Headline Story

San Diego Considers Dueling Plans to Finance Stadium, Convention Center

What do touchdowns, trade shows, room service, rivers, and dorm rooms have in common? In San Diego, quite a bit.

Spooked by the possible relocation of the San Diego Chargers football team, the city is doubling down on opportunities not only to retain the Chargers but also to pursue a host of other initiatives related to tourism and economic development. The matters may be resolved through one of two competing measures that are expected to appear on upcoming ballots.

"The Citizens Plan" could appear on the citywide ballot as early as November. Proposed by Cory Briggs, an environmental attorney famous instead for halting city projects, it would raise hotel taxes and allow the city to expand its convention center, build a new Chargers stadium, secure long-term funding to promote the city to tourists, create a new San Diego River park and hand San Diego State University an expansion opportunity. It would make way for a joint-use convention center-stadium built on 10 downtown acres, next to the Padres ballpark and across the street from the city’s existing convention center.

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American Planning Association California Chapter Presents 2015 Awards

OAKLAND, Oct. 4 -- The California Chapter of the American Planning association announced its awards at the 2015 installment of its annual conference. 

Opportunity and Empowerment

Award of Excellence
Courtyard at La Brea, West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation

Solimar / CP&DR Research Assistant

Solimar Research Group and California Planning & Development Report seek a Research Assistant to work on a wide variety of projects between Fall 2015 and Summer 2016.

Q&A: Cole Returns to Small City Roots in Santa Monica

A veteran of planning and public administration in California, Rick Cole has built a career on the premise of bringing innovation and common-sense planning to the jurisdictions in which he has worked. The former mayor of Pasadena and city manager of both Ventura and Azusa, Cole entered big-city administration in 2013 as Deputy Mayor for Budget and Innovation in the City of Los Angeles. This May, Cole elected to return to his small-city roots with his appointment as city manager of the City of Santa Monica. Cole takes office amid a tumultuous time in Santa Monica, when pressures to grow are running headlong against concerns over traffic, loss of civic character, and housing costs. CP&DR’s Josh Stephens spoke with Cole about his plans for a city that captures the best – and worst – of California planning in microcosm.
 
What inspired you to leave the City of Los Angeles for its neighbor?
 
Clearly Santa Monica has the opportunity to be a model as it has been a pioneer in so many areas. The biggest challenge facing the city is maintaining its diversity in the face of market forces that are driving housing prices to stratospheric levels.

Beyond that, Santa Monica is Ground Zero with the opening of the Expo Line for creating a new model of mobility in Southern California. Given the increasing polarization over development issues, we have the challenge of forging a healthier and constructive model for civic engagement. One that promotes dialog and genuine search for common ground.

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Supreme Court Denies, Depublishes Riverside Habitat-CEQA Case

The California Supreme Court has denied review of a case from Riverside County involving the interplay of habitat conservation planning and the California Environmental Quality Act -- and also depublished the case so it cannot be used as precedent.

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CP&DR News Briefs, October 12, 2015: SANDAG Transportation Plan; Coastal Commission Seeks Revision to O.C. Project; Transit Station Scorecard; and More

The SANDAG Board of Directors voted unanimously last week to adopt the final version of its Regional Transportation Plan, called San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan. The plan will invest $204 billion into transportation infrastructure projects over the next 35 years, including provisions for 1 million more county residents and 300,000 more jobs. The RTP calls for investment in in transit projects, bikeways, pedestrian improvements, and a Managed Lanes network between now and 2050.

SGC Proposes $30 Million to Backfill Last Year's Projects, Plus Ideas to Work With MPOs

The Strategic Growth Council staff has proposed using $30 million in new money to provide additional funding for projects that didn’t make the cut or weren’t fully funded by the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program last year. 

In its staff report for next Thursday’s meeting, the SGC staff has also thrown out several additional ideas for working with the metropolitan planning organizations, including a geographical allocation of funds and MPO review and recommendation of projects. However, SGC staff isn’t recommending any particular ideas.

