The Department of Housing and Community Development released an updated list showing which California cities and counties are subject to the streamlined ministerial approval process under Senate Bill 35. SB 35 was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017 and is intended to help address housing affordability by expediting approvals for certain new housing projects in areas not meeting their housing needs. At this time last year, only 54 percent of jurisdictions had submitted the most recent housing element Annual Progress Report, but this year 79 percent of jurisdictions submitted the most recent 2017 APR. HCD released an interactive online map as well as various documents and data.
Bay Area Leaders Form Organization to Address Housing Crisis
A panel of mayors, developers, and transit officials named Committee to House the Bay Area (CASA) have recommended creating a new agency with taxing authority to implement regional housing solutions including a regional 15 percent rent cap, new property taxes, laws against arbitrary evictions, and looser zoning near transit centers. CASA was formed by MTC and ABAG to create a new group that focuses on housing and transit. Since the recession ended in 2010, the region has created 722,000 jobs but only build 106,000 housing units. The members drafted a 10-point compact meant to bring housing production more in line with demand. The general goals include building 35,000 homes each year including 14,000 that are affordable to low-income families and 7,000 that are affordable to moderate-income families; preserving 30,000 units of existing affordable housing; and protecting 300,000 low-income households that are on the verge of displacement. CASA’s 10-point plan will go before the MTC for approval next week and ABAG in January.
Harris Proposes Expansion of San Gabriel Mountains Nat. Monument
Sen. Kamala Harris introduced a bill that would expand the boundaries of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument to include popular hiking trails north of Pasadena and create a federally designated recreation area along the San Gabriel River. The San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act mimics two bills introduced in May 2017 by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) that were never discussed in committee. The legislation would add 109,000 acres to the 346,177-acre national monument established by President Barack Obama in 2014. The designation would protect endangered species living along the river and in the hills, while expanding outdoor recreational opportunities. The area would be run by the National Park Service.
Trump Administration Proposes Changes to "Waters of U.S." Rule
The Trump administration laid out plans to roll back the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule which protected isolated streams and wetlands from industrial pollution. Environmental groups denounced the proposal as an attempt by the administration to dodge the Clean Water Act and open up thousands of miles of streams and wetlands throughout the nation to development. The Trump administration claims the Obama rule was an attempt to regulate private property and force farmers to obtain EPA and Army Corps of Engineers permits for their stock ponds, watering holes and irrigation canals. A 60-day comment period will begin once the new Waters of the U.S. rule is printed in the Federal Register. The new rule is estimates to remove protection from as many as 60 percent of the streams in California and other states. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
Court Upholds Plumas County General Plan Update
The 3rd District Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment upholding Plumas County’s first comprehensive update of its 1984 general plan and rejecting arguments that the update violated the California Timberland Productivity Act of 1982 and that the related EIR violated CEQA. Plumas County has 65 percent of its lands designated as public lands managed by the US Forest Service and another 6 percent owned and managed by State and County agencies. The county additionally is constrained by rivers, forests, and mountainous terrain leaving very little available for development. The CEQA conclusions were that an EIR only needs to analyze a project’s reasonably foreseeable effects and not the “worst case scenario” that is not reasonably foreseeable in order to be considered legally adequate. Additionally, a County’s determination on whether a residential or other structure is a necessary and compatible use under the Timberland Act is a ministerial process governed solely by State law and not a subject under CEQA.
Bakersfield Considers Several Interim Locations for High Speed Rail Station
The High-Speed Rail Authority released a planning document that considers four different “interim” design proposals for the Bakersfield station. It describes a less expensive platform-style station at F Street and Golden State Avenue that could be in use for up to 15 years before larger station is built nearby. The final decision will come within the next year. Three of the four alternatives would involve building a passenger platform and other infrastructure that would eventually be removed once ridership grows enough to justify a permanent station. That will depend largely on whether the system is extended, as planned, into the Los Angeles area. The other alternative is to construct a more expensive development that can be added to as needed. Bakersfield City Manager Alan Tandy favors the latter. The city has released a vision plan for the station area; its build-out may depend on the nature of the station.
