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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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CDFA Erred in EIR Alternatives Analysis on Pest Control Action, Court Rules

The California Department of Food & Agriculture erred in preparing an environmental impact report for a program intended to eradicate with an invasive pest without examining the long-term consequences of an alternative program to control the pest rather than eradicate it, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled.

As it happens, CDFA actually switched the program at the last minute from eradication to control, but the Third District said the defeat in the EIR would have been a legal problem under any circumstances. Relying on Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (2013) 57 Cal.4th 439, the Third District said CDFA’s action was “prejudicial,” requiring the appellate court to reverse two trial court rulings related to the case.

The case involves CDFA’s efforts to eradicate the light brown apple moth, or LBAM, an invasive “leaf-roller” moth that was first seen in California in 2007. Because LBAM represented a threat to all California ornamental plants as well as fruits and vegetables, and its invasion of California was moving fast, the legislature quickly authorized CDFA to undertake a temporary LBAM program with the goal of eradicating the pest. 

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Can Bertoni Help Garcetti Run L.A. City Hall's Planning Gauntlet?

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Monday that he has selected Vince Bertoni as the city’s new planning director, replacing Michael Lo Grande. Bertoni is currently planning director of Pasadena and a former deputy director in Los Angeles. Bertoni must be confirmed by the L.A. City Council.

Lo Grande’s departure had been rumored for some time. He was selected as planning director by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2010 following the departure of Gail Goldberg. In contrast to Goldberg – a visionary long-range planner – Lo Grande was a nuts-and-bolts guy who had previously served as the city’s zoning administrator. 

Bertoni’s selection suggests that Garcetti wants to return to a more visionary approach. He has held top planning posts in such cities as Malibu, Beverly Hills, and Santa Clarita – and recently worked Pasadena through a general plan revision that included an innovative approach to traffic metrics similar to the switch called for in SB 743. He could play a key role in implementing Garcetti’s new transportation plan, Mobility 2035, which contains similar ideas

CP&DR News Briefs, January 4, 2016: SALC Expanded To $40 Million; DMV Considers Autonomous Vehicles; Oakland, SD Reiterate Stadium Offers; and More

With a significant increase in cap-and-trade funding for 2016, the Strategic Growth Council announced the expansion of the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation program (SALC). SALC provides funds that compensate farmers and ranchers for creating conservation easements.

Court Says Anaheim Played Bait-and-Switch on Hotel Developer

The Fourth District Court of Appeal has blocked the City of Anaheim’s attempt to build a surface parking lot on a property adjacent to two new hotels rather than a parking structure, as was implied in a conditional use permit the city approved in 1999.

Technically, the appellate court affirmed a trial judge’s ruling that the city was estopped (a legal term essentially meaning prohibited) from enacting a subsequent conditional use permit – applying to the city’s own property, not the hotel developer’s property – that called for a surface lot rather than a parking garage and deviating from the city’s own Resort Development Standards, which the hotel developer’s own project had to meet.

The case involves a complicated arrangement in which Intercontinental Hotel Group had agreed to a smaller, redesigned project because of the city’s plans to build an overpass over I-15 along Gene Autry Way that better connects Disneyland with Anaheim Stadium and other destinations east of the freeway. The overpass, which opened in 2012, takes up part of the hotel developer’s property and also part of an adjacent property. 

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A 'Dislike' for Facebook's Housing Bonus

Boundless as cyberspace may be, the companies that rule the internet still have to take up real estate. And their employees still have to put their heads down somewhere at night. For whatever reason, the mysterious forces of the "innovation economy" have lured an outside share of those companies, and their employees, to Silicon Valley. 

With all those likes, stock options, and organic cafeteria items comes, of course, a housing crisis. As absolutely no one is unaware, rents in Silicon Valley have gone up like Pets.com stock over the past few years. 

Last week Facebook announced that it was going to make an investment in the crisis. Not an investment in housing, mind you. Just an investment in the crisis.

Insight: How Will California's Cities Use Two New Redevelopment Options?

Ever since Gov. Jerry Brown killed redevelopment in 2011, the conventional wisdom has been that eventually he would give it a second life – but only after he was sure the old system was completely dead, in a way that protects the state general fund, and probably after he himself won re-election to a final term.

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Will CBIA v BAAQMD Make Infill Projects Easier To Build in California?

Last week’s unanimous, finely worded ruling by the California Supreme Court has spared builders their worst-case scenario in the long-awaited "CEQA in Reverse" case. It does not interpret the California Environmental Quality Act to require an environmental impact report whenever a project might attract more people within range of an existing hazard such as air pollution or earthquake risk. 

