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CP&DR News Briefs May 1, 2017: APA National Awards; Threatened National Monuments; San Diego 'Internet of Things,' and More

Noemi Wyss on
May 1, 2017
The American Planning Association announced its 12 National Planning Achievement Awards for 2017 in advance of its national conference in New York City. Four of the 12 winners are based in California winners. UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs got the award for Best Practice-Silver for “Placemaking for an Aging Population: Guidelines for Senior-Friendly Parks. ” The guidelines describes 10 purposes that senior-friendly open spaces should address: control, choice, safety and security, accessibility, social support, physical activity, privacy, contact with nature, comfort, and aesthetic and sensory delight. Monterey Bay won a Best Practice-Silver as well for its “Historic Fort Ord Regional Urban Design Guidelines” that outline reuse plans for the 28,000-acre historic military installation. The City of Ontario won an award for a Grassroots Initiative-Gold for its “Huerta del Valle Community Garden” which provides fresh organic produce to the community. The garden opened in 2013 and features 68 family plots and 2.5 acres of agricultural land that produces 6,000 pounds of food annually. In 2015, Huerta del Valle Community Garden became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The final California winner was Marin County and its “Game of Floods” which won an award for Public Outreach-Gold. The Game of Floods combines games with community planning exercises to communicate about sea-level rise vulnerabilities and adaption.

Review of National Monuments Includes Eight in California 
Eight national monuments’ designations in California are among the 30 being reviewed by the Trump administration for possible de-listing. Under a new executive order almost a billion acres nationwide are being reevaluated for their status if they were designated by presidents after 1996 and are at least 100,000 acres. The California National Monuments covered by Trump’s order include Cascade-Siskiyou at the Oregon border, Berryessa Snow Mountain, Carrizo Plain, Giant Sequoia, San Gabriel Mountains, Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails, and Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. Trump says this will end the “egregious abuse of federal power, and give that power back to the states and the people.” While most of California’s national monuments will pass the tests, the two most recently designated desert national monuments could be in jeopardy. Last February, Obama protected 1.8 million acres at the request of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Republicans opened an investigation in March 2016 claiming a “lack of transparency and consultation with local stakeholders.” However, no president has rescinded a national monument designation, and there is no provision in the Antiquities Act for reversal which would likely lead to lawsuits.

San Diego Reveals Plans for Vast Network of Urban Sensors
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced the city would be working with General Electric to upgrade streetlights to reduce energy costs by 60 percent and create a connected digital network that can optimize parking and traffic, enhance public safety and track air quality through deployment of 3,200 smart sensors. It would, city officials contend, create the largest city-sponsored “Internet of things” network in the world. These smart nodes will use real-time anonymous sensor data to direct drivers to open parking spaces, help first responders during emergencies, track carbon emissions and identify intersections that can be improved for pedestrians and bicyclists. The anonymous information will be used for San Diego’s “Vision Zero” strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries, and it will be available to developers who want to create civic-minded apps and software. The new lights will be installed this summer and the project will be completed by fall 2018.
Ruling Tentatively Preserves Bond Funding for High Speed Rail
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Raymond Cadei tentatively denied High Speed Rail opponents' attempt to block the state from spending about $1.25 billion from a $10 billion bond voters approved in 2008. Cadei allowed the project to move forward but delayed a final ruling on a legal challenge asserting the state is not keeping its promise to its voters. Cadei said that the injunction was at the wrong time and blocking the money could hurt Californians as taking away the state’s access to the bond dollars would require forfeit of billions of dollars in federal grants. The lawsuit challenges AB1889, which changed previous law to allow money from high-speed rail bonds to be spent on electrification of Caltrain. Those opposed said only voters can make that change, not Gov. Brown, and contended that the ruling gives the legislature “carte blanche” to redirect voter-approved bond funds. 

White Paper Describes Opposition to Housing, Possible Responses
UCLA professor in urban planning Paavo Monkkonen, released a white paper addressing obstacles to the production of housing in California titled, “Understanding and Challenging Opposition to Housing Construction in California’s Urban Areas.” The paper provides ways that residents and groups express opposition to new housing their own neighborhoods and makes a set of policy recommendations for the state government to address the challenge. Monkkonen argues limiting new construction make all housing less affordable, exacerbates spatial inequalities, and harms the state’s economic productivity and environment. The paper covers motivations for opposing densification and tactics used to block housing projects. Monkkonen concludes that the state should enforce and enhance existing laws, push local planning agencies to be more representative and equal, provide information for public discussions, and develop ways to make planning decisions at the metropolitan not neighborhood scale.

CARB Seeks to Warn Developers of Pollution Risks 
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) issued a guide to help cities and developers identify risks of and reduce exposure to pollution from busy urban roads. Strategies to Reduce Air Pollution Exposure near High-Volume Roadways provides planners and builders of infill developments with science-based strategies to protect public health and reduce impacts of nearby traffic. CARB Chair Mary Nichols said, “Infill developments are crucial to California’s ability to meet our air quality and climate goals…The health benefits of denser urban neighborhoods can be reduced if they are built close to congested highways.” The strategies include reducing traffic emissions, reducing concentrations of air pollution from vehicles, or removing pollution from the air.

