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CP&DR News Briefs February 25, 2020: Newsom on Homelessness; Encintas Housing Troubles; Jobs-Housing Mismatch; and More

Robin Glover on
Feb 24, 2020
Newsom Promises Aggressive Action on Homelessness in State of the State Address 
Gov. Gavin Newsom devoted almost the entirety of his State of the Union address to California's homelessness crisis, imploring legislators to act on the local level and reiterating his willingness to work with the Trump administration. "The public has lost patience, you have all lost patience, and so have I," Newsom saidto lawmakers in Sacramento. "Every day, the California dream is dimmed by the wrenching reality of families and children and seniors living unfed on a concrete bed." In addition to emotional pleas, Newsom laid out concrete measures. He announced 286 state-owned properties, including fairgrounds, armories and vacant lots, that became available in February for "homelessness solutions," in addition to 100 camping trailers that would be deployed across the state for emergency shelter." He also called attention to $1.5 billion the state has made available to local governments, and called on legislators to make permanent financial commitments for long-term solutions. Newsom would like to bypass state environmental laws, a common roadblock to affordable housing development, and advocated for land use reform to eliminate delays on affordable housing projects around transit. "I respect local control, but not at the cost of creating a two-class California," Newsom said.

HCD Warns Encinitas of Violations of Housing Law 
The City of Encinitas, long a battleground over growth, must take "affirmative, definitive corrective action," or fall out of compliance, according to a six-page letter from the Department of Housing and Community Development. Encinitas is running afoul of state housing law in five categories, according to the letter. The city isn't meeting the requirements for adopting its new Housing Element plan, a key driver for the city's compliance certification last year. Additionally, Encinitas did not put Proposition A on the ballot, without which Encinitas cannot meet housing goals. Third, the city's extremely limited stock of accessible, low-income housing violates California fair housing and anti-discrimination land-use law, the letter said, and Encinitas is out of compliance with the Housing Crisis Act, which went into effect Jan. Recent moves by the city have exacerbated compliance issues. City-imposed limitations on a new overnight parking lot for homeless people was on example cited in the letter, as was a housing development that faced unnecessary and prohibitive regulatory barriers from the city. Encinitas has struggled for years to achieve compliance, as ballot measures to amend the city's housing element have failed, and Measure U, the city's current plan, was only adopted in response to a court order. Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said the state's announcement was an "absolute" surprise. "We worked really hard to achieve state certification.” (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Report Examines Causes of Jobs-Housing Spatial Mismatch
A new paper by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation of UC Berkeley examines the relationship between land use regulations and six spatial mismatch indicators in cities across California, including the mismatch between residents and workers employed in a city, low-income jobs and affordable housing units in a city, and the earnings of employed residents and workers in a city. It also measures commute burdens by calculating the percentage of workers who live in the city in which they work and the share of workers who commute more than 10 minutes and more than 30 minutes from home to work. The report found five key takeaways for stakeholders and policymakers: First, cities with affordable housing incentives, urban growth boundaries, and eased restrictions on accessory dwelling units have lower commute burdens. Second, cities with affordable housing incentives and no lot size restrictions on accessory dwelling units have a better balance between residents and workers, as well as between affordable units and low-income workers. Third, cities that prohibit high-density development house residents with higher earnings than local workers. The study ultimately concludes that local governments can effectively draw on a number of policy tools to encourage affordable housing development and reduce commute burdens for their local workforce.

California Home to Six of Nation’s Ten Most Diverse Cities
California is home to six of the top ten most diverse cities in America, according to a U.S. News special report. Stockton tops the list, with 78 percent residents of color, followed by Oakland (73 percent), and Sacramento, which tied with New York City (67 percent). Also on the top ten list were Long Beach, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Fresno. The diversity of California's cities mirrors the demographics of the state, which is home to large immigrant enclaves from more than 60 countries, and where no one racial or ethnic group makes up a majority of the population. The report attributes California's diversity to immigration that took place between 1980 to 2000, when many U.S. cities, including cities in California, saw rapid growth in their Hispanic and Asian populations, moderate African American growth and a slowly dwindling non-Hispanic white population. In 2006, Asia surpassed Latin America as the top place of origin for new immigrants to the state, and in 2015, Latinos became the largest ethnic group in the state, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Quick Hits & Updates

Rich Hillis has been appointed director of the San Francisco Planning Department, succeeding John Rahaim. He is currently the Executive Director of the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture and served on the Planning Commission from 2012 to 2019. As Planning Director, Hillis will focus on addressing the housing shortage in San Francisco by working to streamline the Department's process for entitling new housing and identifying opportunities to create new and more equitable housing opportunities in areas of San Francisco that have not seen significant new housing in decades. 


