Stanford Backs Down from Campus Expansion
Stanford University withdrew its application for a long-term land use permit from Santa Clara County. The plan would have added 3.5 million square feet to the university’s campus, including over 2,000 beds. The university and county have tussled in negotiations for three years. Stanford made extensive--and expensive--community investment commitments trying to secure the deal, including $138 million over 40 years to the Palo Alto Unified School District, and a promise to build 2,172 new workforce units. But the university would not go forward without a long-term development agreement to ensure the county would not change land use laws for the duration of the contract, and multiple attempts to secure a contract failed. The county had demanded that any campus growth plan not add cars to local streets or put more pressure on the local housing market — by building one home for every additional employee represented by the plan. Stanford agreed to the housing but reportedly refused to comply stringent traffic mitigation measures that the county was seeking. Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne acknowledged obstacles while striking an optimistic note: “We have taken this step with regret, but with a clear-eyed understanding of the challenges before us in achieving a successful long-term permit at this time. While we are stepping back from this permit process, we will be launching a new phase of engagement with local communities."
Attorney General Supports Suit against San Diego Carbon Offset Plan Attorney General Xavier Becerra recently filed an amicus brief with the 4th District Court of Appeal arguing that a carbon offset plan proposed in the San Diego County's climate action plan would “perpetuate current sprawling development patterns, which will impede the ability of the region and state to reach their long-term climate objectives,” which include cutting emissions by 40 percent over the next decade. At issue is San Diego County’s plan to approve thousands of new housing units far from public transit, city centers, and jobs using carbon offsets purchased through online registries. The Sierra Club, with support from other environmental groups, is suing, and the case is receiving notice from all over the state. “If San Diego’s approach is allowed to go forward, you’re going to see a lot of carbon offsets, especially in rural countries where growth means a lot more vehicle miles traveled, a lot higher emissions,” said Ethan Elkind, director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment. Before San Diego County appealed the decision, a Superior Court Judge sided with the Sierra Club, finding the county’s offsets program violates the county’s general plan, and, perhaps more worryingly, may jeopardize other jurisdictions’ ability to meet state requirements. For example, the San Diego Assn. of Governments is required by law to reduce emissions by 19 percent by the year 2035. Under Senate Bill 375, SANDAG would be on the hook to build miles of new rail system and potentially levy tolls across the county’s highways to meet emissions standards.
S.F. Giants Proceed with Waterfront Redevelopment
The San Francisco Giants unveiled plans for the 28-acre Mission Rock development, which will turn a parking lot south of Oracle Park into a mixed-use neighborhood. Plans center around the five acre China Basin Park, designed by landscape architecture firm SCAPE, which includes a plaza, a cafe, a promenade, and a lawn that cascades into the bay through “tidal shelves’”. The development will also include 1,200 residential units, 40 percent of which are affordable; 1.4 million square feet of office space; and more than 200,000 square feet of retail. Voters approved the initial plans for developing the Port-owned property in 2015. The plans for Mission Park have been 12 years in the making, as collaborators San Francisco Giants, Tishman Speyer and the Port of San Francisco tapped architecture firms MVRDV, Studio Gang, Henning Larsen, and WORKac to design the four buildings with a “distinct look and feel but would complement each other and the surrounding environment.”
Oakland Drops Lawsuit over Coliseum
The City of Oakland dropped its lawsuit against Alameda County a day before a hearing with a Superior Court judge to block the sale of the county’s ownership stake in the Oakland A’s stadium. The suit was dismissed without prejudice, barring future suits. Dropping the lawsuit was a precondition for continued negotiations between the city and Oakland A’s, which will now move forward as the A’s attempt to buy the city’s share of the Coliseum. Alameda County may yet make a deal with the A’s to sell its share, but under California’s Surplus Land Act, affordable housing developers, local public entities, and other groups must be given the opportunity to match the A’s offer. Alameda County is reportedly preparing a notice announcing the bid. Groups have 60 days from the notice date to respond.
State Releases $610 Million in Funds for Housing
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the availability of $610 million in funding to help California communities build more houses and public transit options close to job centers and services - actions geared toward meeting the state’s need for housing while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. This follows the release of $279 million from the Infill Infrastructure Grant program. The California Strategic Growth Council will award funds from California Climate Investments, an initiative that disburses monies raised through cap-and-trade allowances to programs that primarily benefit disadvantaged communities. “Sky-high housing costs are putting the squeeze on family budgets while long commutes contribute to dirtier air,” said Governor Newsom. “By bringing housing closer to jobs, we can fight climate change and create healthier, sustainable communities across California.”
