AIDS Healthcare Seeks to Purchase, Operate Homeless Housing in Los Angeles
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) aims to purchase properties on Los Angeles' Skid Row, primarily old single-room occupancy hotels, owned by the financially troubled Skid Row Housing Trust, which is currently in receivership. Despite being the leading bidder with a proposed $53 million offer for the initial twelve buildings, state officials have raised objections regarding the foundation's track record as a landlord, citing issues highlighted in previous investigations. The foundation, which ventured into homeless housing management in 2017, has faced criticism for inadequate building maintenance and tenant safety issues, as detailed in investigative reports. A March 20 letter from the Department of Housing and Community Development claims AHF “would not be a suitable owner and operator considering widely known and well documented shortcomings in the Foundation’s ability to provide safe and well-maintained buildings." Concerns also revolve around the foundation's ability to provide supportive services, as it does not offer such services in most of its current buildings. Despite these reservations, final decisions on the sale of the properties rest with the court overseeing the receivership. AHF has sponsored several failed ballot measures related to housing, including a statewide rent control measure and a slow-growth measure in Los Angeles. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

S.F. Supervisors Overturn Mayor's Veto of Slow-Growth Ordinances
San Francisco's Board of Supervisors overturned Mayor London Breed's veto of legislation imposing housing development restrictions in three historic neighborhoods, the first successful override of Breed's veto by the Board. The legislation, spearheaded by Board President Aaron Peskin, marks a point of contention in his anticipated mayoral run against Breed, highlighting their differing approaches to addressing the housing crisis. The law aims to limit the height and scale of developments in areas such as the northeast waterfront and Jackson Square, a response to proposed projects exploiting recent development rule changes. Peskin argues that the legislation ensures responsible planning and protects the historical integrity of these districts, refuting claims that it hampers housing development. However, Breed views the veto override as a setback in the city's efforts to address its housing shortage, emphasizing the need to prioritize housing initiatives. The legislation's implications on San Francisco's ability to meet its state-mandated housing goals and its impact on future housing development remain key concerns amidst escalating tensions over housing policy, expected to intensify with the upcoming mayoral race.

Major Property Insurer to Cut Back on California Policies
State Farm intends to terminate roughly 30,000 property insurance policies and 42,000 commercial apartment policies in California, citing the imperative for "long-term viability." This move follows the cessation of issuing new homeowners policies last year and subsequent rate hikes averaging 20% for existing clients. The non-renewals, encompassing approximately 2% of all California policies, encompass various types of property insurance, including homeowners and rental coverage. Affected customers will receive notifications starting July 3 for property insurance and August 20 for commercial apartment insurance. While State Farm refrained from announcing non-renewals in other states, the decision reflects financial hurdles attributed to inflation, exposure to catastrophes and reinsurance expenses. State Farm expressed its commitment to collaborating with California's Department of Insurance and Governor Gavin Newsom on reforms aimed at insurance regulation. The Department of Insurance voiced apprehension regarding State Farm's financial position and underscored its dedication to safeguarding consumers and ensuring oversight.

Research Questions Efficacy of CalEnviroScreen
New research indicates that California's environmental screening tool, CalEnviroScreen, may be flawed and subjective, potentially causing communities to miss out on billions in funding. The study, led by researchers from Stanford University, highlights concerns about the tool's reliance on a limited set of health indicators, which could bias community designations. It suggests that altering the screening model could significantly impact rankings, affecting funding distribution. CalEnviroScreen, used to identify "disadvantaged" communities eligible for funding, is under review, with recommendations from the study being considered. Proposed solutions include using multiple models and establishing external advisory committees to address concerns about equity and funding allocation.

Key Light Rail Link Approved in San Jose
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) board unanimously approved a $437 million construction contract for the Eastridge to BART Regional Connector project, which will extend light rail services by 2.4 miles from East San Jose to Milpitas BART Station, addressing a critical infrastructure need in the largely Latino community. The connector will like the Eastridge Transit Center with the Alum Rock Transit Center, which connects to the Milpitas BART station. Despite coming in over budget, the joint bid from MCM Construction Inc. and RailWorks Corporation was approved, with funding drawn from VTA reserves, marking a historic investment in transportation equity for East San Jose. With construction set to begin in April and completion expected by 2028, local leaders and advocates welcome the long-awaited project as a transformative opportunity for the underserved area. The connector has been discussed since the early 2000s.

