HCD to Award $2.8 Billion in Next 18 Months
The California Department of Housing and Community Development released its 2023-2024 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) calendar. This calendar includes NOFA release dates, application deadlines, and anticipated award dates for various HCD funding programs. Over the next 18 months, HCD will provide more than $2.8 billion in funding for affordable housing and homelessness prevention, including $1 billion for multifamily housing, $124 million for affordable homeownership opportunities, $129 million for critical infrastructure support, $124 million for Tribal entities and $438 million for non-entitlement jurisdictions and disaster-impacted communities. These funds align with the state's goal of reducing homelessness and ensuring safe and affordable housing for all Californians, with funding announcements made through individual Notices of Funding Availability.

Court Supports San Diego's 2020 Convention Center Ballot Measure
An appellate court ruled in favor of San Diego's decision to approve a 2020 ballot measure for an expanded convention center via a simple majority vote. The court's decision overturns a previous ruling that questioned the city's authority to change the measure's outcome post-election. The court clarified that Measure C, a citizens' initiative seeking to raise taxes for the convention center project, only needed a simple majority for passage. However, the ruling did not conclusively determine whether Measure C truly qualified as a citizens' initiative, leaving that aspect for further consideration. The ruling has implications for the convention center project and funding for homeless services, as it introduces a delay of approximately 1 1/2 years. While proponents of the initiative see this as a positive step toward addressing homelessness and expanding the Convention Center, critics, including Alliance San Diego, view the ruling as a concerning precedent. Alliance San Diego, which challenged the city's authority to alter the election outcome, is considering further action, including seeking review by the state Supreme Court.

State Plan Intends to Plug 5,000 Oil Wells
California officials announced a plan to permanently seal over 5,000 orphaned oil wells, with the first phase allocated $80 million to plug 378 wells in the southern half of the state. Kern County, including the Arvin community and Morning Star neighborhood, will benefit from this effort. These orphaned wells, often neglected and abandoned, are known to release methane and other toxic compounds into the air, posing an environmental threat to nearby communities. Although advocates welcome this move, some criticize the delay in addressing the issue, emphasizing the need for permanent solutions given the recurring nature of leaks. Plugging wells will be costly for the state, with estimates exceeding $100,000 per well, and while some funds will be allocated to training displaced oil and gas workers, concerns remain about the adequacy of fees collected from producers to cover these expenses. The plan is part of a broader effort to address environmental and health concerns in disadvantaged communities, but some residents believe a higher proportion of funds should be directed towards these communities.

Grand Jury Finds Williamson Act Underused in Contra Costa County
A statewide tax relief act utilized in Contra Costa County to reduce development in open spaces has been essentially inactive for the last five years, according to analysis by the San Jose Mercury News. The largely suburban but formerly agricultural county relies on the Williamson Act to restrict land for agricultural or open space use. This law, passed in 1965, offers tax reductions from 20% to 70% to landowners who commit to keeping their land as open space or for agricultural use, discouraging premature conversion to urban areas. A civil grand jury report found delays in the approval process in Contra Costa County, causing overpayment of property taxes. The report recommends streamlining the process, similar to another county that approves agricultural contract applications in a few months. The DCD's response to these findings is pending, and Contra Costa County's history of development and the need to preserve open space underscores the importance of efficient land use policies. The county's response to these findings is pending, but the failure to process Williamson Act contracts could impact small farmers and contribute to further development in the region.

CP&DR Coverage: CEQA Doesn't Allow You To Break The Law
Santa Barbara County officials can enforce misdemeanor encroachment laws without conducting an analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act. An appellate overturned a Superior Court judge’s ruling in a dispute between Santa Barbara County and Montecito residents who illegally placed rocks, plants, and other obstructions in the public right-of-way to discourage other people from parking near their houses while using a popular hiking trail. The residents had argued – successfully in Superior Court – that enforcing the encroachment law was really part of a larger “project” to be undertaken by Santa Barbara County that would result in more parking spaces in order to allow more hikers to use the trail. But the Second District Court of Appeal, Division Six, in Ventura disagreed. Whether or not enforcing the law was part of a larger project, Yegan wrote, the county acted properly in declaring the enforcement action as exempt from CEQA.