Quick Hits & Updates
Newport Beach philanthropists have pledged $50 million to Banning Ranch Conservancy to protect 401 acres of Newport Beach’s Banning Ranch. The Coastal Commission and Banning Ranch Conservancy have both worked to block development on the property--the most recent proposal would have brought 895 homes, a 75-room hotel, a 20-bed hostel and 45,100 square of retail space to 62 acres of the property.
A vulnerability report presented to San Clemente’s City Council warns that rising sea levels will significantly erode beaches as soon as 2030, and endanger seaside railways by 2080. California granted the Orange County Transportation Authority $460,000 to develop an adaptation for the railroad. The report wasn’t all bad news--most of San Clemente’s coastal buildings are not under direct threat.
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to extend a ban on new oil wells in Oxnard. The ban was originally put in place in April due to unexplained gases in the Fox County Aquifer. The U.S. Geological Survey is conducting research into whether the method being used--injecting steam into the ground to loosen tar--poses environmental risks. It could be as long as six months before USGS completes the survey. In the meantime, officials are hesitant to give definite answers as to whether drinking water is safe or if the continued ban is warranted.
The San Jose City Council voted, 6-5, to loosen the city’s rent control ordinance. Under the old law, developers who demolished or remodeled rent-controlled apartments were required to either match the number of rent controlled apartments or make half of the new units rent controlled, whichever was greater. New rules put a cap on the 50 percent requirement at seven times the number of previously rent-controlled units. Developers can get a waiver if 15 percent of the new units are affordable housing, and can increase rent by five percent on previously rent-controlled apartments.
San Jose's East Side Union High School District voted to put a $60 million general obligation bond on the March 3 ballot for a teacher housing project that would generate revenue for the school. District officials hope that affordable housing—with rent at about 70% of market rate—will help attract and retain new teachers.
The Fresno FC Foxes soccer team appears increasingly likely to vacate Fresno’s Chukchansi Park as the owner publicly declared . The start-up team lost $4 million and has explored myriad options in Fresno with no success--the Selland Arena parking lot at the downtown Fresno Convention Center, the parking lot on H Street across from Chukchansi Park, the Granite Park recreation complex in central Fresno, Fresno State’s soccer/lacrosse field and potential sites in Madera County. The owner says he’s had promising negotiations with California State University Monterey Bay to use the campus’s soccer-only stadium.
The Hass Insititute at UC Berkeley has released a report, “Roots, Race, & Place: A History of Racially Exclusionary Housing in the San Francisco Bay Area." The report traces a history of racial exclusion and inequities—from who owned land, who had access to financing, and who held political power—that underpin the Bay Area’s displacement problem.
Imperial County supervisors voted unanimously to declare a state of emergency at the Salton Sea, and supervisors say they will likely seek another emergency declaration with regards to polluted New River in coming weeks. The county is hoping to free up federal and state relief funds and to bypass lengthy environmental reviews for what officials claim are alarmingly overdue dust suppression and habitat projects. “This is an environmental crisis that has already occurred, that has caused a massive die-off of birds, and now we’re at a point where human health is being affected,” said board chair Ryan Kelly. About 400 species of birds are affected, and the county’s air pollution control officer, Matt Dessert, believes dust blowing from the receding shoreline is the main cause of higher than average asthma rates in Imperial County. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
LA is about to get cooler according to Mayor Eric Garcetti's office, which announced a pilot program Cool Streets LA that will add 14 new street trees, 35,000 square feet of cool pavement and four shaded bus benches. The pilot is in preparation for the installation of 750 new tree-shaded bus benches by December 2020; in addition, cool pavement, new trees, cool rooftops, hydration stations and energy efficient rebates to businesses are six “cool-neighborhood projects, slated to be completed by 2021.
Conservation groups intend to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for not classifying the Humboldt marten--of which there are an estimated fewer than 400 in the wild-- under the Endangered Species Act. Over the years, Humboldt martens’ territory has shrunk from 800 miles of California and Oregon coastline to just three California counties. Increased wildfire frequency and the timber industry pose two major threats to the survival of the endangered birds.