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CP&DR News Briefs December 17, 2019: Newsom Housing Program; Smart Cities Index; Anti-Displacement in L.A., and More

Robin Glover on
Dec 16, 2019
Newsom Kicks off Affordable Housing Program in Stockton 
Developer bids are in for over 100 housing units planned for two sites in downtown Stockton, a significant milestone for what is essentially a pilot program for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s affordable housing initiative he signed into law earlier this year with an executive order. “This is incredible news for Stockton and an example of how state and local governments can partner together to address our housing crisis,” said Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. “When we reached out to ask for assistance, Governor Gavin Newsom moved quickly, aligning state resources to help Stockton, which has seen the second highest rent increases in the nation.” Per the executive order, state agencies identified excess state-owned land suitable for affordable housing projects, then worked with the city of Stockton to field bids, secure funding, and provide oversight. To even be considered, proposals had to allocate at least half of the units to units affordable to residents who make 80 percent or less of the area’s median income, but preference will be given to projects that go beyond minimum requirements. Developers will be selected in January, after which they will be granted a long-term ground lease from the state. No dates are set for when construction will begin or be completed, but the executive order states project proposals should address “feasibility of breaking ground within two years of entering the lease and completing units within three years,” and the Newsom administration has strong incentive to ensure the project moves forward expeditiously. Success in Stockton could spur other cities to follow suit in partnering with the state.

San Francisco, Los Angeles Ranked on “Smart City Index"
IMD and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) released a "smart city index" balancing economic and tech aspects of smart cities on the one hand with “humane dimensions” like quality of life, environment, inclusiveness on the other. Included in the study were San Francisco and Los Angeles, which rated twelfth and 108th respectively out of 102 cities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, survey results show Los Angeles residents are primarily concerned with affordable housing and road congestion. When grading city mobility, Angelenos highly agreed that car-sharing apps have reduced congestion, while giving poor marks to ease of public transport use and much lower than average attitudes toward bicycles as a traffic reducing measure. San Francisco ranked high amongst “smart cities,” but residents attitudes scored San Francisco in the bottom quartile when asked if “basic sanitation meets the need of the poorest areas.” Public safety similarly received far below average marks. However, well above median attitudes toward job growth and ability to provide feedback on local government projects pushed San Francisco toward the top of the list.

Los Angeles Considers Anti-Displacement Zones
The Los Angeles City Council voted to start the process of creating zoning overlays that could protect low-income communities from the economic effects of luxury housing complexes that do not provide affordable units and could drive up nearby property values. Prompted by a planned luxury 577 unit apartment complex on Crenshaw Boulevard, Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson spearheaded the proposal. “We don’t just need more housing units. We need more housing units that working people can afford,” Wesson said. “Building market-rate housing, when that means $1,800 for a one-bedroom apartment, is not an adequate solution to this crisis." The council will conduct a feasibility study evaluating anti-displacement zones that will cap rent increases within a two-mile radius of new buildings in which no affordable units are offered. The proposal acknowledges luxury developments can bring economic prosperity to a neighborhood, but also contends that new construction raises property values, ultimately hurting long-time residents.

Quick Hits & Updates 
The Hollywood-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation lost another in a string of legal battles against high-rise developers and the City of Los Angeles. A Superior Court judge threw out a lawsuit that claimed anti-discrimination laws were violated when the city approved four Sunset Boulevard residential towers because new luxury developments would increase rent, displacing black and Latino residents. But the judge concluded since no homes were being demolished and the new towers will include affordable housing, no anti-discrimination laws were violated. “There will be a net increase of 2,096 housing units, with 180 affordable housing units for low or very low income families, in a state suffering from an acknowledged housing crisis,” the judge wrote. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Monterey is in a protracted legal battle over the definition of the word "rent" after a sting operation caught a landlord who violated Monterey’s 30-day rental minimum. As part of the sting, a city worker booked a 10-day rental, then cancelled as soon as the payment processed, presumably having proven intent to rent. Rather than pay a $10,000 fine, the building owners took the city to court, claiming that since no one physically occupied the property it was never technically rented. In a brief, a city attorney used an analogy of an undercover police officer who buys drugs from a drug dealer: “the officer is not required to actually use the drugs and let the dealer keep the money in order to prove the violation occurred.” Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel have all banned short-term rentals because they remove potential long-term rentals from the market.


Construction on a 200-bed homeless navigation center in San Francisco’s South Beach can continue, according to a Superior Court ruling. Safe Embarcadero for All (SEFA) sued to block construction, arguing the city needs state permission to build on land that was once part of the bay. But the judge dismissed the claim, citing thousands of port leases secured without state approval. Typically, exempted properties fall under a public interest exception. The navigation center is in the final stages of construction, so SEFA will likely not have time to appeal or bring a new suit. 

