Headline Story

Ballot Initiative Takes Aim at Planning in Los Angeles

On the morning of Wednesday, November 9, while the nation takes stock of its future, its second-largest city will be doing the same. By then, the proposed Hollywood Palladium Residences may be one of two things: a proud testament to a progressive city's embrace of smart growth, or a 28-story symbol of the hubris of Los Angeles’ planning and development community.  

Los Angeles' Moral Failing

Whereas a Berkeley resident can cross from exuberance of Telegraph Avenue into the heart of the Cal campus in a few steps, UCLA is an auto-oriented campus surrounded by a moat of driveways, green space, and city streets. Its neighbors are some of the wealthiest and orneriest an institution could ever have the misfortune to live next to. The university, for all its academic heft, retreats from the city, and the city from it.

UCLA was an ironically illustrative venue for a talk by Michael Storper, lead author of "The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies," that I attended recently. Contrary to its expansive title, Storper’s study concerns only Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given that both are booming Pacific Rim metropolises, it may be hard to figure out which is the “rise” and which is the “fall.”

JOB AVAILABLE: City of Mountain View, CA

Zoning Administrator

City of Mountain View, CA                                                                         

Conveniently located in the center of Silicon Valley, the City of Mountain View (pop. 76,260) is nestled between the Santa Cruz Mountains and San Francisco Bay just 10 miles north of San Jose and 35 miles south of San Francisco. A strong tech presence and robust economy, superior public services and facilities, and a commitment to strong neighborhoods and citizen involvement all make Mountain View an ideal place to call home.

The City, a recent recipient of an award from the American Planning Association, is recruiting for a Zoning Administrator who will have a pivotal role influencing significant and high profile projects involving major organizations such as Google, LinkedIn and El Camino Hospital.

CP&DR News Briefs, February 1, 2016: L.A. Transit Ridership Declines; SANDAG Sales Tax Measure; TOD ADU's in Oakland; and More

A report by the Los Angeles Times indicates that transit ridership in the Los Angeles area has steadily declined since the Great Recession. Ridership on Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus and rail lines dropped 10 percent from 2006 to 2015, to 453 million boardings.

Presidio Trust Didn't Violate Historic Preservation Law In Planning New Development, Ninth Circuit Rules

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that The Presidio Trust can move forward with the construction of a 12-building complex commonly referred to as a “lodge” in the vicinity of the Main Parade Ground. In so doing, the court rejected arguments from the Sierra Club and a variety of historic preservation organizations that doing so would violate the Presidio Trust Act. The court also rejected the argument that the Presidio Trust’s actions did not meet the consultation requirements contained in Section 110f of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The Ninth Circuit circumscribed its ruling narrowly, however. The court rejected a claim from The Presidio Trust that it broader power to permit new development based on offsetting demolition of structures across the expanse of the former military base. And the plaintiffs did not appeal other aspects of a district court judge’s ruling affecting other buildings.

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Billboard Company Has No Case Against City of Corona, Court Rules

An outdoor advertising company that erected a billboard without permits in the City of Corona was not discriminated against and did not have its constitutional rights violated by the city’s action, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled. 

Corona banned new billboards in 2004 but permitted existing billboards to be relocated. After being denied city permits to construct a billboard along the 91 Freeway in 2014, AMG constructed a billboard over the weekend anyway and threatened to build more throughout the city if it was not given city permits. Corona sued and quickly won a preliminary injunction ordering AMG to remove the existing billboard and prohibiting the company from building more. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s ruling. AMG was represented by Ray Haynes, who gained a reputation as one of the most conservative members of the California State Senate while serving there between 1994 and 2002. 

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SGC Announces 2016 AHSC Schedule, Workshops

SGC has announced its timeline for applications for the 2015-16 Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program and has scheduled six statewide workshops.

 The schedule for the AHSC program is as follows: 

CP&DR News Briefs, January 26, 2016: Mission District Moratorium; Coastal Commission May Oust Director; LAFCO Sues Gilroy; and More

The San Francisco Planning Commission approved unanimously a fifteen-month period of controls on new developments in the Mission District. These new controls will require developers to provide information on how the projects will affect the neighborhoods economic diversity. Developers excused from the new regulations are those with 25 or more units or at least one-third of apartments reserved for low-income residents.

Insight: Consensus, Not Clarity, From Cal Supremes on CEQA

Now that comprehensive legislative reform of the California Environmental Quality Act seems unlikely, all eyes are turning to the California Supreme Court – if not for reform, then at least for clarity that will make the world of CEQA a little simpler, a little cleaner, and a little more understandable.

Good luck. Although the Cal Supremes have a heavy CEQA docket – and the justices are clearly putting a lot of thought into CEQA cases – the result is not exactly clarity.

When the Berkeley Hillside case went before the Cal Supremes, everybody hoped the result would be clarity about when the unusual circumstances exemption can be used. But the result was a complicated two-step test that actually may strengthen the exemption but requires a lot more effort to do so.

