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CP&DR News Briefs May 14, 2019: Sacramento Waterfront; Opportunity Zones; SACOG SCS Update; and More

Brett Simpson on
May 12, 2019
The Sacramento City Council unanimously approved Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s proposal for a $47 million revamp of the city’s historic waterfront. The plan, which will be funded by hotel tax revenue, aims to improve access to the waterfront and draw residents and visitors with a series of attractions and new venues. These include a concert stage, a 5,000-seat festival lawn, an interactive water fountain, and a floating terrace on the river with performance spaces, among other proposals. The city estimates that the new attractions could double the current $700,000 sales and hotel tax draw. “For many decades, the people of Sacramento have dreamt about making our waterfront more accessible to the people and more of a destination,” Steinberg said at the council meeting, according to the Sacramento Bee. “And we’ve been thwarted for a long time, mostly because of a lack of resources and maybe the lack of a sufficient push.”

Opportunity Zones Pose Threat of Gentrification 
The Federal Opportunity Zone program will largely benefit wealthy investors and may accelerate gentrification, according to a new study published by the California Budget & Policy Center. The program offers federal tax incentives for private investment in economically distressed communities, or Opportunity Zones (OZs). Governor Gavin Newsom has embraced the policy, and his 2019-2020 budget proposal will provide state-level tax incentives for investments in California's 879 designated OZs. More than four million Californians live in designated OZs, located in almost every county statewide. However, the study found though the benefits are clear for private investors, there is no evidence that these investments benefit community residents. That’s because the program offers no clear guidelines for investments: an investor may choose to build luxury apartments rather than affordable housing, and thus accelerate gentrification. The center advises providing structure for statewide incentives so investments will benefit current residents. It also advises strict data collection and evaluation requirements to ensure that the investments are increasing opportunities for low-income residents. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

SACOG Moves Forward on New Sustainable Communities Strategy
After 16 months of development, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments Board of Directors approved the April 2019 update to their Preferred Scenario that will serve as the foundation for Sacramento’s 2020 Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (MTP/SCS) and its associated environmental impact report. The update is designed to use transportation performance goals to set the investments of the plan, while considering future uncertainties in technology and funding, and supporting the economic development of the region. It includes a land use forecast, transportation project list, revenue and budget assumptions, and future roadway pricing strategies. The board also released a Notice of Preparation for the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the 2020 MTP/SCS. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Report Urges Regionwide Approach to Homelessness in Bay Area 
The Bay Area Council Economic Institute published a report examining the Bay Area homelessness crisis through a regional lens. The report found despite many city- and county-wide efforts, the Bay Area houses the smallest proportion of its homeless (33 percent) of any region in the United States, besides Los Angeles. Much like the CASA Compact (see CP&DR coverage), which recommended policies to address the affordable housing crisis as a region, the report highlights the inefficiencies created by local solutions across overlapping communities. It proposes a coordinated solution spanning nine Bay Area counties, with targeted interventions across all stages of homelessness. Such interventions include: preventing homelessness by supporting extremely low-income housing; consolidating efforts region-wide for more flexible and targeted funding and resources according to need; and improving homeless services by using philanthropic capital to test the effectiveness of current strategies. 

Transit Boost Real Estate Values in Los Angeles
New data from real estate firm Trulia shows that buyers in Los Angeles are increasingly searching for homes near public transportation, and are willing to pay more for them. Trulia's study finds that the share of home listings with keywords such as “metro” and “subway” more than doubled since 2013, and that these listings sell for about 4.2 percent more than others. These results are a favorable outcome for a car-filled city plagued by congestion issues, and affirm Metro’s $120 billion public transportation expansion efforts. "Los Angeles is infamous for its sprawl and car culture,” the study concludes. "But the city is actively promoting alternatives to private automobiles, and mobility in and around L.A. has changed dramatically in recent years.”

Quick Hits & Updates

Southern California is the nation’s second-worst “mega-city” to live in, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s annual “best cities to live in" rankings. The region, which includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, was ranked among 21 metropolitan areas with 2.5 million residents or more. Though it earned top scores on desirability and quality of life metrics, it bested only Miami for livability and economic issues.

The Eureka Planning Commission approved the first update to the city's 53-year-old zoning code. The new code, aligning with the city's 2040 General Plan implementation, updates outdated regulations on businesses and allows homeowners to modify their homes more easily.

Palo Alto will more than double fees on developers for each peak-hour car trip their projects will generate in the city. The city council approved a $7,886 fee to replace the current $3,700 fee, strengthening the incentive for builders to incorporate strong “transportation demand management” programs to encourage transit and other alternatives to driving cars.

Five years after a $1 billion carpool lane opened on the 405 freeway through Sepulveda Pass, data from traffic analyst Inrix shows that average northbound drive times have still increased. This data supports the concept of “induced demand”: that increasing roadway capacity contributes to congestion by encouraging more people to drive. Additionally, California car-ownership and driver’s license data suggests that the number of drivers in Southern California has increased. (See prior CP&DR commentary.)

LA Metro Board will conduct a feasibility study of a $425-million bus rapid transit line for Vermont Avenue, as well as a potential rail line. In a 9-1 vote, the Metro board advanced the motion to study rail concepts and extensions as part of its environmental impact review. With 40,000 passengers each weekday, Vermont is currently Metro’s most successful bus corridor. A rapid bus line is projected to increase ridership to 70,000 weekday passengers.

