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CP&DR News Briefs June 12, 2018: Elk Grove Annexation Lawsuit; S.F. Scooter Regulations; Alameda County Housing; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Jun 11, 2018
The Environmental Council of Sacramento and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court challenging a county decision to allow the City of Elk Grove to expand onto 1,156 acres of farmland west of Highway 99. City officials are hoping to bring jobs to the south county and say the city residents commute elsewhere for work. Environmentalists say they have plenty of other land available. The Sacramento LAFCo voted earlier this year to make the area south of Kammerer Road part of the city’s “sphere of influence”. The environmental groups contend the commission relied on faulty information about Elk Grove’s already available land for development inside current city limits.

A Dozen Scooter Companies Seek Approval in San Francisco
Lyft and Uber joined the list of a dozen firms bidding to run motorized scooter rental programs in the City of San Francisco. The ride-hailing companies are interested in the 12-month test program for five companies to put 1,250-scooter cap within city limits for at least six months. Lyft and Uber would rent out scooters under the recently purchased electronic bike company called Jump, are the biggest names to enter the permit competition. Other companies include Spin, LimeBike, Bird, newcomer Razor, Scoot, Chinese firm Ofo, Waybots (primarily in Washington D.C), and CycleHop (operates in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Phoenix, and Cleveland). Who gets the permits won’t be determined until late June, according to MTA. (See prior CP&DR commentary.)

Study Analyzes Housing Options for Alameda County
The Bay Area Council Economic Institute released a study showing 20 different strategies that can help improve (or worsen) housing affordability in Alameda County. The housing crisis has led to a housing shortage and almost 40 percent of county household to be considered cost burdened. The study looked at adding thousands of housing units in transit-rich areas such as the planned 4,000 housing units in Fremont near the Warm Spring BART station could improve affordability for 2,821 households. Other great strategies are reducing parking requirements in Oakland by 10 percent and maximizing the number of ADUs in Berkeley. Policies that could make housing affordability worse is expanding rent control, which largely discourages investment in new housing construction, and short-term rentals which provides houses to tourists rather than long-term, local tenants.

Tejon Ranch Development Takes Step towards Approval
A public hearing of the LA County Regional Planning Commission was held over the Centennial development on the Tejon Ranch, and the commission agreed to take up the issue July 11. The proposed 12,000-acre community would include nearly 20,000 homes and 10 million square-feet of commercial, retail, and “institutional/civic” space for public facilities like schools, parks, a sheriff’s station, and an urgent care clinic. Nearly half of the project site would be open space. Environmental advocates and some residents oppose the project saying it would ruin the habitats of protected specifies and contribute to sprawl that increases car dependence, worsens air quality, and generates more greenhouse gas emissions. However, some residents spoke up and said they put their children on a bus at 5:30 in the morning to get them to far away schools, and that the local deputy gets off work at 6:00pm and after they are on their own. Tejon Ranch was established 175 years ago through a land grant and includes grasslands, oak woodlands, and desert and is home to California condors, San Joaquin kit foxes, and bald eagles.If they recommend approval of the developer’s plan, the project would go to LA County Board of Supervisors for final consideration.

Rent Control Battles Heat Up in Sacramento
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg has expressed opposition to a rent control ballot measure being pushed by union groups and is instead drafting an ordinance with protections for renters he plans to bring to the City Council this summer. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have been circulating petitions that would qualify the measure for the November ballot. It would cap annual rent increases on older apartments at five percent, force landlords to provide thousands of dollars in financial assistance to tenants evicted for certain reasons, and create a nine-member elected housing board that would set maximum rent increases each year. Steinberg is meeting with labor and business representatives to draft an ordinance that avoids a rent control ballot measure. 
Quick Hits & Updates 

Gabriel Metcalf, President and CEO of SPUR, is leaving to accept a position as the CEO of the Committee for Sydney (Australia). Metcalf has worked at SPUR for 20 years, starting when the organization had a staff of four through the growth of the 40-person organization with multiple offices throughout the Bay Area. SPUR Executive Board has appointed a search committee to find a new CEO and Metcalf will be working over the next six months to transition responsibilities and set up the organization for its next phase.

The California Apartment Association is tentatively supporting annual rent hikes to the cost of inflation plus five percent alongside property tax breaks for apartment owners who convert residences to low-income rentals. The two ideas were proposed by UC Berkeley researchers. Tenant groups put forth an initiative that would repeal Costa-Hawkins and the Apartment Assn. previously estimated her group would spend $60 million to defeat the measure.

Two lawsuits have been filed by Sierra Watch over Placer County’s approval of the Squaw Valley’s planned 25-year village redevelopment project. The environmental group says the county fell well short of fully analyzing the impacts related to fire safety, traffic and resulting environmental effects on the Lake Tahoe Basin.

New research from USC found evening commutes in Los Angeles take a lot longer than morning drives. The group studied 18 of the city’s busiest freeways over a full year and found morning commutes were faster almost 80 percent of the time in 2017. Crosstown is an ongoing research project that mines data on key quality of life indicators in LA such as traffic, crime, and air quality. One of the reasons traffic is better in the mornings is because people are going directly to work or school, whereas in the evenings people run errands or go to dinner. 

According to a survey released by the City of Cupertino, 71 percent of voters would support imposing a controversial employee tax on Apple and other businesses to help pay for needed transit and housing improvements. The Cupertino City Council is considering placing such a question on the November ballot. Voter approval is required to restructure the city’s business license tax model.

San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell and Supervisor Aaron Peskin co-sponsored an ordinance that would allow office space converted to residential use to be reallocated as commercial space available to be developed- about 1.3 million square feet. The law would go before the Board of Supervisors, but does not need to be approved by voters. The proposed ordinance would help the problem posed by Prop. M, a 1986 cap on conversions of older office buildings into residential condos. Prop M limited the amount of office development the city can approve to 950,000 square feet per year.

San Diego City Council and Port commissioners are set to approve a settlement on June 12 that would allow the Convention Center to receive a $32 million payoff if the initiative to expand the Convention Center wins in November. The partners, Ray Carpenter and Art Engel, would receive an immediate payment of $5 million and up to $3.2 million to compensate them for their efforts to get a hotel approved on the land. If the Yes! For a Better San Diego is successful, it would increase the hotel-room tax and fund an expansion of the Convention Center, at which point Carpenter and Engel would receive $25 million in exchange for the lease to the land.