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CP&DR News Briefs July 16, 2019: Housing Goals; Desert Hot Springs Lawsuit; Pt. Loma Transit Hub; and More

Brett Simpson on
Jul 14, 2019
State Reviews Cities’ Progress on Housing
A record-high 86 percent of cities have submitted their housing development progress updates, but almost all are falling short of their goals, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development. All cities are required to submit annual housing development progress updates – but just a few years ago, less than 50 percent of cities met this requirement. Following the passage of SB 35 in 2017, cities that fail to submit the update are automatically required to streamline new housing developments. Still, the numbers reported fall far behind targets: only three percent of California jurisdictions are on track to reach their targets on all income levels, and only five percent are on track to reach their low-income housing goals. In February, Governor Gavin Newsom met with noncompliant cities to help them create plans for compliance. In response, six cities have regained compliance – most recently, Fillmore gained state approval for its housing element.

Legal Settlement Scuttles Housing Development in Desert Hot Springs
A proposed housing development has stalled in Desert Hot Springs, after the city reached a settlement with two environmental groups and agreed to further environmental review before moving forward. The proposed Mission Creeks Trails development would have added over 2,000 homes, commercial development, and walking trails near the base of the 154,000-acre Sand to Snow National Monument. However, according to the lawsuit from the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, the plans fail to accommodate the sensitive wildlife habitats in the area for species including the burrowing owl and the Palm Springs pocket mouse. Desert Hot Springs is facing statewide pressure to meet its housing goals – it was among the noncompliant cities that Governor Gavin Newsom met with in February to discuss future affordable housing development. The city’s updated housing element will be complete in the fall.

Navy Considers Transit Hub at Point Loma 
The Navy expressed interest developing a “San Diego Grand Central Station,” at its Naval Base Point Loma Old Town Complex. Recently, the Department of the Navy, Commander Navy Region Southwest and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) announced a “memorandum of understanding,” acknowledging a mutual interest in developing a transit hub at the 70-acre SPAWAR site that will provide direct transit to the airport. That means that the military branch can ask the private sector to include a transit center in its redevelopment solicitation, and allows the agencies to share data as they work through the environmental review process. This is the first major agreement reached as part of SANDAG’s massive transportation overhaul vision – which focuses on new rail lines rather than road fixes. Additionally, this would qualify for funding under the San Diego Regional Airport Authority’s recent 10-year funding pledge to raise over $350 million. “This is the beginning of what I expect to be a long partnership with the Navy,” said Steve Vaus, who chairs the SANDAG board and is the mayor of Poway. “The MOU creates the opportunity for SANDAG and the Navy to do something very special in the region, clearing a path for us to work on a major transportation hub and providing a transit link to the airport.”

California Housing Costs Rise Faster than Rest of Nation
The increase in housing costs in California metro areas outpace that of other regions, according to the 2019 State of National Housing Report. The report, published by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, uses U.S. Census Bureau data to analyze trends in housing price burdens across the nation. The report finds that California leads the country in high housing cost burden: of the twenty regions nationwide with over 40 percent of households classified as “cost-burdened,” seventeen are in California. Furthermore, Los Angeles county residents have the highest proportion of “cost-burdened” households, at 46 percent. Notably, the report also finds that all ten regions where less than 25 percent of its recently sold homes are classified “affordable” to the median home buyer are in California. Finally, Bay Area regions show by far the greatest change in land prices over the 2012-2017 period. Many Bay Area cities surpass a 100 percent increase in land price – and San Benito hit the national high at a whopping 200 percent price increase. Only a handful of cities in Washington, Oregon, and Florida came close to the sharp increase in land price changes endemic to many California cities.

Quick Hits & Updates
The California Department of Housing and Community Development announced the release of a Notice of Funding Availability for $178 million in funds for the Multifamily Housing Program. This funding provides loans to individuals, public agencies, or private entities. Applications are due August 20. 

The Funders' Network, in partnership with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, has announced the opening of Round 15 of the Partners for Places grant program. Partners for Places is accepting proposals for the creation of a community-focused sustainability, climate action, and sustainability. The application deadline for Round 15 is July 30.

