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CP&DR News Briefs January 15, 2019: SB 2 Planning Grants; VMT Metrics; Gov.'s Environmental Leadership Awards, and More

CP&DR Staff on
Jan 13, 2019
The California Department of Housing and Community Development released finalized SB 2 Planning Grants Program Guidelines.The Guidelines incorporate feedback from participants during the Open House Forums, public comment letters, and additional conversations and research during the public outreach period. The SB 2 Planning Grants Program is part of the 2017’s 15-bill housing package aimed at addressing the state's housing shortage and high housing costs. SB 2 establishes a permanent source of funding intended to increase the affordable housing stock in California. The legislation sets-a-side 50 percent of the revenue in the first year to make grants available to local governments. The grants will be available to update a variety of planning documents and processes to streamline housing approvals and accelerate housing production. In addition to the planning grants, HCD will be providing technical assistance in coordination with Governor's Office of Planning and Research in order to help jurisdictions prepare and implement planning activities that will accelerate housing production. For more information, visit the SB 2 Planning Grant webpage.

OPR Sets Standards for Vehicle Miles Traveled Metrics
The Office of Planning & Research released an update to the Technical Advisory on Evaluating Transportation Impacts in CEQA, which contains OPR’s technical recommendations regarding assessment of vehicle miles traveled, thresholds of significance, and mitigation measures. The updated technical advisory is available in Transportation Impacts (SB 743). This update incorporates the regulatory changes made to the CEQA Guidelines by the Agency and addresses feedback received since the technical advisory was released in April 2018. OPR may continue to update or supplement this technical advisory in response to new information and advancements in modeling and methods. (See prior CP&DR coverage.) 

Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan Receives Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award
Among a half-dozen awards given out for the 2018 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership program, the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan received the award for Ecosystem & Land Use Stewardship. Led by Santa Clara County and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, the Santa Clara Valley Agriculture Plan (Ag Plan) is a regional effort to conserve Santa Clara Valley’s farmland and ranchland as an innovative climate change mitigation and economic development strategy. The Ag Plan will help cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing conversion of working lands and focusing development in existing urban areas. The Ag Plan also acknowledges working lands as public natural assets, contributing economic and ecological value to the resilience of the region. Central to the Ag Plan is and effort to identify and map existing agricultural resources in the Santa Clara Valley. It delineates a farm and ranch land base where innovative tools and strategies will prove most effective in stemming urban sprawl and loss of working lands. It is a multipronged effort to protect the environment and economic health of the region as a whole.

Inland Empire Cities Contemplate Changes to Gold Line Light Rail 
City of San Dimas officials want Metro to study the implications of making the city the temporary penultimate stop on the Gold Line. Assistant City Manager Larry Stevens is preparing a letter to submit to the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority that would ask the agency to look at various issues such as updating its ridership models and whether parking allotment should be reconsidered. The construction authority is in the process of analyzing the environmental impacts if either La Verne or Pomona were the temporary endpoints. Additionally, a group of elected officials throughout San Bernardino County wants the construction authority to consider possible alternatives, saying the 12.3-mile extension from Glendora to Montclair could hurt public transit in other areas. The letter sent to Gold Line officials cites a 25 percent decline in Metrolink ridership at the Covina station since the 2016 opening of the Gold Line station, four miles north in Azusa. Gold Line is able to offer cheaper fares than Metrolink due to increased funds from taxpayers. In November, the authority voted to build the Gold Line in two phases after costs rose 38 percent from $1.5 billion to $2.1 billion. The decision pushed the opening of new stations in Pomona, Claremont, and Montclair from 2026 to 2028.

Gordon Appointed Head of OPR
Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Kate Gordon to be Director of the Office of Planning and Research (OPR). Gordon is an recognized expert on clean energy and economic development. Before joining the Paulson Institute, she was the Founding Director of the “Risky Business Project,” co-chaired by Michael Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, and Tom Steyer, and focused on the economic risks of unmitigated climate change, while serving as Senior Vice President for Climate and Energy at Next Generation, a non-partisan think tank based in San Francisco. Gordon previously served as Vice President of Energy and Environment at the Washington D.C.-based Center for American Progress. She succeeds Ken Alex, who was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011. 

Quick Hits & Updates 

The California Department of Housing and Community Development released the Permanent Local Housing Allocation (PLHA) program framing paper. The PLHA program is funded through revenues collected in the Building Homes and Jobs Trust Fund starting Jan. 1 and will fund eligible housing-related projects and programs to assist in addressing the  unmet housing needs of local communities. HCD is seeking input on the development of the PLHA program (Senate Bill 2, Chapter 364 of 2017). The framing paper is intended to inform the development of the PLHA program guidelines which includes information of basic program requirements, method of distribution, and eligible uses. Public comment period ends Jan. 22. 

