Terner Center Estimates SB 35 Has Supported over 18,000 Housing Units
A report from UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation studies the impact of Senate Bill 35 five years after its statewide approval. SB35, enacted in 2017, aimed to streamline housing development in California by simplifying the approval process for qualified multifamily infill projects, particularly in jurisdictions falling behind on housing production goals. The law, set to expire in 2026, has garnered favor among affordable housing developers, with 156 projects approved or pending between 2018 and 2021, totaling over 18,000 proposed housing units, primarily in the Bay Area and Los Angeles regions. Most of these projects are 100 percent affordable developments. The report suggests that the law has expedited the approval process for affordable housing, enhancing its attractiveness to developers. The report also highlights recommendations to improve SB 35's implementation, including the need for updated guidelines from the California Department of Housing and Community Development to clarify how SB 35 interacts with other land use laws, thereby making it more widely applicable to housing projects across the state.

Autonomous Vehicles Win Major Regulatory Approval in S.F.
The California Public Utilities Commission approved an expansion of driverless robotaxi services in San Francisco, allowing General Motors' Cruise and Alphabet's Waymo to operate without safety drivers and charge passengers fares for the service. This represents a significant step towards commercializing driverless technology and is part of the state's efforts to address the growing demand for autonomous transportation. The expansion has drawn both support and opposition, with some seeing it as a way to improve transportation access, particularly for vulnerable populations, while others express concerns about job displacement and the safety of autonomous vehicles. The approval covers a wide area of the city and represents a major milestone for the robotaxi industry.

OPR to Allocate $50 Million for Regional Resilience Planning
The Governor's Office of Planning and Research unveiled the initial funding round for the Regional Resilience Grant program, aimed at financing regional-scale projects to enhance climate change resilience. The 2021 Climate Budget has allocated $25 million for this grant, and the upcoming 2023-2024 budget proposes an additional $25 million, resulting in a total of $50 million across two funding rounds. The focus on regional projects responds to climate change risks that impact entire regions rather than individual jurisdictions. The grant is intended to foster long-term community-based partnerships that can continue leading climate resilience efforts in their regions for many years. The grant is part of the Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resilience Program (ICARP), distinct from other ICARP grants due to its regional emphasis, while the Adaptation Planning Grant targets individual local governments, community-based organizations, and tribes to address local hazards. The Regional Resilience Grant supports projects addressing various climate change risks, such as wildfires, rising sea levels, droughts, floods, and extreme heat events, with a focus on disadvantaged communities and California Native American tribes.

HUD Invites Local Jurisdictions to Apply for $85 Million in Pro-Housing Planning Grants
The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD unveiled an $85 million funding opportunity to tackle housing barriers and announced tools to enhance affordable housing development. This move aligns with the Biden administration's approach to reducing housing costs from the bottom up and the middle out. The PRO Housing competitive grants hope to empower communities to develop housing policy plans, address zoning and regulatory policies, and bolster affordable housing production. These grants, ranging from $1 million to $10 million, will target local governments, states, MPOs, and multi-jurisdictional entities. Furthermore, HUD is providing housing providers involved in the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) with new tools for repairs, promoting energy-efficiency investments, and addressing climate resilience. This action aims to support the larger goal of making national housing more affordable, reflecting commitments from the Biden-Harris Administration.

CP&DR Coverage: Cities Attempt "Self-Certification" of Housing Elements
Developers are continuing to propose builder’s remedy projects around the state, especially in Silicon Valley and in smaller affluent communities. But the pushback continues – especially over the question of whether cities can get out from under the builder’s remedy by self-certifying their housing element, rather than waiting for approval from the Department of Housing and Community Development. Cities that have recently attempted versions of self-certification include, among others, Claremont, Beverly Hills, Menlo Park, and San Jose. Whether these approaches will hold up in court remains to be seen.

Quick Hits & Updates

Construction on a large tech campus in downtown San Jose has been paused by the development company due to weak market conditions in the Silicon Valley office sector, including rising office vacancy rates, sublease space being offered by tech companies and low demand for large office spaces. The first phase of the project, an office building totaling 390,000 square feet, was under construction, and the pause is set to occur after completing the garage and foundation by the end of 2023.

A lawsuit filed by Ventura County, Ojai, Patagonia and other environmental groups hoping to stop the U.S. Forest Service from forest thinning old-growth pines on Pine Mountain hit a dead end as a federal judge dismissed the case with prejudice, preventing the group from refiling. They have 60 additional days to file an appeal. The project was approved under the Trump Administration to meet logging quotas.

El Centro filed suit against the Imperial Local Agency Formation Commission over concerns of the environmental impacts related to the formation of a Valley-wide health care district. The lawsuit challenges one path of a project to build a single hospital district in Imperial County, claiming LAFCO did not comply with the California Environmental lQuality Act (CEEQA) requirements during their initial assessment.

The Los Angeles Housing Department responded they will start an investigation following a report that residential hotels required by law to be reserved for low-cost housing advertise on travel websites and rent to tourists. The report found 21 hotels with over 800 units across Los Angeles turned housing units into hotel rooms, breaking a 2008 law requiring they remain residential unless the owner pays to replace units taken off the market or pay a city housing fund.

Census data from the last two years shows fluctuation in population rates between large and small counties across the state, finding that some larger counties like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Barbara are rebounding from population losses. Smaller counties' populations are more susceptible to local changes such as the construction of a prison or new housing. The census data still found that general state population continues to decline.

The US Department of Housing and Urban development announced a $9.3 million grant to Mendocino County Indigenous Tribes to fund affordable housing activities.

San Diego County built fewer homes last year than in 2021 despite a large political push for more housing in the area. The county saw 521 less homes built in 2022 than in 2021 even as the county cites housing as a significant focus. The San Diego Building Industry Administration believes the county must build approximately 21,000 homes a year to keep up with demand.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted to purchase land to build affordable housing for educators, hoping to reduce financial strains on local teachers. The Board of Supervisors agreed to swap a 1.5-acre county-owned parcel of land with Apple for a nearly-five-acre parcel.