Wonderful Co. Envisions Warehouse Complex in Kern County
The Wonderful Co., the prominent Central Valley agriculture company owned by Lynda and Stewart Resnick, is proposing a significant expansion of industrial warehousing near the Kern County town of Shafter, aiming to capitalize on the rise of online shopping. The plan involves converting 1,800 acres of almond groves into additional warehousing space, alongside costly infrastructure projects to mitigate the expansion's impacts. This initiative seeks to position Kern County as a hub for industrial-scale warehousing, distinct from the sprawling distribution centers seen in other regions, potentially creating thousands of jobs. While residents welcome the prospect of employment diversification, concerns persist regarding increased truck and train travel's environmental and health impacts in an already polluted corridor. Despite potential job losses due to automation, Wonderful emphasizes training programs for higher-skilled positions, aiming to offset the shift towards mechanization.

Developer Scuttles Major Hollywood High Rise Development
Millennium Partners has officially withdrawn its ambitious Hollywood Center development plan, valued at over $1 billion, which aimed to erect high-rise residential and office towers around the Capitol Records Building and Pantages Theatre. In the works for 18 years, the proposed development has long been a lightening rod for debates over development in Hollywood and for objections to updates to the Hollywood Community Plan. The decision comes after years of efforts to preserve the historic Capitol Records Building, including a seismic upgrade. Although the project would have introduced the tallest buildings in Hollywood, accommodating over 1,000 residential units and commercial spaces in three towers of up to 46 stories, Millennium Partners has opted not to proceed with its vision for now. This retreat follows a previous attempt, Millennium Hollywood, which faced legal challenges due to environmental concerns and seismic considerations. Despite this setback, Millennium Partners secured approval for a 15-story office tower nearby on Sunset Boulevard. (See related CP&Dr coverage.)

State Releases Map to Track Fair Housing and Neighborhood Change
The release of California's final Neighborhood Change Map by the Department of Housing & Community Development marks a significant step in advancing affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) objectives statewide. This map identifies low- and moderate-income communities of color experiencing significant racial/ethnic and economic changes, aiming to address AFFH challenges and promote integration. After soliciting public feedback and collaborating with research partners, HCD made several modifications to the map, including reorganizing pathways to meet neighborhood change definitions and introducing new measures to capture ongoing changes. By prioritizing affordable housing investments in evolving neighborhoods, HCD seeks to stabilize communities and advance a broader range of AFFH objectives. Moving forward, HCD plans to utilize the Neighborhood Change Map to inform statewide policies and funding allocations for affordable housing initiatives, furthering its commitment to addressing residential segregation and promoting equitable housing opportunities.

Court Ruling Nixes Agreement for Redevelopment of Sonoma Development Center
A judge's ruling delivered a significant blow to a major project in Sonoma County, overturning approval for the redevelopment of Sonoma Developmental Center, potentially halting plans for a residential and commercial community. The decision followed a lawsuit by Sonoma Valley citizens groups, alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act. The ruling criticized the county's failure to address housing unit numbers, cumulative impacts, community concerns, and wildfire evacuation in its environmental impact report. Community activists, long advocating for a scaled-down project, welcomed the ruling, signaling a reset in the conversation and hope for a more thorough environmental review. Despite the setback, the local development team views the ruling as providing guidance for their proposal's environmental review process. The court's decision reflects a contentious debate over the site's future, with community voices pushing for historic preservation and scaled-down development alternatives. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

CP&DR Coverage: Big Cities Try to Speed Up Entitlements
Under the duress of legislative action or the Regional Housing Needs Allocation program, California cities have added millions of units to their zoned capacity in recent years. All of those potential units mean little, though, if developers can’t put shovels in the ground. Now the state’s four largest cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and San Jose – are pursuing some of the most aggressive policies. In almost every case, streamlining measures have been drafted and promoted by mayors, often using executive powers that circumvent the need for city councils and planning commissions to deliberate and approve ordinances.

Quick Hits & Updates

The former Nordstrom valet parking lot at 469 Stevenson St. in San Francisco, which was intended for housing development, will remain a parking lot for at least the next five years, despite earlier plans for construction on a 27-story tower. The decision, reluctantly approved by the Planning Commission, has drawn criticism from commissioners who felt pressured to approve the project with the expectation of immediate development, highlighting ongoing debates over affordable housing and development challenges in the city. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The California Supreme Court will decide on the constitutionality of a November ballot measure aiming to revoke the "mansion tax" Measure ULA in Los Angeles, with a ruling expected by June. The measure seeks to change the voting threshold for proposed special taxes and could impact dozens of recently enacted taxes, including Measure ULA, which imposed taxes on property sales above certain thresholds. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, a neighborhood rooted in history and culture, faces threats of displacement and gentrification, prompting its designation as one of America's 11 most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Efforts by the Sustainable Little Tokyo coalition aim to preserve its identity and advocate for policies supporting affordable housing and cultural heritage preservation amidst ongoing challenges posed by development pressures.

Fresno will sell the derelict Berkeley Building at 887 Fulton St. to the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation for $1, with plans to restore it into ground-floor retail shops and offices. The foundation aims to revitalize downtown Fresno, hoping to fund the renovation costs through a federal grant, although additional funding will be required for the project, which aligns with the city's broader efforts to rejuvenate the downtown area.

Santa Ana is poised to surpass its state-mandated housing goals ahead of schedule, having issued 74% of required building permits within three years of the eight-year planning period. Through a blend of market-rate and affordable units, the city aims to cater to diverse income levels and foster generational wealth.

Five major employers in San Francisco, including Gap and Visa, have formed a volunteer coalition aimed at revitalizing downtown by cleaning up streets and parks. The initiative aims to combat negative perceptions of the city amidst store closures and high office vacancy rates.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review an appeal by a Fremont woman who was ordered by the city to remove a Buddhist temple she built on her property without a permit. The woman accused the city of discrimination, but federal courts ruled against her, stating she had failed to demonstrate discriminatory intent and affirmed the city's right to enforce building regulations. Fremont officials welcomed the decision and stated their intention to continue enforcing the removal of the illegally constructed structures.

In an analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California, the federal government's 2023 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) highlights California's struggle to meet the growing need for homeless housing programs despite promising growth in permanent housing capacity. While federal support during the pandemic bolstered permanent housing, recent declines in rapid re-housing capacity indicate challenges ahead. The state also faces a shortage of shelter beds, with only 71,131 beds available for an estimated 181,399 homeless individuals, prompting calls for increased transparency and strategic use of funding to address homelessness.

Andrea Vidaurre, a 29-year-old activist, recently received the Goldman Environmental Prize for her efforts to advocate for cleaner air in California's Inland Empire, where the fast-growing warehouse and logistics industry contributes to significant air pollution. Despite facing environmental racism and health hazards, Vidaurre persuaded California regulators to pass landmark truck and rail emissions standards, addressing the disproportionate impact of pollution on low-income communities and communities of color.

A recent report from Strava highlights the top 10 U.S. cities for bicycle commuting, with San Francisco ranking 6th and tying with New York City for commuter rates and Los Angeles ranking 9th with an average of 9.5 miles per commute, contributing to the city's sustainability efforts.

Monterey County's progress report in meeting state housing requirements reveals both successes and shortcomings, with housing costs soaring and affordable housing units being slow to develop. Efforts are underway to address these challenges through public-private partnerships, but delays in submitting the housing element to the state and the lack of multifamily construction pose significant hurdles.