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CP&DR News Briefs June 29, 2015: 710 Tunnel Gains Support; Tribes Sue over Solar; L.A. Pursues Manufacturers; and More

Matthew Hose on
Jun 29, 2015

Plans to build a $5 billion, 6.3-mile tunnel to close the "gap" of the 710 freeway are gaining headway as both the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments recommended that project as the best option. The tunnel, which would have two lanes in either direction and would be completely underground for 4.2 miles. It would shave 7-14 minutes off commute times, providing a benefit of $1.5 to 1.6 billion over 20 years at a cost of $3.15 billion to build. Additionally, the SGVCOG voted to support the tunnel plan over surface-street alternatives, saying that the plan is in line with the Southern California Association of Governments Regional Transportation Plan of 2012. A recently released draft environmental impact report describes five alternatives for closing the gap, considered by some to be a crucial link between the ports and the warehouses of the Inland Empire. A previous version of this brief incorrectly stated that the California Transportation Commission had endorsed the tunnel; the CTC, in fact, has issued no comments on the DEIR. 

Tribes Sue to Block Solar Plant

A group of Native American tribes filed a lawsuit to stop construction of the Blythe Mesa Solar Project in the Mojave Desert, saying that the 3,660-acre project's Environmental Impact Report failed to take into account the project's impact on traditional tribal lands. The suit comes after Riverside County Supervisors approved the project, which covers nearly six square miles of developer land. "The project is located in the ancestral homelands of the Colorado River Indian Tribes' Mohave and Chemeheuvi members, in a region rich in cultural resources that have been used since time immemorial," tribal Councilwoman Amanda Barrera told the Press-Enterprise.

L.A. Study Seeks to Promote Manufacturing Economy

Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti along with Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and Dun & Bradstreet have partnered to form a survey contacting Los Angeles businesses to identify the businesses that support the design, manufacture, and retail sales of physical goods in the greater Los Angeles area. The results of the survey, called "Make it in L.A." will be used to determine the ways that City Hall can support the manufacturing ecosystem. "Producing physical goods is essential for the health of our economy and for creating quality skilled jobs," Garcetti said in a press release. "For the City of Los Angeles and its partners to make a positive impact, we have to know which businesses play a part in turning an idea into a product that consumers and corporations want and need. Having this information will help L.A. hold its position as king of the nation's manufacturing mountain."

Grand Jury Finds S.F. at Risk of Rising Tides

San Francisco faces risks of rising tides in the San Francisco Bay due to climate change, and efforts to stanch the problem before it worsens have been hampered by a lack of coordination to find a regional solution, according to two grand jury reports. Measurements at the Golden Gate show that San Francisco Bay rose eight inches over the past century and could rise another 16 to 55 inches by 2100. Experts at a conference on the subjet agreed that the most damage won't be done by incremental encroachment of water, but by major storms and extraordinary "king tides," and that San Francisco authorities should coordinate and begin constructing or modifying levees, elevating structures, changing building codes, restoring wetlands and abandoning low-lying areas to prepare for a catastrophe.

L.A. Identifies 660 Acres for Urban Agriculture

The Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan -- a plan to develop mixed-use, modern neighborhoods in a 660-acre sector along the Los Angeles River -- would be a prime location for urban agriculture, according to a study by the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation. KCET describes the CASP area as a "food desert," or an area without access to fresh produce and other food, making the area ripe for community-based agriculture. The LARRC study suggested dividing the neighborhood into nodes for specific agricultural activities, and then working around the infrastructure of the area by implementing creative solutions like renovating areas like the Lincoln Heights Jail into a community hub, aquaponics facility, and brewery/restaurant.

Survey: Bay Area Residents Warm Up to Housing

Half of residents in the Bay Area now support building more housing in the area, even if it means increasing density and building more affordable housing in their own neighborhoods, according to a new poll by the Bay Area Council. With San Francisco's jobs sector booming and seeing an historic housing shortage, 76 percent of resident also want policy makers and developers to direct their efforts toward the creation of housing for low- and middle-income people. "Water isn't the only thing that is in short supply in the Bay Area," Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council, told Inside Bay Area. "Our region is growing, our economy is humming, but the housing shortage could be our Achilles heel."

Los Gatos Approves Specific Plan

The Los Gatos Town Council approved its North 40 Specific Plan to guide development of 44 acres between highways 85 and 17, the last large undeveloped parcel of land in the town. The plan includes a 35 foot height limit for most buildings, a 30 percent open space requirement, and 501,000 square feet of commercial, retail, and office space. Vice Mayor Barbara Spector, who voted no on the plan, wanted more information on conditional-use permit requirements for businesses. "Show us how uses--i.e. a super drugstore--are controlled in other parts of town," she said at the council meeting, according to the San Jose Mercury-News.

