The Trust for Public Land released its 2018 ParkScore Index ranking the park systems in the 100 largest US cities. Minneapolis has the best park system in the US for the third consecutive year. Public spending on parks reached $7.5 billion in 2018, a $429 million increase over the previous year. According to the nonprofit, 70 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. San Francisco was the highest-ranked California city, at fifth, with a score of 79.6. Irvine was tenth. One of the lowest ranked cities was Fresno, which was 94th on the list with a score of 30.9. Some Northern California cities that made the list were Sacramento 22, San Jose 27, Fremont 32 and Oakland 38. Southern California overall fared worse than the Bay Area cities but ten cities made the top 100 list: San Diego 16, Long Beach 21, Riverside 57, Bakersfield 65, Los Angeles 66, Anaheim 68, Glendale 71, Chula Vista 76, Stockton 80, and Santa Ana 87.
Low-Income Housing Production Plummets in Kern County
According to a new report from the California Housing Partnerships Corporation, Kern County has seen an 85 percent reduction in low-income housing production since 2016. The report found new construction of affordable housing units was reduced from 199 units in 2016 to just 15 units a year later. Rehabilitation of existing buildings for affordable housing dropped from 407 to 75 between 2016 and 2017. Statewide there has been a 45 percent reduction in affordable housing construction as of 2017. One of the major reasons for the drop in production is that state and federal funding that helped fund those types of projects dried up, leaving builders with little incentive to construct affordable homes when luxury housing is more lucrative. The report found funding dropped 21 percent since the 2008-09 fiscal year. The State also provides funding for low-income housing construction, but that has decreased 18 percent since the recession as well. Kern County has about 13,000 applicants on a waiting list for low-income housing through the county’s housing authority. Applicants usually have to wait five to seven years to get housing.
BART Directors Scuttle Livermore Extension; Opens Antioch Extension
BART’s board of directors voted, 5-4, to focus on rebuilding and modernizing its existing system before it commits to building more extensions, nixing a proposed $1.6 billion extension to Livermore. The board also voted against proceeding with plans for a BRT system that would have directly connected to the Dublin/Pleasanton Station after Livermore residents said they weren't interested in the idea. However, the Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority, created last year, could come up with its own plans, and financing, for a rail connection between the Altamont Corridor Express commuter train, which stops in Livermore, and BART. The vote comes at the same time that service is beginning on a new extensionbetween Pittsburgh and Antioch. The extension is a separate line, requiring a transfer, that uses smaller biodiesel trains rather than heavy rail BART trains. The ten-mile extension cost $525 million compared to the estimate $1 billion it would have cost to build a conventional BART system.
Bakersfield Adopts Downtown Station Area Plan
The Bakersfield City Council adopted the “Making Downtown Bakersfield” Station Area Vision Plan and certified its environmental impact report, which will serve as the plan to continue revitalization efforts and guide future development in the downtown area. The plan is a partnership between the California High-Speed Rail Authority and the city who spent almost two years engaging with the community on their vision for downtown Bakersfield.The plan focuses on multi-modal (pedestrian, bicycle, automobile, transit) transportation, establishes an urban design, and creates an economic development strategy that optimizes future growth in Downtown. Other areas examined in the Station Area plan include: jobs, housing, retail, entertainment, art, cultural amenities, pedestrian and bicycle access, parking, streetscape improvements, lighting, wayfinding, open space and recreation, and sustainability. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
Report Identifies Sites At-Risk if Offshore Drilling Resumes
According to a report by the National Parks Conservation Association and the NRDC, six national park sites in the Bay Area would be in danger of being sullied by oil spills if President Trump goes through with his plan to expand offshore oil drilling along the California coast. The parks at risk in the Bay Area would be the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Point Reyes National Seashore, Fort Point National Historic Site, Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, and Rosie the Riveter/ World War II Home Front National Historical Park. The oil spills would ruin fisheries and endangered birds, sea turtles, whales, sea lions, and other marine mammals; oil spills could hurt the local economies of the coastal cities. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced earlier this year that they were offering 47 new offshore leases in federal waters off Alaska, the West Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Coast. The proposed leases include six areas along the California coast.
Mountain View Considers Tax on Large Employers
A three-member subcommittee of the Mountain View City Council endorsed a concept of a tax on the number of workers a company employs within the city limits. The “Google headcount tax” will go before the full city council that will decide whether it will order city staff to prepare a ballot measure for voters in November. Government officials are referring to the concept as a restructuring of the business license tax. As Councilman John McAlister said, “When you think of the six-figure incomes that tech companies pay their employees, a tax of $200 per employee doesn't seem to be that much more to pay.” The maximum required from Google would be roughly $5.5 million in the first year, and the amount could rise over time due to inflation. The revenue generated from this new tax would go towards reducing greenhouse gases, improving quality of life, and transportation projects.
CARB Conducts Workshops on SB 375
The Air Resources Board is conducting numerous workshops across the state on the new Senate Bill 375 Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection reporting requirements and program evaluation guidelines. At these workshops, CARB staff will share preliminary findings for feedback on its analysis of data and present concepts for changes to the framework, information exchange process, and important considerations for quantifying GHG emissions reductions. The public workshops will be held on June 18 in San Diego, June 19 in Los Angeles, Fresno on June 25, and June 28 in Sacramento.
