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CP&DR News Briefs March 17, 2020: ADU Policies; Housing Advocates' Plan; Multifamily Development; and More

Robin Glover on
Mar 16, 2020
California Lags in Production of “Granny Flats"
California cities get a C+ for measures meant to boost the number of granny flats, or accessory dwelling units, according to a survey by Berkeley housing researchers. Even as the state has loosened restrictions, some cities have imposed barriers like mandating parking spaces, large lot sizes, and additional fees for ADU construction. Not all cities received low marks. Oakland, San Jose, Concord and San Francisco scored above average, but homeowners in Northern California were more likely to run into high permit costs, while Southern California residents became enmeshed in onerous parking regulations and demands for large lots, the survey found. Local planning departments have been an impediment as well, as they have been slow to adopt state law changes and have not standardized the permitting process for homeowners and developers. Nonprofits are looking to fill the knowledge gap: The Housing Trust Silicon Valley expects to roll out a short-term loan program to homeowners to build ADUs, which would then be rented out to low- and moderate-income residents.

Housing Groups Propose 10-Year Plan 
Affordable housing advocacy group Housing California and nonprofit California Housing Partnership have announced California's Roadmap HOME 2030, an initiative to develop and implement a 10-year policy blueprint for statewide housing and homelessness solutions. The goal is to move beyond a piecemeal approach and purpose long-term structural and systems change policies necessary to address California's housing affordability challenges. According to the organizations, the Roadmap will be released in the fall. The two coalitions are working with more than three dozen partners and experts from many sectors touched by housing affordability and homelessness. The Roadmap will describe the full scale of the need for affordable homes, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable; illustrate what it will take to meet the need by 2030 by setting ambitious goals and putting forward a comprehensive and evidence-based framework of statewide policies and investments; and shape the policy agenda in Sacramento to win concrete legislation and investments.

UC Riverside Report Touts Multifamily Housing Development 
A new report out of UC Riverside's School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development makes a case for multifamily housing in Los Angeles County, where one-sixth of building costs is attributable to land alone. Compare that figure to other southern California cities, including Anaheim, Oxnard, San Bernardino, and Riverside, where land accounts for less than two percent of total development costs, and it becomes clear that density can have an outsize influence on affordability. Building a condominium in Los Angeles costs $100,000 more, on average, than building in surrounding areas. "Affordable housing by definition is multifamily housing, and where land is expensive, that cost needs to be distributed among more people in order to promote affordability," said Adam Fowler, Director of Research at the Center for Forecasting. The report also examined countywide data and found that the median condo price-to-housing income ratio in Los Angeles is 7.7, which is 61 percent higher than the recommended ratio. "While officials can't control the costs of labor, building materials, or other market variables," said Hoyu Chong, the report's author, "they can support changes to zoning and land use that will have a meaningful effect on reducing housing unit costs and increase affordability for Southern California families.”

Quick Hits & Updates 
Mountain lions may land on the endangered species list after a recommendation by the state Fish and Game Commission. Six populations are under review, including those in the Santa Monica Mountains in Ventura and Los Angeles Mountains. If the determination as endangered species is made, development projects in surrounding areas could be required to lessen any impacts to the species.

The Strategic Growth Council is now accepting applications for round 6 of the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC). SGC is inviting cities, counties, resource conservation districts, land trusts, Native American tribes, and non-profits to apply for funding for projects that limit sprawl and promote infill development. 

USC has issued an update to its 2015 "Getting Real about Reform" report that explores how much additional revenue would be generated through the 1-percent general tax levy if commercial and industrial property were assessed at market value. The authors estimate that under such a system, an additional 11.4 billion dollars, or between 10.3 and 12.6 billion dollars, in property tax revenues would be available in 2021-22. 

Indio City Council members unanimously approved a resolution to adopt the results of a feasibility study to provide Amtrak train service between Los Angeles and Indio. The proposed "Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service," which is the early stages of the environmental review process, would extend span 141 miles from Indio to Los Angeles Union Station.

A landmark housing project that will add 1,200 new single-family and multi-family units in Paso Robles was unanimously approved by city leaders. The project will occupy 356 acres across four land parcels. The first phase is slated to begin as early as this summer and units will be ready for sale 18 to 24 months after construction begins. 

At a press conference, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin announced the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, or TOPA, a city ordinance aimed at preserving affordable housing in Berkeley. With TOPA, tenants have the right of first and right of first refusal on the property they live in, giving them a chance to purchase the property as a subordinated right purchase.

A case before the U.S. district court will determine whether Costa Mesa's tough new regulations for sober living homes - mandated around the clock supervision, minimum distance between facilities and special permits - violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Housing Act. A tentative ruling holds that a sober living home operator can't make a blanket claim that everyone it serves is disabled and entitled to federal protections. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

To meet a likely mandate to zone for and produce 6,000 affordable housing units by 2029, Santa Monica's Planning Commission discuss recommending by-right zoning for 100 percent affordable housing developments. Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon recommends standardizing conditions like corporate housing restrictions and sustainability features in order to allow market rate housing by-right as well.

Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield of California are pledging $45 million to help with the homelessness crisis. The funds may be directed towards building affordable housing with units set aside specifically for formerly homeless families and towards helping with rent subsidies.
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