California Fares Well in New Federal PRO Housing Grant Program
The Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $85 million in grants for the Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Housing (PRO Housing) program. California jurisdictions received a total of $15 million and four of the 20 grants awarded nationwide. This initiative aims to eliminate barriers to affordable housing production and preservation by supporting efforts to revise local housing plans, streamline permitting processes and develop new affordable housing units.

One of the four awards HUD granted $3.4 million to the City of Anaheim to enhance housing supply and reduce costs. With over 48% of households in Anaheim burdened by housing costs, HUD identified extensive measures by the city, including updating planning and policy frameworks, offering incentives to developers and leveraging city-owned sites for housing purposes. HUD granted another $6.7 million to the County of Los Angeles to enhance housing supply and affordability. The PRO Housing funding will support initiatives aimed at removing barriers to affordable housing production and preservation. The county plans to improve utility infrastructure, establish Transit Oriented Districts and coordinate regional land use strategies to advance housing goals across its unincorporated areas. HUD has also awarded $5 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in the Bay Area to enhance housing supply and affordability. With a projected need for 1.4 million new homes in the region, the MTC plans to use the PRO Housing funding to support transit-oriented development, promote mixed-income housing and bolster the capabilities of local developers and builders.

Huntington Beach May Vote to Flout State Housing Law
The Huntington Beach City Council is considering a fall ballot measure declaring that housing is a municipal concern, not a state concern, and prohibiting the City Council from adopting a housing element if an environmental impact report shows a negative impact on the environment. The city has been extremely resistant to state oversight on housing issues, fighting with the state in both state and federal court. In this case the city appears to be leaning into the recent ruling by a Los Angeles judge that SB 9 does not apply to charter cities. The Huntington Beach agenda item can be found here; a good story in LAist can be found here.

Entire S.F.-L.A. Segment of High Speed Rail Receives Environmental Clearance
California's high-speed rail project received environmental clearance for its Los Angeles to San Francisco route thanks to the High-Speed Rail Authority board's certification of the final environmental impact report of the Palmdale-to-Burbank segment. The 38-mile stretch, estimated to cost nearly $29 billion adjusted for inflation, will connect the Antelope Valley to the San Fernando Valley with a 17-minute trip from Palmdale to Hollywood Burbank Airport, utilizing four underground tunnels spanning 12 to 13 miles. Despite concerns over seismic risks, engineers assert the tunnels are designed to safely withstand earthquakes up to magnitude 7.3. Construction is already underway in the Central Valley, with plans for future extensions to San Diego and Sacramento pending further funding and approvals.

Supreme Court Rules for Restrictions on Homeless Encampments
In a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Grants Pass v. Johnson that cities in California and the Western United States can enforce laws restricting homeless encampments on sidewalks and public property. The ruling supersedes previous rulings from the 9th Circuit, particularly Martin v. Boise (2018). That ruling had essentially prevented cities from displacing or arresting homeless people simply for camping in public space so long as alternative shelter is not available. The new ruling holds that an ordinance in Grants Pass, Ore., making it illegal for homeless people to camp on city property is not unconstitutional. The decision is seen as a significant win for city officials seeking greater authority over public spaces and a setback for homeless rights advocates who argued such laws unfairly target individuals without adequate shelter.

San Diego Group Lashes Out at Coastal Commission
A report by Circulate San Diego criticizes the Coastal Commission for impeding affordable housing and climate-friendly transportation projects in coastal areas. The report argues the commission's actions exacerbate housing shortages, inflate prices and hinder efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through longer commutes. An assembly member supports these findings and advocates legislative changes to increase the commission's alignment with environmental and accessibility goals. In response, the Coastal Commission disputes the report, emphasizing its commitment to equity and affordable housing despite challenges in approving coastal development projects.