The SGC staff also laid out the process by which it will provide $500,000 in technical assistance to grant applicants from disadvantaged communities and align the AHSC program and the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) program and indicated that SGC and the Department of Housing & Community Development will work to incorporate issues of farmworker housing into the AHSC program.

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Sixth Circuit Issues Nationwide Stay on EPA's WOTUS Rule

The federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday issued a nationwide stay blocking enforcement of the new federal rule defining "Waters of the United States". For now the stay applies in all states, including California. While it lasts, the "Waters Of..." definition returns to the jumbled but familiar state it was in before the new rule took effect on August 28. Although the stay is only a temporary measure, it strengthens legitimacy and buys time for opponents of the Obama Administration’s approach to clean water regulation. 

The rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers adds some small bodies and areas of water, including California's intermittent vernal ponds, to the realm of "waters" under federal oversight. It has been attacked as a symbol of regulatory overreach by agricultural and building lobbies and by conservative organizing groups. 

The rule, if allowed to take effect, would increase the number of waterways under EPA jurisdiction, meaning that projects with effects on those included waters would newly be required to obtain federal permits to proceed. Estimates of the extent of the increase vary widely. Last year the EPA said that the increase would be about 3% -- apparently taken from an EPA statement issued last year. However, an American Farm Bureau analysis claims the new rule "would expand EPA and Army Corps of Engineers authority over approximately 99.7% of Missouri."

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Brown Vetoes Civic San Diego Bill and Atkins Tax Credit; Signs Parking Bill

Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed two planning bills by significant San Diego legislators -- AB 504 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, which would have reined in the permitting power of Civic San Diego, the nonprofit redevelopment agency, and AB 35 by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, which would have increased the state's allocation of low-income housing tax credits by $300 million.

However, Brown signed several important bills, including SB 744, which requires lower parking ratios in infill situations; AB 323, which extends a CEQA exemption for city roadway improvements; AB 2, which brings back limited tax-increment financing; and SB 107, a redevelopment cleanup bill.

Brown vetoed the tax credit bill as part of a package of nine bills he vetoed in order to maintain the state's strong fiscal situation. He tipped his hand last week in a plenary at the Urban Land Institute in San Francisco when he said he generally opposed tax credits because it is not usually possible to remove them in hard fiscal times.

Gonzalez has promoted AB 504 as a way of restoring permitting power to San Diego City Hall, in part to give the City Council the ability to impose labor requirements on downtown projects including hotels. As the successor to the Centre City Development Commission, Civic San Diego does issue permits from some downtown buildings. In his veto message, Brown said the issue should be resolved locally, not at the state level.

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Cal Supremes Wrestle With "CEQA In Reverse" Case

California's Supreme Court justices were picking doubtfully Wednesday morning at the famous "CEQA in reverse" argument -- a claim that the California Environmental Quality Act can require an environmental impact report (EIR) not only when a project may threaten the environment, but also when a project would draw users to a place with hazardous environmental conditions. 

The question before the court in California Building Industry Association v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District is not so much whether projects should be built near hazards, but whether CEQA is the appropriate law to regulate such proposals. (Last year Bill Fulton suggested that if CEQA doesn't apply "in reverse", then maybe local officials will have to dust off other planning tools to protect the public more affirmatively.)

Justices Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Goodwin Liu and Carol Corrigan led the questioning. They appeared to view full-on "reverse" CEQA as too radical, and instead were inviting rationales for compromise outcomes. 

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CP&DR News Briefs, October 5, 2015: SANDAG Transportation Plan; Sacramento Railyards; Joshua Trees in Danger; and More

The San Diego Association of Governments is expected to adopt a plan to guide the city's transportation infrastructure for the next 35 years, emphasizing densely populated neighborhoods and putting skyways and light-rail stations in the county's beach communities. Some transportation activist groups are saying that the plan doesn't adequately match up with the city's Climate Action Plan.

AB 2: Redevelopment Is Back -- Or Is It?

