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CP&DR News Briefs January 15, 2018: New Housing Bill, Sacramento Gas Station Suit, 'Best Performing Cities,' and More

Noemi Wyss on
Jan 15, 2018
Following up on last year’s bumper crop of housing legislation, Sen. Scott Wiener has proposed Senate Bill 827, which would eliminate restrictions on the number of houses allowed to be built within a half-mile of train, light-rail, major bus routes, and other transit stations, and block cities from imposing parking requirements. This measure would dramatically increase new housing near transit stations across the state and effectively rewrite many local zoning ordinances. Those opposed to the measure say better ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be eliminating gasoline-powered cars and eventually gas stations. The principal supporter of SB 827 is California YIMBY, a pro-housing organization. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Judge Rules Against Sacramento in Gas Station Suit
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled that the City of Sacramento acted improperly two years ago when council members voted to deny developer Paul Petrovich’s application to build a gas station in his Crocker Village development. Kenny wrote that Councilman Jay Schenirer, who represents the project area, demonstrated an “unacceptable probability of actually bias” and failed to act in an open-minded manner. The judge ordered the city to “rescind” its permit denial and to hold a new hearing on the matter and directing Schenirer to recuse himself from the new hearing. Petrovich sued the city in early 2016 after the City Council denied his permit, 7-2. Petrovich claims Schenirer worked illegally with the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Associated to deny the hearing. Schenirer is part of the neighborhood group, but also sent a series of emails and texts showing him helping to prepare a case against the gas station. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Four California Metros Place among Milken Inst’s Best-Performing Cities
The Milken Institute released a report on “Best-Performing Cities: Where America’s Jobs Are Created and Sustained” ranking the country’s top 25 large cities. In California, San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco took the 4th place, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara dropped from 1st place to 11th, Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley 16th, and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario moved from 44th to 20th position. Biggest gains among California cities from 2016 to 2017 were Visalia-Porterville from 98th to 54th, Modesto from 73rd to 33rd, and Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura from 112th to 81st. The largest drop came from Bakersfield which relies heavily on natural resources, in 2012 and 2013 the city made top 25 but is now ranked 161st. Another California region that fell significantly is Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, which fell from 19th to 47th last year.

Costa-Hawkins Repeal Fails in Assembly Committee
Four members of the state Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee declined to support a proposed bill that would have repealed the Costa-Hawkings, which prohibits cities and counties from implementing most new rent control policies. Committee members said they were concerned that a large growth in rent control could slow already lagging housing production in the state. There were two hours of public testimony on the bill. Those in favor of the proposed legislation say, “At a minimum, we’re entitled to stability. That’s a human right.” Currently, 15 cities across the state have some form of rent control. Those in favor of rent control are collecting signatures for a possible November 2018 ballot measure that would repeal the law. (See prior CP&DR coverage of rent control.)
New Fire Safety Rules and Map Forthcoming
The California Public Utilities Commission adopted new fire safety rules in December but will extend the deadline until July for completing its fire hazards map.The map will show which parts of California face an elevated or extreme risk of wildfires.A commission spokeswoman says they are just weeks away from completing the development and adoption of the high fire threat map. The higher the risk in a particular area, the tougher the rules that will apply to electrical utilities operating there such as how often utilities must inspect their equipment, how far tree branches must be kept from electrical lines, and how companies prioritize safety-related repairs.

UC Berkeley Studies Impacts of ADUs
The Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley has released a preliminary study of statewide and local policies to promote development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). “Early Lessons and Impacts of California’s State and Local Policy Changes” shows significant increases in ADU applications: Los Angeles increased from 90 applications in 2015 to 1,980 in 2017 and San Francisco from 41 to 593 in the same time period. While these application numbers are encouraging, there are still a number of barriers when considering building an ADUs such as development fees, school fees, and code requirements.

Federal Proposal May Open California Waters to Drilling
President Trump’s proposal to open up coastal California to new oil and gas drilling, while unsettling to many environmentalists, may not amount to much. Ralph Faust, a former general counsel for the California Coastal Commission, said the high price of oil offers little incentive to the energy industry to pursue expensive drilling projects. The Interior Department released plans to offer 47 leases off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to new oil and gas exploration and drilling through a five-year leasing program that would begin in 2019. The Trump plan must go through a public comment period and an extensive environmental review. The state coastal commission also has the authority to review activities in federal waters.