San Bernardino County Developer Leads Secession Drive
Following a suggestion from a San Bernardino developer that the county should secede from California due an unfair allocation of resources and mandates, local voters will voice their opinion on the matter. The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an initiative that places the option to request that officials study funding and the potential of secession on the ballot. While more vocal advocates of secession have floated around "Empire" as the name for the new state, some board members have clarified that they do not support secession but want to understand whether or not San Bernardino receives a fair amount of funding considering a portion of inland residents believe that coastal cities collect more than their fair share.

Proposed Whole Foods Faces Lawsuit from Neighbors in San Jose
A proposal to bring a new Whole Foods market to San Jose in its El Paseo de Saratoga retail center redevelopment is facing legal trouble on environmental grounds. Citizens for Inclusive Development is arguing that the city's failure to include plans for the 40,000 square-foot market in its environmental impact report misled the public by failing to consider pollution and traffic dangers. The group wrote that the city's rushed actions are not only a violation of CEQA and the State Planning and Zoning law but of local residents' need for safe, affordable housing. The new development is intended to include 165,949 square-feet of commercial space, with buildings reaching 132 feet.

California Metros Among Nation's Most Unaffordable
The rental and ownership housing crisis has reached the entire country, with a nationwide shortage or underproduction of 3.8 million homes and prices increasing over 30% during the past few years. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura has taken first place for the metro area with largest increase in housing shortage (-11%) over the past decade, according to nonprofit research group Up for Growth, which has identified the severity of housing shortages throughout the United States. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario took fourth place, lacking 9% -- over 138,000 units. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim came in sixth, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara took tenth, and several other California metro areas filled spots in the top 20. The largest issue, according to CEO of Up for Growth Mike Kingsella, is outdated zoning restrictions. Up fro Growth's analysis suggests that the housing shortage is extending beyond coastal cities to inland communities, pointing to extreme shortages and, accordingly, high demand, in areas such as Merced, Stockton, Vallejo, Fresno, Bakersfield, and Yuba City. In 2012, Merced had a +1.9% surplus of housing units, but in 2019, its shortage reached as low as -8.7%. Meanwhile, coastal cities, especially those in Northern California, are seeing demand cool remarkably fast, with many potential buyers priced out of their housing options.

RAND Estimates Potential for Commercial-to-Residential Conversions
Transforming underused commercial buildings into housing could add about 100,000 residential units to Los Angeles County's housing stock, according to a new report from RAND Corporation. Researchers found that redeveloping vacant hotels, motels, retail centers, and office buildings could account for 9% to 14% of the housing that the county must provide by 2030, as required by the RHNA. About 2,300 underused complexes are available for adaptive reuse, though the hotel layout would be most translatable to more easily complete a new housing development. Due to existing infrastructure, the process of adaptive reuse is expected to be financially feasible, depending on real estate prices and the scope of the project. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Quick Hits & Updates

San Rafael approved an ordinance that will set in-compliance height, design, and parking restrictions on SB 9 projects. While the city originally planned to allow for eight residences on split lots, community input regarding traffic and density has persuaded officials to only allow for four residences.

Los Angeles' largely unused General Hospital Building will be transformed into an affordable housing site after Los Angeles County Supervisors approved a plan to move forward with construction and financial brainstorming. Supervisors have given planning officials four months and $194.7 million to produce 184 market-rate and 371 affordable units.

Instead of allowing voters decide, Laguna Beach officials will move forward with plans to place restrictions on new projects to prevent overdevelopment. New design guidelines would include height, mass, and bulk restrictions to preserve the city's small-town character.

A lengthy environmental report on a proposed South County mine near Gilroy details the damage that would be caused to Indigenous people, air quality, and wildlife habitats if developed. The report also states that producing sand and gravel locally could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, stressing the debate over the project whose fate will soon be decided by the city council.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control has requested that the federal government include the site of Exide Technologies, notoriously polluted with lead, arsenic, and cadmium and abandoned, on the National Priorities list. If added, the site would be eligible for clean-up funding, though the battery recycler already released severe contamination to many surrounding working-class Latino neighborhoods during its operation.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will not have to draft an environmental review before making decisions about water deliveries to city-owned pastureland east of Yosemite. The agency is celebrating the state appellate court decision, citing the difficulty of delivering water and meeting environmental requirements during a severe drought.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has approved funding to relocate train tracks operating along a stretch of eroding San Diego seaside cliffs as part of the state budget. Previously, local governments had been paying to build structures that support the deteriorating sections of the bluffs.

Though many members remain in support of rent control, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors chose to table a charter amendment that would have rent-controlled new housing due to concerns that opponents of the measure could have been successful at preventing it from passing on the November ballot.

In support of the potential of ADU's, new research from UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation details the various financing options for building ADUs and proposes recommendations for facilitating construction, including considering ADU rental income in underwriting, improving ADU appraisal, and updating loan eligibility requirements.

California's forests are suffering from the climate crisis, with 1,763 square miles (6.7 percent) of tree coverage destroyed since 1985, mostly due to wildfires. While northern California shows more resiliency, the damage to carbon dioxide absorbance and clean air remains an extreme threat to residents local and widespread.