HCD Updates SB 35 Exemption List, with Only 42 Jurisdictions
The Department of Housing and Community Development released a list of 42 cities and counties that have met their Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) for affordable housing and no longer subject to the state's streamlined ministerial approval process under SB 35. Mendocino, Santa Clara, Sonoma and San Bernardino Counties are the only counties to make the list. Also included in the list are the 251 statewide cities and counties which have not met their Above Moderate Income and Lower Income RHNAs and/or have not submitted their 2021 Housing Element Annual Progress Report, and are subject to streamlined approval processes for proposed projects with at least 10% affordability. Another 246 jurisdictions have made insufficient progress towards their Lower Income RHNA and are eligible for streamlined approval process for developments with at least 50% affordability. If they also do not have sufficient progress towards their Above Moderate income RHNA, they are subject to streamlining for projects with at least 10% affordability as well.

San Francisco Supervisors Rejects Townhouse Development over Environmental Concerns
San Francisco's Board of Supervisors overturned, on a 7-4 vote, the city Planning Commission's decision a proposed redevelopment of a single-family Nob Hill home did not need an environmental review under state law following community members' objections to the development. Neighbors said the redevelopment of the property -- which would include 10 townhomes on the single plot -- will cast a shadow over a local public recreation center primarily used by low-income and older residents as their only green space. Opponents of the project also stated the redevelopment site has contaminated socials that could negatively impact the health of the surrounding community The vote returns the question of the project's environmental impact back to the city Planning Commission for further study. The vote is another in a series of rejections of redevelopments that would increase density in the housing-starved city. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

San Mateo Grand Jury Questions Cities' Inclusion of ADUs in Housing Elements
A San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury reports multiple wealthy cities in the area are resisting higher density affordable apartments by listing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in their state housing plans. The report recommended the county and cities should stop listing ADUs to meet state mandated housing of very low-, low- and moderate-income housing until confirming how those ADUs will be used and utilizing a monitoring system every two years. The Grand Jury report stressed the possibility of unregulated use, like renting the ADUs to friends and families, exacerbating patterns of segregation and housing needs not meeting those of larger families. The report claims the cities are misusing a recent change to state housing law that ADUs can count towards Regional Housing Needs. Only two cities in San Mateo County have state-approved housing elements at the time of the report.

Study Links Homelessness with Housing Shortage
A new study out of UC San Francisco confirms California's housing shortage is the core issue of its homelessness crisis, and homelessness often leads to or worsens alcohol and drug dependencies, mental health issues and violence. The study used both surveys and in-depth interviews, the first large-scale study to do so and the largest study of homelessness since the mid-1990s. The study draws a portrait of homelessness otherwise unavailable, finding nine out of ten people experiencing homelessness in the state lost their last housing within the state, and 75% of participants live in the same county as where they last had proper housing. Participants overwhelmingly experienced previous stress and trauma, with almost 72% of participants experiencing physical violence and 24% experiencing sexual violence over the course of their lives. Most people studied lost their homes due to low income and high housing costs. Those who had leases reported a median of 10 days notice that they were going to lose housing, and non-leaseholders reported a median of one day notice. The study included six policy recommendations, including access to extremely low-income housing, expanding homelessness prevention methods, behavioral needs support, increase of income through employment support, increase of outreach services and utilizing a racial equality approach in all methods from prevention to treatment.

CP&DR Legal Coverage: EIR Decertification; Wildfire Mitigation; Cannabis Retail
A deeply divided Huntington Beach city council voted 4-3 to explore decertifying a specific plan’s 2010 environmental impact report – a move that no city has ever undertaken and for which there is no process under state law. Community Development Director Ursula Luna Reynosa said she had not found a process for decertification in the CEQA guidelines and further stated that until the level of development exceeds the amount analyzed in the EIR, it is probably not “obsolete”. When UC Berkeley decided to undertake a plan to reduce wildfire risks, it got sued by two different local groups. They wanted opposite outcomes – one wanted more clearing of non-native trees and the other less – but they both challenged the university’s environmental impact report on similar grounds. A First District Court of Appeal panel has overruled an Alameda County Superior Court judge and concluded that the EIR was fine. Among other things, the appellate court said UC did not have to state precisely how many trees would be removed as part of its plan of “variable density thinning”. The City of Pomona decided that cannabis-related businesses were not materially different in their land use and environmental impacts than other similar businesses – and that’s okay with the Court of Appeal.

Quick Hits & Updates

Ridership of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART), the light rail connecting Marin and Sonoma counties, reported ridership levels 102% of May 2019 rates while Bay Area Rapid Transit reported 41% of May 2019 ridership. SMART leadership attributes their financial success with cutting fare and parking fees while creating more lines and added trains.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition released their annual study on the discrepancies between earned income and the price of housing in every state, county, metropolitan area and combined non-metropolitan areas in the US. California is ranked number one for the highest housing wage, with individuals having to earn $42.05 an hour to afford a two-bedroom rental, and someone must work 109 hours per week while earning minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom rental home.

With a looming "fiscal cliff" for Bay Area transit agencies, a group of state lawmakers proposed a $1.50 increase to tolls on seven state-owned bridges in the area, with the increased funds going directly to transit systems. The bill has already garnered opposition from commuters and lawmakers, claiming the increase would financially burden drivers.

The current mayor and four former mayors of San Jose wrote a letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred asking the league to suspend the San Francisco Giants' territorial rights to the area to create an avenue for a baseball team in San Jose. Since 1990, the San Francisco Giants' have had territorial rights to Santa Clara County and previously blocked the Oakland A's potential move to San Jose.

Following Westfield mall's announcement they will shutter their Downtown San Francisco location, Mayor London Breed proposed various new uses for the property including a soccer stadium, laboratory and office. She indicated the city will push Westfield's owner to consider new avenues for the property.

A new poll from a number of prevalent nonprofits and organizations found more than 40% of California residents are considering moving out of the state, with half of that number of residents expressing they are considering it "very seriously." Another almost half of people polled report they struggle to save money or pay for unexpected expenses. The study also found about 70% of people say they are happy living here, citing diversity, job opportunities and nice seasons.

The Oceanside City Council denied two separate appeals filed by a Covina nonprofit claiming the approved apartment building and research and development facility did not adequately address impacts on wildlife and residents, including the use of formaldehyde in building products. The two projects were both separately approved earlier this week and were recommended for approval by the city's Planning department.

An independent performance audit of San Diego City's infrastructure project approval process found the city often approves projects prematurely and without vetting and two-thirds of those projects experience some sort of delay and budget increase.

A new plan, approved unanimously by the Long Beach Planning Commission and awaiting approval by state officials, would add more pedestrian access, bike ramps, parking, bike parking and dock access to the popular shopping and tourist destination Shoreline Village. Construction would begin November 2024 and end two years before the 2028 Olympics, with the hopes the area will be a visitor destination.