California Grew 0.78 Percent in 2017
According to the latest demographic report from the Department of Finance, California added 309,000 new residents in 2017 bringing the state’s total population to 39,810,000. The state grew 0.78 percent over last year. Growth was strongest in the more densely populated counties in the Bay Area, Central Valley, and Southern California. The three fastest growing counties were Merced (1.8 percent increase), Placer (1.7 percent increase) and San Joaquin (1.5 percent increase). The City of Los Angeles grew by 33,000 residents (0.8 percent) and San Francisco added almost 10,000 new residents. A total of 85,000 units were completed in 2017. Of California’s 482 cities, 421 saw gains in population, 57 saw reductions, and 4 experienced no change. Of the ten largest cities in California, Sacramento had the largest percentage gain in population (1.43 percent, or 7,000) edging out San Diego (1.42 percent, or 20,000). Sacramento surpassed 500,000 for the first time. California’s birth rate fell to its lowest level in at least 100 years in 2017 according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state’s birth rate fell to 11.9 births per 1,000 residents, there were 21 births per 1,000 residents in 1990 and the height of the Great Depression there were 13.1 births per one thousand Californians. Many California women are waiting longer to have children or deciding not to have children at all.
Quick Hits & Updates
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on a proposed ordinance that would blunt landlords' abilities to raise rents to pay down mortgage loans and property taxes. The ordinance had unanimous approval from the Rules Committee. Most cities allow landlords to “pass-through” operational and maintenance costs such as a new roof or rising water or garbage collection rates. San Francisco is the only major city in the Bay Area that allows landlords to pass on portions of their property taxes and corporate debt to tenants. Under the city’s current unfair loophole, landlords may permanently increase rents up to seven percent on top of the annual allowable increases.
The Del Mar City Council proclaimed that “planned retreat” will not be part of its long-term strategy for dealing with sea-level rise, despite the Coastal Commission recommendation. Planned retreat is the strategy of removing seawalls, roads, homes and other structures gradually over the years in advance of sea-level rise. However, the California Coastal Commission strongly encourages all coastal cities to include planned retreat along with sand retention, beach replenishment, and river-channel dredging. Del Mar is one of the first California cities to create its adaptation plan.
The City of San Diego updated its Midway area community plan to eliminate the 30-foot height limit in order to allow for redevelopment of the Midway District. The update would allow denser housing, especially more affordable housing. Planning Commission approved the update in late April and City Council will vote on the plan in June.
A new report released by the San Diego Housing Federation found the loss of redevelopment funding was a major cause of the city’s housing and homelessness crisis. The state used to allow redevelopment districts were cities could capture extra property tax funding, called tax increment financing. Under the TIF, San Diego had about $120 million a year for affordable housing and now it has less than one-third of that amount. San Diego County needs 143,800 more affordable rental homes to meet current demand. The city’s Housing Federation wants to put a local housing bond on the abllot this year, a proposal will come before the city council rules committee next month.
A coalition of groups released a report, “Housing Underproduction in the US” which partially explains why the nation has strayed so far from its housing goals. The report found the US produced 7.3 million fewer homes than it needed between 2000 and 2015. Out of the 23 states that are under-produced the worst was California, short by nearly 3.4 million homes. The other states that under-produced as more than 15 percent of 2015 housing stock were Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.
The Ceres City Council approved an updated General Plan after two and a half years of planning. The updated document will guide growth through 2035. The two tricky points were how to treat Faith Home road which originally was planned to be a six-lane expressway and zoning for land at McGee and Roeding roads near the Berryhill school campus which originally was zoned light industrial but is now low-density residential.
RentCafe ranked the 20 "most prosperous cities" in the US with populations exceeding 100,000. The group looked at six indicators of prosperity: population, median income, home values, share of inhabitants holding a higher education degree, poverty rate, and unemployment rate as well as how these cities have changed between 2000 and 2016. Odessa, Texas ranked first but five California cities made the list: Fontana fourth, Santa Maria 12th, Los Angeles 17th, Clovis 18thand Pasadena 20th. Fontana, the authors note, began as a small agricultural town but has now turned into a regional hub for the trucking industrial with the population almost doubling between 2000 and 2016.
San Francisco and Sacramento made Redfin's list of the nation's Most Bikeable Cities of 2018,with fifth and tenth, respectively. The cities were ranked on their Bike Score, a tool by Redfin company Walk Score, which rates locations based on their access to bike lanes, road connectivity and hilliness. In 2015, San Francisco was ranked 2ndand Sacramento 8thmeaning both cities fell in their rankings.
Save the Redwoods League, a nonprofit group based in San Francisco, will pay $3.3 million to buy 160 acres of sequoias, the second-largest grove of giant sequoia trees left in private ownership in the world. The trees, some more than 250 feet tall and 1,500 years old, sit in a remote part of Tulare County.
The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) released a new report on dockless bike-sharing and integrating it into cities public transportation systems. The report highlights success stories internationally, Dublin and Guangzhou, where issued guidelines and a code of conduct helped control dockless bike-share. The report said Washington DC is a good example of a city that is trying to phase in dockless more slowly as it extends its pilot program.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ordered a number of revisions to the EIR for Redondo Beach’s redevelopment plans for its pier and waterfront in response to a lawsuit filed by Building a Better Redondo. Among the changes Chalfant ordered are that the city and developer must assess the “visual impact” of a proposed hotel on views from Czuleger Park and the “human health impacts” of demolishing Seaside Lagoon to make way for a new beach.
The State of Arizona started a large-scale, multi-day exercise to prepare for a possible mass exodus of 400,000 Californians in the event of a major earthquake. More than 1,000 participants from government agencies, volunteer organizations, and the private sector will play out a variety of scenarios to ensure they have the mass shelter and food for the evacuees. This is the first time the state has engaged in a mass migration and care scenario on this scale. The group is following a framework provided by the federal government.
San Francisco transportation officials are asking the state to require driverless car companies to share GPS and other data if they are going to be allowed to carry passengers. California Public Utilities Commission has planned to vote May 31 to approve regulations allowing passengers in driverless cars in a limited program. However, companies testing autonomous vehicles have asked the commission to conceal driverless car trip data under tight confidentiality agreements, shielding it from the public.