The state released a 90,000-page environmental review of the $15.7 billion water tunnel project proposed for the Sacramento Bay-Delta. Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan is pushing for final federal and state approval of the 35-mile long tunnels, which would provide more reliable water supply for Central and Southern California. While the report concludes the tunnels would take 5 percent more water from the Sacramento River than current diversions do, it would be the least disruptive of all possible options. Brown said in a statement that the tunnel project is “absolutely essential if California is to maintain a reliable water supply.” Proponents of the plan include the Brown administration and water agencies in Central and Southern California. Those opposed include some Northern California water districts, farmers, and environmental groups. The project still needs an agreement on financing it by the water districts that would benefit, plus federal and state decision on whether the project complies with endangered species laws.

Court Ruling Support S.F. Streetcar Route
The First District Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled the city had adequately analyzed the Muni streetcar loop in the project’s first environmental report in 1998 and did not have to prepare a new one. The route will be in the city’s Dogpatch area and will make more light-rail service available during peak traffic and special events, such as the Warriors’ planned arena nearby. A lawsuit by a group of residents and business owners argued the 1998 study was obsolete because of an increase in apartments, condos and stores in the neighborhood and therefore the project should be rerouted six blocks south. The original study addressed noise and vibration, dust, air quality, parking, and roadway capacity and found no significant impacts.

LAFCO Association Announces Annual Awards
The California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions (CALAFCO) announced its 2016 Achievement Award Winners. Don Tatzin from Contra Costa LAFCo received Outstanding Commissioner, Cheryl Carter-Benjamin from Orange Outstanding LAFCo Clerk, and Steve Lucas from Butte Outstanding LAFCo Professional. Peter Brundage from Sacramento was given an award for Distinguished Service and John Leopold from Santa Cruz Outstanding CALAFCO Member. Countywide Water Study in Marine was the Project of the Year and Southern Region of CALAFCO received an award for Government Leadership. San Luis Obispo LAFCo was Most Effective Commission. Bob Braltman and Ed Robey received Lifetime Achievement awards.

San Diego Program to Promote Biotech, Craft Brewing
The City of San Diego is launching a new incentive program to spur expansions in biotech and craft brewing industries. The program is modeled after a similar effort in Sacramento that lowers the steep cost of paying special sewer hook-up fees that often exceed $100,000. These high fees frequently force businesses to pursue smaller expansions, delay expansion plans or abandon them altogether. The program will use $750,000 from a defunct state tax credit program and buy “stranded” sewer capacity controlled by businesses that use little water but occupy buildings that could use more water. The City plans to buy the excess capacity back at roughly half price and sell it to businesses pursuing expansion at roughly 60 percent of what they would normally pay.

Quick Hits & Updates

California Coastal Commissioner Wendy Mitchell resigned after six years on the panel. Mitchell was one of seven commissioners who voted to fire Executive Director Charles Lester earlier this year. She was appointed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Strategic Growth Council is hosting the Transformative Climate Communities Stakeholder Summit on February 10, 2017 from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm at the California Health and Human Services Agency East End Complex in Sacramento. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required by February 3, 2017.

The California Supreme Court must sort out opposing appeals court decisions about Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to take land into trust for tribes. While the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno ruled against Brown when he concurred in 2012 with a federal decision to put 305 acres into a trust for the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Sacramento ruled for Brown and his decision to take 40 acres into a trust for a Yuba County tribal casino. 

The San Diego Association of Governments has admitted its researchers underestimated the amount of money that would come in from its sales tax. The agency says to finish all the highway expansion, new transit lines, and other transportation projects promised in a 2004 sales tax extension, it would need almost $17.5 billion from additional sources.

Uber announced it would suspend its self-driving car program in California. This was after at least two cars ran red lights and state regulators tried to revoke their registration.

The San Diego Chargers have agreed to lease part of a Costa Mesa office campus, The Hive, and are working with city officials to secure permits for 3.2-acres of practice fields. Team owner Dean Spanos must decide by Jan. 15 whether he wants to remain in San Diego or join the Rams at its new stadium in Inglewood, which is scheduled to open for the 2019 NFL season.

The new Anaheim City Council has ended the city’s luxury hotel subsidy program and the $300 million Anaheim streetcar project. The reason for the official end is the archaic mode of transportation is incapable of adapting to shifts in demand or population.

Southern California home prices reached a median price of $465,000, which is a 5.9 percent increase from November 2015. In the six-county region home prices have risen every month for more than four years and far outpaced income growth.

The Obama Administration awarded San Francisco $75 million for the $223 million Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit Project that will create a dedicated transit lane and station-like stops. When the project is completed, buses will run every four to five minutes and will improve access to jobs, health care, and opportunities throughout the Bay Area.

Line in the Sand, the political arm of Still Protecting Our Newport, has gathered enough signatures calling for a referendum on a planned 25-story luxury condominium tower in Newport Beach. The group needs 5,800 signatures from local voters to potentially bring the 100-unit Museum House project to public vote. 

Airbnb reported it generated $478 million in economic activity in San Francisco and $128 million in Oakland and Berkeley last year. A previous report from the company showed a majority of the spending goes to the restaurant industry or shopping.