100 Resilient Cities will relaunch as an independent network after Rockefeller Foundation announced in 2019 it would end six years of funding the effort. The organization is now bifurcated into two new organizations, Resilient Cities Catalyst (RCC) and the Global Cities Network. With nine employees, RCC is currently working on resiliency projects in Tampa, FL and Southern California. RCC has modeled itself a a more nimble consultancy acting as a go-between for cities and non governmental bodies. In Southern California, RCC is part of the Southern California Resilience Initiative, which helps combat wildfires in the state. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

A 2,600-unit waterfront project is one step closer to approval after the San Francisco Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve redevelopment of the former plant station. Redevelopment plans were initiated in 2012; in 2016 Associate Capital purchased the property. If the project gets final approval from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Associate Capital says construction will take 16 years for 2,600 homes and 1.8 million feet of commercial development.

Under pressure from the state, the Simi Valley Planning Commission will recommend the city council approve a proposed 278-unit, four-story apartment complex. A Dec. 16 letter from HCD warned that denying approval would violate state housing laws, including the Housing Accountability Act, which curbs local authority to deny housing developments. Further, Simi Valley is behind in fulfilling its RHNA for very low and low-income housing. Rather than risk revocation of the city's housing element, the council has decided to allow the project to move forward.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is investigating options to build housing for its employees on Muni-owned land. Currently, Muni's Portrero Yard serves as a parking lot for hundreds of buses, but with the current shortage of operators, Muni is in discussions to incorporate roughly 525 housing units above the buses .The agency has said it hopes half of which it hopes to make half of the units affordable housing. The innovative solution would solve the current efficiency paradox: most Muni bus operators have to drive to work from more affordable city outskirts because their shifts starts before regional transit like BART begins running.

The San Francisco Board of Education adopted an educator housing resolution to add more than 500 affordable educator housing units by 2030. Voters passed two propositions that will aid in the effort: one dedicates $20 million for educator housing, the other rezones school district properties to enable such projects. Currently, teachers are forced to commute as many as five hours a day as teacher salaries have significantly lagged behind housing costs.

HCD recently announced the release of the Local Early Action Planning Grants NOFA for approximately $119 million. HCD will be hosting targeted technical assistance workshops at a sub-regional and county level from March to May. Workshops will focus on providing application assistance and discussing long-term technical assistance needs. 

Uber will have to share real-time data on its riders' trip to maintain operating permits in Los Angeles, according to a court decision. Uber will appeal the decision, according to a spokesperson. Despite ongoing litigation, scooters and electric bikes have been and will continue to operate through the Jump app. Uber has defended the right to withhold detailed real-time trip information on the grounds of privacy concerns. But the city has argued that the data is necessary to regulate the 32,000 scooters and bikes that see about 1 million trips per month.
The Strategic Growth Council is opening applications for 3-5 Proposition 84 Wildfire Resilience and Recovery Planning Grant Applications between $150,000 and $250,000. Eligible applicants include cities, counties, tribes, and metropolitan planning organizations representing California areas affected by wildfires between 2017-2019. The application deadline is Thursday, March 18.

Californians largely agree when it comes to housing and Governor Gavin Newsom's plan to address homelessness, according to a new poll from Public Policy Institute of California. Californians are much more divided on the governor's high-speed rail plan and a March ballot measure to authorize state bonds for public education facilities, however, with only a slight majority in support of the ballot measure and 49 percent in favor of Newsom's rail plan.

California YIMBY is calling for an investigation into the AIDS Healthcare Foundation for hundreds of thousands of dollars in undisclosed funding to oppose failed SB 50, the More HOMES Act. The formal complaint with California's Fair Political Practices Commission alleges the foundation backed advertisement campaigns to oppose the bill without disclosing its involvement. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards filed a lawsuit against San Francisco's Department of Building Inspection, claiming DBI officials revoked nine building permits on a building he co-owns after Richards criticized the department during a Planning Commission meeting. Richards, a frequent DBI critic, stated that he had "lost faith" in the department for playing favorites and corruption.

A working paper from UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs explores a frequently invoked statement in the housing debate that relatively high vacancy rates in newer market-rate and mixed-income housing developments are a reliable indicator of Los Angeles' ineffective housing policies. The analysis found that Los Angeles vacancy rates rank among the lowest in the nation, and are lower than they were for most of the past 15 years, suggesting that proposals such as vacancy taxes will do little to address the housing crisis.