Financiers, Tech Leaders Purchase Land for "New City" in Northeast Bay Area
Over the past five years, a company called Flannery Associates has been acquiring over $800 million of open and agricultural land near Fairfield in Solano County, with apparent ambitions to build a new city in the Bay Area hinterlands. The holdings total roughly 40,000 across 230 parcels. The company, which is registered as an agricultural company and has no apparent experience in real estate development, was founded by former Goldman Sachs trader Jan Sramek and has been funded by some of the wealthiest individuals in the tech industry, including Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Patrick and John Collison (Stripe), investor Michael Moritz, and the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Mortiz reportedly circulated investment memos describing the development of a new, walkable city with an innovative governance structure. The company has purchased land for as little as $5,000 per acre, but prices have risen to $20,000 per acre as available land has become more scarce. The purchases have raised national security concerns due to their proximity to Travis Air Force Base. A local mayor believes the company -- which has not previously stated their intentions behind the purchases -- could be planning to create a new city, as suggested by a poll reportedly sent to Solano County residents. This poll stated the potential city could include new homes, a solar energy farm, orchards, parks and open spaces. Federal entities like the U.S. Air Force's Foreign Investment Risk Review Office and the Committee on Foreign Investment are looking into the acquisitions.

Orange County COG to Ask Supreme Court for Relief from Housing Goals
The Orange County Council of Governments unanimously voted to ask the California Supreme Court to overturn the state's directive requiring cities and counties in Southern California to construct 1.34 million new homes by the end of the decade. This move comes after lower courts dismissed their former lawsuit alongside several Los Angeles County cities challenging the housing mandate's excessiveness. The Second District Court of Appeal upheld the original ruling, stating that legislative changes in 2004 shield the Regional Housing Needs Assessment process from legal intervention. Orange County leaders claim state housing and community development officials did not adhere to the law in determining the region's housing needs. The Attorney General’s Office, representing HCD, emphasizes their commitment to aiding struggling California families in affording housing. The 1.34 million-unit mandate is applicable to all city and county jurisdictions within the Southern California Association of Governments region, encompassing LA, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Imperial counties. The appeal filing deadline for the council of governments is September 5, with the California Supreme Court having the discretion to review the matter. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Supreme Court Throws Out Monterey County Ban on Oil Wells
The state Supreme Court ruled, on a 7-0 decision, Monterey County's voter-approved ban on new oil and gas wells as invalid due to state laws promoting oil and gas production. Measure Z aimed to prohibit drilling new wells and wastewater injection in unincorporated areas of the county, but the court found it conflicting with existing state laws. While oil companies welcomed the decision, supporters of Measure Z expressed disappointment and emphasized the need for state law prioritizing public health and climate concerns over industry interests. The ruling avoided addressing the issue of restricting well locations. “By providing that certain oil production methods may never be used by anyone, anywhere, in the county, Measure Z nullifies — and therefore contradicts — (the state law’s) mandate that the state ‘shall’ supervise oil operation in a way that permits well operators to ‘utilize all methods and practices’ the (state) supervisor has approved,” the ruling reads.

San Diego Revamps Mission Bay Recreation and Restoration Plan
The City of San Diego amended plans to turn parts of Mission Bay into marshland, including a 10 percent increased of land -- from 60 acres to 66 of the 505-acre redevelopment -- for golfing, tennis, sports and recreation. The new plan includes other additional offsite replacement recreation sites and a promise to minimize disruption to activities if fields are relocated. Many recreational institutions in the area disputed with environmental groups pushing for more wetlands and camping companies advocating for campgrounds. The plans initially began with the closure of a mobile home at Mission Bay, and have faced large community pushback. City officials stated they cannot promise any individual activity will be included in the plans. The city council will vote on a revised concept plan in the fall.

CP&DR Coverage: CEQA & Solar
As California enters a new world of renewable energy, local governments are struggling to make sure their plans and zoning ordinances are keeping up with changes in technology. A good example is the battle in North Livermore over the Aramis Solar project, a 347-acre solar farm in unincorporated Alameda County that would include 267,000 solar panels as well as on-site battery storage. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved the project back in 2020. But neighbors and local environmentalists, including the local chapter of the Audubon Society, have consistently opposed the project, calling it an industrial “power plant” and arguing that it would convert an agricultural area into an industrial area. Recently, an unpublished First District Court of Appeal ruling gave the county a complete victory on the Aramis project.

Quick Hits & Updates

A new report by SPUR studies San Jose's Al Fresco Initiative allowing local businesses to operate on sidewalks, street parking spaces and private parking lots, concluding that making the initiative permanent by making the program affordable, easy to implement and easy to scale up would enable the city to continue a program benefitting businesses and community members.

The University of California Regents face a $4.5 million lawsuit from neighborhood groups linked to Berkeley's People's Park, alleging that they intentionally destroyed plants and property, hindering access and enjoyment of the park. The lawsuit, filed by three nonprofits, claims the destruction was a result of the university's order to clear the land for a housing development project, arguing the demolition damaged the park's features, including a wheelchair ramp to the "People's Stage," with the nonprofits seeking compensation for the lost vegetation and repairs, while emphasizing the importance of protecting the environment. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The Los Angeles City Council has approved the purchase of the Mayfair Hotel for $60 million to be used as part of the city's efforts to combat homelessness, despite concerns about safety, costs, and operational plans. The purchase, intended to provide interim housing and services, received mixed reactions, including concern over community engagement and the site's access to Skid Row residents, but was approved with a 12-2 vote.

Oakland's lead negotiator for the A's Howard Terminal ballpark project left her position to join a real estate developer after the A's stopped payments in May while shifting their focus to exploring a new ballpark in Las Vegas. If the A's return to negotiations an assistant city administrator, will take over the role.

The City and County of San Francisco has engaged San Francisco-based design firm Gensler on a "feasibility study" for a downtown soccer stadium that would replace the city's faltering Westfield mall. The city does not control the site, but Mayor London Breed hopes to "get a developer and others excited about making investments into the stadium as a way to diversify what happens in the downtown area." Several flagship stores have vacated the mall amid poor sales and lack of activity downtown. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Fairfield's Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) approved the annexation of three county "islands" within city limits, while also approving a 5% cost-of-living increase for its employees and adding a project specialist position. The annexations involve several properties, an apartment complex and a local church as part of the ongoing effort to incorporate unincorporated properties within the Solano city.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 8-6 to halt a contentious hotel project in Benedict Canyon due to concerns about environmental impact and public safety, citing potential ethics violations, environmental threats and community opposition.

The development group behind the Mall of America abandoned plans to buy a 47-acre site in Canoga Park in Los Angeles after almost five years in escrow. The parcel requires extensive environmental cleanup due to groundwater and soil contamination. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Department of General Services and the Department of Housing and Community Development have selected McCormack Baron Salazar to lead the team to transform three state office buildings in Sacramento into affordable housing. This move is in line with Governor Newsom's efforts to address California's housing crisis by repurposing state properties for affordable housing, potentially creating 400 new homes in the heart of downtown Sacramento with various affordability levels.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development agreed to exempt Los Angeles-based housing providers from rules requiring applicants to provide identification and documentation of their homeless status and income before moving into their apartments. Now, applicants can move into apartments and acquire the necessary documents, particularly prescient for people moving from interim to permanent housing.