LAO Calls on Coastal Cities to Double Housing Targets
Coastal cities should plan to double annual housing targets to 200,000 a year, according to a new climate change report from California’s Legislative Analyst Office. The report stresses the outsize role local governments will have in adapting to sea level rise (SLR) and highlights complications encroaching seas will pose to increasing housing availability and affordability. Report projections show coastal cities will have to contend with between half a foot and a foot of SLR within the next 10 years that will cause some existing housing units along the coast to become unlivable due to regular flooding. It further warns that local governments should carefully consider granting development permits on undeveloped coastal lands that also face the likelihood of flooding in future years. A total of almost $30 million in state funds have either been disbursed or are still available to local governments seeking funds for coastal adaptation projects. Recommendations came from consultation with 100 individuals in all levels of government, academia, and think tanks in addition to review of academic literature and statewide surveys. 

Sale of Anaheim Stadium May Lead to Major Redevelopment 
The Anaheim City Council approved the sale of Anaheim Stadium and surrounding parking lots to a company controlled by Angels owner Arte Moreno. Last year, the Angels opted out of their stadium lease with Anaheim, saying they wanted to pursue “a high-quality fan experience beyond what the original lease allows.” Moreno’s company has six months to deliver a development plan to the city, including a decision on whether to build a new stadium or rebuild the existing one. The Angels have considered building homes, shops, restaurants, offices and a hotel on the 153-acre stadium site. Angels Chairman Dennis Kuhl says he envisions a complex like Fenway Park, with a robust collection of restaurants, lounges, venues, and bars that would become a gathering spot and attraction for visitors and residents regardless of whether they were attending a game. The sale agreement calls on the Angels to commit to play in Anaheim through 2050, with five options that would extend that tenure for five years apiece. The deal is not expected to close until 2025 and development will likely continue into 2050.

Report: CEQA Suits Stifle Housing Development 
In 2018, housing was targeted in 60 percent of all California Environmental Quality Act lawsuits against construction projects in the state, a new report by Holland & Knight reveals. The report, "California Getting in Its Own Way," concludes that CEQA remains the litigation of choice for housing opponents and that this litigation is a major contributor to California's housing crisis. It was published by the Chapman University Center for Demographics and Policy. According to the study, one culprit in the housing crisis is the lengthy and costly environmental review process required under CEQA, even for housing that complies with local General Plans and zoning codes and the hundreds of applicable environmental, health, safety, and labor laws and regulations. But after new housing is finally approved, any party can – even anonymously – file a CEQA lawsuit seeking to block the housing for "environmental" reasons, resulting in costly, multi-year delays. High-density, multi-family apartments and condos in existing urban neighborhoods are by far the top target of anti-housing CEQA lawsuits, according to the study. But the "not in my backyard" use of anti-development CEQA lawsuits against even one single-family home (e.g., to prevent approved construction based on an aesthetics objection by a neighbor) also dramatically increased to 21 percent of lawsuits in 2018 compared to 13 percent of the lawsuits filed in 2013-2015. Overall, the study found that those filing CEQA lawsuits win nearly 50 percent of them, a vastly higher rate than the 20 percent of such lawsuits won across the country.

Quick Hits & Updates 

The California Department of Housing and Community Development announced that 114 California cities and counties have been awarded $26 million in Senate Bill 2 planning grant money. An additional $70 million in awards is currently pending, and an HCD announcement reports five local governments gained eligibility to apply for SB 2 planning grants. SB 2, the Building Homes and Jobs Act (2017), provide cities and counties funding to help prepare, adopt, and implement plans and process improvements that streamline housing approvals and accelerate housing production.

Carlsbad City Council declined to retroactively approve San Diego County’s purchase of three acres near McClellan-Palomar Airport. San Diego officials say the purchase will make the county-owned airport safer; the latest airport master plan outlines a series of proposed projects for the disputed parcel that would extend the runway by 800 feet and repurpose an office building for storage. Councilmembers pushed back, saying the county did not go through the proper channels, setting up a potential battle between Carlsbad and San Diego County.

Alameda County will sell its half-share in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex it jointly owned with the city of Oakland. The A’s hope to redevelop the area into a “multisports facility” that would include affordable housing and parks, though the city as co-owner of the site will have to approve future plans. For half-ownership of the stadium, the A’s will pay $85 million over six years to Alameda County. The county will save up to $13 million a year in debt payments.

The Trump administration has green-lit new oil-drilling leases on federal land in eight Central California counties, across more than 1 million acres between Bakersfield and Santa Barbara. The move follows a previous decision to open up parts of the Bay Area and Central Coast to drilling. Environmental groups are suing to have time to study impacts of fracking in the area, and Gov. Newsom and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra say they will push back, and environmental groups are suing to have time to study impacts of fracking in the area.

A San Francisco Planning Commissioner who has been a crusader against building code violators and house flippers is facing allegations that he and his investment group are ignoring city planning and building codes to make millions. The commissioner’s investment group, Six Dogs, LLC, bought a San Francisco property for $2.7 million, bought out the four tenants, spent millions renovating and is now marketing the property for $7.88 million. The matter has been appealed.

A division of AIDS Healthcare Foundation has gathered over one million signatures for a November 2020 ballot initiative that would expand rent control statewide. Last year a similar measure failed, but organizers say they hope the more streamlined initiative that exempts single-family homes will garner more support. In July, a poll claimed that 75 percent of likely California voters said they were “likely to support” a rent control expansion, but similarly high polling in the past has not results at the ballot box.

This year, San Francisco surpassed New York for the highest construction costs in the world. An analysis by the San Francisco Chronicle found that a worker shortage, long waits for permits, restrictive zoning and high fees, are likely contributors to an average construction cost of $417-per-square-foot citywide. Environmental impact reports and associated litigation is a big driver in long delays and high costs, the report noted.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is authorizing the release of $500 million to cities to combat homelessness, relying on preliminary federal homeless counts to disburse state funds. Cities will have wide discretionary power to determine how the funds will be used. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, says the $20 million awarded to San Jose will go toward small grants to help families at risk of losing their housing and toward converting motels into apartments. A spokeswoman for Oakland said an anticipated $12 million will go toward transitional housing, emergency beds, safe parking spaces, and “allow for more robust employment strategies to support housing stability.”

Crossings: Transformative Investments for an Uncertain Future, the first of a series of Perspective Papers by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments (MTC/ABAG), is now available on MTC’s website. It tests the extent to which potential new crossings of San Francisco Bay can be expected to perform under each of three population growth models--conservative, moderate, and expansive growth between one and six million additional residents in the next 30 years. Crossings makes observations about the relative merits of seven different potential Transbay crossings under these different population growth models. It also identifies which crossings should be analyzed further in the coming months and years.

Two Los Angeles city ordinances aimed at speeding up permitting for temporary homeless housing survived a suit brought by Fight Back, Venice!, a local group that self-describes as working to prevent homeless housing and services in Venice. One of the ordinances allows housing projects to bypass environmental review; the other made it easier to convert old motels to temporary housing. The suit argued the ordinances are unconstitutional because they bypass state environmental review laws. But state lawmakers stepped in to exempt the L.A. ordinances, leading a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to conclude the state had rendered the lawsuit moot.