CP&DR Coverage: Huge Redevelopment in Redondo Beach Wins a Round in Court
Developer Leo Pustilnikov has won another battle in his long-running effort to redevelop the AES power plant in Redondo Beach and apparently will be able to move forward with a lawsuit claiming that the city has taken his property by not letting him develop it. In an unpublished ruling, an appellate court rejected the city’s claim that the lawsuit was a so-called SLAPP suit – a lawsuit intended to chill public discussion and public participation. The court found that Pustilnikov’s basic argument is not about anything that the mayor or other Redondo Beach officials have said, but rather about the city’s unwillingness to rezone the property for residential use. The ruling on the anti-SLAPP motion doesn’t mean that Pustilnikov’s inverse condemnation claim is valid. That legal battle is still pending. But by eliminating the Anti-SLAPP motion, the appellate court is essentially allowing that allegation to move forward in court.

Quick Hits & Updates

Menlo Park's planning department has deemed a builder’s remedy application for the Willow Park project at 80 Willow Road incomplete due to missing required elements. The proposed development includes three towers with over 350,000 square feet of office space, nearly 40,000 square feet of retail space, a school, hotel and 665 housing units, including 133 affordable units. Despite the ruling, developer N17 plans to resubmit the application to address city requirements, with further review pending once the application is deemed complete.

California YIMBY, a prominent housing advocacy group, announced its support for the East Solano Plan (California Forever) despite some reservations, highlighting its potential to rectify past development errors and provide housing for up to 400,000 Californians. The endorsement underscores the project’s promise in setting a sustainable growth model and emphasizes the importance of community guarantees and benefits for Solano County residents, though not all YIMBY voices align with this stance. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Solano County Supervisors unanimously voted to request an economic impact report on the East Solano Plan at a special meeting, which will be drafted within 30 days. This report will inform their decision on whether to accept the plan outright, place it on the November ballot, or proceed with negotiations for a development agreement, addressing concerns and public input on the potential impacts of the project.

The Coastal Commission granted Newport Beach an extension to review proposed amendments to local coastal development standards for 166 properties between 24th and 48th streets. Originally due for decision in July, the extension allows more time for the Commission to evaluate updates to off-street parking requirements for commercial use and modifications to flood hazard area standards mandated by FEMA, which include raising structures and accommodating outdoor spaces within setback regulations.

Environmental groups are appealing a recent court decision denying their lawsuit against the Sites Reservoir project in California, which aims to build the state's largest reservoir in 50 years. The project, endorsed by Governor Newsom and backed by various water agencies, faces opposition over concerns about its potential impact on endangered species and water diversion from the Sacramento River. Despite legal challenges, project planners remain optimistic, targeting a groundbreaking in 2026 and completion by 2032, pending final approvals from the State Water Resources Control Board.

Following over five years of disputes and numerous delays, the Los Angeles Central Area Planning Commission denied an appeal from Skyline condominium homeowners opposing the construction of a 27-story, 236-apartment residential tower at 949 S. Hope Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Despite an agreement reached between Brookfield and some homeowners, not all have consented, leaving the timeline for the project's development uncertain amid ongoing neighborhood property transactions.

The City of San Mateo has approved streamlined development policies under its new housing element, eliminating third-party design reviews for certain large projects that meet objective design standards and simplifying notification requirements, aiming to meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation of 7,000 units by 2031, with 40% designated for low-income households.

Fremont has been recognized as the best place in the U.S. to raise a family in a recent analysis by Wallethub, highlighted for its top-performing schools, safety, affluent community and large green spaces. Despite these accolades, the city scored lower in "Family Fun" due to industrial areas affecting walkability, while San Jose ranked seventh overall and San Francisco 12th, each facing distinct challenges such as affordability and family dynamics amidst their strengths in education and socio-economic factors.

San Francisco's moribund Financial District could be updated into a nightlife district, pending approval of plans to create California’s first "entertainment zone" on Front Street and a an arts-inspired redesign of three blocks of Powell Street. Spearheaded by Mayor London Breed, the entertainment zone initiative aims to revitalize the area with outdoor alcohol consumption, live music and enhanced streetscape designs, part of a broader effort to attract more visitors and office workers back to downtown amid economic recovery efforts. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Legislative reforms in California have increased the construction of accessory dwelling units, with one in five new homes built in 2023 being an ADU, totaling 22,802 new units. However, a study reveals that illegal ADUs may outnumber legal ones by more than three to one in cities like San Jose, disproportionately affecting low-income and minority communities due to high permitting costs and bureaucratic barriers.