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CP&DR News Briefs December 7, 2021: Tejon Ranch Agreement; San Francisco Fourplexes; Affordable Housing "Report Card," and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Dec 7, 2021

Agreement Paves Way for "Net-Zero" Mega-Development North of Los Angeles
Tejon Ranch Co. and environmental group Climate Resolve have come to an agreement on the construction of a "net-zero" greenhouse gas community with 19,300 homes located along the southern rim of the Tehachapi Mountains bordering Kern County. The agreement will make it easier to construct the 6,700-acre Centennial project, which faced several economic obstacles and environmental concerns, including wildfire risk and vehicle-generated greenhouse gas emissions. Going forward, Climate Resolve has committed to dismissing its legal argument that Los Angeles County violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it voted for the project because they believe the new development will both minimize climate risk through fire-resilient planning and help tackle climate change by installing 30,000 electric vehicle chargers and powering buildings with solar energy. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

San Francisco Considers Competing, Complex Schemes for Upzoning Single-Unit Lots
The San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved a plan that will authorize fourplexes to be built on over 110,000 sites that are currently intended for either single-family homes or duplexes. Going forward, 75,000 single-family and 36,000 duplex parcels on both corner and mid-block lots could be rezoned, and the Planning Commission is hoping that the city will permit six-unit complexes on corner lots. About 80% of residents at the meeting voiced their support for the plan, hoping that it would increase housing stock through a medium-density approach. The Planning Commission has recommended a few amendments to Supervisor Rafael Mandelman's legislation, though city planners are hoping to pass the legislation before SB 9 goes into effect in order to supplement the state policy with provisions that it lacks. Supervisor Gordon Mar announced an alternative ordinance that would require new units produced by upzoning to be both larger and affordable to middle-income households. Mar plans to expand on fourplex legislation by ensuring its affordability to households earning less than 100% of area median income and to have at least two bedrooms. However, the housing would not be set aside for the "missing middle," allowing anyone to move into the units. Meanwhile, Supervisor Ahsha Safai is proposing an ordinance that would require two out of every four units and one out of every three units created by upzoning to be affordable.

Report Gives California Cities Low Marks for Affordable Housing Production
The Southern California News Group's third annual housing report card found that California is struggling to build state-mandated affordable housing, and authorized projects are largely unaffordable to a majority of residents. The report card grades all California cities and counties on their housing achievements. The group found that only 16% of approved homes were affordable to the state's low-income households, and 73% of the 109,000 housing permits issued in 2020 that would help build homes are only affordable to high-income residents or would contribute to rent burdens for everyone else. In the grading system, most areas earned C's or D's, and twice as many areas earned F's than they did A's. Additionally, only 20 out of 538 jurisdictions with housing mandates were on track to meet their housing and affordability goals.

Los Angeles Approves Housing Element for Half-Million New Homes
The Los Angeles City Council approved revisions to the city’s Housing Element that would establish one of the most ambitious rezoning programs in the nation and address systemic inequity in planning and land use policies that has contributed to the city’s current housing crisis. The rezoning program plans to allow for over 250,000 new housing units within three years of the plan's adoption and would put the city on track to meet the state’s request for nearly 500,000 new units by 2029. The Housing Element also includes anti-displacement strategy studies, eviction defense programs, inclusionary zoning studies, a Citywide Housing Needs Assessment, and a focus on rezoning in higher opportunity areas near jobs and transit.

CP&DR Coverage: Fulton on Effectiveness of New Housing Laws
CP&DR’s analysis of the Census Bureau’s survey of building permits suggests that new housing laws are making a difference, albeit a small one. New housing has been stuck in the range of 100,000 to 110,000 per year for the last several years and actually declined in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first year in office. But the trend line for 2021 suggests that new housing could hit 120,000 this year, which would be the most since 2006. That’s a long way from the 200,000+ that experts say the state needs in order to catch up to the deficit created over the past 30 years, but it’s a start.

Quick Hits & Updates 

The Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium, LLC, a subsidiary of the non-profit Tenants and Owners Development Corporation (TODCO), filed a petition to block the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Plan Bay Area 2050. TODCO is arguing that the plan does not align with the CEQA. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

YIMBY Law has filed its petition to challenge Los Angeles County's interpretation of the Housing Accountability Act that rejects the HAA's approval of housing developments constructed at the density that is permitted in the General Plan, even if zoning only authorizes lower densities. The county believes that a project located at 5353 Del Moreno Drive should adhere to zoning requirements.

