Redondo Beach Council Attempts to Block Major Builders Remedy Project
The Redondo Beach City Council unanimously voted to block the development project of a power plant which included 2,700 residential units, office space, a hotel and 22 acres of open green area. The council stated the plan did not include certain requirements including city land and zoning law amendment requests, environmental reviews, coastal development permits and design review, siding with the Community Development Director's initial decision regarding the project. The project intended to break ground once the power plant ceased operations on Dec. 31. The project originally filed under the builder's remedy under the Housing Accountability Act to divert compliance requirements with the city's general plan. The builder's remedy is only applicable in cities without a general housing plan, and Redondo's 2021-29 housing element was filed with the state on June 5 and certified Sept. 1. The development application was filed in August 2022, sparking debate over the viability of the builder's remedy application. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
Newsom Pushes Plan to Speed Climate-Friendly Developments and Infrastructure
Governor Newsom announced wide-scale legislation and an executive order to expedite transportation, clean energy, water and infrastructure construction across the state. The plans include shortening contracting for bridge and water projects, limiting environmental litigation timelines to nine months, and easing permitting processes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and other waterways in the state. His administration believes the legislation and executive order will expedite projects by more than three years and reduce construction costs to meet the state's climate goals. The plan includes 11 bills and the package will be included in the 2023-24 state budget to go through both houses of the Legislature by June 15. Targeted projects may include solar, wind, and battery storage projects; transit and regional rail construction; clean transportation, including maintenance and bridge projects; water storage; Delta Conveyance Project; semiconductor fabrication plants; and wildlife crossings; among others. “The only way to achieve California’s world-leading climate goals is to build, build, build – faster," said Newsom in a statement.
Reparations Task Force Recommends Land Use Remedies
Governor Newsom's reparations task force finalized its housing proposal recommendations to the California Legislature, including recommendations to ease the lingering impacts of housing segregation in the state. One proposal includes the creation of a state agency to approve residential zoning ordinances based on their ability to dismantle or uphold residential segregation. The legislature should further identify cities and counties with historically redlined neighborhoods to require those neighborhoods to submit residential land use ordinances to a state agency for approvals based on the ordinance's impact on local residential racial segregation, or the cities and counties create an administrative appeal board to review all challenges to permitting decisions and zoning laws. The task force also suggests direct financial support or subsidized down payments, lower mortgages and homeowner's insurance to increase homeownership for Black residents. Another suggestion is preference in renting, homeownership and business opportunities for Black residents previously pushed out of areas of redevelopment.
Elk Grove Will Defend against State Housing Lawsuit
Elk Grove City Council voted unanimously to fight California Attorney General Rob Bonta's lawsuit against the city over Elk Grove's rejection of an affordable housing project. The lawsuit claims the city violated state housing law by rejecting the project. Bonta went forward with the lawsuit following his promise if Elk Grove City Council rejected the project again. In a public statement, he said the lawsuit sends a message to localities presumed to be fighting fair housing laws. Bonta and his team within the California Department of Justice dedicated to enforcing those state laws sued the city of Huntington Beach in April over affordable housing requirements by the state. Elk Grove officials have not come forward with comment, but vow to continue to find an alternate site for the development.
Huntington Beach Must Pay $3.5 Million to Housing Nonprofit
A state appeals court upheld a trial court ruling siding with an affordable housing group arguing the city of Huntington Beach revised its 2013-2021 housing element only after the advocate group sued the city in 2015. Despite the original 2015 lawsuit dismissal, the court upheld the groups's position against the city under the "catalyst theory." The court found the city adopted Senate Bill 1333, allowing the city to gain a partial legal victory over the housing advocacy group, and ordered the city to pay $3.5 million in legal fees. The advocacy group's executive celebrated the victory, stating other litigation against state housing requirements will conclude similarly to their lawsuit. The decision follows Huntington Beach's $5 to $7 million court settlement with the Pacific Airshow. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
CP&DR Coverage: Vacancy Taxes Attempt to Spur Landlords to Fill Units
A few California cities are implementing taxes designed to encourage property owners to rent existing units or to develop empty lots. The so-called “vacancy tax” requires property owners to pay extra taxes on property that is vacant or underutilized. Interest has grown recently in the Bay Area, where San Francisco and Berkeley voters passed ballot measures allowing vacancy taxes to be collected in 2024. Oakland has had a vacancy tax since 2018. The Sacramento City Council is in the early stages of exploring a vacancy tax for empty storefronts or residences, or both. West Hollywood is as well. Besides prodding owners to use their property, vacancy taxes can also provide a funding source for affordable housing. Berkeley expects to raise between $4.5 million and $7 million through its vacancy tax program.
Quick Hits & Updates
In a response to delays and rejections from the Alhambra City Council, the Los Angeles-based developer behind a new 790-unit residential project filed a builder's remedy application in Alhambra. The state law enables plans with a baseline of affordable units an accelerated application process in cities where there is no accepted housing element update.
Responding to increased highway traffic and sea-level rise projection, the California Transportation Commission will decide whether to approve at least an $8 toll on Highway 37 between Marin and Vallejo. The toll would take effect in 2027.
In the midst of the A's announcement of focused efforts of a ballpark in Las Vegas, the team's lease with the port of Oakland for a proposed park at Howard Terminal expired. The A's have not yet commented on whether or not they will extend the agreement with the Port.
A unanimous vote confirm's the California Coastal Commission's decision to study the impact of climate change on coastal access as rising sea levels impact private property-built seawalls. The plan will not give the Commission any new jurisdiction or regulatory power, but will enable them to work with municipal agencies, private businesses and tribal governments to ensure public beach access.
The Center for Biological Diversity is suing the California Geologic Energy Management Division for approval of new oil and gas wells close to homes, beaches and wildlife habitats. The lawsuit claims there has not been sufficient environmental review of the wells in Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo counties.
Mayors from the state's 13 largest cities encouraged state lawmakers to double the state's housing resources grant to $2 billion and make the funding permanent. The mayors also requested thee state allocate $1.5 billion into Project Homekey to ensure the program continues. In exchange, the group proposed an accountability framework for projects funded by the state.
The League of California Cities filed an amicus brief last week asking the Los Angeles County Superior Court to rule in favor of the charter cities of Redondo Beach, Carson, Torrance, Whittier and Del Mar in a lawsuit involving the cities' authority in Senate Bill 9 projects. The five charter cities filed a lawsuit in superior court claiming SB 9 is unconstitutional because cities cannot enforce land use and zoning laws within projects creating two lots on single-family residential parcels.
Port of Long Beach officials released a $4.7 billion plan at their harbor commission meeting for a floating, offshore wind facility supporting multiple 1,000-feet tall wind turbines. The project would be the largest offshore wind turbine facility offshore in the U.S. With the support of state and federal officials, the project could start as soon as January 2027.
A report by the water advocacy group California Water Impact Network found Governor Gavin Newsom's planned water transport tunnel under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta expensive for an uncertain deliverable based on climate change impacts.