Quick Hits & Updates

Three California cities – Rohnert Park, Santa Cruz and South San Francisco – have been awarded the state's Prohousing Designation, making them eligible for funding incentives and additional resources for their efforts to reduce barriers to housing construction. This brings the total number of Prohousing communities in the state to 30 as part of Governor Newsom's initiative to address California's housing crisis and promote the development of more housing.

A New York-based development firm is set to formally present their proposal for the redevelopment of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, a 2,750-acre site, to city officials on August 26. The city expects to grant exclusive negotiating rights to Brookfield, as other contenders have fallen short, potentially leading to the project's collapse if the city does not select a project developer. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

An analysis by Costar News found apartment construction across cities on the West Coast, including California, is slowing despite high demand due to rising interest rates and construction costs, particularly in cities like San Jose and Los Angeles. This trend is expected to exacerbate housing shortages and escalate prices, with experts predicting an oversupply in demand and delayed construction in the coming years.

The City of El Centro filed a request for an injunction against the Imperial County Local Agency Formation Commission, alleging an improper California Environmental Quality Act process in a proposed healthcare district expansion project. The city aims to halt LAFCO's proceedings until the CEQA process concerns are addressed, citing alleged failures in adhering to statutory and regulatory procedures.

The Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation Commission partially approved Gilroy's request to annex 55 acres into its northern limits, with a suggestion for Gilroy officials to come back later with modifications for the rest of the acreage, considering concerns over vacant land and service provisions for the development, highlighting the city's need for housing units and the need to balance affordable and single-family homes in the growth plan.

An Australian developer responsible for the only major high-rise project in San Francisco initiated during the pandemic will suspend construction on its Hayes Point development until new tenants or a capital partner are secured. The $1.2 billion project with 333 condos and 300,000 square feet of office and retail space, faces postponement until 2024.

A new study from the Public Policy Institute of California found most state residents are greatly concerned about wildfires in their part of the state, with 44% of all adults call wildfires a "big problem" and 34% calling them "somewhat a problem." Most Californians only have some confidence in the government response to wildfires (53%). In a recent study on environmental policy, the PPIC found 68% of likely voters areee in favor of the state establishing a citizens' assembly on environmental issues.

The Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation Commission partially approved Gilroy's request to annex 55 acres into its northern limits, with a suggestion for Gilroy officials to come back later with modifications for the rest of the acreage, considering concerns over vacant land and service provisions for the development, highlighting the city's need for housing units and the need to balance affordable and single-family homes in the growth plan.

The Department of Housing and Community Development rejected Palo Alto's newly adopted housing plan, requiring the city to revise the document to meet the requirements of the State Housing Element Law, including demonstrating the feasibility of housing production on listed sites and addressing historic injustices such as past discriminatory practices. The rejection puts the city at risk of "builder’s remedy" development applications, and the revisions are required within a year of the statutory deadline, which was January 31.

The Hermosa Beach City Council unanimously voted to adopt its housing element, aiming to build 558 units by 2029, despite some residents' concerns about over-development and potential changes in zoning affecting height limits.

The LA Metro and Caltrans 605 Corridor Improvement Project will not result in any residential displacement in the widening of freeways. Previously, earlier announcements indicated the project would impact over a thousand land parcels and demolish over 300 homes and apartments in Latino working-class neighborhoods. The new announcement confirmed the project will remain within existing Caltrans right-of-way, avoiding residential demolitions.

The eastern San Diego county city of El Cajon's City Council voted 4-1 to cease funding for the East County Homeless Task Force over the task force's support of the Housing First model, prioritizing providing shelter before addressing other needs like mental health or substance abuse. The city council pointed to a number of complaints against the organization, including uneven distribution of hotel vouchers and a lack of focus on diverse approaches. The task force, now under a La Mesa-based organization, defended their work and stated they will continue it.