A state appeals court rejected a lawsuit intended to cease plans for California's high-speed rail project, finding that the project does not violate the state constitution in its piecemeal approach to constructing the project. While the project has made it through multiple legal challenges, it has been impacted by several issues regarding financing, permitting, engineering, and land acquisition.

A federal judge is requiring that all seven Richmond City Council members appear in court to respond to allegations that they attempted to undermine a settlement agreement by complicating efforts to redevelop the 193-acre Point Molate site, even though they had already approved the project. The Guidiville Rancheria of California tribe and Upstream Point Molate LLC believe that Richmond is violating a legal ruling that requires the city to respond to environmental groups that have sued Richmond.

The pandemic has impacted Californians' vision for the state's future workforce, as 42% of Californians noted their preference to work full-time outside the home, 24% wanting to work full-time remotely or from home, and 33% interested in a mix, according to a statewide survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. Analysis also found that preferences are region- and demographic-dependent, and those working remotely full- or part-time experience slightly higher job satisfaction.

Los Angeles City Council is looking to prevent tech companies like Zillow from purchasing single-family homes in the city and flipping them for profit. The motion, co-authored by Nury Martinez and Nithya Raman, claims that "iBuying" is making housing more expensive and displacing city residents.

California metros earned all five top spots on the list of the least affordable major housing markets. In order, Los Angeles-Long-Beach-Glendale, Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine and San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, San Diego-Carlsbad, and Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura were the most expensive markets for purchasing a home.

A new report from the NRDC examines the environmental impacts of Uber and Lyft in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. to understand the place that transportation network companies (TNCs) hold in sustainable futures. The report found that TNCs contribute to a car-reliant city with significant greenhouse gas emissions, but equitable road pricing, low-carbon transportation construction, car electrification, and fair labor could give TNCs a place in our future.

In San Diego's next move to call off the lease-to-own deal for the Sempra Energy headquarters, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who advocated for the lease, has been subpoenaed to appear for a deposition next month. While Faulconer claimed that the deal would save the city $44 million by providing a 19-story offie space for hundreds of city employees, the building cost the city tens of millions of dollars to maintain a vacant tower troubled by asbestos and other issues.

According to new data, Sacramento residents are enjoying their time out on the town, as vaccine availability and reduced COVID-19 cases has led to increased foot traffic in almost all area ZIP codes over the last 18 months. Safe Graph's interactive map tracks foot traffic's changes since the beginning of the pandemic, including one ZIP code that saw a 369.01% change.

Four conservation groups have sued the US Forest Service over its gold drilling operation in California's Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains after the agency approved Canada-based Kore Mining Ltd.'s proposal to drill for gold and build roads on public land. The Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Watersheds Project, Friends of the Inyo, and the Sierra Club are arguing that the drilling could devastate local ecosystems.

The U.S. Geological Survey released a report detailing the impacts of a hypothetical 7.0 magnitude earthquake on the Bay Area that suggests 1.45 million people will be removed from their homes, and 500,000 jobs will be lost. The Hayward Fault earthquake would impact the Bay Area for months or even years due to extremely minimal preparedness.

Palo Alto City Council voted 5-2 to increase the cost of building commercial and research and development projects in order to pay for affordable housing construction. The city's "impact fees" will increase from $39.50 to $68.50 per square foot.

The Hayward City Council issued an apology for its decision in the 1950s that redeveloped a 12-block area known as Russell City that flourished as a near-shoreline space for Black and Latino residents into an industrial park. City council members apologized to Russell City residents, their descendants, and those impacted by the city's forced displacement of residents and racist policies.

Thousands of California State University students may lose access to affordable housing due to a system error that misunderstood the fine print of the new student housing program. While Cal State thought that it could only use $2 billion in funds that Gov. Gavin Newsom reserved for student housing, the school system can actually use the money alongside outside funds that would contribute to more affordable student housing construction.

The Watsonville Pilots Association (WPA) filed a lawsuit against the city of Watsonville over its approval of a 21-condo project located across the street from the Watsonville Municipal Airport. The WPA is arguing that the city did not adhere to CEQA guidelines, the State Aeronautics Act, and a court order from a previous lawsuit in order to push the project through.

A Bay Area school district is hoping to increase funding by finding a developer who will build over 1,100 apartment units on one of its campuses. The Jefferson Union High School District in Daly City is imagining a large multifamily housing project that would stand alongside retail, restaurants, parks, and trails on the 22-acre Serramonte Del Rey campus.