Newsom Names New HCD Chief, Other Housing Officials
Governor Newsom announced three appointments that impact housing. The first is the new director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, Gustavo Velasquez. Velasquez is a Maryland native who has been senior director at the Urban Institute since 2017. Prior to that role, Velasquez was assistant secretary for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2013 to 2014. Zachary Olmstead, of Sacramento, will step up from his current position where he has served as deputy director since 2016 to chief deputy director of HCD. Before his HCD posts, Olmstead was homeless policy director at Housing California. Doug McCauley, also of Sacramento, will serve as commissioner of the Department of Real Estate. McCauley was executive officer at the California Architects Board before joining HCD, first as chief deputy director in 2018 and acting director of the Department since 2019. All three have masters degrees in Public Administration.
Supreme Court Refusal Upholds Inclusionary Fees
San Jose's high-profile case California Building Industry Association v. City of San Jose will not go before the Supreme Court, leaving the legality of developer fees instituted to spur affordable housing "a live issue when implemented as a condition on a permit approval," according to Pacific Legal Foundation the nonprofit firm representing the developers' case. The legal challenge arose after San Jose adopted an ordinance that requires developers of new residential housing of 20 units or more to sell 15 percent of the homes at below-market prices to low-income buyers, or pay a $122,000 in-lieu fee per unit. Pacific Legal, a conservative legal organization, filed a petition for the plaintiff claiming the city violated the Takings Clause, which "bar(s) Government from forcing some people alone to bear the public burdens, which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as whole." In June 2019, the California Supreme Court sided with the city of San Jose, citing the well-established scarcity of affordable housing that "might be described as epic proportions in many of the state's localities.”
State Disburses over $400 Million in Homelessness Funding
The Department of Housing and Community Development announced awards totaling $427.9 million to help counties address mental illness and homelessness. The No Place Like Home program dedicates up to $2 billion in bond funds to build permanent housing with supportive services for Californians who live with severe mental illness and are experiencing homelessness, chronic homelessness, or are at-risk of chronic homelessness. The bonds will be repaid by funding from California's Mental Health Services Act. The awarded counties represent jurisdictions with five percent or more of the state's homeless population that have self-selected to be "Alternative Process Counties," which allows them to administer their own competitive distributions of No Place like Home funding within their respective jurisdictions. Los Angeles received the largest sum, with $310 million. San Diego and Santa Clara were awarded $40 million and 40.9 million, respectively. San Francisco was close behind with $36.5 million. The next round of competitive funding is scheduled to be announced this summer.
Quick Hits & Updates
UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation has hired Ben Metcalf as its new managing director. Metcalf, who has nearly 20 years of experience researching and implementing housing policy, including his most recent post as director of HCD, will lead the center's policy work around housing affordability. Previously he served as deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
The National League of Cities and Bloomberg Philanthropies have teamed up to create a Location Action Tracker to collect and share actions taken by localities nationwide in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The wide-ranging database includes information on actions such as State of Emergency Declarations, closure announcements, and economic relief packages, among others. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
The Southern California Association of Governments' Connect SoCal plan, its project list and 20 supporting technical reports are now available for download on SCAG's website. SCAG, as Lead Agency, has prepared a Proposed Final PEIR for Connect SoCal, which is also available for review.
Demographers say the United States could be facing its first ever yearly decline in population, based on the latest Census Data that shows declining birth rates and slowing immigration in combination with higher than usual death rates. "If this epidemic is as significant as some think, we could have deaths exceeding births in the nation as a whole, which has never happened in the history of this country," said Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire, who analyzed the numbers.
The California Department of Housing and Community Development released its 2018-2019 annual report that highlights the past year's accomplishments and shares progress and improvements. The report includes descriptions of HCD's programs, profiles of affordable housing developments made possible by HCD funding, and details on funding awarded to build and preserve affordable homes.
After a meteoric rise in metros around the globe, Lime and Bird scooter- and bike-share companies have drastically reduced their scooter fleets. Santa Monica-based Bird began major layoffs Friday, cutting 30% of its workforce "due to the financial and operational impact" of the pandemic, according to an internal memo from Chief Executive Travis VanderZanden. Bird announced it is removing its fleet in six U.S. cities, including San Francisco and San Jose. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
The California Natural Resources Agency has announced $18.5 million for competitive green infrastructure grants for disadvantaged communities, funded by Proposition 68. Project component examples include: urban tree canopy expansion, park development, greening public schoolyards; and constructing non-motorized trails. Two grants have been awarded to date: Alamedia County has received $1.4 million, and Calaveras County was awarded $190,000.
The Santa Monica City Council passed an emergency ordinance that will allow all affordable housing and most market-rate housing to go through a rapid approval process. Planning Commission Chair Lambert stressed the importance of market rate housing's inclusion in the ordinance: "Neither the city nor the state has the money to build all the units required under RHNA.”
A community group has filed a lawsuit against Anaheim for allegedly breaking state transparency laws, in hopes of overturning the city's land sale for the future site of Angel Stadium. A land sale proposal wasn't discussed in public before the vote, which violates the Ralph M. Brown Act, argues the open government attorney who represents the Task Force. The city's response from the City Attorney's office disputed all the allegations.
San Francisco mayor London Breed wants the city to look into charging metered parking seven days a week and congestion pricing on crowded streets. The San Francisco County Transportation Agency is also looking into the possibility of charging a fee to drive downtown. It expects to have a proposal in 2021.
A Laguna Beach community group has withdrawn a ballot initiative that would require majority voter approval for new developments, citing the spread of COVID-19. Laguna Residents First plans to submit a new letter of intent in six months to allow more time to gather signatures.