Marking the end of Governor Jerry Brown’s $19 billion Bay-Delta water project, Governor Newsom is withdrawing permit applications to build twin tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to channel water to Southern California. Newsom first announced plans to scale back the project to a single tunnel in his February State of the State address. The administration is entering an environmental review of the single tunnel project, which is expected to cost a more modest $10 billion. 

The San Diego Association of Governments and San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) will both pursue major tax hikes on upcoming ballots for multi-billion-dollar transportation overhauls. MTS is pursuing a half-cent sales tax increase for bus and rail improvements, while SANDAG's ambitious plans for new transit systems will likely require more extreme taxation.That could mean two separate ballot measures, each requiring a two-thirds majority approval. The agencies have not yet coordinated, but experts raise concerns that putting two separate measures to voters could jeopardize the success of both.

In efforts to win approval for a waterfront ballpark, the Oakland A’s committed to building a total of 6,000 homes around their proposed future Howard Terminal stadium and the Coliseum site they are leaving. Last year, Mayor Libby Schaaf disapproved plans for a downtown ballpark amid concerns that a stadium would displace neighborhoods and compress an already-tight affordable housing market. Schaaf has said before allowing the A’s to build on Coliseum land, she is open to a bidding process to hear from other developers who may build more homes.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has $950,000 for local and regional planning grants to support the integration of natural and working lands, specifically agricultural lands, into local and regional planning documents. This funding is made available through Proposition 68 The California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018 passed by California voters in June 2018. Public comment on the guidelines will be accepted until May 20 and grant applications due July 31.

Salesforce founder Marc Benioff announced a $30 million donation to fund a new homelessness research center at the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations. The program, dubbed the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, will fund research into causes of, and viable solutions for, homelessness. The center also aims to bring together experts and policymakers to inform best practices to end homelessness.

EMC Research published a poll showing that 66 percent of Bay Area voters would vote for a sales tax increase to fund more affordable housing, marking a crucial two-thirds majority needed to approve such a tax. The poll, which surveyed 1,935 voters in all nine Bay Area counties in April, also found that 82 percent of voters worry that others won’t be able to find housing, and 72 percent believe that the state needs to take a regional approach to solve the housing crisis.


Population growth is the slowest in state history, slipping to 0.47 percent last year from 0.78 percent in 2017, according to data released by the California’s Department of Finance. Researchers attribute the slowed birthrate in part to a decline in immigrants from Mexico. But they tie the growth slowdown more strongly to a lack of affordable housing: they found that increasingly, California’s youngest and poorest residents are leaving the state. Notably, the study also found that growth rate in Los Angeles leveled at zero percent last year.

Developers of the San Jose Coleman Highline office complex are seeking permits to add two buildings to the mega mixed-use campus. The complex, most notably home to the tech giant Roku, would add roughly 668,000 square feet and accommodate 3,300 to 4,500 workers. The development will also offer new retail space and other amenities, including a planned Marriott hotel. Pending approval, these buildings could open as soon as 2021.
Ride-hailing tech company Lyft pledged to invest $50 million into locally-driven transportation services – and Los Angeles is its first beneficiary. The investment program, dubbed Lyft CityWorks, aims to accomplish three goals: provide transportation, build transportation infrastructure, and create a clean energy future. Projects already underway in Los Angeles include reduced-fare scooter rides for low-income residents, and partnerships with local organizations and nonprofits to improve infrastructure for bikes and scooters citywide.

A new ordinance went into effect in San Francisco that requires landlords to register their vacant storefronts within 30 days or face a $2,844 fine. City officials hope that the ordinance will give them a better picture of the number of empty storefronts citywide. The ordinance, passed earlier this year, also intends to discourage landlords from leaving commercial space vacant while shopping for the highest-paying tenant. 

The annual Los Angeles Quality of Life Index put Los Angeles residents’ satisfaction with the area at a record low, citing the rising cost of housing as the primary source of discontent. The survey, conducted for the past four years by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the California Endowment, asks a random sample of over 1,400 residents to rate their satisfaction with several aspects of city life. Year over year, the studies show an increase in housing concerns: more residents report dissatisfaction with housing costs, more residents are considering moving, and more residents claim to know someone worried about becoming homeless. (See CP&DR commentary.)

In its latest citywide effort to control reckless use of dockles scooters, the San Diego City Council unanimously approved new rules for scooter use. The rules establish a permitting process for operators, limit speeds in designated areas, and require all devices to scan a valid driver’s license before they can be used. San Diego Mayor Sam Liccardo has supported scooter use as a means to reach carbon reduction goals. But concerned residents crowded City Hall to protest scooter use, citing the dangers they have posed in the city. The new rules will go into effect in June, after the council takes its final vote.

The San Francisco Port Commission approved the city’s plans to build the Embarcadero Navigation Center, a temporary multiservice homeless shelter on an Embarcadero lot near the Bay Bridge. The 200-bed facility will be the city's largest navigation center, and has a two year lease with a potential for a two-year renewal. The proposed center is a critical part of Mayor London Breed’s campaign pledge to open 1,000 new shelter beds by 2020, but has faced community pushback from residents fearing increased crime and decreased property values.