In a bold move to meet the state’s housing and carbon reduction goals, the San Diego City Council approved an ordinance to eliminate parking requirements for new condominium and apartment complexes in neighborhoods near mass transit. The new policy will require developers to “unbundle” the cost of a parking spot from housing, allowing residents without cars to pay less. Further, it sets a maximum of one parking space per unit for new projects downtown. Current city parking requirements – at least one spot per unit – take up valuable space in development plans and impede the construction of more housing units. Furthermore, they increase the costs of building: parking typically elevates a unit’s costs from $35,000 to $90,000. Councilwoman Dr. Jennifer Campbell, the sole “no” vote, argues that the policy is premature for the 95 percent of county residents who own cars because it does not directly provide more housing or accessible mass transit. However, Mayor Kevin Faulconer advocated for the change, according to reporting from the San Diego Union-Tribune: “We need to get government out of the way so constructing homes becomes easier, less expensive and faster.” The ordinance must be approved a second time in the coming weeks.
San Bernardino County to Limit Solar and Wind Farms
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors banned the construction of large solar and wind farms on more than one million acres of private land – a move that many see in direct opposition to the state’s aggressive renewable energy requirements. Last year, state lawmakers passed a bill requiring utility companies to get 60 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030, and 100 percent from climate-friendly sources by 2045. However, large solar and wind farms remain unpopular at the local level. In San Bernardino County, residents have long pressured county officials to prevent renewable energy projects from industrializing their rural communities. In communities like Daggett, Joshua Tree, and Lucerne Valley, residents claim that existing solar projects destroy desert ecosystems, fuel larger dust storms, and create eyesores on scenic desert landscapes. The county's policy prohibits utility-oriented energy projects within the boundaries of unincorporated community plans, and in rural living zones. The county designated several smaller areas where renewable energy projects could be approved, and already-approved solar projects would still be allowed to proceed through the permitting process. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
Report: Significant Gap between Housing Goals and Development Capacity
Weeks after Governor Gavin Newsom announced plans to construct 3.5 million homes by 2025, the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies published a report showing that the state lacks the planned capacity to meet the governor’s target. the Lewis Center's assessment of planned capacity in jurisdictional Housing Element General Plans reveals a wide gap between this goal and construction projections. The report finds that California’s current planned capacity is only 2.8 million new housing units. Furthermore, current planned capacity skews toward low-population rural regions, where demand for housing trends lower. That means that the most in-demand regions are failing to plan for sufficient housing. Finally, the report finds that historically, only a small fraction of planned capacity actually gets constructed. In other words, even planned low-demand units are likely to remain unbuilt. In his February State of the State address, Newsom announced a $750 million incentive package so cities and counties could update housing plans for more zoning – and doubled down on his goal to increase housing in the state sevenfold. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
Conflict Arises over Proposed Mini-City near Sacramento International Airport
Sacramento County approved plans for a massive new housing community in North Natomas near the Sacramento International Airport. The proposed community could potentially house 25,000 residents, and early concepts envision an urban center with five-story buildings and commercial and retail space. However, the site is outside of the county’s existing urban development boundary, and county officials would have to amend the county’s growth plan by extending the boundary west toward the river. Environmentalists object to this extension, saying that it undermines exists habitat conservation agreements and compromises an already flood-prone area. Furthermore, area residents expressed concerns about the project’s impact on noise and traffic from local interstates and highways. As part of the planning process, the county board also agreed that the development group will pay the county $2 million to compensate staff for the planning process – which some residents consider a conflict of interest. Development spokesperson Bob Thomas told the Sacramento Bee that he understands the many hurdles to overcome before receiving a formal approval to build. “This is the first step in a marathon,” he said.