CP&DR Coverage: Court Permits Referendum on Livermore Development to Proceed
Opponents of an affordable housing project in downtown Livermore have won the latest legal skirmish, with an appellate court ruling that the city must allow a referendum on the project to move forward. City officials had argued that their approvals of the project were quasi-judicial in nature and therefore not subject to the initiative and referendum process. But the First District Court of Appeal ruled that one aspect of the project approval was legislative and therefore the referendum must move forward. In a 31-page ruling that discussed various precedents at length, the three-judge panel concluded that while much of the development agreement might have been characterized as quasi-judicial, that portion of the agreement dealing with the park was legislative.

Quick Hits & Updates

The Newport Beach City Council voted to withdraw from the League of California Cities due to the organization's support for Proposition 1, which city officials fear could lead to an increase in group homes in the area. Concerns were raised about the potential impact of Prop 1 on the city's quality of life, particularly regarding the proliferation of poorly run group homes and the welfare of both residents and individuals receiving care.

San Francisco's population has seen a slight increase to an estimated 808,988 residents as of July 2023, indicating a reversal of the pandemic-related exodus. Despite this growth, the city still remains below its pre-pandemic population levels, experiencing a decline of nearly 65,000 people or 7.4% compared to April 2020.

UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation's study of housing and climate policy found that addressing climate change and housing policy necessitates a comprehensive strategy involving land use transformation, housing retrofitting and government capacity enhancement to respond to climate disasters. Recent progress in state planning reforms and significant climate legislation offers momentum toward promoting equitable and sustainable housing policies.

San Francisco officials are introducing legislation to bring 1,000 new homes, public amenities and parks to Treasure Island, marking it as the single largest source of new housing in the city. This project, part of San Francisco's efforts to meet its state-mandated housing goals, is seen as crucial for the city's economic recovery and will contribute to the ongoing redevelopment of Treasure Island into a new neighborhood. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The City of Los Angeles is launching an initiative to support Legacy Businesses, defined as small businesses operational for at least 20 years, by offering benefits such as technical assistance and grants of up to $20,000. The program aims to preserve the cultural and historical significance of these businesses, with applications opening in fall 2024 and technical assistance beginning in January 2025, alongside four Zoom information sessions in March to guide interested businesses.

Gov. Newsom plans to accelerate construction of a $2-billion mixed-use development project called Fourth & Central in downtown Los Angeles by expediting the judicial process for any potential litigation under state environmental laws. The project, spearheaded by Denver-based developers Continuum Partners, aims to revitalize Skid Row with 1,500 new homes, office space, retail, restaurants and a hotel, while also creating thousands of construction jobs, although concerns remain regarding potential gentrification and displacement in surrounding communities.

The approval of $205 million in construction funding for the Sites Reservoir project in Colusa County, California marks a significant step toward creating the largest new reservoir in the state in the past 50 years. Planned to store water diverted from the Sacramento River, the project aims to address water storage needs for agriculture and urban areas, though it faces opposition from environmental groups concerned about its impact on ecosystems.

The state is poised to certify Beverly Hills' Housing Element, marking the end of a three-year struggle to meet the state's housing demands. The latest version of the plan, aimed at creating capacity for 3,100 new housing units by 2029, has been deemed compliant by HCD.

California Forever issued a statement accusing opponents of spreading misinformation about the signature gathering process for its proposed new city in Solano County. The company stated that its signature gatherers are professionals provided with a fact sheet outlining the initiative's goals and promises. Solano Together responded, labeling California Forever's promises as "empty" and emphasizing that voters will be deciding on a change to the General Plan, not the initiative's guarantees.

The state has approved $5 million in grant funding to develop Community Resilience Centers across the state, aimed at addressing the impacts of climate change and providing emergency response facilities. The grants, approved by the California Strategic Growth Council, will assist 11 low-income, disadvantaged, rural, unincorporated and tribal communities in planning for the implementation of these centers, which will offer various services to communities throughout the year, focusing on energy independence, workforce development, food security, emergency response and tribal sovereignty.

The Newport Beach City Council voted to withdraw from the League of California Cities due to the organization's support for Proposition 1, which city officials fear could lead to an increase in group homes in the area. Concerns were raised about the potential impact of Prop 1 on the city's quality of life, particularly regarding the proliferation of poorly run group homes and the welfare of both residents and individuals receiving care.