Attorneys for the plaintiff/respondent California Building Industry Association (CBIA) cheered the decision as especially likely to spare infill and affordable housing projects that might otherwise face CEQA challenges because of air pollution impacts on residents and others. 

But the ruling does still apply CEQA broadly enough to leave both sides claiming partial success in overall impact and in the underlying air quality guidelines matter. Each already disputes the other's claim. 

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CP&DR News Briefs, December 21, 2015: S.D. Climate Plan; Sale of ONT Airport; Coastal Comm. Sides with The Edge; & More

The San Diego City Council unanimously approved a new Climate Action Plan, one of the nation’s most ambitious plans to cut carbon emissions by creating legally binding mandates for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

CEQA Does Not Apply In Reverse

The California Environmental Quality Act does not apply in reverse, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Overturning the First District Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court ruled that, with a few exceptions, CEQA analysis must be limited to the project's impacts on the environment (and, by extension, the project's environmental impacts on its own population) but not the environment's impact on the project.

Among other things, the ruling would seem to suggest that a CEQA analysis cannot analyze and mitigate the effect of future sea level rise or other climate change effects on a proposed project. 

Legal Briefs: Cal Supremes Take Another Newhall Case

Another Newhall Ranch case goes to the Supreme Court. The winning environmentalists seek a rehearing in the big Newhall lvictorh -- mostly to clarify the nature of their win. And, on another front, an appellate court reheard a groundwater extraction fee case and didn’t budget.

Now that the California Supreme Court has given environmentalists a big win in the “main event” Newhall Ranch case, the court has accepted one of the ancillary cases, CA Native Plant Society v. County of Los Angeles, No. B258090. This case involves the Mission Village phase of Newhall Ranch, which received county approval for its January project-level EIR approval in 2012. It was challenged as of June 2012.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will have to decide whether to grant a re-hearing in the main event, because the Center for Biological Diversity – which mostly won the case – wants a clarification that it cast as a request for a rehearing.  

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Can Jurisdictions ‘Play Nice’ to Reap New Tax Increments?

For the past three years, California's cities have been like beachcombers, waving metal detectors over miles of beach in the hopes of discovering $5 billion. They haven't had much luck -- until recently. In the past year, though, Sacramento has bestowed upon the state’s cities two new funding tools that, while they don’t replace redevelopment, have given cities, developers, and other institutions reasons to salivate. 

CP&DR News Briefs, December 14, 2015: New Zoning for SE San Diego; SCAG RTP/SCS Released; Group to 'Sue the Suburbs;' and More

The San Diego City Council is expected to approve Southeastern San Diego's first comprehensive set of zoning changes since 1987 with the goal of encouraging more development near mass transit.  Community leaders often complain that the area's lack of high-paying jobs discourages developers from building quality reta

Theater Review: Urban Planning Takes Center Stage in 'If/Then'

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, the American Planning Association's Burnham Award will go to Dr. Elizabeth Vaughan. She will be recognized for, among other accomplishments, forcing improvements to a mega-development on Manhattan’s West Side, elegantly creating more affordable housing, and making peace with anti-gentrification activists. 

SGC Ramps Up To Adopt New Program Guidelines on December 17

After doling out $120 million in essentially free money in 2015, the program staff behind the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities grants discovered almost as many opinions as there were dollars in the program. Public and private stakeholders alike expressed concerns about both the fairness and efficacy of the selection process. Large urban areas lobbied for population-based preferences, rural areas lamented their lack of qualifying transit, and fierce discussions took place over jurisdictional caps and underserved communities.  

These comments, many of which were elicited in four listening sessions across the state, have given rise to AHSC 2.0. At its December 17 meeting, the Strategic Growth Council staff will present final draft guidelines for the 2016 program for the SGC's consideration. 

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AHSC Programs Tops Up 2015 Awards

The staff of the Strategic Growth Council has early Christmas presents in store for some projects that had applied for Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities grants earlier this year. Staff have recommended that eight formerly rejected projects receive a total of $32.5 million in grants. 

The fall funding round was open to eligible projects that had scored at least 60 in the initial round but were shut out in part because of jurisdictional caps when the program announced its grants in June. That round included $120 million in total funding, awarded to 28 projects. 

Projects were evaluated according to their original applications. Some criteria were re-scored according to revised guidelines, focusing on projected greenhouse gas reductions and leverage of other funds. The re-scoring make some projects more attractive than they originally may have been. 

CP&DR News Briefs, December 7, 2015: Drought Prompts Moratorium in Pismo Beach; Fresno Misses Deadline for Expansion; SGC to Assist Disadvantage Communities with Grant Applications; and More

The Pismo Beach City Council voted to impose a moratorium on all new development in anticipation of a drastic drop in water supply next year.