San Diego Falls Short on Housing Production
Despite recent incentive boosts and increasingly streamlined regulations, San Diego has produced fewer housing units since 2017, reversing an upward trend that began after the Great Recession. San Diego's 2019 Housing Inventory Report found that new unit production peaked at 7,384 in 2016, then fell to 5,020 in 2017 and 3,895 in 2018. To meet state-mandated goals, an average production of 13,500 units per year would be needed to reach 108,000 new units by 2029. Most of the housing produced was out of reach for all but the highest income earners. While San Diego nearly met RHNA requirements for “high income” residents, only 10 of the 15,462 required units were built for “moderate income” residents. “Low income” units saw greater increases, but still fell far short with 2,633 of the 16,703 required units built. Next year, San Diego will approve a new housing element of the city’s general plan that shows how the city will meet the state-mandated goals, a draft of which is available on-line. San Diego city officials have signaled they want to begin taking a more holistic approach to solving the city’s housing crisis that will create more vibrant neighborhoods, not just more housing units. That approach is outlined in Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Complete Communities Housing Initiative that will also encourage developers to build more studio and one-bedroom apartments instead of larger, less affordable units.
California Ranks Highly for Bike-Friendliness
California ranks fourth among U.S. states--behind Washington, Oregon, and Minnesota--in bicycle friendliness, according to the League of American Bicyclists, a nonprofit organization that sets targets, tracks, and assesses bicycle standards set by state DOTs and legislatures based on over 100 data points. Notably, of all 50 states, California ranked fourth in ridership (1.1 percent of commuters biking to work), first in “policies and programs,” and second in “infrastructure and funding.” Compared to similarly overall high-scoring states, California fell short in restricting bicyclist and pedestrian behavior. The report took particular issue with Governor Gavin Newsom’s veto of S.B. 127, the Complete Streets for All bill, which would have required Caltrans to include safety improvements for people on foot, bike, and public transit whenever it performs road maintenance. Meanwhile, the analysis reports California often has the most traffic deaths for people biking and walking of any state.
State Disburses $262 Million for Housing from Prop. 1 Funds
The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has awarded more than $262 million from the Multifamily Housing Program to preserve and build new affordable homes. The awards are funded from Proposition 1 — the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018 — authorizing bonds providing $1.5 billion in new funding for the new construction of affordable homes and acquisition, rehabilitation, and preservation of permanent and transitional rental housing for lower-income households. The 24 recipients received awards ranging from just under $2 million to Kern County’s Housing Authority to a $20 million grant to PATH Ventures in Los Angeles. The next largest grants went to developers in San Diego, Contra Costa, and Ventura. “This voter-approved funding represents a significant investment in affordable rental housing across California,” said Alexis Podesta, Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, which oversees HCD. “California is experiencing an extreme housing shortage and this funding shows continued commitment to create ‘A California for All’.”
Quick Hits & Updates
Starting in 2020, new residential buildings on city-owned land in Los Angeles must be 100 percent affordable housing or apply for an exemption. Mixed-income projects will be considered if having market-rate units allows developers to build more affordable housing units than they would have without them.
The Coastal Commission voted to temporarily halt two Orange County development proposals, despite the proposals having already passed the city’s approval process. One of the developments, a 51-room six-level harbor-view hotel on Dana Point’s Headlands, is on hold until hotel developers provide additional detail as to how they plan to provide 25 percent of its room at “lower cost” to meet commission requirements. The second development is a Newport Beach residential fourplex. The commission is reviewing the project over concerns about incipient rising sea levels.
After initially opposing A.B. 2923, Berkeley will be the first city in compliance with the new law after Berkley City Council unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Berkeley and BART, making Berkley the first city in compliance with A.B. 2923. The MOU stipulates that Berkley agrees to begin its rezoning process immediately for completion by 2020. In return, BART will prepare a draft of its guidance in February to help guide Berkeley’s process. The MOU does not address affordable housing requirements, nor does it specify funding sources, financial arrangements, environmental review, or other project-level considerations.
Despite objections from federal regulators, California High-Speed Rail Authority board voted unanimously to issue a request for bids valued at $1.6 billion to construct a central Valley bullet train route. The vote occurred just one day after receiving a letter of disapproval from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which oversees and administers $2.6 billion in federal grants awarded for the rail project. California rail authorities say the FRA is acting in bad faith, intentionally delaying funds months after receiving required paperwork.
California expanded its one-year ban on home insurers dropping policies in wildfire-hit areas to include 200,000 homes that were within the Sandalwood and Hillside fire boundaries. The moratorium now includes more than one million homes that were in or adjacent to 16 wildfires this year. The move is meant to protect both homeowners who want to rebuild and incoming residents who were unable to get insurance.
After days of hearings, a controversial wind project was voted down by Humboldt County supervisors in a 4-1 vote. The project promised to deliver 56 percent of Humboldt County’s electricity load from 47 wind turbines -- but planned to do so by placing 20 of them on a sacred ancestral prayer site of the Wiyot Tribe.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has approved fast-tracking the Los Angeles Clippers’ Inglewood arena project, shielding it from extended environmental litigation. The decision came after the California Air Resources Board found the project would be net carbon neutral. The environmental impact report will be released in 30 days.
A group calling itself YIGBY, for “Yes in God’s Backyard,” successfully lobbied San Diego City Council to approve rezoning measures that allow churches to build low-income housing on their parking lots. Previously, city code required churches and other public assembly spaces to tie parking space numbers to either overall square footage or square inches of pew space. New rules reduce required parking minimums as long as the site is near public transit. YIGBY leaders hope to have tapped into a receptive, charitable community that possesses over 2,000 acres of land across San Diego County, most of which are zoned for both religious and residential uses.
Caltrans’ board will consider a recommendation from board members requiring residential projects on agency land to be at least 20 percent affordable. Board member staff presented the recommendation to regional transit district offices earlier this year, and is expected to be considered by the full board early next year. As plans currently stand, board staff will only recommend affordability caps on a limited number of stations.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed has withdrawn a ballot measure that would make it easier to build office space in San Francisco, clearing the way for Proposition E. If approved, Proposition E will reduce future office development from the existing cap of 875,000 square feet of large office space by a percentage equal to the city’s shortfall on state-mandated affordable housing goals.
A group of University of California Santa Cruz graduate students is striking, withholding student grades until monthly stipends keep up with the high cost of living. While graduate students across the country report long hours and meager stipends that are incommensurate with workload and expertise, graduate students at UCSC report living in deprivation--skipping meals, living in garages, and periods of homelessness--largely due to rents that cost between 50 and 60 percent of monthly income, according to a press release associated with the unauthorized strike. Graduate students are asking for a monthly increase of just under $1,400 a month.