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CPD&R News Briefs March 23, 2015: Housing Costs Drag Down State Economy; Caltrans Proposes 710 Freeway Fixes,

A report issued by the Legislative Analyst's Office shows that California's high housing costs are stifling the state's economy and making it difficult to create affordable housing. The report says that the state "probably would have to build as many as 100,000 additional units annually...to seriously mitigate its problems with housing affordability." But housing construction has fallen behind population and job growth, with builders only getting authorization to start 37,000 single-family homes and 49,000 multifamily units statewide last year.

Cases That Could Broaden Railroads' Path Through CEQA Gather Steam

Considering their importance, the public hasn't heard much about Friends of Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority and Kings County v. Surface Transportation Board. The two cases, respectively before the California Supreme Court and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, could end California environmental review of public rail projects in California – most notably the High Speed Rail project and might indirectly affect private rail operations including oil trains.

The cases shaped up this winter into tests of whether the Surface Transportation Board (STB) can block environmental reviews of rail projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The STB and two state rail agencies contend that CEQA review crosses onto the STB's exclusive regulatory turf under the 1995 Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), 49 U.S.C. §10101 et seq. 

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CP&DR News Summary, February 24, 2015: Home Values, Rental Rates Rise; Sacramento Streetcar Moves Forward; Shared NFL Stadium; and more

A new report [pdf] released by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that California’s housing market continues to recover from its low at the beginning of 2012. Median home values in the most populous counties have increased by 39 percent since 2012, though they remain 20 percent lower than they were at the market’s peak in 2006-2007. The report also shows that the housing recovery has caused a problem for some less affluent residents, as “increasing prices place housing out of reach for many Californians.” It finds that homeownership rates in California have fallen more sharply than the rest of the nation, with California falling to 53.8 percent as compared with a 64.7 percent nationwide.

 

Another report released by NYU’s Furman Center describes the percentage changes in rental populations in major US cities from 2006 to 2013. Los Angeles and San Francisco rank among nine cities where more than 50% of the population rents, as of 2013. San Francisco scored in the top five increasing rental populations, with 22% more San Franciscans renting since 2006; Los Angeles’ rental population increased by 11%.

 

Is It Time to Bury the Gas Tax?

In recent weeks, we’ve seen a lot of moves that suggest it may be time to change the way California funds transportation, including the following:

  • Board of Equalization Member George Runner has been touting a 21% cut in the gas tax as part of the “fuel tax swap” formula from a few years ago.
  • A committee headed by former San Diego City Councilmember Jim Madaffer is looking at how to implement a mileage tax as an alternative to the gas tax.
  • Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins has proposed a $52 annual fee on most drivers as a way to raise almost $2 billion for road repairs.

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Sprawl Depends on More Than Just Density

In the ever-lasting debate over sprawl, the most enduring argument centers on the definition of sprawl itself. The latest entrant is, perhaps, the oldest entrant: density. 

As reported by Richard Florida in his CityLab column this week, NYU doctoral student Thomas Laidley has introduced a new method to measure sprawl. Laidley's "Sprawl Index" uses the following methodology: 

"Laidley uses these aerial images to estimate sprawl at the Census block level, the smallest level available, estimating the share of metro population in those blocks below three key thresholds: 3,500, 8,500, and 20,000 persons per square mile. His index is based on the average of these three values, with higher scores reflecting higher levels of sprawl."

Homeless Case May Move Forward on Equal Protection Grounds

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the City of Sacramento’s ban on camping in public parks – and allowing only limited camping on private property -- may move forward because the plaintiffs have stated a valid equal protection argument, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled.

In response to concerns about the homeless, Sacramento adopted an ordinance banning camping on public property and in public parks and permitting camping on private property for only one consecutive night. In 2009, the city cracked down on a group of homeless people who were camping in a fenced lot on private property with the property owner’s permission. Several times in September of 2009, the homeless people were arrested and their belongings were seized even though they were camping on private property. 

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CP&DR News Briefs, February 15, 2015: S.D. Fights $271 Million Stadium 'Claw-Back;' Sacramento Arena EIR Questioned; Bill Would Streamline CEQA; S.F. Street Trees; and More

The demise of redevelopment may leave the city of San Diego with a monstrous bill: $271 million to cover the development of its downtown stadium, Petco Park. When the stadium’s financing plan was approved in 1998, general obligation bond funds were to be routed through the Center City Development Corp., one of the city’s redevelopment agencies.

CP&DR News Briefs, February 9, 2015: California's Share of Obama Budget; Transbay Mello-Roos Protests; SLO Quarry; and More

President Obama’s proposed 2016 budget, announced last week, includes several nods to development and transportation in California to the tune of over $1 billion.

Cities Hustle for $120 Million in Funding from SGC

LOS ANGELES--State-level policymakers have engaged in more than their share of debates over the future of smart grown in California this year. They've debated level of service vs. vehicle miles traveled. They've debated the neediness and definition of disadvantaged communities. They've clamored for cap-and-trade funds. They've tried to reform CEQA and get rid of CEQA (well, not quite). 

Oakland A's to San Jose: It Was Just One of Those Things

The following is a fictitious letter written, by the magic of anthropomorphosis and creative license, by the Oakland A’s baseball team to the City of San Jose. It stands to reason that any statement attributed to these entities is fictitious. Only the facts are real.


My dearest San Jose,

Federal Policies and Land Use Laws of 2015

Last week's UCLA Extension Land Use Law and Planning Conference included a session on updates from the faraway land of Washington, D.C. Federal policymakers ended the year with a few new developments, and continued policies, that may be of interest to planners. This summary comes courtesy of Steven Preston, planning director for the City of San Gabriel, who collaborated with staff members at the American Planning Association's Washington office. 

Pending Issues

An Underwhelming Attitude Towards Density

Consider this headline, which accompanied a recent Citylab article on a townhouse development in Echo Park: “In Los Angeles, Density That Doesn't Overwhelm.” It doesn’t take much to unpack that statement. It implies that density is inherently overwhelming.

Greatest Hits of 2014 Land Use Law, Pt. 1: CEQA

UCLA Extension convened its annual Land Use Law and Planning Conference last week in Los Angeles.

California Engages in Mature Debate Over Spending of Cap-and-Trade Funds

As the inane “debate” over climate change drags on in the more benighted corners of our republic (Washington, D.C., included), it’s becoming abundantly clear that California is no longer the place where America’s fruits, nuts, and loose ends come to rest. I’ve been on the periphery of the stateside discussion of SB 375 for the past two years, so I know that it’s not news to say that there have been many earnest, productive discussions about it across the state.

Parallel Newhall Ranch Cases: the CA Supreme Court Won't Decide Them All

In addition to the state Supreme Court dispute on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's action, three other Newhall Ranch cases continue in litigation, all brought by plaintiffs and attorneys overlapping with the group before the high court. (See http://www.cp-dr.com/node/3461 for more links on these cases.)

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California's Supreme Court About to Consider One Strand of the Newhall Ranch Tangle

The Newhall Ranch environmental review litigation, itself a mighty matter of land use legend, has an important strand of its multiply braided conflicts awaiting an oral argument date before the state Supreme Court. 

The parties' briefing is complete. The court has accepted a deep layer of amicus briefs from state-level land use players. And with the confirmation of Justice Leondra Kruger, the court has finally returned to full membership. So the court has little reason to delay setting an argument date.

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