Judicial Council Curbs Evictions, Extends CEQA Suit Deadlines
The rule-making arm of the California court system, the Judicial Council, issued new rules designed to halt evictions and foreclosures for court cases in California for the duration of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s emergency shelter-in-place orders. The rules suspend tenants’ obligation to quickly file a response to eviction cases, state that no default judgments for eviction will be issued against tenants during shelter-in-place, and suspend all orders to appear in court for eviction cases. Tenants can expect relief until 90 days after California’s state of emergency is lifted, unless altered by the Judicial Council, which is making every effort to minimize the court’s workload. The state legislature is expected to address issues such as terms for repayment plans for missed housing payments when it reconvenes next month. The council also adopted emergency regulations giving interested parties significantly more time to challenge project approvals under the California Environmental Quality Action. Normal requirements allow litigants 30 days to file after the approving agency files a Notice of Determination. Under the new rules, developers can be challenged up to 90 days after Gov. Newsom declares that the state of emergency is lifted. The change gives potential opponents more time to file suit, and it may delay development projects if developers choose not to break ground for fear of potential suits.
Analysis Ranks Inland Empire among Most Economically Fragile Regions Nationwide
Relative to other U.S. cities, the Inland Empire housing market is highly vulnerable to the economic fallout likely to result from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis. ATTOM Data Solutions, a property data provider, determined counties’ respective levels of risk based on the percentage of housing units in foreclosure or underwater in Q4, and the percentage of local wages required to pay for major homeownership expenses. With a $387,500 median selling price and 61 percent of income required to buy, Riverside County was graded with the third-lowest stability of the 50 U.S. counties with the largest populations. San Bernadino County ranked tenth least stable among the 50 counties. Its $335,000 median pushed it to No. 16 worst for affordability with 47.8 percent of pay needed to buy. Los Angeles County was ranked No. 25, but ninth-worst in affordability at 64.1 percent, while Orange County was five places higher than LA.at number 20, but second-worst for affordability at 80.3 percent of income. The lowest risk was in Harris County, Texas, with a $252,500 median and 31.1 percent affordability. Most at risk was Florida’s Broward County with a $252,500 median and affordability at 31.1 percent. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
San Diego Considers New Method for Allocating Housing
To meet ambitious housing targets, San Diego leaders say they may take cues from Los Angeles and San Francisco for allocating housing throughout the city. The city council is considering a plan whereby, housing goals are allocated by neighborhood based on the neighborhood’s estimated capacity, proximity to mass transit, and other factors that make density more or less desirable. The hope is that measurable outcomes will bolster accountability and make it more likely that each of the city’s 52 neighborhoods will absorb its fair share of housing despite expected pushback from primarily single-family neighborhoods. Built-in accountability measures, such as twice-yearly reports from the mayor on how much housing is built in each neighborhood, are part of the proposal that has already been unanimously approved by the council’s Land Use and Housing Committee. Also driving momentum is a warm reception among key stakeholders: environmentalists, the local construction industry and the rental housing industry have all praised the proposal. Council staff are working with lawyers to craft the goals, which will return to the Land Use and Housing Committee before potentially going to the full council for approval.
Quick Hits & Updates
A concrete proposal for Las Vegas-to-Los Angeles train service by Florida-based XpressWest has advanced in recent weeks. The firm has taken steps to secure funding under state and federal bond programs. The company told the Los Angeles Times the $4.8-billion project should have full funding for a 170-mile line along Interstate 15 and start construction later this year with trains running by 2023. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
Kaiser Permanente has canceled its $900 million headquarters project in Oakland, in what would have been Oakland's biggest commercial project and would have freed up substantial office space for smaller tenants to occupy. City officials said the move was not related to disruptions due to the coronavirus.
A proposed events center in Stateline received unanimous support from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board. Petitioners say they have sufficient signatures to place the redevelopment area on the ballot.
The California Department of Housing and Community Development has determined "The Plaza at Santa Monica" project is exempt from California's recently expanded Surplus Land Act. Santa Monica and the developer entered into a verbal exclusive negotiating agreement before Sept. 30 of last year. The finding comes one month after the city council halted negotiations over concerns it may violate the new law.
A bold five-year plan to protect California's ocean ecosystem from climate change and prepare for sea-level rise was approved by the state’s Ocean Protection Council, setting the stage for sweeping coastal restoration, trash cleanup, research and rule-making involving several state agencies. The strategic plan is a blueprint for how stage agencies should collaborate to prepare for ocean warming, acidification, rising seas and plastic pollution.
For cities scrambling to manage a crisis with fewer hands on deck and shrinking budgets, the League of Cities requested urgent relief in a letter addressed to Gov. Gavin Newsom. The letter requests a pause in statutory requirements and deadline extensions for HCD grant programs, annual progress reports, CEQA compliance, and development application review, among others. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
Santa Monica-based Assemblymember Richard Bloom introduced a bill that would open up commercial zones to developments where at least 20 percent of the units are affordable. Santa Monica would join several jurisdictions across the state that already allow residential development in commercial areas, an effort that brings people closer to transit, businesses, and jobs.
The Dept. of Housing and Community Development released the Draft 2020 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice, the results of efforts last fall to gather data from Californians on the barriers they face in accessing housing. In response to outreach, stakeholder interviews, a community needs survey, and extensive data gathering and analysis, the draft explores impediments to fair housing choice and issues affecting protected classes in California.