Conservation group Sierra Watch is suing to block expansion of a Lake Tahoe ski resort, saying the developer is trying to hide the environmental impacts of the project and “planning for disaster.” Most critically, estimates of increased road traffic of 1,353 daily car trips and 2,800 peak-day trips would congest nearby Squaw Valley’s wildfire evacuation route. Lawyers for Squaw Valley say 2.9 hours are currently needed to evacuate the area and that could grow to 5 or 6 hours under most scenarios. Tom Mooers, head of Sierra Watch, claims evacuation could take as many as 11 hours with additional resort traffic. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Calaveras Planning Coalition (CPC) is suing the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors over its recently adopted General Plan update. In a petition against the county, CPC claims the plan fails to set priorities, timeframes, and objectives for over 120 deferred measures in the General Plan update, and neglects 25 significant environmental impacts, including wildfire prevention and evacuation, traffic congestion, air pollution, loss of scenic views and agricultural lands, oak woodlands, and rare habitats. Litigation will likely take years, according to CPC attorneys. 

The Los Angeles Angels will remain in Anaheim through 2050, according to a three-part deal struck between city and team negotiators. Pending a Dec. 20 vote, Anaheim will sell the stadium and the surrounding 133 acres for $325 million to a business partnership that includes the team's owner. Additionally, the city will no longer profit directly from stadium or development revenue. The new agreement stipulates that revenue will instead come from increases in property and sales taxes around the stadium. Angels officials are still considering whether to renovate the stadium or build a new one, according to a team spokesperson. Long Beach had hoped to lure the Angels to a 13-acre harborside parcel.

As Paso Robles City Council scrambles to complete the housing element update to the city’s general plan, an emergency measure will block developers from converting multifamily use buildings to nonresidential uses. Officials say the measure is necessary to prevent losing residential units at a time when Paso is already behind in fulfilling its housing responsibility of 1,446 residential units, of which two-thirds are to be designated as affordable housing. The City of Salinas recently adopted a similar measure. 

San Francisco’s Pedestrian Safety Committee passed a resolution to set maximum speed limits to 20 miles per hour citywide in response to over 30 pedestrian and bicyclist deaths per year going back to 2014. It’s now up to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to decide whether to pursue the resolution as legislation. Data published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety supports advocates’ claims that a 20 mile per hour speed limit saves lives. ProPublica reported the same conclusion: “once cars reach a certain speed (just above 20 mph), they rapidly become more deadly … [a person is] about 70 percent more likely to be killed if they’re struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph versus 25 mph.”

Environmental and fishing groups filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for endangering chinook salmon, steelhead trout and delta smelt. The suit charges that a federal government proposal to increase water flow to Central Valley farmers and Southern California cities fails to uphold the Endangered Species Act. Biologists say declining fish populations are a sign of the overall lack of health in the ecosystem. Farmers, meanwhile, applauded new federal guidelines, claiming previous regulations favored fish over food.

Lompoc City Council officials voted to approve a new plan that would annex land west of the city and retained an attorney to lead the effort. The proposal is for 140 acres for development of 469 residential units, a more modest proposal that those previously put forward to the Santa Barbara Local Agency Formation Commission. Councilman Jim Mosby called the annexation “probably one of the most important things we can do.” In terms of new development, Lompoc lags behind neighboring counties after years of no new developments and demolitions that have taken units off the market.
A new online poll, funded by Bay Area Leads, points to growing dissatisfaction among Bay Area residents. Over half of those surveyed said the region is on the wrong track--up eight points from a similar survey conducted in 2016--and a majority of those surveyed are worried about finding affordable housing. But on a positive note, survey respondents also indicated government and elected officials are capable of solving major issues like housing affordability, preserving diversity within the community, and making sure individuals are able to build wealth and financial stability.

The Placer County Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of entitlements for proposed Sunset Area Plan and Placer Ranch Specific Plan to the Board of Supervisors. The Sunset Area is 8,497 acres between the cities of Roseville, Rocklin, and Lincoln. If approved, the plan would change zoning to allow for workforce housing in anticipation of economic and industrial growth in the area. Placer Ranch is a development plan that includes 8.5 million square feet of commercial, employment and university-related, non-residential use, of which 4.5 million square feet would be in a campus park district. The plan includes 300 acres for a California State University satellite campus and proposes 5,600 homes, two new schools, 330 acres of open space and parks, a high-density town center, and a bike and trail network.
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