California Population May Remain Flat for Decades to Come
New projections from the California Department of Finance suggest the state's long-term population growth is slowing. The forecast predicts that by 2060, the state population will look the same as it does now with around 39.5 million people. Previously, an earlier population estimate project a population of 45 million people as of 2020 and almost 53 million a decade ago. The aging population of baby boomers and lower birth rates, as well as higher numbers of residents leaving the state due to high housing costs, attribute for the decline in population growth. The decline in population growth resulted in a lost seat for California in 2021 for the first time in the state's history. The forecast predicts deaths in the state by 2035 will surpass births and the total fertility rate will decline from 2.1 births per woman to 1.5.

Sunnyvale Approves Plan for Mini-City of 20,000 Residential Units
The Sunnyvale City Council unanimously approved a plan to transform the Moffett Park area into a large urban village. The redevelopment plan aims to convert the 1,156-acre office district into six distinct neighborhoods, featuring a mix of commercial and residential spaces, as well as community and public areas. The plan, which envisions an "an ecological innovation district," includes the development of 20,000 new residential units and an increase in approved office space from 22 million square feet to 30 million square. Around 15 percent of the residential units are planned to be affordable, with hopes to increase it to 20 percent. Additionally, there will be 500,000 square feet of retail space and 150,000 square feet of hospitality. The project is expected to address Sunnyvale's housing needs, as the city is required to build 12,000 new homes to meet state requirements by 2031.

Planning Commission Rejects Major Housing Reforms in San Diego
The San Diego Planning Commission unanimously rejected Mayor Todd Gloria's proposal to eliminate single-family zoning in much of the city. The commission approved the Housing Action Package 2.0 but excluded the controversial Senate Bill 10, which would have allowed the replacement of single-family homes with up to 10 units in a majority of the city. The rest of the housing package received approval and will proceed to the City Council for consideration. The decision reflects the ongoing debate between those supporting increased density and diverse housing options and opponents concerned about neighborhood character and potential negative impacts of greater housing density. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

UC Davis Releases Database of Local General Plans
The California General Plan Databases Mapping Tool, created by a team of students and professors out of UC Davis, is a new online tool to track statewide, local general plans for land-use. The goal is to be a free, easy-to-use integrated database for community members, policymakers, or experts to find general plans in one place. The creators hope the Mapping Tool is a method of education, and will help community members coordinate efforts to advocate for their best interests. The next step in the database rollout is workshops across California to teach people how to use the tool to visualize general plans across the state, with the ability to compare general plans from local government to local government. These state-mandated general plans influence land-use decisions and can cover a myriad of issues important to any community member including open space, housing, conservation, circulation, noise and safety. The database can search these plans by keyword, utilizing interactive maps and refined searches to make the tool as useable as possible.

CP&DR Coverage: Cases May Decide Legality of "Self-Certification" of Housing Elements
The battle over the builder’s remedy and self-certification of housing elements expanded last week with two new lawsuits against the City of La Cañada Flintridge challenging the city’s denial of a mixed-use project on Foothill Boulevard. The project’s developer, Glendale-based Cedar Street Partners, came out with guns blazing. Cedar Street hired the aggressive law firm of Holland & Knight, which filed a lawsuit on July 21 which, with exhibits, amounted to 430 pages, with more than 10 causes of action. Four days later, the California Housing Defense Fund (formerly California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, or CaRLA), asking that the denial of the project be overturned. Cedar Street’s lawsuit could be the test case for the biggest legal question that has emerged from the trend toward builder’s remedy applications: Do cities need approval from the Department of Housing & Community Development for their housing element to be compliant, or can they “self-certify” that their housing element complies with state law?

Quick Hits & Updates

Hasan Ikhrata, the executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments, has submitted his resignation. He stated his relationship with the board was challenging, but he was proud of his work in transportation and regional planning like the per-mile fees on drivers and limiting car travel while improving public transit. Internal audits of the organization in recent years raised concerns about improper spending and poor policies at SANDAG.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is offering $85 million in competitive grant funding in the hopes of identifying and removing barriers to affordable housing production and preservation. The new Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Housing (PRO Housing) initiative aims to support communities in removing barriers to affordable housing by awarding local and state governments, metropolitan planning organizations, and multijurisdictional entities funds to establish housing policy plans and housing plans. The application deadline is October 30.

The Antioch City Council voted 3-1 in favor of strengthening tenant protections with new rules against landlord retaliation and harassment, which includes barring landlords from retaliating against tenants exercising certain legal rights related to their rentals and addressing harmful landlord actions done in "bad faith" or for difficult-to-prove reasons. While some local landlords and real estate agents expressed concerns about the ordinance's impact on rental properties, tenant advocates applauded the measure, stating that new rules were necessary to protect tenants from harassment and ensure their rights are enforced.

A 500-acre Petrified Forest located in Sonoma County, known for its prehistoric redwood trees, is up for sale for $12 million. The current owners hope to pass it on to a state agency or nonprofit for continued public operation.

Los Angeles officials are working on a new master plan for the 2,000-acre Sepulveda Basin in the San Fernando Valley. The plan includes three alternatives, all three including expansion of multi-modal transportation infrastructure and adding new bridges, green streets, walking paths and an extension of the Los Angeles River Bike Path, in addition to new recreational facilities. The three alternatives propose various treatment of the Los Angeles River, ranging from more aggressive de-channelizing of the river to widening the river corridor without removing the concrete walls around the river and retaining all remaining golf courses.

The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) has filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles over a pandemic-related rent hike freeze scheduled to end in early 2024, arguing the state of emergency has ended, and city officials have not reconsidered the freeze in light of recent inflation, making it a financial strain on rental housing providers. The ordinance, adopted in May 2020, applies to about 624,000 rent-stabilized units in L.A., preventing rent increases until February 1, 2024. The association seeks to overturn the freeze immediately and have it declared unconstitutional. This lawsuit follows another by AAGLA against Los Angeles county regarding Measure ULA, a tax on real estate properties over $5 million.

A new study by regional planners suggests that a people mover plan to bring mass transit to the San Diego airport could reduce traffic congestion on surrounding roads up to 20%. The plan, estimated to cost between $1 billion and $2 billion, is considered more cost-effective and efficient than an extension of the San Diego Trolley. The project could qualify for Federal Transit Agency funding and a required 50% match from local sources.

A U.S. District Court Judge sentenced a Los Angeles real estate developer to six years in prison for bribing elected officials and ordering a subordinate to falsify internal records of the transaction. The developer was found guilty last year for giving $500,000 in cash bribes to City Councilmember Jose Huizar in exchange for Huizar's approval of a 20-story residential tower downtown.

A city working group in San Francisco sent a proposal to the Board of Supervisors to review a potential plan to explore public banking in the city. The proposal includes a plan to partner with private banks and utilize government funding for low-interest loans for community initiatives. California legislature previously authorized cities to explore public banking in 2019, with other other cities like Los Angeles looking into public banks.