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CP&DR News Briefs July 9, 2019: Palm Springs Arena; Fish & Wildlife Audit; Homelessness; and More

Brett Simpson on
Jul 7, 2019
Tribe Envisions Sports Arena for Palm Springs
Palm Springs’ Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians announced plans to build a new sports and entertainment arena on tribal land downtown. This follows a recent announcement from NHL Seattle of plans to create a new AHL team for Palm Springs. Agua Caliente plans to build the 3000,000 square foot, 10,000-seat arena on 16 acres of tribal land north of the Agua Caliente Casino. Local businaess owners have supported this move, and expressed hope this will create a greater year-round tourism market. But it will likely require new infrastructure changes: including possible updates to streets, new access points, and greater police and fire support in the area. The tribe expects the arena to be game and performance ready by fall of 2021. “We are creating a healthy community gathering place for Coachella Valley families and visitors from around the world to celebrate, play, and experience diverse entertainment opportunities in a state-of-the-art arena,” Tribal Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe told the Desert Sun.

Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Running Afoul of CEQA
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has failed to meets its obligations as a responsible CEQA-compliant agency, according to a state audit. The state agency is responsible for issuing permits for projects affecting lake and stream habitats or endangered species. Under CEQA, the Department must thoroughly review proposed projects and inform stakeholders the public about their potential environmental impacts. However, the audit found the agency deficient in several key responsibilities. First, the audit found that the department has failed to provide consultation and commentary to lead agencies for CEQA compliance, nor has it provided its staff with policies and procedures to do so. Furthermore, it found that the department has not used all of its available funding to fulfill CEQA requirements: it has failed to track the costs of its CEQA filing activities, and has spent $5.7 million in filing fee revenue on non-CEQA activities. Finally, the audit found that the department has created unnecessary delays and costs by mailing CEQA documents rather than submitting them electronically. The audit recommends that the agency should establish a policy for a CEQA review timeline by March 2020, should immediately begin tracking CEQA costs, and should implement a timekeeping mechanism by December 2019 for all CEQA-related activities.

California Cities Push for Federal Action on Homelessness
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti is leading a coalition of mayors petitioning Congress to pass a $13 billion measure to combat homelessness nationwide. The so-called Ending Homelessness Act, sponsored by Representative Maxine Waters, would direct funds to high-risk cities to provide shelter and services to homeless populations. The bill provides $5 billion over five years for 85,000 new permanent housing units; $2.5 billion over five years to housing choice vouchers; and $1 billion to the National Housing Trust Fund, which will create 25,000 new units for extremely low-income housing. Mayor Garcetti leads mayors from other California cities – including Oakland, Sacramento, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Riverside – as well as cities nationwide such as Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Honolulu. Los Angeles faces a growing homelessness crisis: it has grown by 12 percent county-wide and 16 percent city-wide to hit an all-time high in the past year. Garcetti will lead the coalition to rally for federal support, and will deliver a testimony in front of the House of Representatives. “Cities are fighting hard every day to turn the tide on this humanitarian crisis – and Washington has to match our urgency, our commitment, and the investment we’re making to confront it,” said Mayor Garcetti, according to a recent press release.

Study: $22 Billion Needed for Seawalls to Combat Sea-Level Rise
Defending Californian seawalls against rising sea levels would cost about $22 billion statewide, according to a recent analysis by the Center for Climate Integrity and the environmental engineering firm Resilient Analytics. The study, titled “High Tide Tax; The Price to Protect Coastal Communities from Rising Seas,” calculates the cost of seawall construction in areas threatened by inundation. According to its findings, the city of San Diego would have the largest expense, at $357 million, closely followed by Fremont ($348 million), San Francisco ($256 million), Long Beach ($246 million) and Newport Beach ($236 million). The study uses the most conservative model featured in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, which estimates sea level will rise 11 to 24 inches by the end of the century. And, the report asserts, the cost estimate is also conservative: it represents only about 10 percent to 15 percent of the total cost of addressing chronic seawater inundation. Other preventive measures could include re-engineering infrastructure, to moving roads and rail lines inland – both of which are more costly measures. The authors of the study call California’s projected $22 billion only a “minimum down payment for short-term defense against rising seas.”

Calaveras County Adopts General Plan Update 
Following a 12-year planning process, the Calaveras County Planning Commission adopted the county’s General Plan update. The commission voted unanimously, following a month of public hearings, to approve the 20-year vision for community growth. The plan builds new land use and housing recommendations around state Department of Finance population growth estimates, and may change with shifting economic demands or new statewide affordable housing laws. The Calaveras Planning Coalition has expressed concerns about the update, including its elimination of community plans for Valley Springs, Arnold, Murphys and Avery/Hathaway Pines – which all had their own plans in the latest 1996 update. The commission, however, argues that many of those community-specific plans were adopted into the larger county plan. The plan will move to the Board of Supervisors for hearings later this month.

