Four companies linked to the Seeno family of homebuilders are suing the US Navy for allegedly violating NEPA by issuing an insufficient environmental review for nearly 5,000 acres of land in Concord. The four companies once competed for the chance to redevelop the former Concord Naval Weapons Station and are suing the Navy to halt it from transferring the property to the city. The environmental review authorized plans from developer Five Point Holdings, spinoff of Lennar Corp, that could add up to 12,272 residential units and 6.1 million square-foot of commercial space on the former base. The lawsuit accuses the Navy of underestimating and ignoring the full impacts of the proposed redevelopment on local traffic, air quality and public health. The City of Concord’s direct of reuse planning, Guy Bjerke, said the lawsuit may slow down the Navy’s property transfer but the city will continue planning for the project. The proposed project will cost $6.3 billion to build out over a few decades and ultimately generate nearly 19,000 jobs.
Cities Approach Agreement over Contentious Inland Empire Tract
The Inland Empire cities of Diamond Bar, Chino Hills, and Industry are negotiating a partnership that would give each city partial control over the 2,500-acre Tres Hermanos Ranch, one of the largest swaths of open space left in the area. Last month, Diamond Bar and Chino Hills agreed to freeze their lawsuits against the City of Industry for 90 days to give the parties time to negotiate. The land is owned by Industry but situated within Diamond Bar's and Chino Hills’ jurisdiction. Tres Hermanos has avoided development and is still used for grazing cattle. Industry unveiled plans to develop a solar farm on the land, which sparked objections. The solar farm idea is now dead due to reaching mutually beneficial agreements.
FEMA Agrees to Shrink Newport Beach Flood Zone
The City of Newport Beach has persuaded the Federal Emergency Management Agency to exclude about 2,700 properties in the coastal part of the city from updated flood maps. This means owners in parts of Balboa Peninsula, Balboa Island, and West Newport won’t need flood insurance, which can save up to about $3,700 each or $10 million combined each year in premiums. City staff has worked for two years to show FEMA that municipal infrastructure such as seawalls and san berms on the beach protected more of the waterfront and adjacent neighborhoods than the federal agency models predicted. In 2016, FEMA added more than 3,000 Newport Beach properties to the expanded flood zone maps. The revised flood maps will become permanent in early 2019, and the city will waive its $99 fee for related mortgage holder forms for a year after the map goes into effect.
L.A. Controller Identifies Dubious Benefits for $1 Billion in Tax Breaks
Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin said city officials have signed off on about $1 billion in taxpayer assistance for hotels and other development since 2005, yet they lack a rigorous process for finding out whether the money was well spent. In a 29-page report, Galperin said the Mayor and City Council should receive yearly reports that examine whether the multimillion-dollar financial aid packages are providing benefits for the public. For instance policymakers need to know whether the numbers used to determine a real estate project’s “financial gap” turned out to be accurate. Real estate developers are able to retain a portion of the tax revenue that their projects generate, money that would otherwise flow to the city’s budget. The report recommends city leader improve their negotiating advantage by hiring people with experience in real estate transactions to examine subsidy requests.
Bay Area Solicits Ideas for ‘Transformative Projects’ to Improve Mobility
MTC and ABAG have announced the Horizon initiative’s request for project ideas. Individuals, community groups, nonprofits, and private companies can present ideas for redefining the way to travel in and around the Bay Area. The Request for Transformative Projects is focused on major investments that were not previously assessed in Plan Bay Area 2040. Five to ten innovative ideas will be selected for full evaluation by MTC and ABAG. The proposals are encouraged to be transit or roadway projects that improve capacity, frequency or coverage; have a lifecycle cost exceeding $1 billion; and were not evaluated in Plan Bay Area 2040. The projects can make existing transportation infrastructure more resilient to rising sea levels or seismic hazards or be operational strategies with transformative regional impacts such as all-lane tolling or transit fare simplification. All projects must be submitted by Sept. 6.