National Trust Identifies Two Endangered Places in California

Two structures in urban California are listed on a list of "11 Most Endangered Historic Places," released by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. They are The Factory in West Hollywood and the Old U.S. Mint in San Francisco. The Factory, which famously became a pioneering gay disco in 1974, is in danger of demolition for a large-scale hotel project. The Old U.S. Mint, which was one of the few downtown buildings to survive San Francisco's 1906 earthquake, "stands shuttered, deteriorating, and at risk of being forgotten," according to the Trust's website.

L.A. Reveals Master Plan to Capture Stormwater

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power officially presented its Stormwater Capture Master Plan, an initiative to collect stormwater runoff on a wide scale for city use. Among other, smaller-scale initiatives, the plan would include three large aquifer recharges in the San Fernando Valley to collect rainfall in basins and then slowly feed it into the city's primary underground water source. Under the plan, the city could collect 100,000 to 200,000 acre-feet of water by 2035 at a cost of $600 to $1,100 for each acre-foot of water captured. That would come in addition to the 27,000 acre-feet it already collects in flood control dams and spreading grounds.

Bike Share to Finally Arrive in L.A.

The board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved an $11 million contract with Bicycle Transit Systems, Inc. (BTS) to bring a bike share program to Downtown Los Angeles. Part of a planned countywide system, the first phase will bring in nearly 1,100 bikes at 65 stations by next Spring. Following the downtown launch, plans are to expand the program into Pasadena in 2017, and then to eight more communities to bring the total number of bicycles to 4,000. In the first phase, bicycles will be available at of downtown locations such as Union Station, L.A. Convention Center, Staples Center, Grand Park/Music Center, 7th Street/Metro Center , Grand Central Market, Pershing Square, and the Arts District. BTS recently launched a bike share system in Philadelphia. Bike share in Los Angeles has been long-awaited by delayed by problems with previously considered vendors. 

Anaheim Anticipates Major Development at Stadium

Chinese development company LT Global formally filed an application for a $500 million mixed-use development adjacent to the Anaheim Angels stadium. The proposal, which would build 600 condos and apartments, 65,000 square feet of office space, 387,000 square feet of retail space, and 250 hotel rooms, is reliant on using 1,300 parking spaces at Angels Stadium -- parking spaces which the team has nevertheless repeatedly refused to hand over for the development. "It is unclear how a project could file an application relying on land and parking they do not have the right to use," Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey told the Orange County Register. "The stadium parking is a critical part of the fan experience and our operations, and is legally bound to the Angels as part of the lease with the city."

Los Angeles Streetcar Plan Loses Speed

Two years after downtown Los Angeles residents overwhelmingly approved a new property tax to fund a streetcar line through their neighborhood, progress on the project has stalled. The estimated cost of the line has increased to $282 million, far exceeding the $62.5 million secured and possibly forcing officials to cut part of the route. Additionally, new estimates that the trains would only go 3.5 mph in rush hour and 4.5 mph overall has caused politicians to hesitate, with City Councilman Mike Bonin asking "Doesn't the average person walk 3 or 4 mph?" at a City Hall committee meeting. Officials in charge of the project hope to secure a $75 million federal grant, but to do that they must keep the project below $250 million. To close the $32 million gap, planners could eliminate the portion that passes the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Grand Avenue, reduce the costs of utility work, or seek a private company to build and operate the line. The setback follows Sacramento's recent decision to pull back on its plans for a streetcar

Manhattan Beach Considers Curbs on Short-Term Rentals

The City of Manhattan Beach has joined a growing number of municipalities throughout California in opting to restrict its short term rental market. Citing quality of life issues in the wealthy community of 35,000, the City Council there voted 4-1 to outright ban short-term rentals of 30 days or less in residential areas -- one of the strictest bans passed yet. "The residential nature of our community, the peace and quiet of our residents � that rules over someone's profits," Mayor Wayne Powell said at the City Council meeting.

Billboard Companies Sue L.A.

Two Southern California companies have filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, alleging that the city's billboard laws allow big companies like Clear Channel Outdoor to maintain billboards while permits are denied to other firms. Federal judges have previously upheld the city's right to enforce its 2002 ban on outdoor billboards, though in one recent case with Louisiana-based company Lamar Outdoor currently in the Court of Appeals, a judge ruled that the ban violates the state constitution. The lawsuit states that the city allowed CBS Outdoor, now Outfront Media, and Clear Channel to put up signs following a 2006 agreement but denied permits to other companies, thus discriminating against smaller companies with less financial resources.

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