Draft Los Angeles City Budget Released
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled his proposed 2017-2018 budget, with significant funding for expenditures related to transportation and land use. The $9.2 billion budget allocates more than $176 million towards housing and services for the homeless and $35 million to fix roads. More than $89 million of the $176 million is HHH funding and the transportation funds will come from Measure M and SB1. The proposed budget also includes $3.5 million for Community Plan Updates, $17 million for Vision Zero, $3.6 million for Great Streets, $14 million DASH Expansion, $31 million for sidewalk repair, $7.1 million for tree-trimming, and joint use arreements for park space.

Quick Hits & Updates

The Sacramento Area Council of Governments entered into a contract with Social Bicycles for a regional bike share system that will include Sacramento, West Sacramento, Davis, and UC Davis. The preview system will include 50-100 bikes in May 2017 in Sacramento (downtown and Midtown) and West Sacramento. The program will grow to 800 Smart Bicycles plus 100 Electric Bikes during expansion targeted for the fall.

The City of Los Angeles released a new interactive Vision Zero map that shows the location of recent traffic fatalities, identifying them by age, gender, and whether they were traveling by foot, bike or car. The map focuses on the High Injury Network (HIN): six percent of streets where 65 percent of deaths and injuries take place. The map includes data from 2003 to 2016. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

The CEO of the High-Speed Rail Authority, Jeff Morales, announced he will be stepping down this summer after five years. The board of directors are in the process of selecting a replacement.

Los Angeles Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee approved final project definitions for a future Eastside Gold Line extension. The project must get approval from the full board, and then can move into environmental clearance studies. The Eastside Gold Line extensions are funded by Measure M with two phases: $534 million to break ground in 2029 and open in 2035 and $2.89 billion for break ground in 2053 and open in 2057. The committee also approved four West Santa Ana Branch light rail alignments to be used for environmental studies. Measure M funds two phases of light rail on the West Santa Ana Branch, which will ultimately run from Union Station to Artesia. Metro plans to scope their EIR this spring, prepare a full EIR, and the agency expects to approve in late 2019.

Santa Clara Valley Water District is considering building a new $800 million dam and reservoir in the hills of eastern Santa Clara County near Pacheco Pass. In February the board voted to pay consultants up to $900,000 to study the idea. If the findings return favorable, the district will apply for funding under Proposition 1.

 The California Housing Consortium has launched BringCAHome.org, a website with information for Californians on infographics and statistics on the housing affordability crisis, “take action” section that connects Californians with legislators, and a toolksit of county-by-county factsheets on housing affordability and the type of workers who are being priced out.

A report released by the High Desert Corridor Joint Powers Authority on the proposed Desert Xpress high speed rail line finds that 27 percent of the more than 23 million passengers that travel between Southern California and Las Vegas would do so by high-speed rail if given the option. The project could also save money for travelers, help the environment, increase safety, and generate $1 billion in revenue. The report notes the promise of infrastructure funding from the Trump Administration and the move of the Raiders from the Bay Area to Las Vegas which can hopefully boost the project to attract new investors. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

The Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC) is accepting applications for Agricultural Conservation Easement grants and Agricultural Land Strategy and Outcome grants. SALC is the first program in the country to invest in farmland conservation for its climate benefits. Launched by the Strategic Growth Council in 2015, SALC Program dedicated $4.6 million to agricultural conservation easements and planning grants in its first year. Last year, it awarded $37.4 million to preserve 20 properties protecting 19,000 acres.

The Anaheim City Council voted to ban commercial marijuana operations, including cultivation, manufacturing and distribution for recreational or medical uses. State officials are expected to issue licenses next year, but city officials say the ordinance give the city control of the issue, rather than deferring to unknown state laws. Anaheim has also limited growing marijuana plants to in their homes and backyards, rather than front-yards. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The City of Los Angeles adopted a new ordinance that would strengthen enforcement of the Rent Stabilization Ordinance. Under the Ellis Act, landlords who tear down rent-controlled units must either replace them one-for-one with affordable units or ensure that 20 percent of new unit are affordable. The new law would also help prevent displacement of tenants by increasing regulation of both vacant and occupied rental units, requiring owners to re-start the Ellis process if withdrawn units are re-rented, tightening rules when units are demolished without necessary approvals, and requiring property owners to file annual reports.

The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, in partnership with researchers at UC Berkeley, is installing and monitoring air quality sensors in densely packed neighborhoods near the city’s port to give people who live and work there live readings of pollutants that can injure their health. The project has installed the first 25 of 100 sensors in residents’ yards, schools, senior centers, and businesses.