Budget Deal Promotes Infrastructure, Reduces Protections for Endangered Species
Governor Newsom signed a package of bills into law, taking effect immediately, to hasten lawsuits for solar farms and reservoirs while loosening protections for three-dozen wildlife species in order to facilitate development of infrastructure. The most controversial bill includes a new authority for the Department of Fish and Wildlife to issue permits allowing "fully protected" species to be harmed or even killed by certain infrastructure projects including water aqueducts and wind and power installations if the harm can be "fully mitigated," according to a Senator from Oakland. Those 37 species include the golden eagle and sandhill crane. Another bill unanimously voted in allocates a time limit for lawsuits for transportation, water and energy projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The bill package initially met with pushback from environmentalist and business owners who now call the package a good compromise.

Californians Pay Highest Rents in Nation
The National Low Income Housing Coalition released a new study on the affordable housing crisis in the country, finding nationally between 2001 and 2021, median rents increased 17.9% while household income only increased 3.2%. The study found the hourly wage needed to rent a two-bedroom home (housing wage) in California is $42.25, the highest in the country. Earning minimum wage, one would have to work 109 hours per week -- or 2.7 full-time jobs at minimum wage -- to afford the average two-bedroom apartment without spending more than 30% of their income on housing. To afford the average one-bedroom home, someone working minimum wage would have to work 88 hours per week -- or 2.2 full-time jobs -- to reach affordability. The housing wage is loftiest in Santa Cruz-Watsonville areas at $63.33 an hour. San Francisco trails behind with a housing wage of $61.31 an hour. There are presently no counties in the state where someone could work minimum wage and afford to rent a two-bedroom home.

Homelessness Surges Statewide; Largest Populations in L.A., S.F.
The California Budget and Policy Center's issue brief on Homelessness in California found in that, in February 2022, there were 437 unhoused California residents per every 10,000 residents statewide. Los Angeles and South Coast regions as well as San Francisco had the highest shares of unhoused people in the state, 49.9% and 22.2% respectively. The Sacramento Region and Central Valley follow with 7.2% and 7.1% of the share. The study also found dense populations, high cost of living and insufficient affordable housing are the main drivers of homeless regardless of geographic location in the state. Per capita, the state's Far North Region has the highest number of people experiencing homelessness per capita. The study concluded, regardless of geographic region, state and local governments must continue to build capacity and resources to meet the needs of a struggling population.

California Short 1 Million Homes for Low-Income Residents
According to affordable housing advocacy group California Housing Partnership's yearly report, California lacks almost one million homes needed for low-income residents. 79% of extremely low-income renter households pay more than half of their income on rent, even as state and federal funding for affordable housing increased from $3.2 billion in the 2020-2021 fiscal year to $6 billion in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. The author of the study found these discrepancies occur due to exponentially high costs of construction. Additionally, the study found median rent in the state increased 38% since 2000 while median household income has only raised 7% with an adjustment for inflation. The study suggests policy solutions included a larger investment in the 2023-2024 housing and homelessness budget, placing an affordable housing bond on the 2024 ballot, creating an on-going revenue stream to the scale of need for the next ten years and reducing the costs of affordable housing development.

CP&DR Legal Coverage: Belated Impact Fees; Short-Term Rentals
In a potentially important case, an appellate court ruled that the City of Oakland has the power to impose additional impact fees on a developer many years after the city and developer signed an agreement laying out the amount and schedule of fees on the project. The court concluded that the city cannot “contract away” its power to impose fees later. The case deals with an Oakland-specific 2005 agreement titled “Agreement for Payment of City Fees and Reimbursement of Specialized Consultant and Employee Services,” which was signed by both parties as part of the Conditions of Approval for the project’s approval. But it could have broader implications – specifically for the state’s 40-year-old development agreement law, which undergirds hundreds of developments in the state but has always been viewed as potentially legally vulnerable because of the “contracting away” risk.

Short-term vacation rental owners in South Lake Tahoe didn’t make a good enough case to get a trial on the question of whether they vested right to operate, an appellate court has ruled. In an opinion that involved a Cook’s tour through 50 years of vesting litigation, the court wrote: “The ministerial nature of plaintiff’s members’ permits did not entitle the members to renewal. Any vested rights the members may have had in their permits were limited by their permits’ terms and conditions, including the one-year expiration date [created as part of South Lake Tahoe’s ordinance].”

Quick Hits & Updates

A Bay Area design review board sent a letter to Marin supervisors voicing concern over the supervisors' decision not to interview a sitting planning commissioner for a reappointment, claiming a bias against the commissioner for her pushback against Marin County's proposed housing element plan. The letter stated she was penalized for pushing back against giving more power to the state in the housing element. The President of the Board of Supervisors acknowledged the letter and state she will look into the concerns.

The California Building Standards Commission voted to adopt changes to the state's building code to increase the flexibility of developers for adaptive reuse of retail and office structures. In Los Angeles alone, 2,300 commercial properties available for adaptive reuse could produce 72,000 to 113,000 new housing units.

The firm behind the controversial 50-story residential tower in San Francisco's Sunset District submitted detailed plans and renderings to the city. Low-rise buildings and single-family homes currently define the Sunset District, and the proposed project is several times taller than current regulations allow in the neighborhood.

Los Angeles City Council voted to move forward on a feasibility study for a city-owned public bank focused on supporting projects based on public interest, aiming to serve Black and Latino communities in the city as well as small businesses, green energy initiatives and affordable housing projects. The vote marks the council's first monetary investment in a public bank.

Fort Bragg will go forward with a pilot project to desalt ocean water using floating, raft-like units containing equipment to draw in ocean water, desalinate it and send it to shore for the Mendocino community. The potential site for the raft has yet to be determined and permits must also be acquired to determine the quality of water meets California requirements.

A new report published by the California YIMBY Education Fund found a number of ways Los Angeles's approvals process for multi-family housing proposals could lead to political corruption and interference with housing production. The report recommended reform to the city's discretionary review, including amendments to site plan review requirements, increasing allowable density, standardizing the city's entitlement process, enforcing deadlines, dissolving some of the City Council's decision-making authority and eliminating the City Council's ability to overrule the Planning Commission.

A development group filed site plans with the city of Jan Jose for a large housing project potentially eligible for the builder's remedy, or a fast-tracking of the project due to a designated 20% lower-income units. The plan for an empty office and research building includes 143 townhomes across 24 buildings.

In a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Santa Cruz County outpaces San Francisco as the most expensive rental market. The report found the estimated hourly wage needed to afford renting a two-bedroom home statewide is $42.25.

According to new census data, the median age in all nine Bay Area counties surpasses the rest of the U.S., with Marin County's median age of 48.2 outpacing the U.S. average by nearly double. Experts blame the aging population on the housing crisis and cost of living in the Bay Area.

Some Orange County lawmakers propose to move parts of the coastal train route connecting Los Angeles to San Diego and San Luis Obispo inland due to eroding cliffs and beaches in and near San Clemente. Planners say moving tracks inland would cost upward of $5 billion.