Anaheim Approves $1.9 Billion Disneyland Expansion, within Existing Footprint
The Anaheim City Council unanimously approved Disneyland’s dollar expansion plan, allowing the theme park to add new attractions, shops and restaurants within its current properties, with millions allocated for local projects. The council's decision came after presentations and public comments from over 200 individuals, including residents, Disney employees and union groups. Mayor Ashleigh Aitken, previously critical of such projects, expressed surprise at the benefits outlined in thousands of pages of documents, emphasizing the potential for affordable housing, park improvements and infrastructure investment. The plan, known as DisneylandForward, aims to create a more immersive experience within the current 100-acre footprint in Anaheim, with amendments to zoning rules allowing for new attractions, hotels and stores. It's expected to cost between $1.9 and $2.5 billion. Despite concerns about traffic and housing costs, supporters anticipate job creation and economic boosts, while skeptics worry about Disney's influence and impact on the city.

Ten Jurisdictions Qualify for Prohousing Designation
Nine cities and one county in California have earned the Prohousing Designation for their efforts in promoting housing development across all income levels, bringing the total number of designated communities to 47. These jurisdictions include Crescent City, South Lake Tahoe, Fairfield, Pinole, Richmond, Berkeley, Los Angeles County, Rancho Cucamonga, West Hollywood and Brea. This designation provides funding incentives and additional resources to expedite housing production, crucial for meeting the state's goal of constructing 2.5 million new homes by 2030. The program rewards communities that streamline processes, reduce costs and adopt growth-oriented housing policies. Designated communities gain access to grants and additional points in scoring for various state funding programs, including the Prohousing Incentive Program (PIP). The Prohousing communities, according to the HCD, demonstrate proactive measures to minimize obstacles, accelerate housing construction, increase affordable housing availability and combat homelessness. Each community's application highlights specific policies and initiatives aimed at promoting housing development, such as zoning code revisions, fee reductions, trust fund establishment and streamlined permitting processes. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

State Assesses Effectiveness of Regional Housing Allocation
The Department of Housing and Community Development published California’s Housing Future 2040: The Next Regional Housing Needs Allocation. In this report, HCD recommends to legislators the changes to the RHNA process necessary to effectively plan for the homes that will be needed across the state by 2040. Informed by extensive stakeholder engagement, the report suggests that the RHNA process is fundamentally sound but needs to be modified to fully unlock its intended outcomes and sufficiently plan for homes now through the end of the 7th cycle in 2040. The report identifies a mix of recommendations that would require statutory changes, as well as adjustments to processes already under HCD’s administrative authority, to lay the groundwork for creating future homes.

SCAG Launches "Dashboard" to Visualize Sustainable Communities Investments
The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) published its Local Investments Dashboard to display information about SCAG-funded efforts included in the Connect SoCal Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy. The Sustainable Communities Program (SCP) administered by SCAG provides technical assistance and financial resources to local agencies for land use and transportation decisions, supporting implementation of regional planning policies. Through SCP, SCAG aligns funding categories with Connect SoCal goals to promote regional planning objectives and meet local community needs, aiming to improve mobility, promote racial equity, enhance air quality and prioritize vulnerable populations while increasing competitiveness for state and federal funds. The total amount awarded currently sits at over $234 million with the largest amount allocated towards housing projects (27.2%). The second and third largest projects by type include Active Transportation at 17.4% and utilities at 15.6%.

California Metros Include Extensive "Rental Deserts"
Due to restrictive land use policies and opposition driven by "not in my backyard" sentiments, rental housing is scarce or nonexistent in almost one-third of neighborhoods across the United States. Research out of Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies found these "rental deserts" in a number of California metropolitan areas, including Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom, San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley and Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura with 15-30% of the share of rental deserts. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario had a share of 30-36%. The research also found the racial discrimination between renters and owners most divergent around the Los Angeles metropolitan area and second most divergent inland in Southern California. The research included recommended zoning reform as the first step to expand geographic options for renters.

Santa Clara Short $624 Million for Infrastructure
Santa Clara faces a daunting challenge with its deteriorating infrastructure, including parks and fire stations, according to reporting by the Mercury News. City Manager Jovan Grogan reveals a staggering $624 million shortfall in infrastructure funding, exemplified by the closure of the George F. Haines International Swim Center. This issue extends beyond Santa Clara, with neighboring cities like San Jose and Berkeley also struggling with significant maintenance backlogs. Proposals for funding solutions, such as bond measures and revenue from local developments, are being considered, but the problem remains complex and multifaceted. Longtime residents like Adam Thompson express frustration over city leadership's handling of finances, underscoring the need for effective solutions to address the city's infrastructure crisis.

CP&DR Coverage: Bill Would Revise Builder's Remedy
The housing element/builder’s remedy battles continue around the state, as the Department of Housing and Community Development has revoked the housing element certification of the wealthy peninsula town of Portola Valley. HCD said Portola Valley was not making sufficient progress toward the upzoning called for in the housing element. Meanwhile, a new bill from Assemblymember Buffy Wicks would put significant guardrails on builder’s remedy projects in the future, bringing more clarity to the “wild west” builder’s remedy situation and linking it more closely to standards in other state laws. No one expects AB 1893, the Wicks bill, to pass as it currently standards, but it could form the basis for a reform that provides both cities and developers with changes they want.

