Headline Story

Rent Control Gains Traction Amid Housing Crisis in Bay Area

Like a monster that’s been hiding in the basement for decades, rent control is rearing its head in the Bay Area. Whether it is an ugly countenance or a smiling face is a matter of perspective.
 
While the Bay Area has struggled with housing shortages and rising rents for the past decade or so, it has become evident that no amount of development will, in the near term, bring rents back down to manageable levels for residents earning median incomes and below. As tech jobs have made Bay Area residents more wealthy, and attracted newcomers flush with cash, landlords in unregulated cities have tried to cash in by raising rents and even evicting incumbent tenants. 

Therefore, over the past year, cities have again turned to what is, in many ways, the tool of last resort to preserve affordable housing.
 
“A year ago we had the wild west,” said Eric Strimling, spokesperson for the Alameda Renters Coalition, of Alameda’s rental market. “There were pretty much no regulation at all. Evict at will, raise rents at will.”
 

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Social Justice, Regional Economics at Odds in Downtown Oakland Plan

Uber has finally arrived in Oakland. Not the ride service – that’s been around for a while – but rather the company itself, which recently moved its headquarters from San Francisco to a former Sears department store. What would be a triumph of economic development for many cities is making many Oaklanders nervous. They fear that what Uber has done to the taxi industry, wealthy residents and boutique businesses might do to Oakland’s working-class heritage.
 
Partially in response to these changes, the city is finally devising a specific plan for Downtown Oakland – for the first time in the city’s history.
 
Community activists hope that the plan will strike a balance between promoting Oakland as a regional hub and protecting existing residents, many of whom are African-Americans and Latinos living below the poverty line. If any city can figure out how to use a land use plan to promote social equity, it’s Oakland. The city has not only a diverse population — socioeconomically and ethnically — but also a long history of social activism.  
 

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CP&DR News Briefs, April 18, 2016: L.A. Community Plan Updates; High Speed Rail Alignments; and More

With a controversial measure that would force the City of Los Angeles to update its 35 community plans headed for the March ballot, Mayor Eric Garcetti is calling for the update of all of the city's community plans. He intends to include funding in his upcoming budget to support this effort. And in a motion introduced by several councilmembers  the City Council instructed the Planning Department to report on overhauling the Community Plan program. They also called for recommendations on ways to increase oversight of the environmental review process, and upgrade outdated technology. 

City leaders also called for a new Citywide General Plan, which has not been fully updated in more than 20 years. “We have a responsibility to plan for prosperity and growth in ways that reflect the energy of this great City and protect the character of our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I want Angelenos to have a sense of ownership over the development of their communities and these reforms help us get there." Garcetti pledged to nearly triple the planning department’s community plan staff, to better ensure all plans are updated in no more than 10 years. The mayor’s budget will include $1.5 million in new funding for the Community Planning program and General Plan program, as part of his upcoming 2016-17 budget. He also laid out a plan for ongoing funding for the program to ensure updates are completed within 36 months. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

County Can't Undermine Dispensary Referendum, Court Rules

In repealing a medical marijuana ordinance that a referendum sought to overturn, the Kern County Board of Supervisors erred in also repealing the underlying ordinance that the referendum’s backers were seeking to reinstate, the Fifth District Court of Appeal has ruled. It’s the third appellate ruling in a medical marijuana zoning case to be issued in the last month.

In 2009, Kern County adopted an ordinance effectively allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in commercial areas. Two years later, however, the county adopted a new ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries everywhere in the county. When confronted with a referendum to overturn the 2011 ordinance, the county chose not to place the referendum on the ballot but, rather, repeal the ordinance as the referendum would have, as is permitted under the Elections Code. However, the county also repealed the 2009 ordinance, which had the effect of creating a ban on dispensaries.

In striking down the county’s decision, the Fifth District concluded that under the Elections Code, a local elected body “must revoke the protested ordinance in all its parts and must not take additional action that has the practical effect of implementing the essential feature of the protested ordinance.”

