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CP&DR News Briefs December 3, 2019: L.A. Downtown Plan; Clovis Housing Lawsuit; S. Calif. Rents, and More

Robin Glover on
Dec 1, 2019
Los Angeles Releases Downtown Plan for 125,000 New Residents
The Los Angeles Department of City Planning released a new zoning plan, called DTLA 2040, that will accommodate explosive residential growth in Central City and Central City North. The plan reflects two major considerations. First is massive job and population growth: an estimated 125,000 new residents, 70,000 more housing units, and 55,000 more jobs downtown in the next 20 years. Second is the need for affordable housing. Residential zones will increase from 33 percent to 60 percent, parking minimums will be eliminated, and a new Community Benefits program will take effect, in which developers will have a green-light to build taller and denser structures. In exchange, they must offer public amenities and affordable housing. DTLA 2040 will go through several review processes and iterations before taking effect. Downtown locals will be asked for feedback on a preliminary draft,, an environmental impact report will come out in early 2020. The department hopes to present plans to the City Planning Commission for consideration in late 2020.

Clovis Sued over Shortage of Affordable Housing
Central California Legal Services (CCLS) filed a lawsuit against the City of Clovis, alleging the city’s shortage of affordable housing is against the law. Fresno County has an affordable housing shortage of 35,380 rental homes, according to the California Housing Partnership. The suit further alleges Clovis’ failure to comply with affordable housing laws discriminates against low-income people and people of color. “This is about if you wanted to build in Clovis, what could you build?” said Patience Milrod, executive director of CCLS. “Because of the way they zone, it’s very difficult to find a place where it would be appropriate to build low-income housing. They have to fix that.” Clovis has 30 days to respond to the complaint in court.

Southern California Rents Projected to Keep Rising
The 2019 University of Southern California Casden Real Estate Economics Forecast predictsthat the average Southern California apartment dweller will pay at least $100 more per month by 2021. While salaries increased slightly more than rents across Southern California in 2019 – indicating a slight uptick in affordability – housing costs and below-average construction of units are forcing workers to seek employment elsewhere. “Rents are continuing to rise, and at a slower pace. And rents in the past year rose a little bit less than renter incomes,” said Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, which authors the forecast each year. “Still, an ongoing lack of affordability is causing skilled workers to flee the region and seek employment and housing elsewhere.” The annual forecast predicts that over the next two years, rents will increase over their 2019 levels by $139 in Los Angeles County, $106 in Orange County, $209 in San Diego County, $110 in Ventura County and $100 in the Inland Empire, which includes San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Quick Hits & Updates 
California Sen. Kamala Harris introduced the Wildfire Defense Act, a bill that would direct $1 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to communities vulnerable to wildfires. Municipalities would be eligible for up to $250,000 for improved infrastructure, land-use and evacuation routes, and updating electrical grids. Legislation faces an uphill climb, as lawmakers are narrowly avoiding a government shutdown, and funding for prevention has typically taken a backseat to new funds to combat fires.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a 744-unit housing and retail complex that includes 186 affordable units for seniors, a child care facility, five acres of open space and 35,000 square feet of retail on what is currently the UCSF Laurel Heights campus. In council meetings, residents of surrounding wealthy neighborhoods denounced the complex, primarily because 226 several mature trees will have to be cut down. Developers plan to plant 512 new trees.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the creation of Urban Movement Labs, a first of its kind public-private partnership that will work to accelerate transportation innovation across Los Angeles. The venture will focus on creating more ways for Angelenos to get around by bringing stakeholders to the table to develop new ideas, testing them on L.A.’s streets, and rolling them out in close partnership with local communities. Founding partners include Lyft, Verizon, Waymo, Avis Budget Group, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Mayor Garcetti’s Office of Economic Development, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Los Angeles World Airports, and the Port of Los Angeles.

California has six high-hazard dams deemed in risky condition, according to public records acquired by Associated Press. At risk are Kelley Hot Spring in Modoc County; North Fork in Santa Clara County; Misselbeck in Shasta County; Moccasin Lower in Tuolumne County; and Matilija, a dam in Ventura County slated for removal. The Oroville dam failed in 2017, prompting mass evacuations and is now rated as “fair” after repairs. Despite its shortcomings, California leads the nation with the largest national dam safety program, a budget that increased from $13 million to $20 million and full-time staff of 77, up from 63 before the Orville dam failure.

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) cannot compel the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to dredge San Francisco’s Pinole Shoal and Outer Richmond Harbor channels more frequently, a federal judge ruled. BCDC argued that dredging every other year instead of annually exposed San Francisco to increased risk of accidents or oil spills. But the U.S. District judge dismissed the claims as “speculation” and found no law or precedent requiring the Corps to “address commercial interests.” Both parties have 20 days to submit briefs for review.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development released a memo providing guidance to cities as they implement the No Net Loss Law, which requires cities to keep an adequate inventory of affordable housing sites open during all stages of planning according to the jurisdiction’s regional housing allocation. The memo details how changes in zoning, general plan updates, and developer approvals will be impacted by the law.

The High Speed Rail Authority filed a federal “record of decision,” finalizing a 23-mile track route between Shafter and Bakersfield. While the filing is a significant step, service between the two cities isn’t expected to begin until 2028 and there are significant infrastructure challenges ahead. The proposed bullet train station site is currently the headquarters of GET, Bakersfield’s public bus system, which will have to be relocate According to GET leadership, headquarter relocation plans are in their infancy, and between property acquisition, facility design, and construction, relocation is at least three years down the road.
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