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CP&DR News Briefs Jan. 21, 2020: SB 50 Committee Change; Complete Streets in Sacto; Homelessness; and More

Robin Glover on
Jan 20, 2020
Change of Committee Helps Senate Bill 50
Senate Bill 50, the controversial bill to promote denser housing around transit that abruptly died in the Senate Appropriations Committee last April, will not suffer the same fate as it did last year thanks to a recent procedural move. Sen. Toni Atkins has sent the new bill, which includes several provisions designed to increase local control, to the Rules Committee. The move could advance the bill directly to the Senate floor for a vote later this year, giving author Sen. Scott Wiener more time to amend the bill. Were it to stay in Appropriations, it would have to pass or fail by the end of this month —under the leadership of Sen. Anthony Portantino, who singlehandedly put the bill in suspense last year. “While many communities still have clear concerns about SB50, our affordable housing crisis demands we make every attempt to reach agreement on potential solutions,” Atkins said in a statement. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Sacramento Adopts Complete Streets Policy
The Sacramento City Council voted to adopt a "complete streets" policy that formalizes street design safety standards to provide a framework for safer, more accessible streets. Complete street policies seek to require more accountability from jurisdictions and provisions that account for the needs of the most vulnerable users, according to Smart Growth America, a national nonprofit that advocates for less car-centric transportation policies. A key aspect of Complete Streets, said supportive council members, is shifting the conversation from fiscal impact to prioritizing safety, though city staff say the policy will not affect the city's transportation budget--directly contradicting CalTrans' claim that adopting a similar statewide policy with S.B. 127 would cost billions to implement. The updated policy improves on previous guidelines by bringing non-car users into the foreground of the planning process, and then outlines a clear plan for what success looks like. "It's about better aligning and clarifying the authority to do some of the things we're already doing, in a better way," said Chief of Staff Matt Read. "Right now we have a somewhat frentic approach to the question of what is a good street improvement... With this policy, we're not creating a new expensive thing, we're just being clearer about what we already call for.”

State Considers Possibility of Suing Cities over Homelessness 
A task force appointed by Gavin Newsom is recommending an amendment to the California Constitution that would empower the state to sue cities and counties for failing to reduce homelessness within their jurisdictions. "We've tried moral persuasion. We've tried economic incentives," said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, leader of the 13-member task force. "But all of it is optional... and people are telling us this is a priority." Indeed, according to the latest federal HUD data, more than 150,000 California residents live in cars, in shelters, or outdoors, and the problem is increasingly visible as the number and size of encampments continues to grow. Members of the Council of Regional Homeless Advisors say they expect local governments will likely chafe at state intervention. Lack of accountability has been an ongoing problem as elected officials and the local and regional agencies charged with managing homeless services have failed to coordinate effectively. But coercive measures in conjunction with the more than $1.4 billion in funds flowing to homeless services are likely to be politically popular, as homelessness and housing topped Californian's list of concerns in a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.

San Francisco Expands Program to Tax Vacant Storefronts 
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to create 12 new commercial districts, expanding the reach of a potential tax on vacant storefronts that will go before voters in March. Without commercial designation, neighborhoods are subject to general zoning laws that are considerably less restrictive. If passed by voters, the ballot measure will penalize landlords whose storefronts have been vacant for more than six months. The point of the controversial measure is to address a rising trend of empty storefronts by compelling landlords to rent out space with greater urgency rather than hold out for higher rents. If the tax passes, landlords would incur a fee based on the size of the space and how long it has been empty. Lawmakers included exemptions to landlords if they have been hurt by a disaster or are making improvements to their property. The dozen newly specified commercial districts are inner Balboa, outer Balboa, Bayview, Cortland Avenue, Geary Boulevard, Mission Bernal, San Bruno Avenue, Cole Valley, Ocean Avenue, lower Haight, lower Polk Street and inner Taraval. The tax would go into effect January 2021. (See prior CP&DR commentary.)

Quick Hits & Updates
Oxford University is rumored to be in negotiations to open a center for advanced study on a former seminary campus in Marin County. The facility would be part of a controversial mixed-use development on 120 acres of unincorporated land. In addition to the Oxford center, the project -- which is subject to a nondisclosure agreement -- would include 234 units of housing, 47 of which would be affordable, as well as a 150-unit continuing care retirement community and 84 acres of open space. Historically, prospective developers have faced resistance from the neighboring community, where homes sell for well above $2 million.

A newly released draft environmental report for the prospective Los Angeles Clippers arena in Inglewood found it might create a “large number of significant and unavoidable transportation impacts,” but would also add almost 1,000 full-time jobs and won’t contribute to gentrification or impact the viability of competing arenas in the region. An estimated 62 major events held each year would bring between 18,000 and 20,000 vehicle trips that would significantly impact 42 intersections and two major freeways.

A proposed expansion of Mineta San Jose Airport would spew a “significant and unavoidable” amount of pollution, according to a draft environmental report that is undergoing public review. At predicted levels ozone and greenhouse gases emitted would conflict with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s 2017 Clean Air Plan. San Jose City Council is expected to meet mid-January to discuss proposed amendments to the plan, which includes 14 new gates, a 330-room hotel, and a 5,000-space parking garage.

A $200 million air cargo facility in San Bernardino has gained final approval, adding 26 new cargo flights per day to the rumored occupant - an Amazon fulfillment center. It would be the fifteenth Amazon logistics and fulfillment center in San Bernadino and Riverside counties. Additions to the site include a 658,500-square-foot building for sorting air cargo, two 25,000-square-foot ground support buildings, and 41 acres of structural apron and taxi lanes for aircraft parking and positioning.

