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CP&DR News Briefs February 2, 2021: Berkeley Parking; Bay Area Regional Housing; Federal Anti-Discrimination; and More

Robin Glover on
Feb 2, 2021

Berkeley Slashes Parking Requirements
Most new housing projects in Berkeley will no longer have to build off-street parking, a move the city hopes will “more aggressively promote” alternative modes of transportation, such as walking and biking, and advance the city’s climate goals. Berkeley officials voted unanimously Tuesday night to eliminate the city’s age-old parking requirements which, in many areas of town, required the creation of one off-street parking spot for each new housing unit. Developers who want to build off-street parking will still be able to do so under the new rules, but the city did put limits in place about how much parking they can build in transit-rich areas without requesting special permission from the city. A recent staff analysis found that nearly 50% of the existing off-street parking spots in housing projects around the city sit empty, meaning that much more parking has been built in Berkeley than the city actually needs.

Bay Area to Plan for 441,000 Additional Housing Units 
The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) voted to require cities and counties of the Bay Area to change their zoning laws to allow for the construction of 441,000 new homes as part of the sixth RHNA cycle, which doubles the housing requirement for the current cycle. San Francisco needs to plan for a 22 percent increase in households. San Francisco needs to plan for a 22 percent increase in households, or 82 thousand more units, between 2023 and 2031. That’s up from an allocation of about 29 thousand homes during the 2014-22 cycle. Other Bay Area cities slated to see significant household growth include Emeryville, Millbrae, Colma, Brisbane, Mountain View, Santa Clara, and Milpitas. The most dramatic changes could come in smaller, wealthier bedroom communities, many in Marin and Contra Costa counties.

Feds Seek to Undo Discriminatory Housing Policies 
President Biden issued an executive order with the goal of correcting racially discriminatory housing policies that contributed to segregated neighborhoods. The order directs the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to look at the effects of the "Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice," rule, issued by the Trump Administration in late 2020 that in turn replaced the Obama administration's Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation. When the 2020 rule went into place, the move received pushback from civil rights groups and affordable housing organizations who argued the "Save the Suburbs" rule was a step backward in addressing housing discrimination and segregation. The new order doesn't include any new provisions, but rather rolls back to Obama administration regulations.

Report: Converting Commercially Zoned Land Can Ease Housing Crisis
The UC Berkeley Terner Center released a new report examining the inventory of commercially zoned land in California's four largest metro areas to determine how much land is currently allocated to commercial uses, and where such land is concentrated. The reports key findings were that Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, and Sacramento have an abundance of land zoned for commercial uses, and allowing residential development in these areas could introduce new housing in virtually every neighborhood. In particular, commercial land is as prevalent in high-resource areas as it is in low-resource communities. Yet, the amount of commercial land per capita is higher in suburban communities than in urban core areas. Commercial land is concentrated along thoroughfares and in clusters, and housing that would emerge from its residential redevelopment may therefore be similarly concentrated.

CP&DR Coverage: Pandemic Migration Patterns
While many in the state do not have the means to pick and choose exactly where they want to live, the combination of remote work and pandemic ennui has prompted untold numbers of well-off urban Californians to retreat to suburbs and to exurban “Zoomtowns.” Low mortgage rates have partially blunted (and led to) rising prices, and the difference between coastal and inland prices has led to a rapid reshuffling of households statewide. The much larger question is whether, after younger Californians especially spent so many years living it up in cities center cities, this trend reflects short-term concerns about the virus or long-term preferences. 

Quick Hits & Updates 

The Richmond City Council is moving forward with plans to develop up to 4,000 residential units and a 20,000-square-foot grocery store on part of an 86-acre property known as the Zeneca site. Though the land has undergone cleanup for years, it is still polluted with more than 100 chemicals from factories that once animated the site, so much so that it was named a toxic hot spot by the California water board. The development agreement calls for partially cleaning up the site, angering local environmental activists.

California landlords are expected to file 240,000 new eviction cases--twice what occurs in a typical year, according to estimates by state court officials. While Gov. Gavin Newsom hopes to extend the renter safeguards that are due to expire in late January, he has also asked the Legislature to increase the judicial system's funding so that courts can prepare for an eventual surge in evictions.

If Congress approves a $640 billion housing plan from the Biden administration, one in every five Californians could receive rental assistance from the federal government. The plan lays out intentions to end homelessness, give housing vouchers to 17 million at-risk renters, prioritize homeownership for low income and Black and Latino families, and change discriminatory housing policies. 

According to December's report from Realtor.com, Sacramento saw the highest average monthly rent increases in the nation at 20.3 percent and 12.4 percent for studio and one-bedrooms year-over-year, respectively. In contrast, San Francisco led the nation in declines with monthly rates falling 33.8 percent and 22.5 percent, respectively, over the same period.

Stanford University dropped its challenge to a Santa Clara County law that requires residential developers to devote 16 percent of their new units to below-market-rate housing. Stanford's decision concludes a protracted legal tussle over how much affordable housing the university needs to provide if it moves ahead with a campus expansion. A representative for Stanford University said that the county's decision to expand the law to land outside of Stanford prompted the university to withdraw its legal challenge.

The former site of Boeing's C-17 production facility in Long Beach is one step closer to being redeveloped. The planning Commission voted unanimously at its Dec. 17 meeting to recommend the City Council approve the establishment of the Globemaster Corridor Specific Plan, which would guide the future development of 437 acres of land just west of the Long Beach Airport.

An ambitious plan to change rail service between Oakland the South Bay is chugging along, despite local officials criticizing hte proposal because it would mean the loss of a train station and reduced service at another. Called South Bay Connect, the new service would shift Capitol Corridor passenger trains from running on a section of their current Union Pacific line, which cuts through Fremont to another Union Pacific track farther west.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion that calls for a new master plan to be drawn for Whiteman Airport, a northeast San Fernando Valley aviation hub in Pacoima, after a fatal plane crash prompted calls for its closure. The motion calls for a plan that would keep the airport's current use, but also include goals to create local jobs, opportunities for open space and other community benefits.

A referendum filed with the county Registrar of Voters in late October seeking to reverse the Santee City Council's approval of a housing development that would have put 3,000 homes off the city's hills. Now the Santee City Council must either repeal its decision or submit the plans for the proposed Fanita Ranch development to the voters in 2022 or have a special election at another time. The developer had promised to build a new fire station and open up 35 miles of trails and 78 acres of parkland.

Environmental advocates sued the federal government to block a project that would cut through Southern California's Carrizo Plain National Monument. In their 24-page complaint, the Center for biological Diversity and Los Padres Forestwatch claim the federal government is moving forward with the project without fully analyzing the environmental effects a pipeline would have in the pristine region that is home to the California condor and giant kangaroo rat.