100 drop-off/pick-up spots to legal curb spaces, and must relocate another nine percent of its 204 stop locations by late summer. MTA spokesman Ben Jose wrote in a blog post, the new permits ensure that private transit services “have minimal impact on public transit, implement business practices consistent with city policies and respond more effectively to the needs of our communities.”

Los Angeles County won possession, through eminent domain, of a four-acre property in South Los Angeles that has sat empty since the building burned down during the 1992 riots. The county argues the 16 parcels would accommodate affordable housing, boarding school, transit plaza and community-serving retail. The county has set aside $15.7 million in taxpayer money to obtain the land. However, neighbors of the vacant site say the county’s plan is overwhelming.

San Diego State University provided details on how its proposed 35,000-seat stadium could be expanded to 55,000 seats and accommodate an NFL franchise. SDSU director of athletics John David Wicker said in a news conference, “ we knew we needed to ensure our Aztec Stadium site could accommodate an NFL venue should an owner want to build at SDSU Mission Valley”. While only four NFL stadiums are shared between NFL and college teams, Wicker said “it’s a discussion. It’s a negotiation, perhaps.”

Proponents of an initiative to give residents the power to weigh in on large projects in Irvine failed to submit enough signatures by the deadline. Opponents of the initiative say it could hurt economic growth and slow down crucial developments in Orange County’s third largest city and employment hub.

In 2013, the cost to move AT&T, PG&E, and other utilities out of the way of the High-Speed Rail section from Fresno to Madera counties was estimated at $25 million. The cost has ballooned to $400 million, according to a new analysis. The agency currently has three active construction contracts for the 119 miles between Madera to north of Bakersfield. This has increased the budget of this section of construction from $1.2 billion in 2013 to $1.5 billion today. The agency still has to acquire 607 of the 1,900 land parcels necessary for construction in Madera, Frenso, Kings, Tulare, and Kern counties.

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a permit that allows SpaceX to build and operate a facility at the Port of LA to develop its BFR rocket and spaceship system. The formal approval came days after LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced SpaceX would build its next-generation rocket and spacecraft at the 19-acre site at the former Southwest Marine Shipyard at Berth 240. Production and fabrication of the rocket would begin in about two or three years. SpaceX will have an initial 10-year least at the port with rent around $1.38 million a year.
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said he would consider extending rent restrictions in the city to cover newly build apartments if California voters repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which bans cities and counties from capping rent increases on apartments build after 1995. Garcetti said it “seems to be unjust” that tenants in newer buildings do not have the same protections from hefty rent increases.

Republican activists have collected enough signatures for an initiative to repeal recent increases in California’s gas tax and vehicle fees and qualify the measure for the November ballot. The initiative targets a law approved last April that is expected to raise $5.4 billion annually for road and bridge repairs and improvements to mass transit. The money comes from a 12 cents per gallon increase in gas tax, 20-cent increase in diesel fuel excise tax, and a new annual vehicle fee ranging from $25 to $175.

Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has proposed a gondola that would take passengers from Union Station to Dodger Stadium in five minutes.  The gondola would be one of several major infrastructure investments proposed by LA County that would not be built by Metro or funded by taxpayers. Frank McCourt’s investment firm would fund a portion of the project’s estimated $125 million cost and would seek private financing for the remainder. Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters, “I am absolutely confident that this will happen. It’s not actually crazy.”

According to a new report from nonprofit Circulate San Diego, the Metropolitan Transit System maintains hundreds of parking spaces at most of the trolley stops but some of the park-and-ride fields are only 30 percent full at peak hours. The report says MTS controls some 57 acres of prime developable land and could construct more than 8,000 homes. Circulate San Diego found the agency has not issued request for proposals in more than ten years.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced it has purchased the historic King Edward Hotel on the edge of skid row as the next step in its initiative to provide affordable housing for homeless people. The foundation’s new homeless division will refurbish the hotel and lease its 150 rooms at rates as low as $400 per month. President Michael Weinstein said the project will demonstrate how homeless people can be housed quickly and at far lower costs than through the construction of housing program pursued by the city. The foundation’s goal is to open 10,000 units in five years. AHF backed Measure S, a slow-growth citywide ballot measure that failed last year. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)


A report by consultants at Keyser-Marston found that rising construction costs related to a labor shortage and President Trump’s tariff plan may hinder high-density housing development in San Jose. The reports predicts rents would be even more unaffordable in order to make residential tower construction profitable for investors. Mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo, told the Mercury News that the city might need to slash developer fees to counteract market forces.

UrbanFootprint has partnered with the State of California to offer over 500 California cities, counties, and regional agencies access to its cloud-based, city planning software. This partnership will give public agency planners, designers, and officials throughout California access to a comprehensive data library, advanced scenario planning capabilities, and real-time analysis modules built to evaluate plan impacts in terms of emissions, land consumption, water use, energy use, walking and transit accessibility, and more.