State Awards $352 Million in REAP 2.0 Grants
The California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency announced more than $352 million in the first round of funding from the Regional Early Action Planning grants program, a flexible grants program providing planning and implementation dollars to create sustainable, resilient, and equitable communities that are inclusive and take strong strides toward reducing vehicle miles traveled. Most of the funds will go towards statewide local planning organizations and associations including Monterey Bay, Madera County, Sacramento, San Diego, Shasta, Southern California. A $30 million allocation of "Higher Impact Transformative" grants will go to Oakland, Rancho Cordova, Tahoe, Palm City and BART. The local agencies and governments will then suballocate funds further within local entities. Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), which will receive the largest REAP 2.0 award to date, with $237.41 million supporting a wide range of projects. in a distant second, the San Diego Association of Governments will receive $38 million. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Rep. Waters Proposes $260 Billion for Housing and Homelessness
United States Representative Maxine Waters (Los Angeles) proposed three housing-related bills in Congress to help narrow the racial wealth gap in the nation, including $100 billion in assistance to first-time homebuyers, $150 billion in fair and affordable housing and expansion of the federal housing voucher program Section 8. The same bill to expand Section 8 woud also allocate $10 billion for housing for those experiencing homelessness and permanently instill the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the agency presently set to end enforcement in 2028. Another bill would allocate $150 billion towards affordable housing investments, improving public housing stock and providing rental assistance.

Joshua Trees Get Protection in State Budget Deal
As part of the state's budget agreement, California lawmakers passed a bill to protect the western Joshua tree, the first bill of its kind specifically tailored to protect a climate-threatened species. Since 2015, environmentalists have tried to list the Joshua tree under the federal Endangered Species Act but faced pushback politically and from local farmers. In 2020, the tree obtained interim protection as a candidate species and remains federally protected. The state law now requires new permits for housing and renewable energy development within range of the trees and also requires the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a plan for protection by 2024. Studies indicate that, without protection, climate change will severely imperil the plant's natural habitat, which covers the high desert between Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains, by 2070.

Attorney General Scrutinizes Plans for Business Park at San Bernardino Airport
In a letter to the group of elected officials overseeing the development of land around the San Bernardino International Airport, California Attorney General Rob Bonta's office explains the city's plan to build a large industrial business park violates three state laws. According to the letter, the Airport Gateway Specific Plan would displace about 2,600 primarily-Hispanic and Black residents. Attorney General Bonta continued in the public letter that community and environmental groups have "raised significant concerns" over the 9.2 million square feet of warehouses bringing in almost 9,000 heavy-duty diesel trucks per day. The letter states the plan violates the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 (SB 330) and the California Environmental Quality Act. At the beginning of this year, upwards of 60 organizations asked Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a public health emergency in the Inland empire due to "unchecked escalation of warehouse growth." Governor Newsom has yet to issue the declaration.

Desert Ghost Town of Eagle Mountain Purchased for $22.5 Million
An unnamed buyer from Cerritos purchased the land and mining claims of a ghost town outside of Joshua Tree National Park. Ecology Mountain Holdings has no public information aside from a business address, but recently purchased Eagle Mountain for approximately $22.5 million from Eagle Mountain Acquisition LLC, the last Kaiser subsidiary to own the town over the last 40 years. Prior to that, Eagle Mountain operated as a company town for Kaiser Steel, with a peak population of 4,000. Most residents between the end of the 1940s until 1981 were employed by Kaiser Steel. The town then housed a correctional center until the early 2000s. Desert Center -- a town neighboring Eagle Mountain -- was purchased two years ago by a trucking mogul hoping to transport the abandoned town into a truck stop, gas center and hotel, offering insight into the potential future of Eagle Mountain.

CP&DR Coverage: Transit Ridership and Future of TOD
Most aspects of life in California have recovered from the COVID pandemic -- except for public transit. Ridership on major transit agencies across the state has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, and agencies are relying in part on a multibillion-dollar state bailout to maintain their levels of service. In the most extreme case, BART's ridership is at roughly half. And yet, much of the state's housing and climate strategies revolve around transit and, presumably, robust transit ridership. Despite the transit downturn, planners and developers say that the future of TOD remains bright -- or, at least, it does not necessarily depend on transit.

Quick Hits & Updates

The Office of Planning and Research announced $8 million in project awards through the first round of Adaptation Planning Grants. The first round of grants will go towards 14 local governments, community-based organizations, and Indigenous tribes in assessing local hazards, conducting robust engagement, and creating equitable and community-driven strategies to minimize climate change impacts. Nine of the projects are located within Justice40 communities and will advance the Biden Administration’s goal to invest in communities burdened by legacy pollution. Of the nine projects, three are led or co-led by California Native American tribes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced $52 million in funding for 24 projects in the San Francisco Bay to restore marshlands, clean up pollutants, remove homeless encampments in San Jose and assist wildlife restoration.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County increased 23% over the last year despite efforts that got more than 14,000 homeless people in permanent housing. Homelessness in the city of Los Angeles also increased 20%. Only one in four of the people counted were "sheltered" in temporary housing.

Using pre-pandemic data from California, a new study from the Journal of Transit Geography studied the influence of ride-hailing services on vehicle miles traveled and public transit usage, where ride-hailing services have existed longer than elsewhere in the nation.

San Francisco's largest population exodus between April 2020 and June 2022 came from residents in their late 20s and early 30s, with a 21% decrease from 94,000 to 74,000. The second largest decline by age was 30-year-olds to 34-year-olds with a 16% decrease in population.

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission is proposing potential citywide expansion of an adaptive reuse ordinance. Originally, the ordinance was adopted in 1999 for the Downtown area and converted 12,000 residential homes from offices. The Planning Commission aims to expand the ordinance as part of the citywide housing incentive program to meet a state mandate of 255,000 additional homes by 2024.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced plans for a new 28-story hotel skyscraper in Downtown Sacramento, connecting to the nearby Convention Center and providing accommodations for the city's new tourism and convention industry. The project will be partly funded by future hotel tax revenue.

The San Diego Housing Commission launched its pilot program offering eligible Black, Indigenous and People of Color homebuyers a grant of up to $20,000 for closing costs and an additional $20,000 deferred down-payment loan. Eligibility include BIPOC buyers who have not owned a home in the last three years and make 80% to 150% of the county's median income.

With some modifications, the California Coastal Commission approved San Diego City Council's community plan for the Barrio Logan neighborhood. The city council must now vote on those amendments before the plan aimed at improving public health and decreasing the impacts of the local shipping industry in Barrio Logan can go into effect.

The California Rangeland Trust purchased a 4,500-acre conservation easement for the Sans Topo Ranch in San Benito County, protecting the land indefinitely. The Sans family has owned the land since 1926.