Los Angeles's Widely Lauded Housing Element Rejected by State
The Department of Housing and Community Development has rejected Los Angeles's Housing Element and ordered the city to rezone to add over 250,000 new homes by mid-October 2022. Per state law, cities with noncompliant housing elements must rezone in one year rather than three years. While it's unlikely the city will be able to meet the HCD's requirement under the deadline, failing to amend the zoning plan may result in a loss of billions of dollars in affordable housing grants, significantly hindering the development of new housing for low-income and unhoused residents. While state officials have praised L.A. for its dedication to rezoning wealthier neighborhoods and adding more affordable housing, they say the city hasn't done enough to increase access to green spaces or economic development in low-income communities. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Sacramento Gains State's First "Prohousing" Designation
Sacramento became the first city in California to achieve the state Prohousing designation that identifies the city's dedication to streamlining and advancing housing production. Going forward, this means that Sacramento will earn added points when competing for Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program funding for low-income housing, transportation, and infrastructure. The Department of Housing and Community Development announced the award when visiting On Broadway, a proposed affordable housing development that received AHSC funds. Benefits to Sacramento may include waiving construction fees, approving housing by right in commercial corridors, streamlining approvals for ADUs, and reducing parking requirements. Sacramento will also have a greater competitive edge when applying for the Infill Infrastructure grant, the Transformative Climate Communities grant, the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, and federal tax credits. (See related CP&DR coverage and analysis.)

New Business Plan Anticipates Higher Costs for High Speed Rail
The California High-Speed Rail Authority released its Draft 2022 Business Plan that details the estimated $5 billion cost increase for its bullet train, bringing the total to $105 billion. When voters approved a bond for railroad construction in 2008, the estimated cost was $33 billion. While officials could have saved money by building a single track for a 171-mile system between Bakersfield and Merced, they decided in their newest blueprint that they will continue with a two-track operation. The authority also must pay more to avoid burdens on San Joaquin Valley communities. The authority expects to have environmentally cleared 422 miles by mid-2022 and in the meantime will seek public review and comment until April 11.

Contested Point Molate Development in Richmond Prevails in Court
A mixed-use development proposed for Richmond's northern shoreline will move forward after a judge tossed an environmental lawsuit and found that the city adequately considered the project's environmental impacts. Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Edward G. Weil ruled that city officials did comply with CEQA; state planning, zoning, and open meeting laws; the state constitution; and Richmond's general plan when it approved Winehaven Legacy LLC's proposal for a 193-acre space with 1,425 housing units and 400,000 square feet of commercial space. For years, the future of Point Molate has been a point of contention between those who believe the site should be a place of economic and housing revitalization and those who find that development will lead to environmental ruin.

CP&DR Analysis: Fulton on UC Berkeley Enrollment Freeze
At its core, the Berkeley CEQA case has everything a critic of the law would want: First, a university that tried to move forward with a project while finessing the required environmental review. Second, a city and a sophisticated group of neighbors who know how to use the law to gum up the works. And third, a judge willing to go nuclear in response to a flawed environmental impact report. The question that the Berkeley case raises is one that all planners and CEQA practitioners grapple with: Is an increase in the number of people an environmental impact – or, at the very least, a state of affairs that requires constant and renewed environmental assessment? More to the point, the Berkeley case highlights CEQA’s bias toward the status quo – the idea that, whatever is being proposed, it will probably only make things worse.

Quick Hits & Updates

San Francisco has become the first major U.S. city to propose an 18-month moratorium on new parcel delivery stations in order to limit Amazon's recent expansion of delivery operations. The bill will likely be unanimously approved, laying the groundwork for other decision makers to limit Amazon's influence in their own cities.

California YIMBY and State Senator Scott Wiener have proposed a new policy, the Student Housing Crisis Act, that would streamline the production of student housing at all University of California and California State University campuses and properties. SB 886 would recognize student housing projects as environmentally beneficial and seek to house the 5-10% of students who experience homelessness. The bill is considered to be a response to a legal ruling that may curtail UC Berkeley's student population. (See related CP&DR analysis.)

Hollywood Burbank Airport filed an environmental lawsuit that requests that the state's bullet train be put on hold for the rail authority to reimagine designs and produce a new environmental impact report. The suit suggests that the 13.7-mile L.A.-to-Burbank segment would impact the airport's operations and safety.

The most recent quarterly auction in the cap-and-trade carbon market did not sell out, suggesting that a pandemic-induced increased surplus of banked credits may be obstructing the state's greenhouse gas reduction plan.

UC San Diego has a plan to house 3,310 students in new dorms in the context of a housing shortage and a quickly growing student population. The UC Board of Regents approved two housing projects, Pepper Canyon West and Thurgood Marshall College Undergraduate Student Housing, which will be 22 or 23 stories tall and feature retail space.

The Santa Cruz City Council unanimously decided to oppose a proposal that would cease freight service on the Felton and Santa Cruz Rail Lines and give up plans to make essential repairs. While the decision has no actionable power, it alerts the council's position, in alignment with Roaring Camp Railroads, to the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission.

The Department of Housing and Community Development launched the Prohousing Designation Program through emergency regulations onJune 30, 2021 and must go through a regular rulemaking process to make it permanent. Emergency regulations will remain in effect throughout the regular rulemaking process. HCD has submitted proposed regulationsfor the Prohousing Designation Program and is accepting public comments through March 23.

A new report from the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation and its partners details the potential impacts of transforming land owned by school districts into faculty and staff housing. The report identifies tens of thousands of sites that could serve to promote education workforce housing and provides recommendations for reinventing underused school lands.

If the "Emergency Temporary Shelter and Enforcement Act of 2022" gathers enough signatures, Sacramento voters will consider an initiative that would establish over 3,000 shelter beds and Safe Ground sanctioned camping spaces for people experiencing homelessness.

L.A. Metro, in collaboration with San Gabriel Valley officials, presented 15 proposals to the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments' Technical Advisory Committee that would address long-term transit in place of the extension of the Eastside branch of the Gold Line. Metro has $2.7 billion to spend on improvements to existing services or north-south and east-west bus and rail services that could connect to other transit lines.

A new study evaluates the impact of concentrated Ellis Act eviction notices in the city of San Francisco from 1997 to 2016 and analyzes the law's role in allowing for tenant displacement to further gentrification.

L.A. Metro approved a 19.3-mile light rail line from Artesia to Union Station, going through Cerritos, Bellflower, Paramount, Downey, South Gate, Bell, Huntington Park, and Vernon. The project will cost an estimated $8.5 billion, propelling officials to construct the project in two segments, and will be completed as soon as 2043.

Los Angeles City voters may have an opportunity to voice their opinion on the Healthy Streets L.A. initiative if proponents obtain enough signatures. The initiative would require Los Angeles to implement its Mobility Plan every time the city repaves or works on other street improvements.