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CP&DR News Briefs, August 31, 2015: Feinstein Seeks to Conserve 1 Million Acres; Bay Area Gentrification Map; New Light Rail in Sacramento, and More

Sen. Diane Feinstein sent a letter to President Obama asking him to bypass Congress and designate over one million acres of land between Palm Springs and the Nevada border as national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act. Two bills previously sponsored by Feinstein to protect the area over the past six years have languished.

Fair Housing: Talking Past Each Other About Cities and Segregation

About 80 years too late, the federal government has put real regulatory authority behind the duty of publicly funded agencies to “affirmatively further fair housing”. It’s being discussed as a genuine chance to desegregate the suburbs. 

On July 8 the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued its final rule on "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" (AFFH). Under the rule, state and local agencies receiving HUD funds must now do more than passively study barriers to fair housing: they must also make and follow genuine plans to reduce the barriers they describe.

The new HUD rule was backed -- arguably, was made possible -- by the U.S. Supreme Court's unexpectedly liberal ruling of June 25 in Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. The high court upheld a claim of disparate-impact discrimination against the Texas agency that allocates low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC). In the court's words, the group bringing the claim "alleged the Department has caused continued segregated housing patterns by its disproportionate allocation of the tax credits, granting too many credits for housing in predominantly black inner-city areas and too few in predominantly white suburban neighborhoods." 

Redevelopment-Killing Law Not Subject to Proposition 1A, Appellate Court Rules

The Third District Court of Appeal has rejected several arguments that the laws eliminating redevelopment violate the California constitution.

In a followup to California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos, 53 Cal. 4th 231 (2011), the California Supreme Court ruling that permitted the elimination of redevelopment agencies, the Third District has ruled that AB 1x 26 -- the law that killed redevelopment -- does not violate 2004’s Proposition 1A. The court also rejected a series of other arguments, including the idea that Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration of a fiscal emergency did not warrant the elimination of redevelopment. 

The opinion was written by Justice Harry Hull, who was chairman of the board of McDonough Holland & Allen, a leading redevelopment law firm, before he was appointed to the bench. The language of the blunt-spoken opinion seems to suggest that the cities had a weak case all the way around.

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CP&DR News Briefs, August 24, 2015: Tahoe Conservation Purchase; Huge Warehouse Approved in I.E.; Sacramento Considers Transit to Area

An environmental group has purchased $10.1 million worth of Lake Tahoe land including scenic meadows, forests, and trout streams in order to preserve wildlife there and increase California's water supply. The purchase amounts to over 10,000 acres.

Carson May Deny Mobile Home Subdivision Based on General Plan Inconsistency, Court Rules

In a split decision, the Second District Court of Appeal has ruled that the City of Carson acted properly in denying the subdivision of a mobile home park because this change in ownership structure was inconsistent with the general plan by placing at risk wetlands within the park, which were reclaimed from contaminated oil friends and are called out in the open space element of the city’s general plan.

The Second District’s ruling in Carson Harbor Village v. City of Carson is the latest ruling in the lengthy litigation between the mobile home park and the city over whether to permit the mobile home park to subdivide its property and require mobile home tenants to own their individual lots. Mobile home residents typical own the mobile home but rent the property on which it sits, which is often subject to a municipal rent control ordinance. Mobile home park owners have fought back using a wide variety of tactics, including the proposed subdivision of their property.

 In a previous unpublished decision, Carson Harbor Vill., Ltd. v. City of Carson (Apr. 30, 2010, B211777), the Second District ruled that the city could not deny the mobile home subdivision based on inconsistency with the general plan. However, in 2012 the California Supreme Court ruled in Pacific Palisades Bowl Mobile Estates, LLC v. City of Los Angeles, 55 Cal.4th 783, that mobile home subdivisions are subject to both the Coastal Act and the Mello Act. The Second District reversed its earlier decision based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Pacific Palisades. 

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Cal Supremes Agree to Hear Banning, Newhall Ranch Cases

The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear two important planning and development cases – one involving Banning Ranch in Newport Beach and one involving the seemingly endless Newhall Ranch project. 

Motion Picture Academy Lays Giant Egg on Fairfax Avenue

The intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Boulevard is under an evil spell.  Otherwise, I can’t account for the two most questionable museum proposals to descend on the area formerly known as the Miracle Mile.

Should Cap-And-Trade Program Rethink "Disadvantaged Communities?

On an unusually hot February afternoon in downtown Los Angeles, I conducted a field walk assessment to help a client identify potential sites for a bikeshare “mobility hub.” Standing on a  corner near the Convention Center, I noted that we were at the border between two Census tracts. Ordinarily, this border wouldn’t matter much—the neighborhood isn’t discernibly different on one side or the other—but in this case, I was helping the client apply for a state grant program that gives special consideration to projects located in “disadvantaged communities.” 

 If located on the south side of the street, the project would be located in a “disadvantaged” census tract, but not on the north side.  “Well, let’s clearly locate the hub on the south side,” the client advised, with some incredulous laughter. Humorous as it may sound, this decision speaks to the serious policy weight—and dollars—the State of California has put behind the concept of “benefitting disadvantaged communities.”  

CP&DR News Briefs, August 17, 2015: Los Angeles Mobility Plan; Draft CEQA Guidelines; Bay Area Transportation Funding

The Los Angeles City Council voted 12-2 to support a sweeping new mobility plan that would focus on increasing bicycle and pedestrian safety and reducing car usage by reshaping streets with medians, widened sidewalks, and over 300 miles of dedicated bike and bus lanes, at the expense of car lanes.