The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority entered into a 10-year agreement with airline partners to improve transportation access to the airport, including a potential trolley route. The pact includes a half-billion dollar investment to fund infrastructure projects between the city and the airport, including access roads, increased transit connections, and rapid bus and trolley lines. The Airport Authority is working with the city and transportation agencies to draft potential connections, but will not receive any additional funding from agencies.

Marking the end of a historic local industry, San Fernando Valley’s last commercial orange grove is for sale – likely to be replaced by new upscale single-family housing. The property, once surrounded by similar orchards, has since become surrounded by housing. Marketing materials for the $13.9 million sale include a site plan to split 14 acres into 26 half-acre lots for development into single-family homes.

The City of Los Angeles’s ban of short-term vacation rentals from services like Airbnb officially went into effect. The home-sharing ordinance, passed in December, bars any short-term rentals of properties other than someone’s permanent residence – or where a person lives at least six months out of the year. This ordinance combats a growing trend in an already-stifled housing market of non-residents transforming units and buildings into hotel-like businesses. The ordinance also bans short-term rentals in rent-controlled units, nonresidential buildings or temporary/mobile units. Home-sharing in permanent residences will be monitored and regulated with a home-sharing registration codes required for listings.

San Francisco teacher housing may get the same approval streamlining as affordable projects, following a measure proposed by four supervisors. The measure, which follows a similar proposal by Mayor London Breed earlier this year, would allow 100% affordable and educator housing on more than 3,000 publicly owned sites, and would streamline their approval. The San Francisco Unified School Distrcit is seeking developers for teacher housing sites citywide.

In small but significant step forward for the massive and ambitious second BART Transbay Railway project, the BART Board of Directors approved a $50 million contract for up to 10 years of consulting planning services. The consultants, HNTB Corporation of Oakland, will help BART understand how to move forward with a complex mega-project that spans 21 Bay Area cities. The project addresses the growing need for a second bay-crossing line, and will examine both underwater and aboveground rail options. BART has $110 million toward planning the crossing from its 2016 Measure RR bond, as well as $50 million from a Measure 3 funds and $1 million from the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority.

Following community backlash for approving the demolition of over 100 rent-controlled apartments this year, the Mountain View City Council adopted stricter affordable housing requirements. In a unanimous decision, the council amended the city’s below-market-rate ordinance. The new measure requires for-sale townhouse projects to have15 percent of the units available to residents earning between 80 to 120 percent of the area’s median income, which is about $120,000, and 10 percent of units available to residents earning between 120 and 150 percent of the area’s median income. The council hope that this ordinance will allow more residents, particularly families, to feasibly buy homes.

The Sacramento-Yolo Port Commission approved the $5 million sale of a 21-acre site for a new light industrial manufacturing development. The developer, the Trammel Crow Co, plans to build a 237,600 square foot manufacturing building as well as a 108,000 expansion building. The site, which will begin its first phase of constriction this year, is expected to create at least 300 new jobs.

Two California cities claimed 2019 All American City Awards from the National Civic League. Every year, the League recognizes ten communities that created healthy communities through inclusive civic engagement. This year, Rancho Cordova was recognized for a program that promotes urban farming and nutrition, its mentorship program for at-risk youth, and its housing community for homeless veterans. West Hollywood was recognized for its advocacy for the marginalized: including an advisory board for Russian speakers, its celebration of the LGBTQ community, and the housing, healthcare, and services provided to its homeless population.

The Bay Area Water Emergency Transit Agency unanimously approved a hovercraft ferry feasibility study. The above-water floating ferry service, which transit agencies considered a long shot just last year, may potentially serve towns in the Carquinez Straits, the South Bay, San Francisco, and Treasure Island. The feasibility study will examine operating costs for the service, compared to traditional ferry costs. It will also consider environmental costs, with input from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to assess the impact on the bay.

Revitalization of Sunset Strip in West Hollywood should target more pedestrian accessibility, according to findings from a recent survey commissioned by the City of West Hollywood and Gehl Studio. The study, titled “The Sunset Experience, Piloting Change on the Sunset Strip Toward Public Life Improvement,” found that few people walk on the 1.6-mile Strip: traffic estimates show 88 pedestrians per hour, and 2,144 vehicles per hour in the area. It also found that the sidewalks don’t support people waiting for restaurants, and few people sit outside. Finally, the study showed broad public support for a parklet installation, as well as for more activities available beyond bars and restaurants.