Fish & Wildlife Created Physical Taking In Flooding Del Norte Subdivision

In a 61-page opinion, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled that the Department of Fish & Wildlife’s actions in managing coastal flooding around Lake Tolowa and Lake Earl in Del Norte County constituted a physical taking of the adjacent landowners’ property. 

However, the Third District also ruled that the regulatory processes that led to the periodic flooding of the nearby property did not constitute a regulatory taking on the part of the Coastal Commission.

The case involves the Pacific Shores subdivision in Del Norte County, located along the beach just a few miles south of the Oregon border. The 1,500-lot subdivision itself was approved in 1963. Infrastructure such as roads is in place. But no homes have ever been built on the property, partly because the Coastal Commission has never approved a local coastal program land use plan for the area.

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OPR Revises SB 743 Guidance, Putting Thresholds in "Advisory" Category

A new set of recommendations for implementing SB 743 – which would require traffic analysis to be based on vehicle miles traveled -- proposes moving many proposed significance thresholds from the legally binding CEQA guidelines to a technical advisory memo. These recommendations also call for stricter thresholds on the so-called “regional averages” and provide simpler methodologies for dealing with safety issues. The thresholds of significance are important because they often trigger an environmental impact  report.

The new recommendations were released by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research on Wednesday morning. OPR will be taking comments for 45 days – until the end of February – before turning the proposal over to the Natural Resources Agency for a formal rulemaking process.

SB 743 requires that traffic analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act be shifted away from the long-standing “Level of Service” metric, which focuses on congestion. OPR’s original draft recommendations were issued almost a year and a half ago. They called for a shift to a VMT standard and called for a variety of thresholds to be included in the CEQA Guidelines. Among other things, projects would be deemed less than significant if they are located within a half-mile of transit and/or if they generate less than the regional average for VMT on residential and office developments. The proposal also permitted CEQA analysis of safety issues that might be related to congestion, such as queueing – a matter of concern to Caltrans.

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CP&DR News Briefs, January 18, 2016: Riverside County General Plan Suit; Football Returning to L.A.; Bay Area Carbon Footprints; and More

Three environmental groups are suing Riverside County over a climate action plan and amendments to its general plan. Plaintiffs claim that, contrary to the plan's stated goals to combat climate chance and protect the environment, the plan actually creates increased traffic, air pollution and threats to wildlife. Plaintiffs include the Center for Biological Diversity, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, and the Sierra Club.

Hyperloop and Hyperbole

On December 21, the Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, deployed a suite of communications satellites, and, in impressive fashion, came back down to Earth. Using its engines to dull the force of gravity, it survived re-entry and hit its football-field sized landing pad like a Tesla backing into a garage.  

The Falcon 9’s return from the heavens was an early Christmas miracle, courtesy of Elon Musk, one of the world's few celebrity engineers. It is a product of SpaceX, Musk’s pioneering private space-travel company based in Hawthorne. He can now add space to the list of fields — from electric cars, to battery power, to credit card payments — that his ventures have conquered. (A similar launch Jan. 17 didn't go quite so well.)

Next, Musk hopes to revolutionize long-distance transit. That one may make rocket science look like child’s play.

No Triable Issue of Fact in AirBNB-Related Eviction Case

A Venice tenant who was renting her attic or loft out through AirBNB does not have a “triable issue of fact” on an eviction case brought against her by her landlord, the appellate division of the Los Angeles County Superior Court has ruled.

The case highlights one of a myriad of legal issues created by the such online services as AirBNB, which facilitates occupants of regular housing to rent out their bedrooms as if they were hotels, often in violation of zoning ordinances and homeowner association rules.

The case involved Joella Kraft, who lived in a rent-controlled unit in the Venice neighborhood in Los Angeles pursuant to a written agreement with the property’s then-landlord dating back to 1997, which also permitted her two then-young sons to live there on a part-time basis.

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CP&DR’s Top Ten Land Use Stories of 2015

With the economy humming along, innovative ideas sprouting up around the state, and, of course, the occasional dispute, 2015 was as lively a year for land use as any other in recent memory. To mark the new year, CP&DR presents its most-read stories of 2015. 

Sponsored Announcement: International Change Makers of the Built Environment Come Together in L.A. for FutureBuild

ULI Los Angeles, in partnership with VerdeXchange, announces FutureBuild 2016. This assembly of the land-use thinkers and innovators in business and government, local and worldwide, will be Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 7:30 am to 1:30 pm, at L.A. Downtown Hotel, 333 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071.

CP&DR News Briefs, January 12, 2016: Legislators Issue Homeless Proposal; Warriors' Arena Draws Suits; Sacramento Considers Greenway; and More

To address the state’s intensifying homelessness crisis, state senators proposed a $2 billion bill to help provide up to 14,000 units of permanent housing for the state’s mentally ill homeless population. California has roughly 116,000 homeless people. The monies, to be raised as bonds, would be repaid over 20 to 30 years with money from the tax for mental health services approved in 2004 (Proposition 63).