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CP&DR News Briefs January 16, 2016: Developer Donations in L.A.; Revitalizing Soma; Chargers to Leave S.D., and More

Noemi Wyss on
Jan 16, 2017

Several Los Angeles City Council members are proposing legislation to ban donations from real estate developers during and shortly after city reviews of their building projects. Late last year, a Los Angeles Times investigation found donors with direct and indirect ties to a real estate developer gave more than $600,000 to support City Council members as his 352-unit apartment project was being reviewed at City Hall (the project was approved over objections of both city planners and Garcetti’s own appointees). The city already prohibits political contributions from companies that are bidding on city contracts, this proposal would expand the ban to real estate interests. As Council Member Paul Koretz said, the council would not have been able to get enough votes to carry out a developer donation ban six months ago, but with the Measure S campaign and the Times’ article there has been a public perception of a “pay-to-play” culture at City Hall.

Report Details Redevelopment of Central Soma Neighborhood of S.F.
The City of San Francisco hopes a new neighborhood plan for 17-blocks of Central Soma will increase property values according to a report released by the city’s planning department last month. A portion of the funds generate would pay for affordable housing, parking, open space, and other public benefits. The report looks at a few specific sites and found zoning changes and the subsequent new development would affect their values. In all the cases, more than 50 percent of the added value goes towards public benefits. This plan assumes that land-owners and developers of under-built sites elect to take advantage of the new opportunities. Under the plan, the city hopes to add 25,000 new residents, 40,000 new jobs, and 7,500 new homes to the neighborhood. However, residents are worried about similar gentrification fears that occurred in the Mission neighborhood.

Chargers to Relocate to Los Angeles Following Defeat of Stadium Measures
The Chargers announced that the team is relocating to Los Angeles from its longtime home of San Diego and will begin the 2017 NFL season as the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers’ temporary home will be StubHub Center, located on the campus of California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, which is owned and operated by AEG. In 2019 the team will move to a $2.1 billion stadium that the Los Angeles Rams are building in Inglewood. The move to Los Angeles comes after years of often tense negotiations over a new stadium in San Diego. The Chargers have played at Qualcomm Stadium (formerly Jack Murphy) for the majority of their existence; the team claims that the stadium is aged and does not offer sufficient amenities. San Diego city officials have consistently hesitated to commit significant public funding to a new stadium. In November, San Diego voters defeated two ballot measures that would have approved a degree of public funding for two different downtown stadium proposals. The failure of those measures precipitated the Chargers’ move. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Three of 24 New National Historic Landmarks in California
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the designation of 24 new National Historic Landmarks. Of the 24 new national historic landmarks, three are located in California. Chicano Park in San Diego represents the Chicano Civil Rights Movement where community residents in April 1970 protested the construction of a California Highway Patrol substation on land the City had promised as a community park. Neutra Studio and Residences (VDL Research House) in Los Angeles is one of the few properties where one can see the architect Richard Neutra’s progression of style over the years. In San Jose, Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Chapel connected Mexican American civil rights movement, Catholic ministry to ethnic Mexicans and provided ongoing efforts to organize ethnic Mexican migrant farmworkers. This chapel was the home of the Community Service Organization whose work helped spur the activism of Cesar Chavez and others.

Santa Clara Valley Considers Bus Overhaul
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) unveiled a proposal for its first major service overhaul in nearly a decade. It calls for scaling back or ending bus services on a few lightly traveled lines, adding to popular routes, and possible restructuring fares to allow free transfers. These proposed changes will be discussed at nine public hearings in San Jose. By April, the VTA board will vote on changes that would impact the 70 bus lines and 42 miles of light-rail. Transit ridership has fallen in Santa Clara County because of ride-sharing programs such as Uber and Lyft.

Report Anticipates $11.2 Billion in Economic Activity from L.A. Olympics
A report released by Beacon Economics LLC and UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development shows the LA 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games could increase economic output in the Los Angeles region by up to $11.2 billion and by $18.3 billion nationwide. The report was commissioned by LA 2024 as a required step from the International Olympic Committee. It will be submitted with the bid book due Feb. 3. Beacon analyzed direct expenditures by visitors to the games, as well as supplier and employee expenditures. L.A. would also benefit from additional tax revenues of around $167 million, 79,000 new full-time jobs, $7 billion in direct additional spending, and $5.1 billion in worker earnings.

Statewide Poll Finds Support for Climate Change Action
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a study about Californians' views on climate change. It found 59 percent of adults nationwide say the effects of global warming have already begun and 64 percent of Californians said the same. Four out of five (81 percent) Californians say global warming is a serious or very serious threat to the state’s future, and those with lower incomes (below $40,000) are more likely to hold this view: 59 percent versus 49 percent of higher income holders. In general, two in three Californians (67%) favor state efforts, independent of the federal government, to address global warming, while 26% are opposed. Only 20% of Californians believe that state policies to combat global warming would mean fewer jobs.