Quick Hits & Updates
The Los Angeles Department of City Planning has released its latest draft EIR for the Hollywood Community Plan. The proposed update facilitates higher-density development along major transit corridors such as Hollywood, Sunset, and Santa Monica Boulevard. The proposed community plan would also institute increased zoned potential for several blocks of apartments. A key goal of the plan is the attention to preservation. The Community Plan Implementation Overlay District includes additional protections for designated historic resources and requirements for pedestrian-oriented design standards in the plan area. The draft would replace a contentious plan that was adopted in 2012 but nullified via lawsuit in 2013.
The Tuolumne County final revised proposed general plan has been released, less than two weeks before the first of two public hearings Dec. 19. The plan update has been in the works since 2013 and will be before the county Board of Supervisors for final approval at the second public hearing Jan. 3. The county’s current General Plan was approved in 1996 and covers a planning window through 2020.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced that he wants to eliminate mandated parking for multi-family housing near transit in the hopes that it would spur more affordable housing development and encourage people to use alternative transportation. Although most people emphasized the regulatory proposal is unlikely to lead developers to stop providing parking altogether in the immediate future but could be a game-changer in the long haul.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Vallie Brown have introduced legislation to increase activity in storefront businesses by legislation meant to streamline bureaucracy and easing regulations. Instead of fining landlords who fail to rent retail spaces the new plan would introduce greater flexibility in zoning laws to encourage pop-up enterprises and other retail experiments. For instance allowing restaurants that open at night to operate as a co-working space during the day or temporary business setting up in buildings scheduled to be demolished.
The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit against the US Fish and Wildlife Service asking a judge to force the federal agency to make a determination on whether three salamander species living around Lake Shasta should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The trio of tiny salamanders live near Lake Shasta and could stand in the way of a $1.4 billion project to raise the height of Shasta Dam.
The West Sacramento City Council voted unanimously to approve the transfer of 43-acres of riverfront property to the state to allow the construction of a $100 million California Indian Heritage Center. This May, Gov. Jerry Brown set aside the $100 million to construct the state park dedicated to Native American history.
Assemblymember Todd Gloria is co-authoring a bill, AB11, to bring back redevelopment agencies in California as an effort to construct more affordable housing. AB11 would allow jurisdictions to create agencies that could use property-tax financing to fund affordable housing and infrastructure projects. Proponents of the new bill say it would include a number of safeguards such as anti-displacement policies, detailed record-keeping requirements, independent annual audits, and harsh financial penalties for record-keeping or audit violations.
The City of Sacramento is considering a new proposal designed to encourage more development near light rail. The city would reduce its minimum requirement for parking spaces to zero for new sites within a quarter mile of mass transit. Sites within a half-mile of a station would be reduced by 50 percent.
The City of Oakland has announced that it will sue the Raiders over an “illegal move to Las Vegas.” City Attorney Barbara Parker said the lawsuit is to recover damages resulting from the teams move, including lost revenue, money that Oakland taxpayers invested in the Raiders and other costs. The day after the announcement, the Raiders ended talks to play in Oakland for the 2019-2020 season and are expected to play in a temporary home stadium elsewhere. The new stadium in Las Vegas is expected to open in 2020.
TRC, an engineering, consulting, and construction management firm, has been awarded $100 million to cap the former LA county landfill located in Carson alongside I-405. Along with RE | Solutions, the would be redeveloped for mixed-use development. It is reportedly the largest urban development site in southern California. The California Department of Toxic Substance Control has spent $41 million on preliminary cleanup efforts since 1988. A 50 acre section will be transformed into the Los Angeles Premium Outlets with 150 stores and more than 400,000 square feet of retail space. The mall is expected to open in late 2021.