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CP&DR News Briefs September 11, 2018: Oakland Vacancy Tax; Berkeley Rejects SB 35 Project; Cities' Carbon Footprints; and more

Noemi Wyss on
Sep 9, 2018
The City of Berkeley rejected plans for the state’s first residential project proposed under SB 35, a controversial state law which forces city officials to grant special, expedited approval for certain residential projects to alleviate the region’s affordable housing shortage. City officials say the 260-unit and 27,500 square-foot commercial space does not meet the bill’s requirements. A letter to Timothy Burroughs, director of Berkeley’s Department of Planning & Development, said the project would have been built on land designated by the city as a historical landmark and contains an ancient Native American burial ground. Other issues include not reserving enough units for very low-income families and increasing traffic in the area beyond what is allowed by the city’s zoning rules. Meanwhile, Vallco Mall redevelopment in Cupertino under SB 35 passed its first hurdle by approval from Planning Commission. The plan is to build 2,404 housing units, 1.8 million square-feet of office, and 400,000 square-feet of retail. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
Oakland Places Vacant Properties Tax on Ballot
The Oakland City Council voted, 6-2, to place a measure on the ballot that would tax vacant properties to generate income for new affordable housing.  This tax would be the first in the state on privately-owned vacant properties. The city estimates the tax could raise as much as $10 million annually for homeless services, blight remediation, and to stem illegal dumping. Owners of properties in use fewer than 50 days per year could be taxed as much as $6,000 per parcel annually if two-thirds of voters approve the measure in November. Critics of the tax worry it could disproportionately hurt small landowners and push some to sell their property to investors. Proponents of the tax say it is a creative incentive to transform thousands of vacant lots and buildings into homes businesses while decreasing blight.
Study Ranks Global Cities’ Carbon Footprints; Los Angeles Ranks 5th
CityCarbonFootprints released a Global Gridded Model of Footprints which estimates the carbon footprints per capita and absolute terms across 189 countries. Nine California cities were included in the model. Los Angeles was ranked second-highest domestically and fifth globally with a footprint of approximately 195 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (Mt CO2) and approximately 15 tons of carbon dioxide (t CO2) per capita. San Jose ranked 8th domestically and 29th globally, with 70 Mt CO2 and 17.5 t CO2 per capita. San Diego ranked 18th within the US and 85th globally. The city had a footprints of 28 Mt CO2 and approximately 15 t CO2 per capita. Sacramento, 113th globally and 24th domestically, had a footprint of approximately 21 Mt CO2 and per capita 14 t CO2. Carlsbad, Oakland, and Fresno were 50, 51, and 52 respectively, domestically. All three had approximately 8 Mt CO2 total. Carslbad had a footprint of 15.5 t CO2 per capita, Oakland was almost 20 t CO2 per capita, and Fresno was 13 t CO2 per capita. Bakersfield was 69th domestically and 455 globally with a footprint of 5 Mt CO2 and 11 Mt CO2 per capita. Palm Springs was the last US city ranked with 4.6 Mt CO2 and 15.4 t CO2 per capita.
Denser Development May Come to California’s First BRT Line
L.A. Metro released the Orange Line Transit Neighborhood Plans project, which calls for denser development along the Metro Orange Line. The proposal would allow taller buildings along the 18-mile bus line that carries about 30,000 riders each day. The plans don't include specific development projects but instead seek to rezone pieces of industrial land, allowing developers to build higher office towers and multi-family apartment buildings within a half-mile radius of the Orange Line stops in North Hollywood, Van Nuys, and Sepulveda.  The plan is partially funded through Metro grants and is intended to turn areas along the Metro Orange Line into TOD districts where residents can cycle, walk, or take the bus to work. Some community organizers are concerned with the displacement that comes with densification. The plan is inspired by SB 374 which requires city planning agencies to create Substantial Communities Strategies and cut greenhouse gas emissions by developing land around transportation hubs.
Los Angeles Displays Nation’s Worst Heat Island Effect
IoT firm Geotab studied 20 of the most populous cities in the United States and found Los Angeles has the biggest variance among all American cities. “Heat in the City” defines “variance” as the difference between temperatures in different locations within city limits at a given time. The study, which uses readings taken at 12pm Jne 21, 2017, found that Los Angeles’ temperature varies by 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Phoenix has the hottest average temperature in the United States, with an average temperature of 111 degrees Fahrenheit. The study cites the “heat island effect,” caused by pavement, buildings, and shortage of trees. The research shows that heat mitigation efforts like smart surfaces need to be done on a hyperlocal level as circumstances are so different across jurisdictions. The temperature maps were created using data recorded by Geotab GO sensors and show the value of mapping tools and data collection in cities. The research firm’s goal is to promise to “improve city-wide efficiency, discover key infrastructure challenges and guide deployment of automated solutions for issues such as congestion, parking and poor road conditions.
Quick Hits & Updates 
The City of Oakland is preparing to file an antitrust suit with the NFL and the Las Vegas-bound Raiders for millions of dollars in damages. Three outside law firms will handle the litigation and have agreed to cover the up-front costs of the suit in exchange for a cut of potential monetary damages received. However, Coliseum authority board member Ignacio De La Fuenta called the lawsuit ridiculous. The Coliseum authority is currently in negotiations with the Raiders on extending their lease for the next season. Coliseum authority Executive Direcyor Scott McKibben said the Raiders, “made it very clear to me that (if) the City decided to file a lawsuit they would not seek a lease extension to play at the Coliseum but would play elsewhere.” McKibben said he would recommend a path without litigation.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced her ambitious plan to have the city’s buildings be carbon neutral by the year 2050. The new plan also includes halving landfill waste, financing green infrastructure, and transitioning the city to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. The announcement comes before next week’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco hosted by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Sacramento State Downtown, a multipurpose hub that will host research, special events, classes, and other programming had its grand opening recently. Near the Capitol, the university’s newly established location at 304 S St. is an effort to cement “Sacramento State as California’s capital university.” University President Robert S. Nelsen has deemed the opening of the downtown venue as a signal of the school’s status as an anchor university focusing on community engagement rather than the ivory tower.
Sacramento Regional Transportation cut bus and light rail fares for the first time in its nearly 50-year history. The agency will drop the base fare from $2.75 per ride to $2.50 and reduce monthly passes from $110 to $100. The reductions will bring fares back to what they were in 2016 before the agency raised rates to among the highest in the country. The agency board also agreed to bring back 25-cent transfers which RT stopped allowing in 2009. The agency will dip into its reserve account to compensate for about $600,000 in lost revenue, but believes the reduction could boost ridership by about 350,000 boardings annually.
Central Coast environmental watchdog group Los Padres ForestWatch released a new map that shows areas in San Luis Obispo County that the BLM could open for fracking. The interactive map shows 273,000 acres of federal land and mineral holdings in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. The BLM is required to evaluate the environmental impacts of fracking on this land as part of a settlement reached after a 2015 lawsuit. San Luis Obispo County voters will consider a ballot measure banning new fracking in the region, but that would not apply to federally owned land.

The City of San Diego’s Ethics Commission fined Phil Rath, board chair of Civic San Diego, $11,000 for his failure to disclose his financial relationship with a  developer that won a competition to build a $47 million project and $5.8 million loan from city affordable housing funds. Rath also failed to recuse himself from two votes related to the project and had received $100,000 from the developer 10 months earlier.

The Strategic Growth Council has announced Nicole Capretz, Executive Director of San Diego’s Climate Action Campaign, as the newest member of the Council. Capretz was appointed by California Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and replaces Dr. Manuel Pastor as one of the groups public members. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
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