Riverside County reached a settlement with Highland Fairview, the developers of the World Logistics Center in Moreno Valley, to mitigate impacts of the massive facility. The deal asks the developer to provide funding for road improvement projects throughout the county. The planned 40.6-million-square foot warehouse complex will generate an estimated 68,721 vehicle trips a day and approximately 20,000 jobs. The developer will pay $3 million for improvements on Gilman Springs Road and another $3 million to improve Highway 60. The project is facing a dozen lawsuits, and this settlement only eliminates three. The other legal challenges are air quality and endangered species. A Riverside County judge has 90 days to rule on a Moreno Valley City Council vote to allow the complex to skirt the California Environmental Quality Act via the so-called "Tuolumne Tactic." The cases say the city and developer did not adequately address environmental issues such as air pollution, traffic and other consequences required by CEQA. City Council then adopted three developer-back initiatives exempting the project from environmental laws. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
Obama Administration Finalizing Desert Conservation Plan
The Obama administration is advancing the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which would promote wind and solar installations on 10 million acres of the Mojave Desert. The plan, which the administration is seeking to finalize before President Obama leaves office, would permit install 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy on federal land. The plan sets aside nearly 2,000 square miles of land in the Mojave Desert and 5 million acres for conservation. Besides the three national parks, the desert is considered a wasteland used for military bases, off-road vehicle playgrounds and desert cities. However, scientists say developing the undisturbed desert soils could harm the fight against climate change. University researchers find that building rooftop solar systems on parking lots and large stores could provide the state with enough energy three to five times over. Driving this push for large-scale renewable development is the California law requiring half the energy provided by utilities to come from clean sources within 14 years.
San Francisco Poised to Embrace Accessory Dwelling Units
San Francisco Board of Supervisors are set to approve so-called “in-law units” in existing private buildings. These accessory dwelling units could potentially create 30,000 more affordable housing units. The main concern was that ADUs should be permitted outside the actual structures of the building. The compromise was the units could only be created within existing structures in place for at least three years or in the open space under decks or light wells. District 3 and 8, which includes Castro, Noe Valley, Chinatown and North Beach, all have ordinances that legalize ADUs. The new provision states one ADU can be built for buildings with fewer than five units and an unlimited number for larger buildings, provided the units are 300 square feet for a studio and 500 for a one-bedroom. The city will create an outreach program to meet with qualifying property owners to provide technical assistance and possible financial assistance through banks.
Delta Tunnel Biological Assessment Released
The Department of Water Resources released its biological assessment for the proposed $15.5 billion water tunnel project promoted by Gov. Jerry Brown. The assessment claims that the plan “minimizes potential effects” on endangered fish in the Delta. The biological assessment will now be reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service and analyzed for potential violation on the ESA. A draft was received last fall. California officials are hoping to secure a decision before President Obama leaves in January.
California Congressman Introduces Empowerment Zone Legislation
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) has introduced federal legislation, Revitalize Our Cities Act (HR 5498), to extend the federal Empowerment Zones program. The Act would open another 20 cities over the next three years that could include cities such as Stockton that need assistance but have been repeatedly left out of other federal funding programs. In empowerment zones, businesses that generate jobs in areas of high poverty or unemployment receive federal tax incentives. San Joaquin County has around 7.1 percent unemployment rate while the state average is 4.7 percent.
Feds Awards Four TIGER Grants to California Cities
California received $40 million in four federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants to improve transportation. Three of the grants will improve transit service and the last will fund a one-mile road. The transit programs are $15 million to LA Metro for grade separation in Santa Fe Springs, $8.7 million to San Bernardino County for passenger rail service to Redlands, $6.3 million to Bay Area Rapid Transit to modernize Oakland’s 19th Street Station, and $10 million to Live Oak to widen and upgrade one mile of Route 99, the city’s main street.
Report Makes Recommendations for Healthy Land Use in Los Angeles
Healthy, Equitable, Active Land Use (HEALU) Network released “Strategic Opportunities to Create a Healthy, Equitable Land Use System in Los Angeles,” a policy brief address issues of health equity through land use. The brief has four key items to make Los Angeles a healthier and more equitable land use system. The first is increasing the percentage of public funds investing in health-promoting infrastructure in low-income communities. Second, is building capacity in the government, private sector, and community-based organizations for more engagement. The policy brief pushes for accelerated land use innovations and demonstration projects. The last is fostering cross-government collaboration to engage health and equity in all land use decisions.
Ruling Complicates Development of Rail Yard at Port of L.A.
A Contra Costa Superior Court Judge has ruled that the proposed BNSF Railway’s Southern California International Gateway project at the Port of Los Angeles must complete a “more robust and accurate analysis” of the possible environmental impacts. The ruling means the port and BNSF either improve the EIR, scrap the project altogether or appeal the decision. The proposed transshipment facility, to be located 185 acres four miles north of the port, would exceed local noise ordinances and generate 2 million trips per year from truck and trains. The ruling is part of a suit brought on by several groups in neighboring Long Beach; many have raised concerns about environmental justice, noting that the environmental impact report acknowledges that pollution form the facility "would fall disproportionately on minority and low-income populations because the census block groups are adjacent to the point of impact."
Updates & Quick Hits
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to add Measure M, a half-cent tax increase proposal, to the November ballot to fund transportation projects. The proposal could generate $860 million per year.
Starting in September in San Diego, smaller hotels, motels and short-term rentals will no longer have to pay a special room surcharge for tourism marketing. The city council voted that only lodgings with more than 70 rooms will pay the 2 percent on top of the city’s 10.5 percent room tax.
The federal Department of the Interior approved the gaming compact for the North Fork Mono Rancheria tribe’s 305-acre casino complex north of Madera. However, a federal lawsuit is still pending which could affect start construction times.
San Mateo City Council approved a rent-control initiative for the November ballot. The San Mateo Community Preservation and Fair Rent Charter Amendment seeks to cap rent increases at the regional consumer price index and instate just-cause eviction regulations. The rent-control measures would only apply to apartments built before Feb. 1, 1995 however all residents would receive protection against eviction without cause.
The Sacramento City Council will vote on new rules for safeguarding, maintaining and removing trees on public and private land. The proposal would require a 15-day notice before city trees and some privately owned heritage trees could be cut down, with higher fines.
Latham Square in Oakland has reopened after nearly three years of planning and construction. The square was enlarged and is now four times larger. Additionally there is a working fountain for the first time since 1941. The money for the project came from a state grand ($1.4 million), $3.8 from a half-cent sales tax revenue, $500,000 fro Alameda County Transportation Commission and $1.3 million in local funds.
In the last year, Santa Monica issued 893 fines to local property owners and collected $20,000 from Airbnb, after enacting one of the strictest STR laws in the country. The city restricts its property owners from renting out homes or apartments on a short-term basis. Hosts who violate the law will pay fines of up to $500.
Airbnb filed suit against the City of Anaheim after the city council banned short-term rentals and said home-sharing websites would be fined for illegal listings. The company says the city is violating the Communications Decency Act and the First Amendment. This is a similar lawsuit Airbnb is fighting in San Francisco.
The new L.A. Football Club MLS team is proposing to build a massive athletic facility in Tustin on 85-acres of Navy-owned land surrounding a former blimp hangar. The plans for the site includes a 5,000-8,000 seat stadium, 18 sports fields, 12 baseball diamonds, a medical center, sports research lab, three hotels as well as a promenade with restaurants, stores and apartments.