Court Forces Los Angeles Measure S Opponents to ‘Scale Back’ Ballot Language
Opponents of Los Angeles’s Measure S, known as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, have agreed to scale back some of the claims submitted in the city voter guide after being sued by the initiative’s supporters. The claims were concluded to be misleading and bought and paid for by the opponents of the measure. According to the agreement, the opponents’ study, conducted by Beacon Economics, can no longer be called “independent” and the disputed wording must be changed. Measure S would place a two-year moratorium on all developments that do not conform with existing zoning and community plans, and it would require the city to update its community plans within that time frame. Measure S will appear on the March ballot. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Supreme Court to Resolve Property Tax Dispute between San Jose, Santa Clara
San Jose and Santa Clara County have been battling in court for four years over $40 million in property taxes. The money comes from a special property tax voters approved in 1944 to fund Santa Clara County’s retirement obligations. However, it applied differently in redevelopment areas. San Jose’s redevelopment agency, established in 1956, was receiving about $7 million a year from the additional tax levy. In 2012, when redevelopment agencies were abolished Santa Clara County withheld the revenue from San Jose. The tax in recent years has been 33.8 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value. The California Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case by mid-February, if they decline the appellate ruling against the county would stand.

Quick Hits & Updates

Voters in Elk Grove will decide whether an approved $400 million Native American casino gets built in the city. Casino opponents submitted enough valid signatures to place the anti-casino referendum on the Elk Grove ballot for the March election. The casino was approved by City Council in October.

SCAG’s Transportation Committee approved the release of the Draft 2016-2040 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy Amendment #1 and Draft 2017 Federal Transportation Improvement Program (2017 FTIP) Amendment #17-03 for public review and comment. The 30-day public review and comment period ends Feb. 6. 

The new expansion map of Bay Area Bike Share into the East Bay has been released and shows the additional 66 locations in Berkeley, Oakland, and Emeryville. This brings the total number of bike share stations in East Bay to nearly 130 and 1,500 bikes. This is the last phase of the three phase joint program from Motivate and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan has proposed a measure strengthening tenant protections by nearly doubling the relocation fee property owners must pay upon evictions. Property owners have recently been evicting tenants from non-permitted housing and live-work space after the December 2 Ghost Ship fire. Mayor Libby Schaaf urged the City Council to approve the measure to protect undocumented immigrants, low-income families, and struggling populations.

A group of 20 homeowners has filed a lawsuit both the builder and city officials knew of, but did not disclose to buyers, evidence that the luxury high-rise was sinking at an unexpected rate. The complaint alleges that Millennium Partners knew in 2009, before residents moved in, that the tower has sunk 8.3 inches rather than the 1-2 inches project engineers said it would have settled upon completion.

According to a new survey by RentCafe the cities of Sacramento and Stockton are numbers 1 and 2, respectively, in annual rent increase nationwide. Sacramento had a 12.2 percent spike and Stockton 10.6 percent last year. San Francisco is the second-costliest market for renters, with San Jose sixth and Oakland seventh. However, San Jose’s rental market remained unchanged over the past year while San Francisco’s fell 0.9 percent and Oakland grew 4.7 percent.

The Metropolitan Transit System, which operates buses and trolleys in San Diego County, found 4 million fewer passenger trips, or a drop of 4.3 percent, in fiscal year 2016 compared to the previous year. The drop is most likely due to low gas prices and competition from ride-sharing services, as well as high employment and low interest rates that have allowed people to buy cars.

SCAG will hold community meetings to discuss the feasibility of connecting the Green Line to the Metrolink Norwalk station. By 2023 the Green Line will fully connect with LAX terminals and if the Norwalk extension is completed it could provide rail access to the airport from Orange County and Riverside.

Republican Congressman David Valadao has introduced HR 23, designed to streamline the dam approval process. It would put the federal Bureau of Reclamation in charge of coordinating local, state and federal permitting of new dams. The bill would impose deadlines to finish feasibility studies on proposals for Sites Dam along the Sacramento River and the Temperance Flat Dam along the San Joaquin River.

San Francisco voters will be asked to approve a $350 million bond to fund the first round of improvements of the city’s 100-year old Embarcadero seawall. The entire project will cost anywhere from $2 to $5 billion. Since a study last year was released on the devastating effects of an earthquake on the seawall the City has budgeted $10 million to begin a detailed study to find the most vulnerable sections.

The San Francisco 49ers are suing the City of Santa Clara over the team’s financial management records at Levi’s Stadium, confirming their claim that they have turned over all the documents they are legally required to disclose. The City has accused the team of withholding documents on their maintenance, operation, and long-term spending plans for the $1.2-billion stadium and Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the City would take over management of the stadium if it did not receive all documents.