Quick Hits & Updates
The planned High Desert Freeway, connecting Victorville and Palmdale, is a “top national boondoggle,” according to a new study ranking the nation’s costliest highway projects. The report, titled “The Highway Boondoggles 5” released in partnership between CALPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, examines the adverse effects of nine new highways on the climate, community, and economy. According to the report, the planned $8 billion, 63-mile High Desert Freeway would directly undermine California’s climate goals by leading to more driving, more pollution, and greater sprawling development.

The Department of Conservation is proffering $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. Grant applications are due July 31. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed appointed a task force to review the troubled SF Muni rail service and recommend improvements. The working group, formed as the city’s Metropolitan Transit Agency's chief prepares to step down, will comprise of two supervisors and the city controller. This move, which follows the mayor’s repeated warnings against the long-faltering agency, will also put a critical eye on the agency’s structure and methods.

A federal court struck down a Bureau of Land Management decision clearing the way to build the controversial Cadiz water pipeline across public land. Last year, the Trump Administration reversed a previous BLM decision in order to grant the water company permission to pump groundwater from its desert property for sale in urban areas. However, environmental groups sued, and a U.S. District judge ruled that the BLM failed to legally justify its reversal.

The Anaheim City Council voted against rent control for the second time this year. In April, councilmember Joe Moreno proposed a measure to temporarily cap rent increases at mobile home parks in the city, prompted in part by pleas from residents of the Rancho La Paz park. This week, council members affirmed their stance on rent control by turning down Moreno’s latest proposal for a six-month limit on rent increases at older apartment buildings in the city.

The Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority is the most expensive and least efficient in the entire country, according to a recent grand jury report. The report follows a tumultuous period for the bus-and-rail authority: last week, the Amalgamated Transit Union threatened work stoppages. The report claims that the agency has grown too big and too political to make sound decisions to serve the community, and is squandering taxpayer dollars. The VTA Board has 90 days to respond to the report with proposed solutions.

A proposal for a new Bay Area ferry service from Larskspur Terminal to the Warriors’ Mission Bay Chase Center stadium is gaining momentum. Transit officials proposed the ferry service in April, anticipating a potential transportation bottleneck to the soon-to-open stadium – which will seat 18,000 and offers only 950 parking spaces. The proposal now faces the board of directors for Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, which will hold a public hearing on the special service. The ferry would replicate an existing special event service to Giants games at Oracle Park. 

The LA Metro certified the Final Environmental Impact Report for its proposed "LINK US" track expansion project at Union Station. The project’s design expands the central concourse hallway and eliminates loop tracks. The overall project, planned in anticipation of potential greater Metrolink, Amtrak, and High-Speed Rail service, is estimated to cost $2.3 million. Metro has raised $950 million in funds for an elevated track structure. The remaining $2 billion in needed funds will fund the station expansions.

A group of conservationists purchased a new 17-mile land tract surrounding the Pacific Crest Trail in Mount Shasta from a logging company for public access purposes. The $15 million purchase, which has been negotiated for five years, combines funds from the Trust for Public Land, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the charitable Wyss foundation. The Forest Service will now manage the land. Previously, hikers were permitted to only pass through specifically marked trails on the private land.

Kaiser Permanente may be paying the Golden State Warriors up to $295 million to name the area around its new San Francisco Mission Bay arena “Thrive City,” according to records obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. The deal would grant Kaiser naming rights for the plaza and park adjacent to the Chase Center, as well as ensure the nonprofit healthcare company the team’s official healthcare provider. The team and Kaiser would also partner on community projects.

According to an analysis by the San Francisco Chronicle, Google’s plans to build 20,000 Bay Area homes – to which it has pledged $1 billion – would likely require closer to $14 billion. The $1 billion investment comes out to $50,000 per unit. However, the nonprofit San Francisco developer Bridge Housing estimates that the average cost of building a rental apartment in the Bay Area is closer to $700,000. Additionally, Google's pledge doesn’t include actually building the housing itself – the company plans to work with developers and is seeking models to reduce costs.

Orange County launched a new joint powers housing authority tasked with finding funds for 2,700 new affordable units over the next six years. The nine-member Orange County Housing Finance Trust, which aims to help solve the area’s growing homelessness problem, will partner with county and state agencies to find and approve developments. The trust will seeks up to $1 billion in funds from private donors and city and county agencies; the county Board of Supervisors just granted $5 million to the agency. Still, the 2,700-unit goal will not close the area’s homelessness gap: the most recent Point in Time counts identify 6,789 homeless people in the county.