Ambitious Plan Would Unite By Area by Rail
A new multiyear planning process by BART and regional rail providers, dubbed Link21, will establish a case for greater integration of rail service across the Bay Area, the Sacramento area, San Joaquin Valley, and the Monterey region. The plan includes new and enhanced services on a variety of rail networks in the region, including BART, Caltrain, SMART Rail, California High-Speed Rail, and Amtrak corridors into the Central Valley. A central project in the plan will be a second Transbay Tube for the BART system. In 2014, BART began officially studying the idea of a Transbay Tube, and since then, the idea of a second train connection has been batted around on multiple occasions. But with Link21, the second train crossing takes a big step toward reality. Between BART and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, over $370 million has gone toward project planning. The whole project, according to current estimates, may cost $29 billion. The Link21 anticipates fully operational service by 2040.

UCSF Moves Ahead with Controversial Expansion Plan
The University of California at San Francisco's $3 billion, 30-year modernization plan for its Parnassus Heights campus was approved by the University of California Board of Regents. The vote sets the stage for a massive construction project that includes a new hospital and research facilities as well as 1,200 units of housing for students and faculty. The project faced considerable opposition from surrounding residents and San Francisco Supervisors. The vote comes a week after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to ask the regents to delay the decision so that questions about UCSF's commitment to affordable housing and job training, along with transportation issues, could be addressed. As part of negotiations with Mayor London Breed's office, the medical school and hospital agreed to increase housing in the plan from 750 to 1,260 units and make 40 percent available at below market rates. In addition, UCSF agreed to invest $20 million in transportation improvements.

High Speed Rail Faces Further Cost Overruns
California’s bullet train project is facing setbacks after setback as estimated costs have swelled according to recent reports from the California High Speed Rail Authority,. To partially compensate for the $2 billion budget increase on the first phase of construction, the agency announced it will reduce the Bakersfield-to-Merced route down from two tracks to one, saving $1 billion. The state is scrambling to secure additional cash for the project and keep federal dollars that are tied to a 2022 deadline, asking the Biden California is hoping to get back nearly $1 billion in grant money cancelled by the previous administration. As for state funding, the bullet train authority will seek a $4.1 billion appropriation to complete construction in the Central Valley. The appropriation would come out of a 2008 bond fund that voters approved. If the Legislature releases the funds, it would be the first time since 2012. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

CP&DR Commentary: Legal Questions about YIMBY Lawsuit
Housing advocates YIMBY Law and YIMBY Action sued the state of California last week, arguing the Department of Housing and Community Development misjudged the housing need of the San Francisco Bay Area. The suit raises important questions at the intersection of transportation, climate, and housing policy.The activists’ complaint has merit. HCD appears to have overlooked an older adjustment factor, one which the Legislature added with a landmark climate change bill back in 2008: jobs-housing imbalance. But, the Legislature, not the courts, should resolve it.

Quick Hits & Updates

A letter to California high-speed officials from a major bullet train contractor, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, contradicts state claims that the line will meet a key 2022 federal deadline. The construction company Tutor Perini alleges that unresolved problems ranging from a lack of continuity among leadership and failure to secure land, utilities, and partnerships will result in delays and layoffs.

When controlling for household demographics, households in transit-oriented developments own fewer and more fuel-efficient cars, driver fewer miles, and use transit more, according to research out of Fresno State. A study evaluating the impact of TOD on household expenditures found that on average, households save $1,232 per year compared to non-TOD counterparts with similar demographics, accounting for 18 percent of their total annual transportation expenses.

The company that bribed former Los Angeles Councilmember Jose Huizar to earn his vote for a 35-story project in downtown's Arts District will pay $1.2 million in a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office. Under the agreement, CP Employer admitted and accepted responsibility as well as agreed to fully cooperate with the FBI's ongoing public corruption probe.

Encinitas's first farming-focused housing community--part of a national "agrihood" movement-- won unanimous permit approval and enthusiastic praise from Encinitas planning commissioners. The new development, to be called Fox Point Farms calls for the construction of 250 homes, a 5.5-acre farmland area, a farm stand, a farm-to-table restaurant, and a community recreation center.

A giant land sale in Calimesa with 3,052 approved home sites in a 2,590-acre Summerwind Trails master-planned community is the second largest sale of lots in eight years. The sale comes as builder--and buyer--interest has piqued in the Inland Empire, focused recently on sites off the I-10 between Calimesa and Beaumont.

San Diego Port commissioners have rejected a $455 million hotel project that would have added more than 1,000 rooms. Port commissioners said they were troubled by the development's size and its impacts on public vistas. Four years in the making, the Fifth Avenue Landing development would have included more than two acres of public areas and the port's first-ever proposal for affordable lodging.

Los Angeles City Councilmemeber Kevin de Leon announced he will introduce motions with the goal of creating 25,000 new housing units for homeless people by 2025. With the motions, De Leon says he is attempting to tackle a convoluted system for permitting and approving housing projects that has contributed to slow progress of housing projects funded by Proposition HHH.

The San Diego City Council approved 44 policy changes in its yearly zoning code update, many that will impact housing. One will allow more housing projects under airplane flight paths by increasing height limits and allowing more dense mixed-use projects in several areas city-wide. The city also added three new incentives to encourage developers to build for moderate-income residents, as well as loosened requirements for developers looking to convert ground-floor commercial space to housing.

A group of rideshare and delivery drivers from Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and Instacart filed a petition with the California Supreme Court to invalidate Prop 22, the measure approved in November that declared them independent contractors. The drivers argue that Prop 22 unconstitutionally usurps the legislature's authority over worker's compensation. (See related CP&DR commentary.)

A conservation trust purchased Sumner Peck Ranch, a stretch of riverside land that the group hopes to transform, with the addition of other properties, into a 22-mile public park in north Fresno. The land is replete with oak forest and riparian scenery alongside acres of landscaped event space.

After 46 years at the Coastal Commission--the longest term in the agency's history--Susan Hansch will step down at the end of January. Susan's legacy includes devoting time to education programs and overseeing the publishing of a number of books filled with coastal history, maps, and beach access points along California's more than 1,200 miles off shore.

Developers behind a new project that would add 24 apartments above office space in downtown Santa Rosa are asking the City Council to override objections that the proposed five-story project is too tall for its location. Though Santa Rosa has sought to incentivize infill projects that add more housing downtown, even loosening height limits, The Flats development brought forward was denied approval by the city’s Cultural Heritage Board.

A new report from the Mineta Transportation Institute found that Californians want their state to invest in safer, greener, and more efficient transportation systems. Just over half of the respondents put making getting around without driving more convenient a priority, throwing support behind frequent public transit service, discounted fares for low-income Californians, and building bike paths as ways to achieve that goal.

San Diego County Supervisors voted to collaborate with UC San Diego to create a blueprint for reducing the region’s carbon footprint to zero by 2035. UCSD's School of Global Policy and Strategy will draft a plan that would establish a framework for zeroing out carbon emissions that cities through the county can embrace.

The California Air Resources Board appointed Chanell Fletcher, currently ClimatePlan’s Executive Director, to oversee its work on environmental justice and racial equity. Fletcher will be the point person on environmental justice within the agency and provide input on “ARB’s programs designed to address disproportionate impacts from air pollution and climate change and associated chronic health conditions affecting Black, Latinx and other communities of color across the state, according to the press announcement.