Post-Redevelopment Real Estate Is, Oddly, Not a Land-Office Business

When the redevelopment system was dismantled in 2012, redevelopment leaders around the state feared that the state Department of Finance’s desire for short-term cash would force a fire-sale of redevelopment assets that would drive prices down and undermine cities’ ability to complete their pending redevelopment projects.

More than three years later, the opposite has occurred: Successor agencies are moving slowly to put real estate on the market, in part because both successor agencies and DOF are just now getting around to dealing with Long-Range Property Management Plans or LRPMPs – the plans that delineate just exactly how properties owned by former redevelopment agencies will be disposed of. LRPMPs are required under AB 1484 of 2012, the post-redevelopment cleanup bill that sought to moderate the fire-sale fears, among other things.

In part, the slow disposition is the result of a dauntingly technical process. In the words of Tara Matthews, a partner with the Rosenow Spevacek Group, Inc. (RSG): "The disposition process is confusing, cities are short-staffed, the typical brokerage companies don't understand the process and are hesitant to take it on, and developers don't know what options are available or how to initiate the conservation with cities." Property sales must be approved both by the successor agency’s oversight board and by DOF.

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Beating Boston at Its Own Games

Are there any two American cities more different from each other than Boston and Los Angeles? History vs. modernity, compactness vs. sprawl, chowder vs. kale, sun vs. snow, modesty vs. flash, intellect vs. entertainment. 

Back in January, Boston beat out Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., to become the United States Olympic Committee’s official pick to bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Since then, civic leaders in Los Angles have been nearly salivating with every hint of disaffection on the part of the Beantown faithful. Concerns were legion: Boston doesn’t have room; Boston’s transit system can’t handle the crowds; Boston doesn’t have the facilities; Boston doesn’t want to spend billions; Boston, to be characteristically blunt, has better things to do.

CP&DR News Briefs, August 10, 2015: Ontario to Take Control of Airport; Oakland Coliseum For Sale?; Bakersfield Considers HSR Routes; and More

A deal between the cities of Los Angeles and Ontario ends a dispute over the decline of LA/Ontario International Airport. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Ontario Mayor pro tem Alan Wapner announced the signing of a Settlement Agreement Term Sheet which will lead to the transfer of ownership of ONT to the Ontario International Airport Authority subject to approvals.

Nice Try, Cal State -- But CEQA Mitigation Doesn't Require State Appropriations

Tuesday’s California Supreme Court ruling in a CEQA case involving San Diego State lays down an important marker: State agencies can’t claim that a mitigation measure is infeasible just because they didn’t get a legislative appropriation to pay for it. It’s the second time the Supreme Court has rejected an argument by Cal State that fiscal considerations under state law should trump CEQA.

The Cal State Board of Trustees had tried to argue that they didn’t have to pay for offsite mitigations for expansion of San Diego State University under the California Environmental Quality Act because the legislature had not specifically authorized the money to pay for those mitigations. But a unanimous Supreme Court rejected the argument.

To do so, write Justice Pamela Werdergar for the Supreme Court, would put the legislature in the position of serving as lead agency on every CEQA-related project undertaken by any state agency – essentially determining which mitigations to pay for and when a statement of overriding considerations is justified. “[S]uch a holding would logically apply to all state agencies, thus in effect forcing the Legislature to sit as a standing environmental review board to decide on a case-by-case basis whether state agencies’ projects will proceed despite unmitigated off-site environmental effects,” Werdegar wrote.

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2016 Budget Holds Steady Course -- More Money for Cap-And-Trade Programs

With the state no longer in the dire financial circumstances that it endured several years ago, this year’s budget process was, by some measures, less tense than it has been in years past. Presented in January, revised in May, and approved June 15, the budget totals approximately $123 billion, including about $5 billion from reserve funds. The details are being negotiated in a series of trailer bills that are pending.

Money from the state cap-and-trade program is expected to reach $2.5 billion, with $400 million allocated to the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program. 

“For the most part, the budget was really good to local agencies,” said Dan Carrigg, Sr. Director Legislative Affairs for the League of California Cities. “We don’t have these wild budget deficits. Just having stability at the state level...even if local governments don’t get a dime, that’s positive. When the state is unstable, it just ripples out negatively to others."

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Trailer Bill Could Cost Cities $800 Million in Redevelopment-Related Funds

Just when cities thought it was safe to sign on to notices of completion and put their long redevelopment nightmares behind them, a newly proposed bill yet again has put cities at odds with the state.  

In the four years since Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the dissolution of the state’s nearly 400 redevelopment agencies, a series of laws and court cases  –principally revolving around the 2012 law AB 1484 has resulted in a complex but, for the most part, manageable system by which cities dispose of properties and settle their accounts with the state Department of Finance (DOF). This has meant that DOF takes possession of properties and funds formerly held by redevelopment agencies while DOF reimburses cities for debts owed to them by their former redevelopment agencies and/or pays cities for certain expenses incurred in the dissolution process.  

DOF and cities must agree to Findings of Completion before properties may be disposed of and cities receive their reimbursements. To avoid endless bickering over who is owed what, FOC's provide cities and DOF incentive to arrive at negotiated agreements so that cities can receive their rightful reimbursements in a timely manner.  

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CP&DR News Briefs, August 3, 2015: New Salton Sea Plan; Sucker Fish Habitat at Issue; Developers Protest Oakland Art Fee; and More

Officials with the Imperial Irrigation District have proposed a smaller plan for restoration of the Salton Sea, reducing the cost from $9 billion to $3.15 billion.