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Solimar Research

CP&DR News Briefs, May 18, 2015: L.A. Mobility Plan; Delta Smelt Face Extinction; Solar Power Plan Postponed

Matthew Hose on
May 18, 2015

The Los Angeles Planning Commission advised the City Council to adopt the city's proposed Mobility Plan 2035 (pdf), update the land use element of 35 community plans, and adopt an ordinance to implement new street standards and complete street principles. Updating the 1999 Transportation Element of the city's General Plan and the 2010 Bicycle Plan, the Mobility Plan 2035 has the goal of creating a balanced transportation system in the city of Los Angeles by prioritizing pedestrian, bicycle, and transit-oriented roads, and contains a five-year implementation strategy for the plan. The plan would promote complete streets, per AB 1358, and include a range of design guidelines to accommodate multiple modes of transportation. 

Delta Smelt on Verge of Extinction

The delta smelt, a small, three-inch fish found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta-and the symbol of decades-long debates over water management in the delta--is likely headed toward extinction if water-use trends in California continue. In previous years, researchers have caught hundreds or thousands of the fish in surveys of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Basin. "Numbers are down this year. So the March survey we caught six. The April survey we caught one," Lauren Damon, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told Capital Public Radio. The drought has exhausted habitats for many species in the delta, including the winter-run Chinook salmon, which saw 95 percent of its brood die last year. "If we let the smelt go, we're essentially saying we don't really need a functioning estuary, and California is going to be losing something very special if that fish disappears," Peter Moyle told Capital Public Radio.

Supervisors Halt Solar Plant near Joshua Tree

A solar project in San Bernardino County has been stalled so officials can take a closer look at its problems, after the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted against it in a 3-2 vote. Approved by the San Bernardino County Planning Commission in December, the Bowman Solar Project would be a three-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant built in the community of Landers north of Joshua Tree National Park, with power generated by the project to be bought by Southern California Edison. Opponents of the project contended that it violated a temporary county solar ordinance adopted in 2013 requiring that projects be restricted to less-populated areas with substantially disturbed landscapes, such as old landfills. The ordinance was intended as a stopgap until the county completes an overall renewable energy amendment to its general plan slated for later this year.

Gov. Brown Accelerates S.F. Arena Development

Governor Jerry Brown fast-tracked environmental approval of the proposed Golden State Warriors arena on Mission Bay in San Francisco, giving courts just 290 days to rule on any lawsuit contesting the arena's environmental impact report. The arena will be just one of five projects granted fast-track review under AB900, a 2011 state law that streamlines environmental review of key projects. A spokesman for the Mission Bay Alliance group fighting the arena, remained undaunted by the governor's action. "It's less expensive for the alliance, and we will have a decision sooner," spokesman Sam Singer told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Court Blocks S.F. Streetcar Extension

A state appeals court blocked construction of a new streetcar loop in San Francisco, ruling that opponents raised "substantial questions" about the the project's conformance with the California Environmental Quality Act. The new Muni extension would run on the T-Third Street line in the Dogpatch neighborhood to connect to the planned Central Subway as a part of a light-rail project authorized in September with a $10 million federal grant. Officials expected to complete the work in October, but with the injunction the court will further review a lawsuit brought on by a group of residents who claim that the 15-year-old EIR is now obsolete because of an influx of development in the area.

San Jose Debates Rent Control in Downtown

Renters and property owners clashed at a San Jose City Council committee meeting over proposals to implement rent control in San Jose's booming apartment market. Two recent proposals from Mayor Sam Liccardo and a few council members, slated to go before City Manager Norberto Duenas, attempt to expand rent control and strengthen tenant protections to avoid tenants getting priced out of their apartments as prices rise. One proposal, from Councilman Raul Peralez, would expand rent control to include 10,000 more units and reduce allowable rent increases from 8 percent to 4 percent annually. However, at the meeting of the council's Rules and Open Government Committee, property owners said that rent control makes it difficult to invest in properties and has not worked in other cities.

S.F. Considers Demolition of I-280 in Mission Bay

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is looking for ways to achieve a multi-billion dollar plan to tear down Interstate 280 at Mission Bay and build a new underground rail tunnel with a station between the proposed Warriors arena and AT&T Park. Lee hopes that the plan would bring Caltrain and high-speed rail into downtown and the new Transbay Terminal while opening up a new area of the city to development. Caltrain has expressed skepticism, however, saying that Lee's vision would derail already-planned efforts to place the new transit center at First and Mission Streets, as the new plan to create the center closer to the waterfront along Third Street would cost time and would require tunneling through landfill for an extra 2 to 3 miles.

Senator Proposes Expansion of Boards of Supervisors to Seven Members

Citing booming populations that underrepresent minority communities, State Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) has proposed an amendment to the state's constitution to expand boards of supervisors of all counties with a population of 2 million or more -- including San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino, among others -- from five to seven members beginning in 2021. Mendoza, who proposed the amendment, said that  an expansion of the Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles would help add a second Latino seat in the nearly 50 percent Latino county. However, board incumbent Don Knabe, whose district overlaps with Mendoza's, has insinuated that the proposal is an attempt for Mendoza to take that seat when he's termed out of state office.

Newark Approves Massive Wetlands-Adjacent Development

The Newark City Council unanimously approved a controversial 856-acre development of 1,260 housing units, public park space, and an elementary school site by developer Newark Partners LLC, despite pleas from environmentalists that the project would damage nearby federally-protected wetlands. The project, located on sites known as "Areas 3 and 4," dates back 20 years and has been the subject of numerous rounds of litigation for allegedly failing to comply with CEQA, as environmentalists have raised concerns including liquefaction, lateral spread, sea level rise, and the need for additional flood control measures, according to Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge Vice Chair Carin High. The developer will provide $3 million in affordable housing fees and $6 million in other impact fees, along with $14 million and 66 acres of land for a potential golf course.

Garden Grove Seeks More Urban Town Center

The Garden Grove Planning Commission unanimously approved a new downtown zoning amendment to add mixed-use and adaptive reuse zones in the city's downtown. Planners hope to promote a bike- and pedestian-friendly downtown inspired by strategies in Orange, Tustin, Anaheim, and Santa Ana, all of which are attempting to create more urban environments in historically suburban Orange County.