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CP&DR News Briefs March 24, 2020: Eviction Moratoriums; Encinitas Housing Suit; Complete Streets; and More

Robin Glover on
Mar 22, 2020
With Governor’s Encouragement, Cities Halt Evictions During Epidemic 
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order encouraging local governments to pass eviction moratoriums as a statewide shelter-in-place order keeps thousands out of work. Some cities have taken steps to protect tenants affected by the coronavirus, including Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, but ultimately decisions are being left to cities and counties. Some city law enforcement officers, including San Francisco and Alameda County's sheriff's offices, are acting unilaterally by pausing eviction enforcement, reasoning that keeping people in homes prevents more people falling into the vulnerable category that is already prevalent in Northern California.The order also requests that banks and financial institutions forgive late mortgage payments and delay foreclosures if homeowners cannot make payments due to lost wages. The executive order will remain in effect until May 31, but state lawmakers are anticipating the need for longer-term solutions. State Assemblyman Phil Ting says he plans to introduce a bill that would freeze evictions for as long as a year and block home foreclosures. The moratorium would not, Ting stressed in a statement, mean tenants and mortgage holders would not pay eventually, but rather give involved parties, including banks, time to work out a payment plan.

Encinitas Sues State over Housing Element Compliance 
The San Diego County city of Encinitas, which has been involved in a series of disputes over housing, is looking to the courts to decide whether the Department of Housing and Community Development Department has authority to revoke the city's compliance status after voters approved Proposition A, a measure that requires the city to obtain voter approval before up-zoning properties for development. Measures that would allow the city to act unilaterally have failed, once in 2016 and again in 2019. In a dramatic turn of events, the court exempted Encinitas from public vote requirements temporarily in order to meet the city's housing planning requirements. Once again Encinitas is getting squeezed on both sides, unable to win approval to fulfill state housing planning requirements, and at risk of losing the right altogether if the state wins the suit. The state is seeking a permanent exemption from the general public vote requirement, arguing Encinitas will continue to fail to meet state housing planning requirements. Mayor Catherine Blakespear framed the issue as one of local control versus state overreach: "We need a judge to determine the ultimate question of how far the state can go in clawing away residents' ability to vote in Encinitas.” (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

UC Berkeley Program Encourages Implementation of Complete Streets 
UC Berkeley's SafeTRECT is accepting applications from cities for a free Complete Streets Assessment by professional planners and engineers for the areas the city chooses for evaluation. If selected, cities are awarded professional consultation to assess high-injury areas and to provide safety recommendations that ensure safety for the full spectrum of street users, including persons on foot, on bike, on transit, scooter, car, or wheelchair. The program is explicitly for technical experts, primarily city planners and engineers, who will meet with a wide range of city personnel from Public Works personnel to planning departments to police, depending on need. Relevant personnel are invited to co-conduct a field audit in order to zero in on safety concerns and discuss potential solutions. "The people who do the assessments," said Jill Cooper, SafeTREC's co-director, "have strong backgrounds in bike and pedestrian safety and mobility. They are looking at safety in a different way" that can prompt any number of solutions from policy changes to traffic signal timing adjustments, new pedestrian or bicycle facilities, pavement markings, or roadway geometry changes.

Quick Hits & Updates

HCD released the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Housing Program draft guidelines, under which low-interest loans are available as gap financing for rental housing developments near transit that include affordable units. Localities may apply for grants up to $10 million for infrastructure improvements necessary for the development of housing near transit.

The Los Angeles City Council voted to approve $47 million in loans for the development and preservation of affordable housing across Southern California. Eleven projects -- three of which are within LA city limits -- will add more than 850 apartments to the region.
 
Sen. Nancy Skinner has introduced a bill that would force corporate developers to rent properties within 90 days or face government seizure of the property through eminent domain. If enacted, the bill would also give cities authority to levy fines against property owners for empty units.

Housing advocates are eyeing Google's 50-acre campus near Diridion Station in San Jose as a high-opportunity area for new housing. SV@Home, a housing advocacy organization, conducted an analysis of the surrounding 240 acres, and found that after accounting for land consumed by supportive infrastructure, nearly 60 acres would be left over that could accommodate 15,000 housing units in addition to the between 3,000 and 6,000 homes Google is planning to build. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake on the Rose Canyon fault would devastate San Diego, says a new study by the Earthquake Engineering Institute. The ground would shift 6 to 7 feet, enough to collapse buildings and bridges, cut gas and water service, displace 36,000 households, and cost an estimated $38 billion in building and infrastructure damage.

In a split vote, Pleasanton city council approved the broad outlines of a revitalization project that has been on hold for years. The move to begin the East Pleasanton Specific Plan is a welcome development for housing advocates who have long seen an opportunity zone on the east side of town.

The regional council of the Southern California Association of Governments votedto adopt an eight-year regional housing plan, but not without significant pushback from some city representatives who say the new methodology -- which allocates affordable housing requirements according to transit and job proximity-- led to unfairly high housing targets. The SCAG Regional Council is expected to publish a draft of the RHNA allocations on April 2.

Sacramento's new bridge will cost $210 million dollars and will have a first-of-its kind combined lift and arch bridge. The bridge will have walkways for pedestrians, buffered bike lanes and three lanes for vehicle or potential light rail traffic.
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