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Insight: Does Supply Create Its Own Demand?

A couple of weeks ago, the satirical newspaper The Onion reported that the City of San Francisco was looking to relocate because its current location had become too expensive. Funny though this was, I expected the follow-up story to focus on the economic development incentive package being put together to keep San Francisco where it is. 

A week or so later, Gabriel Metcalfe – head of the respected San Francisco urban planning organization SPUR – published a provocative piece in CityLab blaming the city’s affordability crisis on progressive politics – especially progressive politics of the no-growth kind. Progressive San Francisco, he argued, “had a fatal, Shakespearean flaw that would prove to be its undoing: It decided early on to be against new buildings. It decided that new development, with the exception of publicly subsidized affordable housing, was not welcome.”

All up and down California – especially in the expensive coastal enclaves around San Francisco and Los Angeles – community activists have been lately decrying how the rising cost of housing is making it impossible for normal people with normal incomes to live in these towns. Yet, as Metcalf points out, most of the time these same community activists are arguing that the trend toward high housing cost must be countered with... less housing construction. Or at least less market-rate housing construction. 

Not All NIMBYs Are Alike

Last week Harvard history professor Naomi Oreskes defended the public figure that many planners love to hate: the NIMBY. In a column in the Washington Post entitled, “Stop hating on NIMBYs. They’re saving communities,” she argues that "NIMBY" does not deserve the pejorative connotation that many in the planning community naturally ascribe to it.

Voters veer away from land use ballot drama in November elections

Californians voted cautiously this week if they chose to vote at all. It would be foolish to look for just one electoral mood in such a large state – but when voters considered ballot measures related to land use, they mainly chose to preserve status quos.

California land use ballot measures: selected results

Out of the many land use measures on California ballots, we profiled some picks at http://www.cp-dr.com/node/3613, and here we're offering a tracking grid of key measures for use in keeping score. The following is by county in alphabetical order.

CP&DR News Briefs, November 4, 2014: Elkind vs. Hernandez on CEQA transportation metrics, Round 2

Organizers have confirmed that attorney Jennifer Hernandez of Holland & Knight and Prof. Ethan Elkind of UCLA will both take part in a panel discussion of SB 375 and SB 743 at the University of San Francisco law school November 4. A third panelist will be Michael Schwartz of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority.

Fourth District disapproves SD county climate plan, sends signals for SANDAG ruling

In an unpublished opinion, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled that in adopting a climate action plan, San Diego County violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not following the mitigation measures the county laid out in the general plan process.

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CalEPA Expands Definition of Disadvantaged Census Tracts

CalEPA has expanded its definition of “disadvantaged communities” in the cap-and-trade grantmaking programs under SB 535 to the most environmentally burdened 25% of all census tracts.  

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Seventy Land Use Measures On Local Ballots

[This article was first posted October 30. Substantial new material was added November 2.]

California’s November 4 ballots are rich with local tax and land use measures. It’s a sign of fiscal pain in local governments, and of credible optimism that voters can and will accept taxation – though we’ll find that out for certain in a few days.

At the state level, Gov. Jerry Brown is campaigning indirectly for reelection by stumping for Propositions 1 and 2, the water bond and “rainy day fund” measures. As of Saturday the Sacramento Bee reported Brown’s television ads had yet to mention directly that his continued governorship requires voter ratification.

Two Web sites have taken on the exhausting task of presenting local ballot questions one by one: The invaluable Ballotpedia has a huge collection of sub-pages for California statewide and local measures on all topics. CalTax has posted an astonishing table describing local tax measures.

Our own attempt to pick only the planning and taxation measures most closely related to land use came up with more than 70 of them. At best we can only scratch the surface of a list like that.

So what we have for you here are selected spoonfuls from this river of electoral complexity, picking up some of the big clusters of measures that you just knew were going to form in the especially self-involved metropoli, and looking around at some other clusters of less urban measures.

Post-Redevelopment financing: is it getting easier?

Tax-increment financing isn’t coming back anytime soon. But the state government hasn’t squeezed as much money out of redevelopment as expected. So what happens next? What tools does the state provide to California’s local governments to stimulate new development – especially infill development, which the state is trying to encourage through policies designed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and achieve other goals?

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CP&DR News Summary, October 28, 2014: SD Enviro Lawyer Breaks With NIMBYs

Here’s a roundup of recent land use news items  –

San Diego Environmental Lawyer Backs Infill

The progressive Democratic community in San Diego has split openly over the question of allowing more density near light-rail stops, especially in mostly white middle-class neighborhoods.

In particular, environmental attorney Marco Gonzalez – who stood alongside former City Councilmember Donna Frye in calling for Mayor Bob Filner’s resignation last year – has now broken with Frye on the density question.

SGC Tweaks Cap-and-Trade Program As Comment Deadline Nears

As the new Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) grant program neared its October 31 public comment deadline, the program was showing a more definite sense of institutional purpose, focused on promoting dense transit-oriented urban streetscapes.

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October Coastal Commission: celebrities, a cheering squad, marine mammals, and other madness

The Coastal Commission's October docket in Newport Beach served up a fair slice of Southern California celebrity-involved madness and possibly more items than usual of old business of the it's-never-over variety.

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Pacific Legal Foundation wins Ellis Act and Coastal Commission fights

The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) won two major takings law victories in late October. Clients championed by the property rights organization defeated a San Francisco law on compensation to tenants evicted under the Ellis Act, and managed to undo a coastal easement requirement that the court said was an unfair permit condition.

San Francisco city attorney to appeal

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Legal News Briefs, October 28, 2014: Review denied on Treasure Island case; rent control end-run blocked; more --

The State Supreme Court denied review October 22 in the major case of Citizens for a Sustainable Treasure Island v. City and County of San Francisco (Treasure Island Community Development).

The Flat-Headed Skyscrapers: A Greek Tragedy

News Item: the Los Angeles City Council has rescinded a long-standing ordinance requiring all high-rise buildings in the downtown area to have rooftop helipads. When the ordinance was in effect, all downtown buildings were flat-headed in design to accommodate the helipads.

Planning redesign in north LA County complicated by Tejon Ranch's 'Centennial' and rules for solar arrays

East branch, California Aqueduct, north of Centennial site

A new template for land use and preservation is forming across some 1,800 square miles of Los Angeles County's high, dry northeastern backlands. Its first increment could establish some key development permissions by mid-November, especially affecting the large Centennial new-town design, other construction plans, and solar energy arrays.

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