So, redevelopment is back, sort of. How much of a difference it will make remains to be seen.

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed AB 2 (Alejo), which permits cities to create tax-increment-based “Community Redevelopment Investment Authorities” (CRIA). It’s more or less the same bill that legislative leaders – led by former Senate pro tem Darrell Steinberg – have been trying to get Brown to sign since 2012, when the redevelopment agencies were shut down. 

Unlike those earlier bills, however, this law makes the overt point of completely disconnecting the new system from the old redevelopment code sections in state law; and it makes no connection to SB 375 and the state’s other sustainability-based planning and development efforts.

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CP&DR News Briefs, September 28, 2015: UC Davis Sacto Development; Tension Among Bay Area Planning Agencies; El Niño Erosion, and More

The University of California-Davis has laid out its "University of the 21st Century" plan to build $2 billion in graduate programs and a veterinary hospital in downtown Sacramento. The satellite campus would include two new schools, one focusing on population and global health and another a public policy institute, offering master's degree programs that could be expanded to undergraduate programs depending on demand, Chancellor Linda P.B.

San Clemente Must Return Unused Parking Impact Fees, Fourth District Rules

The City of San Clemente must refund $10 million in beach parking impact fees accumulated over a 20-year period because it did not build parking facilities with the money nor make the necessary findings under the Mitigation Fee Act to retain the money for more than five years, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled.

San Clemente imposed the “Beach Parking Impact Fee” of $1,500 per unit in 1989 because it concluded that new residential development in inland area of the city would increase the demand for parking near the beach. The city collected $10 million in the next 20 years but expended only $350,000 to purchase one parcel of property. 

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SGC Proposes Higher Caps for Developers, Jurisdictions

In draft program guidelines issued last week, the Strategic Growth Council staff will recommend eliminating the jurisdictional cap on funding, increasing the cap for individual developers from $15 million to $40 million, and setting aside 10% of the funding for rural projects. However, the SGC staff recommendations stop short – so far – of a setaside for each region, as some metropolitan planning organizations requested. 

Instead, the SGC staff has recommended that MPO staff should review full AHSC applications based on consistency with each MPO’s sustainable communities strategy and provide formal recommendations to the SGC as to which applications should be funded. However, more options may be presented to the SGC at its October meeting. 

The staff recommendations include a wide variety of other changes, including increasing the points awarded for deep housing subsidies on affordable housing projects. Overall, the SGC staff is recommending a 50-50 split in the scoring criteria between GHG emissions reductions and other policy criteria, such as affordable housing and collaboration between transportation and housing projects. Last year, the GHG reduction accounted for 55% of possible points, while policy objectives accounted for 30% and 15% went to “project readiness and feasibility”. 

High Court Faces Tough Deferred Issues on CEQA Docket

The California Supreme Court is finally catching up on its backlog of cases interpreting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Recently the justices moved along two cases related to the law's climate change implications. The bottom line, however, is that the list is getting longer. The court now has eight CEQA cases pending on issues ranging from how CEQA must account for climate change to whether the law is pre-empted by federal railroad regulation.

The justices heard arguments September 2 on the leading Newhall Ranch case, emphasizing greenhouse gas reduction standards. They've also just scheduled oral argument for October 7 on the "CEQA in Reverse" case, which addresses whether developers must consider the impact of environmental conditions on a project, as well as vice versa.

This is a big change from a year ago. Shorthanded from two retirements, the court had a docket full of big lurking environmental review issues with grants of review dating as far back as 2012. Last year, not counting denials of review, the justices issued one big CEQA opinion in the whole year: Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance, an August 2014 decision allowing the use of ballot measure petitions to pressure local governments into adopting large projects. (See CP&DR  coverage here.) 

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CP&DR News Briefs, September 21, 2015: Active Transportation Grant Recommendations Released; San Jose Housing Case; S.F. Bay Water Quality Improves; and More

The California Transportation Commission has released staff recommendations (pdf) for the awarding of up to $215 million in grants in Cycle 2 of its Active Transportation Program.