The California Natural Resources Agency will be accepting concept proposals for the Urban Greening Program fromJanuary 8, 2019 through February 28, 2019. Approximately $19.0 million in awards will be funded by this program. Applicants submitting the most competitive proposals will be invited to participate in the next level of the competitive process, anticipated spring 2019.  

CBS Corp. has sold its iconic Television City in Los Angeles headquarters to real estate developer Hackman Capital Partners for $750 million. CBS said certain shows that are produced on the property would continue and CBS would retain office space for the studio’s international operation headquarters. Hackman also developed the landmark Culver Studios.

City of Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb and Mayor Libby Schaaf are proposing an ordinance that would require approximately 24,000 old apartment units to be seismically retrofitted in an effort to prevent the collapse of buildings in the next big earthquake. The retrofit rules would apply to soft-story residential buildings, which are multi-unit, wood-frame structures with weak first stories build before 1991. The City estimates between 1,400 and 2,800 soft-story buildings exist. Owners would have between four and six year to complete the retrofit work.

LA Metro directors voted, 7-4, to support a plan that would allow South Bay commuters to travel most of the Green Line without changing trains when the new Crenshaw Line opens next year. The directors also decided the Crenshaw Line would be restricted to two-car trains to limit issues. Metro staff had proposed to address the capacity issues on the Green Line by breaking the line into two pieces and restricting a portion to three-car trains but that would mean riders at certain South Bay stations would be forced to transfer. The Crenshaw Line is expected to open in mid-2020.

The California Coastal Commission released a free app, YourCoast, that would allow the public to explore free guides to 1,563 beaches, trails, parks, and visitor-serving destinations throughout the state. The app helps visitors find out which beaches have disabled access, are dog-friendly, have restrooms, parking, and more. The app is a result of a settlement of a June 2013 Coastal Act violation at a hotel campground open to the public in Big Sur.

Backing down from a proposal to ban cafeterias in tech company offices for the purpose of spurring demand for local eateries, San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safai amended the proposal to instead require a special permit for them to open in new office spaces. Factors taken into account when determining whether to grant the permit would include the accessibility to the general public, impact it would have on existing eating and drinking establishments in the neighborhood, and whether employers would subsidize or pay for employee meals outside the proposed employee cafeteria. The proposal goes back to the Planning Commission for review before making a recommendation on the amended version.

Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court denied a petition for review submitted by Citizens Coalition Los Angeles and the La Mirada Neighborhood Association for the contentious development known as "Target Husk.” The partially built structure was designed for a Target store but has sat idle since 2014 while awaiting its fate in court. The Los Angeles City Council reapproved the empty Sunset Gordon tower earlier this month. The two groups aim to prevent the completion of the 200,000 square-foot store at Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue.

San Diego City Council member and opponent of Prop. 6 Carl DeMaio has proposed a new initiative to cancel the high-speed rail project and revamp state transportation funding. The group was given state approval to begin collecting signatures. The initiative would shift about $10 billion in state revenues from state and local non-transportation programs to local transportation funds. The title and summary for the initiatives were issued by the state attorney general’s office: “Removes responsibility and funding for state highway construction and maintenance from state. Transfers such responsibility and funding to individual, local governments. Ends state high speed rail project.” However, DeMaio complained that the title was misleading.

An anonymous donor has purchased nearly 600 acres of key habitat for the teddy bear cholla cacti in Southern California and deeded it to the Mojave Desert Land Trust. Due to prolonged drought and rising temperatures, more than half of one huge population between 2004 and 2005 was killed off. The gift of land, about 100 miles south of Las Vegas, will provide a buffer between Interstate 40 and the Bigelow Cholla Wilderness Garden, which is part of the BLM’s Mojave Trails National Monument. The area contains the state’s densest concentrations of cholla.

Wells Fargo, Citi, and Chase have suspended lending for would-be buyers at the Hunters Point development in San Francisco. The city hopes to build over 10,000 new homes in the former Navy yard but some of the nation’s largest banks will not longer back potential condo purchases.

The California Department of Finance released new state population estimates between July 2017 and July 2018 and found the state added over 200,000 new residents. San Francisco County added 6,885 new residents which is a drop from the nearly 8,000 gain that was seen the previous two years. However, last week the San Francisco Business Times reported that in 2018 the city added only 2,263 new units of housing.  

California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins named San Francisco-based State Senator Scott Wiener the head of the senate’s committee on housing. Senator Wiener said, “I look forward to advancing a progressive housing agenda that ensures we are building enough housing at all income levels.” The Senate Housing Committee was previously headed by San Jose-based Senator Jim Beall whose legislative history mostly focused on promoting affordable housing.

Gov. Jerry Brown reappointed Dan Richard and Tom Richards four-year terms on the board of directors that oversees the California High-Speed Rail Authority before leaving office. Richard and Richards were selected by their fellow board members as chairman and vice chairman, respectively.