Quick Hits & Updates

The Anaheim Ducks' owners are adjusting plans for the OC Vibe project, a $4-billion mixed-use complex near the Honda Center and ARTIC. Changes include swapping proposed office space for additional housing units, with infrastructure work underway and the first phase expected to open in 2026. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The City of Norwalk is advancing the Heart of Norwalk initiative to rejuvenate its historic downtown area with new zoning regulations and public space enhancements, covering approximately 615 acres. The plan includes redevelopment zones in three key areas, proposes street reconfigurations and greenway development along the Norwalk Railway Corridor and aims to increase housing capacity by rezoning commercial boulevards, potentially accommodating over 3,000 residential units and significant commercial space over a 30-year period.

Belvedere's second attempt at an eight-year housing plan has been rejected by the state, necessitating a third revision, as officials raise concerns about the feasibility of the proposed sites for development, particularly the utilization of accessory dwelling units, churches, a school and small parcels to meet the regional mandate. Despite expectations of rejection, city officials and consultants had hoped for progress toward compliance, but the California Department of Housing and Community Development's review letter outlined 18 compliance issues, including the city's failure to address fair-housing challenges, evaluate the previous housing element's effectiveness and create programs to encourage development.

The future of San Diego's proposed new sports arena is uncertain following a report recommending the historic designation of the current San Diego Sports Arena, which could significantly impact demolition plans. Despite suggestions that including historical elements in the new arena could mitigate concerns, the looming historical designation poses another challenge for the Midway Rising project, which aims to develop affordable housing alongside the arena, amidst existing obstacles such as rising water tables and investor changes. However, city officials clarify that the historic designation doesn't necessarily halt redevelopment but initiates a process to evaluate alternatives.

The San Bernardino Development Co., comprising Renaissance Downtowns USA and ICO Real Estate Group, is suing the city for breach of contract regarding the Carousel Mall redevelopment project. The lawsuit alleges that the city terminated the agreement without warning, causing millions of dollars in damages and accuses city officials of misconduct and bad faith negotiations. Despite the legal troubles and termination, the city maintains that redevelopment of the mall remains a priority, although no formal plans for redevelopment have been announced.

A statewide audit of the Local Streets and Roads Program -- initiated in 2017 and originally aimed to alleviate the degradation of streets and roads in California by allocating funding to cities and counties -- found state agencies effectively administer program processes while many cities struggle to improve road conditions despite appropriate fund usage, with the State Controller lacking adequate resources to ensure compliance with spending requirements.

The Great Redwood Trail Agency recently released draft of its master plan aims to transform an old railroad line into a 300-mile hiking, biking and equestrian trail from Humboldt to Marin County. The plan includes designs for amenities along the trail, prioritizes certain sections for development, and envisions the potential economic benefits, with public comments on the draft open until June 3rd and an upcoming open house for further discussion.

An environmental group filed suit against the U.S. Energy Department over its decision to award over $1 billion to keep California's last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, running beyond its planned closure in 2025, citing concerns over outdated safety assessments and inadequate public disclosure. The move adds to the ongoing debate over the plant's future amid disputes about safety, costs and the necessity of nuclear energy in a transitioning energy landscape focused on renewables and climate change mitigation.

Sunnyvale's 2023-31 Housing Element has been certified by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, outlining plans for accommodating nearly 12,000 new housing units and implementing various programs to address housing needs. Additionally, Sunnyvale will host an Earth Day Festival on April 20, coinciding with the grand opening of its new civic center, featuring sustainability-focused activities and information from local organizations.

In a significant victory for the California Forever project in Solano County, a judge denied a motion by remaining landowners accused of conspiring to inflate property prices, citing evidence of a price-fixing conspiracy provided by messages among property owners. The "California Forever" project aims to create a new city from farmland near Fairfield, sparking debate over the role of the ultra-rich in city-building and the use of agricultural land for development.

A California State Auditor audit of cannabis-permitting processes in six local jurisdictions found deficiencies in ensuring fairness, preventing conflicts of interest and following established procedures. Recommendations include implementing blind scoring, creating an appeals process, requiring impartiality statements from reviewers and improving documentation and transparency in the permitting process. The audit highlights the importance of adherence to best practices to increase public confidence and mitigate corruption risks in cannabis permitting.

Permit Sonoma, the planning agency for Sonoma County, has issued a 25-page "completeness review letter" to Eldridge Renewal, the development team for the Sonoma Developmental Center campus redevelopment, seeking clarifications and additional information on various aspects of the project. The county is particularly concerned about issues such as bicycle access, sewage disposal, historic preservation and housing diversity, emphasizing the need for smaller, more affordable living spaces and better connectivity within the development. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Dreamstar Lines, a California company, has entered into an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad to negotiate terms for an overnight passenger train service between San Francisco and Los Angeles, aiming for a summer 2025 launch with deluxe amenities and competitive fares. Despite being a preliminary agreement, the MOU signifies progress toward finalizing track access and operations agreements, with plans to secure remaining funds and complete preparations for the anticipated service launch.