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CP&DR News Briefs, April 4, 2016: Klamath River Pact; Solar Plant Approved, Protested; Berkeley Housing Package; and More

A pact between California, Oregon and a private utility, PacifiCorp, could finally lead to the demolition of four hydroelectric dams that block salmon migrations up the Klamath River. It does so without requiring direct federal involvement and, therefore, without requiring congressional approval.  In 2010 a pact gave US Interior Department a major role in decommissioning of dams and required Congress to sign off on the removal; Congress refused to do so last year hen it was in the throes of partisan gridlock. According to the agreement California will contribute $250 million in state bond money and PacifiCorp customers will pay a surcharge up to $200 million, which should cover the estimated costs. The removal of the dams will be managed by the new Klamath River Renewal Corp.

Community Development Director wanted, City of Marina, CA

Community Development Director
City of Marina, CA

State "Incentives" To Charter Cities To Use Prevailing Wage Struck Down

A state law that prohibits charter cities from receiving state funds for a public construction project if it allows the contractors to not pay prevailing wage has been upheld by a split appellate court.

Writing for a two-justice majority in City of El Centro v. Lanier, Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice James McIntyre concluded that Labor Code Section 1782 does not violate Article XI, section 5(a) of the California Constitution, which provides home rule authority and Article XIII, section 24(b), which prohibits the state from restricting the use of local tax revenues.  McIntyre ruled that wage levels on public construction projects are a local matter and that Section 1782 does not create a conflict with state law governing charter cities, which is derived from the home rule provision in the Constitution.

“Section 1782 does not conflict with these charter city laws as it does not mandate or require that charter cities do anything, such as paying prevailing wages for its public works projects,” he wrote. “Rather, section 1782 provides the Cities with a choice, to meet the requirements set forth in section 1782 to obtain state funding or financial assistance on its public works projects, or forgo eligibility for those funds.”

CP&DR News Briefs, April 4, 2016: $3.6 Billion for Sacramento Transportation; L.A. Park Fees; San Diego Stadium Plan; and More

Sacramento County voters may decide whether to increase the county sales tax by half-cent to fund major road and transit improvements. Proposed by the Sacramento Transportation Authority, the tax could raise $3.6 billion over 30 years to be spent across the county. Much of these types of projects were previously funded by gas tax, which has been diminishing in the last few years.

Fetishizing Families: Review of 'The Human City'

I would like to buy Joel Kotkin a beer. I vote we try a gastropub downtown. Or maybe a rooftop lounge. I’ll take the subway, and he can take a taxi. That way, neither of us has to drive.

CP&DR News Briefs, March 28, 2016: Vision Zero in Sacramento; L.A. Approves Controversial High Rises; SCAG RTP/SCS; and More

Along with other cities in California, Sacramento is joining the Vision Zero movement to eliminate bicycle and pedestrian fatalities on city streets. These cooperative movements combine government, advocacy groups, residents and others to make streets safer for all users. In Sacramento approximately 130 people died in crashes between 2010-2014, including 48 pedestrians and 13 cyclists.

Insight: Will Upland Ruling Allow Stadiums -- And Others -- Evade Two-Thirds Vote?

So, why does a court ruling on a medical marijuana ban in Upland affect the Chargers ability to build a new stadium in San Diego?

For the same reason that construction of a Wal-Mart in Sonora affects the Rams ability to build a new stadium in Inglewood, which is:

The apparently magical power of the initiative process to end-run two generations of laws that make it more difficult to approve new buildings and adopt new taxes in California.

City Doesn't Inherit Redevelopment Housing Obligations, Appellate Court Rules

In the latest chapter of a long-running legal battle over affordable housing and redevelopment in Fontana, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled that the city is not required to take on the former redevelopment agency’s affordable housing obligations.

“Under the scheme adopted by the Legislature under AB 26 [the law abolishing redevelopment], the liabilities of dissolved RA’s [redevelopment agencies] are limited to the assets transferred to successor agencies,” wrote Acting Presiding Justice Patricia Benke for a unanimous three-judge panel. “There is nothing in AB 26, or later amendments, that would exend that liability beyond an RA’s assets to municipalities and their general funds.” Prior to the dissolution of redevelopment agencies, Benke noted, low- and moderate-income liabilities “were never the liabilities of municipalities and their general funds.”