Quick Hits & Updates
Placer County Superior Court Judge Michael W. Jones rules the EIR for Squaw Valley’s major redevelopment project adequately examined the regional and environmental impacts including traffic, greenhouse gases, noise, water, and emergency evacuations. The project was originally submitted in 2012, involves up to 850 room hotel, condominium and residential units, and a 90,000 square-foot indoor adventure center. The Sierra Club has said, “Obviously, we respectfully disagree and we are preparing to take our case to the California Court of Appeals.” (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
San Diego State University announced a plan to redirect Murphy Canyon Creek’s flow as part of its SDSU Mission Valley redevelopment plan. Mission Valley is currently a floodplain. The proposal would divert the creek, which converges with the river near the stadium, to a more winding course with less potential for flooding. Builders would also raise the proposed project and its adjoining neighborhood above the floodplain using crushed concrete recycled form the old stadium.
Representatives of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Healthy Housing Foundation, and the Coalition to Preserve LA announced a lawsuit to halt the pending demolition of Los Angeles’ defunct former police headquarters, Parker Center. The 300,000 square-foot International Style complex is proposed to be converted into a 700-bed temporary housing shelter. Last year, community opposition took off to save the tower by petitioning it to be considered for Historic-Cultural Landmark status. LA City Council voted in favor of destroying the structure instead and making space for a new office tower.
A new lawsuit has been filed against the proposed Los Angeles Clippers arena in Inglewood, this one claiming a pair of city-related boards violated state laws related to open meetings and CEQA. The lawsuit was filed earlier this month in LA County Superior Court by law firm Chatten-Brown & Carstens, representing Inglewood Residents Against Takings and Evictions. The Successor Agency to the Inglewood Redevelopment Agency and the Oversight Board to the Successor Agency to the Inglewood Redevelopment agency violated the Brown Act by failing “to inform the public that the parcels being transferred are specifically designated… in the [exclusive negotiating agreement] for construction of the arena project” before their meetings in June.
US HUD filed a formal complaint against Facebook accusing the social network company of allowing housing discrimination on its platform. The agency claims Facebook allows landlords and home sellers to hide housing ads from people based on their race, color, religion, sex, familiar status, national origin, disability, and zip code. Anna María Farías, HUD’s assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, wrote in a news release “The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination including those who might limit or deny housing options with a click of a mouse. When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to discriminate, it's the same as slamming the door in someone’s face.” A company representative said Facebook will respond to the complaint in court and will continue working with HUD to address the concerns.
The Executive Director of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, Matthew Doherty, paid a visit to San Francisco and had a first meeting with Mayor London Breed. San Francisco received $9 million more this year in homeless grants than it did last year. The San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Services Director Jeff Kositsky also was part of the meetings and declared himself “very happy”. Doherty said he was “impressed” with the city’ efforts. Doherty has held the position during both the Obama and Trump administrations and seen the city’s homeless population flat at about 7,500 while most other city’s have had escalating street counts.
LA Metro sent a Request for Information to Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies (ARTT) asking for a more detailed proposal for an aerial tram between LA Union Station and Dodger Stadium. The RFI is a confidential document that includes technical, operational, business-related, and legal questions that Metro would like to see addressed.
Castro Station, an 115,000 square-foot office complex adjacent to Mountain View’s Caltrain station has been purchased for almost $180 million. The office complex consists of three buildings and is a quick walk from downtown, transportation, and other amenities. The seller was affiliated with Teachers Insurance & Annuity Association and the new purchaser is affiliated of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, according to county documents.
The Coastal Commission voted to tear down a seawall protecting an oceanfront home in Laguna Beach. Previous owners received a retroactive approval for the previously unpermitted seawall under the condition that the seawall would be removed if there were new development on the site. The current owners remodeled and increased the value of the home from $14 to $25 million, without removing the unpermitted seawall. The attorney for the homeowners argued the work qualified as “repair and maintenance” and so did not require a commission permit. All 11 commissioners were unanimous in agreement that the extent of the work required a permit, and doubled the staff recommended fine amount to $1 million.