The Cupertino City Council approved a massive $4 billion housing and office development that would replace the mostly vacant Vallco Mall. It is one of the first projects statewide and the largest to date, to make use of Senate Bill 35, a 2017 law that requires cities to approve projects if they include a certain amount of housing and meet other conditions. The project is located less than a mile from Apple’s new headquarters. After 14 hours of city meetings, the project won a major victory after city staff found that it qualified for a streamlined approval under SB35. The state housing law requires cities that haven’t built enough housing under state guidelines to approve projects with affordable units that meet other requirements including using union labor for construction. The proposal includes 2,923 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, and 485,000 square feet of retail space. Other amenities include a performing arts center, city hall, cash benefits to the Cupertino Unified School District, and six acres of public open space at the proposed town center site. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
State Auditor Faults HCD Oversight of Housing Bond Funds
The California State Auditor found the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) oversight of housing bond funds remains inconsistent. Since 2007 the auditor agency has performed five required audits of HCD’s housing bond program management. In each audit, similar problems related to the agency’s monitoring of certain bond programs, particularly CalHome and Building Equity and Growth in Neighborhoods (BEGIN). Both generally enable low-income and very low-income households to become or remain homeowners, The Auditor’s report made 28 recommendations in the first four reports, which HCD previously asserted that it implemented. However, during this review it was determined that HCD had not followed through on half of the recommendations. The new recommendations include HCD immediately obtaining all required performance reports for its grant-based programs and performing on-site visits of the CalHome recipients. HCD should determine CAPES’s usability for the housing bond program and develop a plan to address feasibility of continuing to develop CAPES and develop a long-term plan describing how it will address instances when it has exceeded its administrative spending limits and how it will avoid exceeding the limits of the additional programs in the most immediate danger of overage.
Florida Company Revives Victorville-Las Vegas High Speed Rail
Florida-based passenger rail company Brightline acquired XpressWest, a high-speed passenger rail project with rights to develop a federally approved corridor connecting Southern California and Las Vegas. Brightline will take over the development, construction, and operation of the project and work with federal and local transportation officials to connect Las Vegas with Victorville with future plans to expand into the Los Angeles area. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said, “The introduction of high-speed rail between Las Vegas to Southern California will bring significant economic and environmental benefits to our state and support increased tourism. Brightline has built a proven model for privately funded high-speed rail service in Florida and we are excited to welcome them to Nevada.” Brightline expects to be able to make the 300-mile trip in less than two hours. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
Study Finds Housing Prices Causing Segregation in Bay Area
UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project and the California Housing Partnership published a study that found the Bay Area’s housing costs are pushing poor people into neighborhoods where poverty and racial segregation are on the rise. The researchers tracked migratory patterns and demographic changes across the region from 2000 to 2015 and found particularly minority families are increasingly cut off from relatives, their children may face worse health outcomes and parents’ commute to work can dramatically lengthen. Many neighborhoods in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond saw declines in black populations while farther out in the East Bay saw increases. The research found in 2015 in San Francisco, a low-income white family was three times more likely to live in a high-resource area than a moderate- or high-income black family. In Alameda County low-income white households were seven times more likely.
Alignment Chosen for High Speed Rail Segment into Los Angeles
California High Speed Rail Authority revealed its preferred route for the Palmdale-to-Burbank segment during a webcast. The three remaining route proposals would all travel through the northeast San Fernando Valley where the rail plan ahs faced opposition from some residents. All routes would end at a station near Hollywood Burbank Airport. On September 24 an open house for the community will be held in Sunland and September 25 in Pacoima. Two other meetings are scheduled in Palmdale and Agua Dulce. The SR14 alignment follows State Route 14 before going belowground through the San Gabriel Mountains and along San Fernando Road through Pacoima and Sun Valley.