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CP&DR News Briefs June 19, 2018: Transportation Tech in Bay Area; Low-Income Californians; Electric Scooters; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Jun 17, 2018
According to 2018 Bay Area Council poll, 69 percent of voters want traffic signals upgraded with technology that makes them responsive to actual traffic conditions. This technology has been tested in San Jose, Palo Alto, Santa Rosa, and Hayward but has not been put into widespread use. The poll also found out that from 2015 to 2018 the number of people who have never used a ride-hailing application before dropped from 68 percent to 39 percent. Nearly 75 percent of people say these services are an important part of the Bay Area’s transportation system and 56 percent say they make it easier to get around. Voters are less sure about self-driving cars with only 46 percent being willing to relinquish control of the steering wheel, compared to 52 percent in 2017. Over 30 percent of voters say self-driving cars will be the majority on the roads within the next decade, but 45 percent say self-driving cars won’t rule the roads for 11 to 50 years. The poll found 55 percent of Bay Area residents would pay a bit more to drive an all-electric vehicle and 40 percent say they wouldn’t use an all-electric car because of the distance traveled on a single charge. Nearly 52 percent of voters agree with a ban on all fossil-fueled powered cars in California by 2040.

United Way Report Details Challenges for Low-Income Californians
United Way of California released a report, “Struggling to Stay Afloat: The Real Cost Measure in California 2018” which shows the financial challenges for working families in the state. The Real Cost Measure factors in the costs of housing, food, healthcare, childcare, transportation, and other factors that are not included in the poverty measure. The main focus of the Real Cost Measure are household budgets. Some of the key findings are that more than one-third of California households do not earn sufficient income to meet basic needs. Of the estimated 3.3 million households in the State that fall below the Real Cost Measure, 90 percent have at least one working adult. Nearly 40 percent of California households pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing. While households of all ethnicities struggle, the rate is higher for Latino and African Americans. Over 70 percent of all single mothers fall below the Real Cost Measure. The report also found that as educational attainment increases, the rate of struggling falls with 71 percent of householders without a high school diploma falling below the Real Cost Measure and only 15 percent of those with at least a bachelor’s degree. Nearly 1 in 3 seniors struggle to meet basic needs according to the Elder Index, a measure by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Santa Monica Approves Pilot Program for Scooters
The Santa Monica City Council approved a 16-month pilot program that will allow electric scooter and electric bike rental companies to continue operating in the city. The pilot will begin Sept. 17 which will help the city craft longer-term regulations. Under the pilot program, electric-scooter and electric-bike companies will have to apply for a permit and pay an annual fee of $20,000 and per-device fee of $130. Companies will also have to share real-time data with the city, ensure that scooters are evenly distributed throughout the city, establish a 24-hour hotline to field complaints, and make sure that improperly parked scooters are promptly moved. The City of Santa Monica will also impose a “dynamic” cap on the number of scooters each company is allowed to deploy, and a company that can demonstrate that each of its scooters is being used at least three times a day may have its cap increased.

Settlement Provides Limited Access to Hollister Ranch
A settlement has been signed between the California State Coastal Conservancy and Coastal Commission and the Hollister Ranch Owners Association that grants the public a roughly three-quarter mile stretch of beach that is only accessible by ocean “via surfboard, paddleboard, kayak or soft-bottom boat.” The rest of the coastal area will only be accessible to wealthy property owners or visitors with guides. The wealthy landowners in Hollister Ranch, west of Santa Barbara, have fought for decades to keep their beach almost entirely to themselves. Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne granted preliminary approval to the deal but requested the terms of the settlement be published in a local newspaper to allow the public to get involved.

Facebook to Partner with San Mateo County on Trans-Bay Bridge
Facebook has entered into negotiations with San Mateo County Transit District to improve the Dumbarton corridor by renovating a defunct rail bridge. The negotiating agreement was approved by the transit district’s board, allowing Facebook and a public infrastructure investor, Plenary Group USA, to begin working on a place to improve the bridge built in 1910 that parallels the existing, congested bridge for cars and trucks. SamTrans says the rail line improvements from the Peninsula to Newark, including fixing the old bridge, would cost slightly less than $1 billion. A rail line across the water would help Facebook recruit employees who live on the other side of the Bay but are intimidated by the current traffic on the Dumbarton road bridge. The project could also include bicycle and pedestrian facilities, as well as “enhanced bus service”.

Santa Cruz to Revamp Approach to Housing
The Santa Cruz City Council will review a new “housing blueprint” designed to navigate the city’s housing crisis using a wide-ranging series of proposals, divided into eight interest areas. The report looks at zoning updates, continued community buy-in, granny unit and parking rules, new sources of housing revenue, and more. One major proposal of the report would come into play if the proposed rent control ballot measure fails and is significantly less restrictive. Other proposals that would need future individual votes include: research imposing taxes and fees on outside investors who are not residents of the city; preparing a 2019 ballot measure to increase the city hotel and vacation rental tax rate to fund affordable housing construction and projects to end homelessness; reviewing city provision to allow housing developers to pay into city fund rather than build affordable units on their site; and develop a new zoning district related to the recently adopted Ocean Street Area Plan with higher densities.