Fontana’s redevelopment agency had a long and litigious history in dealing with state affordable housing requirements. As laid out in a previous case, Fontana Redevelopment Agency v. Torres, 153 Cal.App.4th 902 (2007), the agency did not meet its low- and moderate-income housing obligation – in large part because of a complicated 1992 agreement with a developer that was a predecessor in interest to an entity now known as Ten-Ninety Ltd. 

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Upland Mobile Dispensary Ordinance Not Subject to CEQA, Court Rules

In the second medical marijuana ruling out of the City of Upland in the last week, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled that Upland’s ban on mobile medical marijuana dispensaries is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act. 

Among other things, the court concluded that the assertions by the Union of Medical Marijuana Patients (UMMP) about the potential impact of the ban – for example, that medical marijuana patients would have to drive to other cities – were too speculative to be considered “reasonably foreseeable” under CEQA.

Last week, the Fourth District ruled that Proposition 218 does not apply to an initiative to overturn the ban. 

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Denial of Upzoning Might Create Disparate Impact Under Fair Housing Law, Ninth Circuit Rules

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a trial judge and ruled that the City of Yuma’s refusal to approve an upzoning might constitute a disparate racial impact under the federal Fair Housing Act.

The case involved a request by development entities associated with Hall Construction, as well as the underlying property owner Avenue 6E, to allow 6,000-square-foot lots rather than 8,000-square-foot lots in a neighborhood in southeastern Yuma, a city on the border of both California and Mexico. Both lot sizes are permitted under the city’s general plan. 

Writing for the the Ninth Circuit, veteran Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt, the last remaining federal appeals judge appointed by Jimmy Carter, concluded that the allegations made by the developers “provide plausible circumstantial evidence that community opposition to Developers’ proposed development was motivated in part by animus, and that the City Council was fully aware of these concerns when it took the highly unusual step of acceding to the opposition and overruling the recommendations of its zoning commission and planning staff.”

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CP&DR News Briefs, March 21, 2016: L.A. Moratorium Initiative Postponed; A $120 Billion Wish-List; S.F. Moves toward VMT; and More

The Coalition to Preserve L.A. has announced it will postpone the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, a proposed ballot initiative that would have deep ramifications or planning in Los Angeles, until March 2017. The coalition also revised the original 26-page initiative to eight pages. The coalition is concerned that the initiate would get lost among the 20 or so measures on the November citywide ballot. Campaign director Jill Stewart explained: “Our initiative is too important to be buried at the tail-end of this November’s ballot, which is beginning to look like it will be.” The group is particularly concerned about what it describes as “mega-projects” that do not conform to community plans are out of character with surrounding neighborhoods. The initiative would prohibit the City Council from approving general plan amendments for specific projects, commonly known as “spot zoning,” for a two-year period and requires the city to update its General Plan. The new version removes some constraints on the general plan update process. The initiative requires 61,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

One Win, One Loss For Cities In Marijuana Cases

Local governments in the Inland Empire won one and lost one in rulings about medical marijuana, both from the same panel of justices on the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

In a case from Palm Springs, Division Two of the Fourth District ruled that the city’s medical marijuana ordinance is not pre-empted by federal law.

In a case from Upland, the same panel ruled that a medical marijuana initiative that qualified for the ballot in Upland must be scheduled for a special election, rather than waiting for a general election.

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Disputed Redevelopment Funds Can't Be Withheld, Court Rules

Under Proposition 22, neither the state Board of Equalization nor a county auditor-controller can constitutionally withhold tax funds as part of a redevelopment dispute, as called for by AB 1484, the 2012 bill that cleaned up the redevelopment wind-down, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled.

The ruling represents a minor and belated victory for the League of California Cities, which wrote Prop. 22 and got it passed in 2010 expressly to stop the state from taking redevelopment funds – only to be outflanked by Gov. Jerry Brown a year later when he abolished the entire redevelopment system. 

In setting the rules for the post-redevelopment world, AB 1484 authorized the Board of Equalization to withhold sales and use tax funds, and county auditor-controllers to withhold property tax funds, as a way of forcing cities and counties to turn over disputed redevelopment funds. But the Third District found these provisions unconstitutional on their face under Prop. 22.

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