In the most aggressive move of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s brief but ambitious campaign to solve the state’s housing crisis, the attorney general’s office filed suit against the City of Huntington Beach for its alleged failure to accept its fair share of new housing. The suit is based on the Department of Housing and Commity Development’s finding that the city’s 2015 housing element was deficient; it had been in compliance two years earlier, but the city then "significantly reduced the number of new housing units able to be built” by cutting the city’s capacity by 2,000 units. The suit was filed under Senate Bill 35, the 2017 law that requires cities to comply with Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers and that gives the governor’s office expanded powers to compel cities to comply. City officials dispute the state’s contentions, claiming that the city has not been able to update its housing element because of pending litigation from activist groups. Since then, the city has failed to pass a housing element that complies with RHNA. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
Sacramento Mayor Pledges Financial Support for Possible MLS Soccer Stadium
Sacramento Mayor Darrel Steinberg pledged tens of millions of dollars in city funds to help spur the development for a stadium for a sought-after Major League Soccer team. The funds would pay for infrastructure improvements to accommodate a 20,000-seat stadium for a team that would be owned by FC Republic Group and most likely be built as part of the redevelopment of the rail yards north of downtown Sacramento. Steinberg promised that no city funds would go towards the stadium itself, nor would general fund monies be used. He intends to create financial incentives by giving the team the rights to electronic billboards advertisements and by waiving development fees. Steinberg’s announcement came shortly after billionaire Ron Burkle, owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, announced that he would take a controlling interest in the team if MLS awards Sacramento a franchise.
Draft EIR Envisions L.A. Union Station for High Speed Rail
The Los Angeles Metro released a draft environmental impact report for its overhaul of Los Angeles’s Union Station. The DEIR addresses the forecasted increase in ridership, expand regional rail connectivity, and create potential opportunities for transit-oriented development. "Link US" plans to transform LAUS into a modern transit and mobility hub offering an improved passenger experience to meet the region’s long-term transportation needs. Key components of Link US include: New rail communication, signals, and tracks; new run-through tracks over US-101 and new loop track; new expanded passenger concourse, platforms, escalators, and elevators; accommodation of High-Speed Rail with a new lead track, optimized throat and railyard. The project will transform LAUS from a “stub-end,” or dead-end station, to a “run-through” station by extending tracks south over the US-101 freeway. Currently, as a “stub-end” station, all commuter and intercity trains enter and exist LAUS through a five-track “throat” or station entry tracks located north of the station. This results in a 20-minute or longer idle time for trains at the station platform area. Transforming the existing stub-end tracks to run-through tracks is anticipated to reduce train idling times.
Fresno County Sued for Hosing Discrimination
A lawsuit filed against Fresno County alleges discrimination against low-income residents of color after failure by the county to adhere to state housing policies and local land laws. Many county residents involved in the lawsuit live in areas like Lanare, Cantua Creek, Calwa and other low-income, unincorporated neighborhoods with sizable Latino populations in south Fresno. Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the residents, told the Fresno Bee these communities have long faced “resistance” against their requests for improvements upon basic infrastructure like sidewalks, safe drinking water and street lighting. The lawsuit also emphasizes the county’s failure to meet multiple deadlines for improving infrastructure in the last three years. In response to the lawsuit, county officials told the Bee it is already working to review a general plan that would address the concerns of the residents. Draft documents for the plan, which also deals with outdated zoning ordinances, will be made available to the public later this month.
ARB Releases Climate Plan for Natural and Working Lands
The Air Resources Board released its Draft California 2030 Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan. The plan is a multi-agency joint collaboration by the California Natural Resources Agency, California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board, and Strategic Growth Council. The plan aims to integrate management objectives wherever possible, coordinating all natural and working lands programs under a united approach that will move the state toward its combined goal of maintaining a resilient carbon sink and improved air and water quality, water quantity, wildlife habitat, recreation, and other benefits. The objectives of this plan are to expand the use of natural and working lands for climate mitigation and adaptation by integrating climate goals into state-funded natural and working land conservation, restoration, and management programs; significantly increase and improve conservation, restoration, and management of California's natural and working lands through State programs and other means, to enhance their resilience to worsening climate change impacts, sequester carbon, and reduce GHGs; identify next steps for taking a more comprehensive approach to addressing the policy challenges facing the state's natural and working lands, including their contributions to achieving carbon-neutrality and meeting the state's long-term climate objectives.
Los Angeles Metro to Recommend Congestion Pricing Policy
Los Angeles Metro CEO Phil Washington announced his plans to recommend “some form” of congestion pricing to the agency’s board of directors. This announcement to the agency’s congestion, highways, and roads committee followed his mid-December endorsement of congestion pricing. Washington argued that charging drivers during peak periods would both ease traffic and reduce the city’s carbon emissions. Washington also recommended reallocating toll funds to accelerate public transportation projects and subsidize free fare on Metro public transit. Committee chair John Pasana highlighted the popularity risks of charging commuters new fees. UCLA urban planning professor Michael Manville endorsed the plan, citing the historical success of congestion pricing in cities like London, Stockholm, and Singapore. Addressing criticisms that the policy unfairly benefits wealthy drivers, Manville suggested setting aside revenue to assist poorer commuters. No United States urban area has yet attempted congestion pricing, though New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested that a similar plan may be approved for New York City this year.