By Robin Glover & Brett Simpson
November 11, 2019
Apple Pledges $2.5 Billion to Support Housing in Bay Area
Apple has committed the largest sum yet by a tech giant to support affordable housing, pledging $2.5 billion in investments, land, and charitable donations. Of the $2.5 billion, $500 million will go towards local projects, including property in San Jose owned by Apple valued at $300 million, $150 million for Bay Area affordable housing, and a $50 million charitable donation to a Silicon Valley nonprofit committed to helping the homeless. The remaining $2 billion will benefit Californians state-wide, with $1 billion earmarked for an affordable housing investment fund. Apple says it will reinvest capital gains from the fund for five years. An additional $1 billion will contribute to California’s current efforts to help first-time home buyers with financing and down payment assistance. Apple’s plan declines to give a specific housing number target. ““When [affordable housing] fall[s] out of reach for too many, we know the course we are on is unsustainable, and Apple is committed to being part of the solution,” CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.
Plumas County Adopts New General Plan
The Plumas County general plan has been adopted by county supervisors. Changes for the 10 county zones largely consist of new maximum building sizes relative to lot area. The suburban, secondary suburban, and rural zones now have relative maximum building sizes to the lot area of 50% except on large parcels.Heavy Industrial zones and mining zones allow for larger maximum building coverage of 70%, while general forest zone structures and Agricultural Preserve zones will now be limited to one acre. Height limits in light industrial zones increase maximum timber manufacturing structures from 60 feet in height to 125 feet. Lastly, timberland production zone restrictions are now in line with Article 32, a taxation reform act passed in 1976 that encourages the protection of immature tress by limiting structures to no more than an acre. A complete plan is available for public inspection at the Planning Department in Quincy.
San Diego Considers Major Transportation Hub
The San Diego Association of Governments released a report envisioning plans for a "Grand Central Station" and underground airport transportation system that would cost at least $4 billion. The report considers four alternatives for transportation plans. The transit option most favored by local planners is a new transit center at the Navy property north of the airport, along with a nonstop underground trolley free to ride. Estimates show that it would reduce airport traffic by as much as 30 percent and could service 40,000 passengers a day. The second-best option proposes a 3.6-mile ground-level and elevated route to the airport. Today, 99 percent of trips to the San Diego International Airport are made via private vehicle. SANDAG will further study four alternatives for a mass transit trolley or “people mover” to the airport. The board has been considering four above and below ground alternatives, and have so far favored an underground “people mover” from a new transit center at a Navy yard north of the airport, which will likely serve the most people. Other options include an above-ground route from the Navy yard, an underground route from a different transit hub closer to the airport, and a trolley extension that does not include building a new station. All four options are costly: ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion. This more detailed analysis will likely cost between $2 million and $5 million, and SANDAG will choose the its favored alternative next year.
Housing Permit Approvals in Freefall Statewide
New housing permit approvals have declined statewide in 2019, with an especially steep drop in the Bay Area, according to a recent analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California. The new data, which belies Governor Gavin Newsom’s efforts to build 3.5 million new housing units by 2025, casts doubts on current policy and processes for new housing approval. According to state housing officials, California needs an average of 180,000 new homes every year to make up for current deficits. However, only 104,000 new residential permits were issued in 2018. And, according to the most recent measurement, the numbers are declining: by June 2019, permits were down 38 percent compared to June 2018. On an annualized basis, the numbers are down by 16 percent from 2018. In the Bay Area, this trend is especially striking: falling nearly 50 percent in San Mateo County, 30 percent in Alameda County, and nearly 10 percent in Santa Clara County. This comes despite a steady rise in new building permit requests since 2010. “At this point, it’s become a noticeable decline,” Hans Johnson, a senior fellow at PPIC in San Francisco, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s the start of a worrisome trend.”
Quick Hits & Updates
As the City of Napa gears up to submit its first general plan in more than 20 years, the volunteer committee helping craft the plan solicited residents’ opinions and discovered trends that will likely shift direction and focus of the city’s growth through 2040. Survey results revealed that Napans favor denser and taller housing than is usual for the city. mostly clustered in downtown hubs alongside busy streets. Pedestrian and bicycle-friendly roads also emerged as popular priorities.
LA Metro released development visions for all nine stations of the $6.6 billion West Santa Ana Branch light rail line—Pioneer, Bellflower, Paramount/Rosecrans, I-105/Green Line, Firestone, Florence/Salt Lake, Pacific/Randolph, Slauson, Arts District South, South Park/Fashion District, and Little Tokyo. Metro’s recommendations place a strong emphasis on ample parking, walkability, preventing displacement, and active preservation of local businesses.