Global bicycle trips per year will double in major cities around the world in 2022, according to projects in a report from Deloitte. Explosive growth in the tens of billions can be attributed to technological innovations, including predictive analytics, product and application design, wireless connectivity, digital urban planning tools, 3D-printed parts, and electrification that make bicycle growth safer, faster, and more convenient.

The San Diego Sockers have submitted plans to build an indoor, multi-use sports arena in Oceanside, where it is pending review before the council. The 5,000 to 8,000-seat building would be an addition to an existing sports complex that the Sockers General Manager Sean Bowers says could host events ranging from concerts to high school contests and championships. “For sure, we’ll be a multi-faceted arena,” Bowers said. “The scope of what we’d like to do is broad. We want to evolve as an up-and-coming arena.”

Two controversial measures that may have a significant impact on housing development in San Diego County’s rural unincorporated areas will be decided by voters in March. Measure A -- called the Save Our San Diego Countryside Initiative -- would require countywide votes on every major project that has been granted a General Plan amendment.Measure B seeks to revoke approval for a housing development project that would build 2,135 homes north of Escondido. The development was granted an amendment by San Diego’s Board of Supervisors in 2018, spurring petitions for Measure A.

San Clemente has submitted a Sea Level Rise report to the Coastal Commission for approval and funding. If approved, San Clemente can implement measures laid out in the program that would rely heavily on sand replacement.to restore beaches. The report, which was funded by the Coastal Commission, found that shoreline erosion is expected to accelerate by 2050, with smaller beaches becoming strictly seasonal with low tide, and larger beaches losing almost half their size in width.

The Department of Housing and Community Development released a brief that outlines how Assembly Bill 1486, a new bill aimed at building affordable housing on public lands, will go into effect this year and beyond. Beginning in 2020, local agencies must send notices of availability to HCD and to developers who have expressed interest in building affordable housing on local surplus land. HCD for its part will kick off technical assistance, education, and outreach to develop uniform standards to ensure local agencies comply with state law. Implementation of AB 1486 will begin in 2021, when HCD will release finalized guidelines and notify the Attorney General of violations of the Surplus Lands Act.

Steve Padilla, a resident of San Diego County, was voted in as the new chair of the California Coastal Commission. Padilla’s stated priorities include addressing the effects of climate change and sea-level rise, expanding public access to the coast, and focusing on environmental justice in low-income areas.

San Clemente has submitted a Sea Level Rise report to the Coastal Commission for approval and funding. If approved, San Clemente can implement measures laid out in the program that would rely heavily on sand replacement.to restore beaches. The report, which was funded by the Coastal Commission, found that shoreline erosion is expected to accelerate by 2050, with smaller beaches becoming strictly seasonal with low tide, and larger beaches losing almost half their size in width.

A bill that would establish an Affordable Housing and Community Investment Program to help cities and counties afford to build more affordable housing is being reintroduced after Gov, Gavin Newsom vetoed the bill October. Formerly SB 5, SB 795 would reallocate tax revenue from schools to increase affordable housing construction. Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote in a veto letter that "Legislation with such a significant fiscal impact [of $2 billion annually] needs to be part of budget deliberations so that it can be considered in light of other priorities."

Last year, Save the Redwoods League negotiated an agreement to buy the largest privately-owned sequoia grove in the United States if they could raise the funds by December 2020. Just four months after putting out a call for donations, the group collected the $8 million shortfall in donations ranging from $1 to several million. The 785-acre Sierra Nevada property boasts 483 giant sequoias that are at least 25.5 feet in diameter, including the 3,000-year-old Stagg Tree, the fifth largest tree in the world.

The Sierra Nevada red fox may soon be protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Poisoning, trapping, and habitat destruction have all contributed to the species' decline. If the foxes do receive protection, it will be a result of a sustained multi-year effort by the Center for Wildlife Diversity to pressure wildlife services to classify them as endangered. Only 70 are thought to remain in the wild.

San Francisco has teamed up with two nonprofits to lease and rent two hotels that will provide 151 city-subsidized housing units. The nonprofits will oversee day-to-day operations when residents move-in in April--which will cost between $1,300 and $1,400 a month--will mostly house residents from the streets, shelters, or Navigation Centers. Occupants will be expected to pay 30 percent of their income toward rent. The Abigail is the latest city-funded housing to be folded into San Francisco's Moving On Initiative, which aims to provide apartments and single-resident-occupancy units for people able to move out of permanent supportive housing.

The Bay Area's biggest housing project, the 13,000-unit redevelopment of Concord Naval Air Station in Contra Costa County, is under threat as developers and labor unions battle over how much of the construction crew will be union workers. The developers are arguing the union's labor agreement would kill the project because it would lose money, raising costs by $542 million and cutting profits from 17 percent to a loss. The redevelopment would convert a former military base to include a sports complex and playing fields, six million square feet of office space near a BART station, and 3,000 affordable homes.

In an announcement, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a raft of "new accountability measures, proposed new resources, and an executive order to reduce street homelessness, connect people to services and build housing faster." Per the executive order, California jurisdictions at the state and local level will be required to develop metrics and release progress reports as they work to reduce homelessness. The announcement included a preview of the 2020-21 State Budget proposal that will include $750 million in a new California Access to Housing and Services Fund and more than $1 billion to fight homelessness.