The City and County of San Francisco and the State Lands Commission reached a settlement in a dispute over Proposition B, which voters approved four years ago to give residents a say in waterfront development. The settlement enables the measure’s checks on high-rise buildings to stand but city officials had to guarantee that future projects would benefit not only San Francisco but all state residents. The lawsuit claimed San Francisco’s bayfront should be regulated with broader interests, by the largely independent San Francisco Port Commission, and by not the city and its voters. According to City Attorney Dennis Herrera “this agreement protects the will of San Francisco voters. It ends this lawsuit while ensuring that voters continue to have their voices heard when it comes to the use, access and enjoyment of San Francisco’s waterfront.”

Local Approvals Processes, not CEQA, Hinder Housing Production
A new report from UC Berkeley and Columbia University absolves the California Environmental Quality Act from blame for the state’s housing shortage. Rather local governments' regulations and approvals schemes are more likely to slow down housing projects. The study examined San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Redwood City, and Palo Alto and found all except Palo Alto require a project-by-project review of any proposal with two or more homes, no matter if the development is planned on land zoned for the proposed amount of housing. The report also found that about 20 percent of the 27,612 homes proposed between 2014 and 2016 in these five cities had to undergo a full environmental analysis under CEQA, a process that can easily take a year. The main policy recommendation from the report is the importance of improving access to good data such as GIS or zoning data with assessor parcel information and building permit systems.

Sea Level Rise Imperils Salt Marshes
According to a new study by a team of scientists led by the US Geological Survey, salt marshes in California and Oregon could disappear entirely by 2110. These projections are based on current estimations of sea level rise on the west coast. Coastal marshes naturally adapt to sea level rise by migrating inland, but California has built the Pacific Coast Highway and developed up to the edges of basically every marsh throughout the state. Having these buffers of vegetation between the land and sea would protect against significant flooding. One option involves adding thin layers of sediment to a salt marsh plain to increase its elevation but this would be expensive and must be repeated to keep pace with sea level rise. The other option would be for officials to strategically acquire property along the coast and keep it open for marshes to migrate inland.

2018 Urban Greening Grant Applications Welcomed
The California Natural Resources Agency has opened the solicitation period for the Urban Greening Grant Program. The guidelines released assist in preparing an application for funding. Online applications are due April 11, 2018 and eight workshops have been put together to provide help and guidance in preparing applications. Sacramento, Lynwood, and Indio had workshops earlier this month while Oakland is Tuesday February 27, Visalia March 2, Redding March 5, San Diego March 8, and Ontario March 12.

Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Drop Compared to GDP
The California Energy Commission (CEC) reports that greenhouse gas emissions continue to drop in California even as the state grows its economy and population. The state’s carbon pollution per million dollars of California GDP has declined 33 percent since 2001, while GDP has grown 37 percent between 2001 and 2015. In CEC latest tracking progress report on greenhouse gases, it found the transportation sector directly accounts for 38 percent of GHG emissions in California. The report suggests once the state’s transportation system shifts from gasoline to zero- and low-emission vehicles there will be a larger reduction in emissions. Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed an executive order that sets a new target of 5 million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2030.

Inland Empire Cities Due over Light Rail Construction
The cities of San Dimas and Pomona filed lawsuits against the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority in October and still have not settled despite continuing dialogue and concessions made by the authority. The separate lawsuits are saying last-minute changes to the alignment, bridges, and plans to acquire properties will cause permanent damage to their cities and are a violation of state environmental laws. The two cases were assigned to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos.

S.F. Muni Could be Split into Two Agencies
San Francisco Supervisors Ahsha Safai and Aaron Peskin introduced a charter amendment in December to split up the Municipal Transportation Agency into one that manages streets and parking and another that manages Muni buses and trains. Opposition came from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and other transit-related groups, saying the split could harm critical transportation projects in the city. Now, Safai is proposing a new “appeal process” that would allow residents who disagree with SFMTA board decisions to ask the Board of Supervisors to have the final say. The amendment to split SFMTA has been moved from the June ballot to the November ballot as a contingency plan should the appeal process not work out.

San Diego Studies Proposed Housing Bond Ballot Measure
San Diego City Council committee voted 4-1, to have city staff further evaluate a proposed $900 million bond measure to build low-income housing. The proposal would raise taxes on property owners in the city to an average of $72 per year to pay for roughly 7,500 subsidized apartments for the chronically homeless, veterans, senior citizens, the disabled, and low-income families. Supporters of the measure say it would simultaneously solve the city’s homelessness problem and affordable housing crisis. Having such local money would make the state eligible to secure a greater share of state money devoted to homelessness and affordable housing by providing local matching funds. The full council will decide this summer whether to place it on the November ballot.