The City of Los Angeles is suing Figueroa Economical Housing Development Corp. and other prominent affordable housing developers for misappropriating city funds. Richard N. Hogan Manor, a 51-unit housing project on S. Figueroa St. property was financed through a $2.3 dollar loan issued by the city and distributed through the Affordable Housing Trust Fund program. The suit alleges that the defendants received $4.4 million in proceeds from the original loan through a series of loans and title changes, while further alleging illegal intent to remove the city from the project altogether. The lawsuit has implications beyond the case, as Figueroa Economical currently stands to receive $43 million from a Proposition HHH homeless housing bond.
Tensions continue to escalate between top California Coastal Commission officials and Del Mar as Del Mar resists the commission’s recommendations to adopt managed retreat initiatives that address sea level rise. Del Mar officials contend that managed retreat, which would require removal of coastal structures, is simply not a viable option in a city with high coastal property values. Instead, Del Mar submitted for review last year a plan that relied on maintaining existing seawalls and sand restoration. Coastal Commissioners lambasted the plan as one with outdated, short-lived solutions, and returned the plan to the city with recommendations that included what Del Mar viewed as “back door” triggers for managed retreat. The issue remains unresolved as Commission Executive Director Jack Ainsworth granted Del Mar’s request to postpone a hearing.
San Diego State University’s satellite desert campus wants to stand and deliver as a true four-year university San Diego’s tiny Imperial Valley branch campus is taking steps to become a four-year university to better serve a county in which 25 percent of people live in poverty and 21 percent are unemployed. This fall, the university accepted freshmen for the first time in a decade and hopes to double enrollment to 2,000 in the coming years. “High school graduates who are eligible to go to a four-year school should have the option of coming here,” said Gregorio Ponce, the dean of SDSU Imperial Valley. “And they should be able to save money. Leaving the county to go to college can cost at least $30,000 a year. Here it costs $6,000.”
The largest ever settlement in a class-action lawsuit over insufficient disability access is pending before a federal judge in San Jose. The San Francisco 49ersand Santa Clara have agreed to pay $24 million to as many as 6,000 disabled individuals who have encountered physical access difficulties while attending games. From buying tickets to using the restrooms at Levi Stadium the plaintiffs lawyers cite 2,700 “access barriers,” in the suit. As part of the settlement, the stadium will remove barriers, install additional accessible parking spaces, provide shuttles and golf carts, and allow on-line ticket purchases.
Sonoma County officials hope to shave a year off environmental review time for approximately 50 housing projects by consolidating them into one environmental review. To achieve this, Sonoma would need to rezone—a process that would typically occur with the country’s general plan update. But wildfires have twice delayed a plan update and county officials think the review work could contribute positively to general plan developments. Regional director Teri Shore says rezoning now is premature. “The general plan update—that’s the opportunity to look at the bigger picture.”
After nearly a year-long delay, the city of Eureka formally transferred lands on Indian Island back to the Wiyot Tribe. The tribe lost the land through an illegitimate sale to a dairy farmer in 1860, followed by a massacre of Wiyot people. “Today is a good day to be alive,” said tribal chairman Ted Hernandez at an emotional ceremony. A separate 40-acre parcel of land was returned to the Wiyot Tribe in 2004.
East Palo Alto is considering congestion pricing to ease commuter traffic on University Avenue. Even with broad council interest, the proposal faces an unlikely path forward. To charge tolls, local agencies need permission by the legislator. A councilman in communication with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission was told getting legislative support is unlikely. Vice Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones expressed optimism, pointing to legislative support garnered for San Francisco’s Lombard Street toll. Still, legislative support is no guarantee. The Lombard Street toll passed the state Senate and Assembly but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom.
After 20 years of negotiations, a conservation group agreed on a $15.6 million deal for a 530-acre sequoia grove in Northern California. The group does not yet have the funds and must raise all $15.6 million by Dec. 31. If the Save the Redwoods League successfully purchases the grove, plans are to gift it to the U.S. Forest Service, where it will become part of the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
Only 22 percent of Californians support banning reconstruction after wildfires, a survey by Stanford University found, but more than 60 percent oppose new construction in wildfire prone areas. Other noteworthy findings: over half of Californians think homeowners should do controlled burns on their own property, and a quarter of those surveyed have been either personally affected by wildfires or know someone who has.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is suing the City of Los Angeles, alleging the city wrongly denied the foundation $25 million in funding. If it had been disbursed, the money would have been from Proposition HHH to build more than 200 “microunits” to house homeless people in skid row. The city claims the foundation had “poor financing structure and cost efficiency,” and insufficient “organization structure, experience and capacity. The Foundation president counters the foundation is uniquely poised to complete the project as it already owns the land and had the lowest cost-per-unit bid.