Wiener Introduces Bill to Facilitate Housing on Properties Owned by Nonprofits, Faith Organizations
With an early kickoff to the 2023 housing legislation season, Sen. Scott Wiener and coauthors have introduced Senate Bill 4, which would allow nonprofit colleges and faith organizations to build more housing by streamlining environmental review processes and reducing zoning restrictions. Under SB 4, churches, mosques, and synagogues would be able to plan for more multifamily housing on their properties with fewer costs and hurdles. Lawmakers and affordable housing proponents celebrate SB 4 since religious and nonprofit institutions often own excess land that is conveniently located near transit and job centers. As a result, the potential for housing is plentiful, with a UC Berkeley estimate suggesting that religious institutions hold 40,000 acres of developable land, and could often be 100% affordable.

San Jose Abolishes Parking Minimums
San Jose is now the largest city in the state to abolish parking minimums for new developments, aligning with increasing desires to reduce auto-dependency, sprawl, and carbon emissions. The city joins San Francisco in abolishing minimums, and its policy exceeds reductions in Los Angeles, San Diego, Berkeley, and Oakland. Now, the new policy, in slashing requirements to spend tens of thousands of dollars on parking spaces, may improve abilities to build more housing. However, some officials and residents are concerned about the impacts on communities where parking spaces are already a treasure hunt. Meanwhile, those in support stress that the new policy does not prevent developers from accounting for parking spaces; rather, they will be able to choose whether or not parking makes sense for their development.

San Francisco Struggles to Draft Approve-able Housing Element
San Francisco must supply 82,000 housing units by 2030 under the RHNA, but its recently released draft Housing Element currently only plans for about 60,000 units in the best case scenario. Current proposals would add new units to existing apartments, develop vacant lots, and produce huge developments; planners have mapped the 44,408 projects that could be produced from the residential development pipeline as well as the 11,290 units that would come from underused or vacant sites. Another 3,880 units are "non site-specific" and could be developed if the city makes zoning changes. However, San Francisco must still find ways to provide 22,000 more units, or 34,000 units if the city wants to meet its "target" of 93,500. However, threats of recession, high construction costs, and expensive city fees and requirements are expected to complicate the city's plans. Housing Elements in the Bay Area must be approved by January 15 or else may be subject to state-imposed penalties.

Hotly Contested, Litigated Lafayette Development to Move Forward
The Terraces of Lafayette project will move forward after a California appellate court sided with the city and against Save Lafayette, a citizens group arguing that the project is out of compliance with CEQA and the city's General Plan. The appellate court relied on the Housing Accountability Act, suggesting that the city could not reject a housing project for low or moderate-income households since it adhered to CEQA and General Plan requirements. Now, over a decade since the city approved the developer's application, the 315-unit apartment building may soon move forward, but several histories of legal challenges suggest that the city and developers might expect more of a fight; Save Lafayette is expected to appeal again. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

CP&DR Coverage: Court Rejects EIR for Capitol Expansion in Sacramento
The environmental impact report for the billion-dollar renovation and expansion of the State Capitol complex in Sacramento has been partially thrown out, mostly because the Department of General Services made changes to the design after circulating the revised EIR. The 63-page ruling, written by Acting Presiding Justice Harry Hull, contained a very detailed analysis of the project’s design, potential impacts, and potential alternatives – down to the point of specifically describing a visual depiction that the state should have included in the EIR and an alternative that the state should have considered but did not. 

Quick Hits & Updates 

Costa Mesa voters approved Measure K by just 22 votes in November, and now a resident has requested a recount of the results. Measure K would reduce requirements for voter approval of large developments to streamline housing and commercial development, leading to concerns about the silencing of residents' interests. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Los Angeles County Metro's assessment of the NextGen Bus Plan, a bus network intended to increase ridership by growing the number of bus lines, improving frequency, and create safer waiting stops. The assessment found that accessibility improved with the new network, especially for people in Equity Focused Communities.

The Guerneville Forest Coalition has filed a lawsuit to prevent logging near a 2,000-year-old redwood tree in Sonoma County. The group is fighting against Cal Fire, which approved a timber harvest plan that could impact the 340-foot Clar Tree that has avoided harm three times in the past 25 years.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed's plan to allow the redevelopment of gas stations, parking lots, and other auto-related properties into housing will move forward after the Board of Supervisors approved the legislation following 14 months of delays. The Cars to Casas policy may not result in tangible impacts until the housing market and construction costs improve.

BART and San Francisco-based developer Bridge Housing have entered a two-year Exclusive Negotiating Agreement to construct a transit-oriented housing development near the North Berkeley Station. The 5.5-acre site could hold 500 to 1,200 homes, 35% of which would be affordable.

The most recent proposal for Redwood City's Sequoia Caltrain station will not lose thousands of square feet of office space, featuring over 1,000 housing units and a new Caltrain station instead. The new transit district will significantly contribute to the 4,588 units required by 2031 according to the city's RHNA allocation.

The only three renters among the 120 senators and assemblymembers working at the California Capitol have formed a Renters' Caucus that attempts to increase political power for the 17 million California residents who live in rented units. The caucus could increase leverage for those facing eviction threats, financial difficulties, and rising rents, all heightened throughout the pandemic.

A recent report from the Public Policy Institute finds that, as economic inequality expands, low-income Californians remain very concerned about housing costs, with 36 percent of such residents worrying about bills every day. Renters were also much more likely to worry about housing costs than homeowners.

Four former Sears stores are now under the ownership of a single seller, with redevelopment plans expected to come. The four locations -- Fairfield, Sacramento, Salinas, and Ventura -- were all facing record low sales.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved plans to pursue an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District that would fund a proposed 130-mile multi-use trail and river park. County staff will next seek approval from the City of San Diego.