Quick Hits & Updates
Environmental groups sued the City of Moreno Valley after the city approved the World Logistics Center in 2015, alleging the environmental review process was inadequate. A judge ruled that the EIR is inadequate, meaning the warehouse developer may need to perform additional studies before construction can begin. Residents are concerned about the health effects from exhaust as the project is estimated to generate 69,000 car and truck trips each day. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

A San Francisco Mission District housing development has been delayed over the question of whether the 1924 building, which now houses a laundromat, is of historic value. Supervisor Hillary Ronen, with unanimous approval, decided to explore whether the property was a “historic resource” and delayed the project until the next hearing on June 19.

The San Jose City Council unanimously approved, 11-0, a pricing agreement to sell some government-owned properties to Google that would be key pieces in the proposed transit-oriented community in downtown San Jose. The village will be near the Diridon transit station and SAP entertainment complex. Google is purchasing the nine parcels for $67 million, which the city originally purchased for $26 million. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

RentCafe has found a significant increase in the number of renters nationwide between 2006 and 2016. In 2006, the cities with the largest share of renters were on the east coast, but now significantly more California cities have made the list. Stockton and San Bernardino have 54 percent renters, Anaheim 58 percent, Santa Ana 57 percent, Fresno 52 percent, and Sacramento 50 percent.

San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott says the city can allow dockless bike share services to begin operating as long as the city’s involvement doesn't go beyond issuing approvals in its regulatory capacity. LimeBike and Ofo will begin dockless bike sharing networks, which environmentalists say could sharply increase use of bikes for commuting. LimeBike also plans to roll out its electric assist bikes and scooters in the city.

Fresno's FAX Q bus rapid transit began operations last week. There are currently 17 40-foot-long buses that will travel along high-speed routes on Blackstone Avenue to downtown and from Ventura Avenue and Kings Canyon Road to Clovis Avenue.

The State Controller’s Office released updated guidelines regarding gas tax expenditures for cities and counties. The update includes a section on what types of expenditures are allowed for the new Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account created in SB1. The California Transportation Commission has indicated May 1 as the deadline to submit FY2018-2018 project lists.

San Diego State University says it will not be able to meet growing demand for enrollment or evolve into a top 50 public research school unless it opens a satellite campus on the site of SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm) in Mission Valley. This contradicts FS Investors claim that SDSU has ample room to grow on main campus and only wants the SDCCU property as the site of a stadium. FS Investors is behind the soccer stadium proposal. Both proposals will appear on the ballot in November for San Diego voters to decide.

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed Laurie Berman to serve as the new Director of Caltrans. Berman has served as Caltrans Acting Chief Deputy Director since October 2017 and has a 34-year history with the agency. Her appointment ensures that Caltrans will move forward seamlessly with its transportation priorities, particularly SB1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act.

Orange County staffers are trying to find motel operators that would accept homeless guests for 30 days as hundreds of people are being moved from a tent city along the Santa Ana river. The county has placed 400 people since mid-February but there are at least 100 to 200 more people who need to be housed and are having difficulty finding motels willing to accept the residents.

City of Fullerton City Council approved, 3-2, a plan to build the land around the historic Fox Theater. While the exact developments for the surrounding site are unknown, the city will sell two of the city-owned parking lots for development. City staff is now in the early stages of preparing contracts for the project with Pelican Communities. The full project is expected to take three to five years to complete.

Santa Rosa City Council approved, 6-1, the Round Barn Boulevard plan which was proposed before the fire in October will transform a long-abandoned business space into 237 town homes clustered around a 21-acre green space. The council initially considered the development in December, but failed to come to an agreement on whether it was safe to build in the area.

Two new towers are proposed for downtown San Jose that would add 653 residential units and groundfloor retail. The project dubbed Davidson Plaza Towers would be located near Diridon transit station and the proposed Google transit-oriented community of offices and other facilities. 

LA Metro Board of Directors voted unanimously, 13-0, to keep Claremont’s Metrolink stop in service. The Metrolink station will be moved across College Avenue in 2021 to make room for the new Gold Line station, which will extend light rail service to Claremont. Last fall, because of a $300 million budget shortfall Metro investigated the impact of eliminating Metrolink stations along the extension route.