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CP&DR News Briefs February 15, 2022: S.D. Housing Incentives; S.F. Vacancy Tax Measure; SB 9 Lawsuit; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Feb 15, 2022

San Diego Adopts Suite of Housing Incentives
San Diego City Council approved, 8-1, a package of seven housing incentives, including regulation changes for ADUs, that are intended to increase housing availability while also catering to residents with concerns about "neighborhood character." The package, named "Homes for All of Us," also includes a policy that disallows property owners who take advantage of SB9 to also benefit from the new ADU incentives, which expand on San Diego's already lenient ADU regulations. Developers may also now build housing projects with new libraries and fire stations on public land, and businesses will have an easier time building on-site housing for workers. Other incentives exist for those who build larger "family" units and units for disabled people. Critics of the package believe that it does not do enough to protect "neighborhood character."

San Francisco May Face Vacancy Tax Ballot Measure
San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston and two housing advocacy groups introduced a ballot measure titled the "Empty Homes Tax" that would tax property owners with vacant residential units. This would apply to owners of buildings with a unit that has been vacant for over six months, and the tax rate would increase for larger units and longer vacancies. The Democratic Socialists of America San Francisco Chapter and Faith in Action Bay Area are working with Preston to raise about $38 million annually add about 5,000 units to the housing stock in the first two years of implementation. Residents would voice their opinion on the measure on the November ballot, but supporters will have to father 9,000 signatures by July 11 for the measure to qualify.

Cities Threaten Suit to Undo SB 9
Carson, Redondo Beach, and Torrance have begun a legal battle against SB 9 to render the law as invalid, arguing that the law's failure to allow for local control over land-use decisions and its lack of specificity regarding the affordable housing crisis violate the state Constitution, specifically for charter cities. While supporters of the bill celebrate its potential to confront the housing crisis, opponents are arguing that rescinding local decision-making ability will make it harder for leaders to properly address community needs. Specifically, Carson City Attorney Sunny Soltani mentioned concerns regarding environmental impacts, affordable housing, and gentrification. SB 9 will likely face additional challenges from general law cities like Rancho Palos Verdes and Hesperia. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Lost Coast Land Returned to Indigenous Tribes
Save the Redwoods League has committed to giving over 500 acres on the Lost Coast to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, returning land with ancient redwoods to the descendants of the region's original inhabitants. Ten tribes who have lived on the land, Tc'ih-Léh-Dûñ, or "Fish Run Place" in the Sinkyone language, for thousands of years will now care for the land with steep hills and a tributary of the Eel River, which is home to steelhead trout and Coho salmon. The league had previously purchased a 5-mile stretch of the Lost Coast from a lumber company that stripped the forest for timber. The land will return to the area's indigenous inhabitants as part of the LANDBACK movement.

CP&DR Legal Coverage: San Diego High Rise Prevails on Density Bonus 
In the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego, a community association opposed a 20-story apartment building based on two arguments that might have succeeded in the past: conflicts with the general plan and the idea that the project’s “massing and scale” is out of character with the neighborhood. But the Bankers Hill neighbors aren’t winning the argument. They’ve lost all the way down the line – planning commission, city council, Superior Court, and now in an unpublished opinion by the Court of Appeal. The reason is the recent changes in state law that give developers more power to seek density bonuses, concessions, and waivers, which in this case are overpowering the neighbors’ traditional arguments. In fact, the appellate court criticized the neighborhood group for “sidestepping” the density bonus law in their arguments.

Quick Hits & Updates
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the California Housing Accelerator will award $923 million to affordable housing projects across the state that are ready for construction but could not move forward due to a lack of federal tax credits and bonds. 27 projects have been approved thus far, and most of them will begin construction this summer, generating 2,300 housing units, 500 of which will be for unhoused residents.

HCD has submitted proposed regulations for the Prohousing Designation Program and is accepting public comments. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The first headquarters of the Black Panther Party, now home to It's All Good Bakery in Oakland, might get demolished and transformed into a five-story, 20-unit mixed-use housing development. Many Oakland residents have voiced concerns about the potential project's erasure of Black history and the impact on the city's Black community.

Three environmental groups have sued the National Park Service in the U.S. District Court of Northern California over its decision to allow cattle ranching to operate at the Point Reyes National Seashore. The environmentalists are arguing that officials are prioritizing the dairy and beef industries at the expense of wildlife, including tule elk, and their ecosystem.

While most large U.S. cities are not on track to meet their climate goals, San Francisco is equitably cleaning up its energy use, according to the 2021 City Clean Energy Scorecard. The report, released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), ranks 100 major U.S. cities on efforts including reducing energy waste in homes and buildings and moving toward a cleaner power grid. San Francisco came in first place for its new program that provides free home energy-saving kits to residents living in low-income areas with high pollution. The city also updated its energy code for new buildings and received honors for its transportation programs. Los Angeles, San Jose, and Oakland took 8th, 9th, and 10th place, respectively.

The Antioch City Council has banned future natural gas and oil drilling in the city, ensuring that its future remains well-free, in updates to its municipal code. While Sunset Exploration had applied for a drilling permit to operate in the city's "heavy industrial" zone, they will now have to look outside of Antioch.

Berkeley is considering a new paving policy that would prioritize quieter neighborhood streets over busy corridors and invest further in low-income neighborhoods. Under the new policy and $38.5 million five-year paving plan, streets in the city's "Equity Zone" would receive increased resources.

San Diego's Blue Line Trolley extension cost double the per mile national average for light-rail projects and finished construction in half the average time, according to a recent UC Berkeley study. The report's co-author found that the 11-mile, $2.2 billion extension with nine new stations was "well executed" by SANDAG.

Orange County Superior Court Judge James Crandall ruled that Mission Viejo City Council members acted in accordance with transparency law in their private negotiations surrounding the purchase and redevelopment of the Stein Mart building in the city's downtown shopping center. The property owner who filed the lawsuit argued that the City Council violated the Brown Act.

Anaheim's Disneyland Resort may transform an area with a strip mall, mobile home park, and a Toy Story parking lot into a mixed-use development with hotels, restaurants, shops, and apartments along Katella Avenue. If approved by the city, "DisneylandForward" is intended to work with another proposal, Katella Gateway Anaheim, that would construct four hotel towers, four residential towers, and seven commercial buildings on 23 acres of an existing mobile home park, to increase tourism and revenue. Locals have voiced concerns about the 200 mobile homes that would be demolished and the likely increase in traffic.

OPR recently released a technical advisory that provides an overview of existing CEQA provisions that can streamline the planning and construction of sustainable transportation projects. This TA also provides guidance on how to prepare a project business case and racial equity analysis, as required for sustainable transportation projects over $100 million seeking to use the CEQA exemption contained in Public Resources Code § 21080.25.

California’s Regional Early Action Planning Program 2.0 (REAP 2.0) will provide $600 million in state and federal investment to advance the implementation of adopted regional plans by funding projects that accelerate infill housing and reductions in per capita vehicle miles traveled. An advance application for the program is now available.

Berkeley officials, including Mayor Jesse Arreguín, have voiced their support for a ballot initiative that would raise hundreds of millions of dollars to fund infrastructure improvements and affordable housing construction. Officials are still considering several details related to the measure but have determined that the city must be more bold to address its housing crisis and raise the $1 billion required for maintenance.

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