SANDAG Releases Details of Revised Spending Plan
Shortly after announcing plans to scrap all existing transportation plans, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) presented a detailed assessment of the reasons the TransNet sales tax has fallen so far short of expected revenue. Voters passed TransNet in 2004 to fund local transportation projects, but it has fallen $9.8 billion short of expectations. In its assessment, SANDAG cited the increasing trend toward internet sales, which have not been subject to the same taxation as storefronts. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that internet purchases are subject to state and local taxes – which will increase future tax revenue. Officials also cite changes in expected population. Initial regional projections estimated 4.4 million residents by mid-century, and current estimates are a more modest 4 million. SANDAG also blames housing: residents spend more of their income on fixed costs like rent and mortgages, and high housing turnover means that they invest less in goods for their homes. Finally, they cite purchasing trends: people buy fewer consumer goods, opting more for services, events, and travel. For many, this assessment is a welcome moment of transparency from SANDAG. In 2017, SANDAG head Gary Gallegos resigned after concealing an internal debate about future money collected from sales tax.
Quick Hits & Updates
Facebook and the private investment firm Plenary Group are teaming up with a public transit agency to plan a southern connection to connect the East Bay and the Peninsula. Early plans for the bold project, which is estimated to cost around $2 billion, explore the possibility of using the defunct freight corridor of the Dumbarton bridge to connect the Union City BART station and Redwood City Caltrain station.
Inglewood City Council adopted an emergency ordinance to temporarily limit rent increases and halt evictions. The measure, which will prevent landlords from raising rent by more than five percent and evicting tenants for any reason other than criminal activity during a 45-day period, is a stop-gap as the city searches for a permanent solution to rapidly rising rents during the construction of a $2.6 billion football stadium and entertainment complex.
Several nonprofit homeless advocacy groups sued five Orange County cities and the county for failing to house the homeless. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of three homeless individuals, is the latest in a series of legal battles between advocacy groups and local officials. But officials face pressure from residents: Last year, demonstrations in Irvine prevented the Orange County Board of Supervisors from opening a temporary shelter, and residents of Huntington Beach and Laguna Niel have mounted similar oppositions.
The Glendale City Council approved a right-to-lease ordinance that requires landlords to offer existing tenants an additional one-year lease on their apartments rather than a month-to-month agreement. It also requires landlords to pay for relocation costs if they plan to raise the rent by more than 7 percent. This ordinance attempts to mitigate the effects of rent increases for the two-thirds of households in Glendale that are rent-based. However, it disappoints those who hoped for rent control in the region.
Architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group released a revised version of the Oakland Athletics’ proposed stadium at the Howard Terminal site, three weeks after releasing its initial plans for a public-facing, mixed-use “ballpark district” centered around a stadium. The updated plan reconfigures the stadium’s surrounding towers into a more open, “stadium seating” arrangement. The team, which is still purchasing the site from Alameda County, aims to begin construction in 2021 and open the park by 2024.
Tia Boatman-Patterson, of Sacramento, has been appointed Senior Advisor on Housing in the Office of Governor Newsom. She will continue to serve as Executive Director of the California Housing Finance Agency, where she has served since 2014.
The City of San Diego launched a new online feedback tool to solicit residents’ suggestions for future housing and commercial projects. The tool comes in response to a city audit finding that San Diego’s 42 neighborhood planning groups lack transparency and fail to attract a cross-section of residents. The tool will first launch in Clairmont.
The Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program utilizes Cap-and-Trade proceeds to protect agricultural lands on the outskirts of cities from development. SALC easement applicants interested in submitting an application are required to submit a pre-proposal by April 17. The final application deadline for all both easement and planning grant applicants is September 13.
The San Francisco Transportation Authority board approved a $500,000 study of the effects of congestion pricing downtown. The study will gather data on who drives downtown during rush hour and why. With this move, San Francisco is joining major cities like L.A. and New York in a growing interest in charging drivers in high-traffic areas during rush hour.
San Bernardino International Airport and Hillwood Enterprises commenced plans to develop a $200 million air cargo logistics center on a 101-acre lot. The Eastgate Air Cargo Logistics Center will house up to 16 aircraft, and is expected to provide nearly 4,000 jobs and generate millions of dollars in revenue within five years.
The city of San Diego and scooter company Bird are facing a lawsuit from a disabled man who suffered injuries after a scooter collision on the Pacific Beach boardwalk. The man, who uses an electric wheelchair, blames Bird for not limiting the speed of its scooters with tools like geofencing and speedometers, and blames the city for not regulating scooter speed with requirements for such tools.