L.A. Metro Considers Long-Awaited Sepulveda Pass Transit Options
Los Angeles County Metro unveiled six initial concepts for a rail line through the congested Sepulveda Pass. Two of the concepts include underground heavy rail lines, which would link the Expo, and Purple Lines in West LA with the orange Line in San Fernando Valley. Concept three and four involve light rail transit but the similar routes to the first two concepts. Concept five envisions a monorail or rubber-tire trains along the 405 Freeway for alignments between 11 and 14 miles. The sixth concept would be a purple line extension to Metro’s Orange Line. The Sepulveda Transit Corridor is set to receive $9.8 billion in local funding through sales tax measures R and M.

Quick Hits & Updates 

The SANDAG Board voted to approve, the 52 percent of voting board members in favor, the state’s housing need determination after a press conference organized by land use and transportation think tank Circulate San Diego. The vote to accept the housing determination, instead of negotiating a lower number, is a bold demonstration of the region’s leadership towards addressing the housing crisis. On May 11, the board requested a lower determination but now has accepted the actual determination of 171,000 new homes needed for San Diegans.

San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan that would allow some vacant or blighted properties in Chula Vista to get a tax break in exchange for growing fruits and vegetables. The City of Chula Vista would be covered by an Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone (UAIZ) that allows owners of more than 170 qualifying blighted parcels to submit plans to turn their properties into community gardens or other agricultural uses. In exchange, the owners pay a lower property tax rate. The aim of the program is to increase green spaces, build community, educate the public about fresh food production and increase access to fruits and vegetables in areas that lack fresh produce. Parcels must be at least 0.1 acres and no more than three acres, and no residential uses are allowed on the site.

Los Angeles City Council approved, 15-0, a plan to spend voter-approved tax revenue to build housing with social services for homeless residents and endorsed state legislation that would funnel $2 billion to cities to immediately house the homeless. The councilmembers approved using $239 million to finance construction of 24 projects that would create 1,517 units of housing for homeless residents, 1,242 of which come with social services and health services attached to them. The funds are generated from Prop HHH.

UCLA Anderson Forecast released an analysis that found high housing costs are a significant factor behind the state’s homelessness crisis. The study found higher median rent and home prices are strongly correlated with more people living on the streets or in shelters. Last year, Zillow released a study that showed a five percent rent hike in LA County would result in 2,000 additional people to lose their homes.

A proposal by financier Tim Draper to split California into three states qualified for the November ballot. If majority of voters agree, it would begin the long and contentious process of creating three separate states. “Northern California” would be the northern portion of the state up to Monterey County, “California” would include the coastal counties from Monterey to Los Angeles, and “Southern California” contains primarily central and southern California. If the radical plan succeeds, this would be the first division of an existing US state since the creation of West Virginia in 1863.

Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Kelly Neel ruled that she needs more time to determine whether Caltrans satisfied a 2014 court order that required the agency to revise its environmental review of a controversial highway widening project under CEQA. Caltrans seeks to widen and upgrade 1.1 miles of Highway 101 through Richardson Grover State Park to allow industry standard-sized trucks to be able to pass through. The project began in 2007 but has been repeatedly challenged in state and Federal court by environmental groups and local residents. Caltrans has repeatedly found in its environmental reviews under CEQA and NEPA that the project would have no significant environmental impact to redwood trees and their root systems.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a $425 million bond measure to shore up the Embarcadero seawall that city leaders say is vital to securing three miles of shoreline from the threat of earthquakes and sea level rise. A second vote by the board is required before the measure becomes official. The entire project would cost as much as $5 billion and city officials hope that state and federal money would augment the bond funding.

Airbnb has announced a new partnership with civil rights organization NAACP to recruit more black Angelenos to rent out their homes on the short-term rental platform. The NAACP would receive a portion of revenue from the hosts they recruit. However, critics say this won’t address the core issues of discrimination.

Horton Plaza, the once-groundbreaking 900,000 square foot shopping center in San Diego, may turn into a modern office campus. Future owner Stockdale Capital Partners has plans to reshape the dated Westfield Mall into a unique office space for the nation’s most renowned tech firms.

The Office of Planning and Research invites stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposed 2018-2019 Draft Program Guidelines for the Transformative Climate Communities pro­gram, which will be released shortly. 

LA Metro is conducting a feasibility study for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project. An online survey for the project has close to 5,000 respondents, one of the largest response rates on any Metro survey. The project includes a 10-mile train connecting Westwood with Sherman Oaks over the Sepulveda Pass. The project is expected to cost between $17 billion and $38 billion in a 2012 analysis.