CP&DR News Briefs November 29, 2022: L.A. County Environmental Justice; Klamath River Dam Removal; Monterey Co. Desalination Plant; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Nov 29, 2022

Los Angeles County Creates Office to Address Environmental Justice
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has established the Office of Environmental Justice and Climate Health intended to support communities, particularly those that are low-income or of color, that face relatively severe burdens from climate change and pollution. The office will tackle issues such as freeway and air pollutants from diesel emissions, industrial polluters such as recycling plants, and heat islands that have harmed communities with less greenery and more asphalt. By collecting data and working with other groups to develop policies and strategies, the agency has committed to ensuring that corporations are responsible for the dangers they have imposed on California residents and that those who have faced the worst impacts will be prioritized. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Feds Grant Permission to Remove Dams on Klamath River
After decades of discussion, federal officials approved the demolition of four aging dams along the Klamath River, hopefully restoring hundreds of miles of river water for native salmon and other wildlife and improving water quality across the California-Oregon route. The move allows PacifiCorp energy company to avoid costly facility upgrades while relying on a Proposition 1 water bond that will fund deconstruction, which will mark the first time in over a century that the river flows without interruption once completed. The $500 million demolition process may start as soon as next year, beginning with the smallest dam, and is intended for completion by the end of 2024.

Coastal Commission Approves Another Desalination Plant
The Coastal Commission approved a plan to develop a desalination plant for Monterey Peninsula, though not without contention about the role of desalination as a solution to worsening drought crises across California. Though the project would transform seawater from off the coast of the city of Marina, the process requires heavy energy use and a high cost, with residents expressing that the $300 million project will increase water rates by about 50%, becoming an environmental justice concern. Meanwhile, California American Water is attempting to minimize the impact on wildlife by treating toxic material produced in the desalination process before it returns to the ocean. If completed, the plant would contribute 40% of the water supply for Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pebble Beach, and other nearby cities.

CP&DR Coverage: Local Ballot Measures
Among over 50 local land use measures proffered on city, council, and special district ballots on November 8 — the most in recent memory — measures that called for financing and/or development of affordable housing were approved widely and by wide margins. Measures that sought to accommodate more housing via general plan updates and new zoning--changes likely to be palpable to residents--had mixed results. At least ten measures centered on questions that potentially bear on cities’ abilities to adopt housing elements and zoning codes to meet their Regional Housing Needs Allocation goals. In some cases, city councils presented referendums asking voters to ease the way for planners to zone for their respective housing allocations. In other cases, slow- and no-growth initiatives, typically placed on ballots by citizen groups, would limit the densities in key locations.

Quick Hits & Updates

Decreasing households sizes, prompted by the pandemic and remote work, the dangers of exposure, and increased migrations, have multiplied the number of households, leading to more housing units in demand, according to recent analysis from the Public Policy Institute. With this data, researchers found that new households are outpacing new housing supply.

Stanford University has its eyes on a 46-acre property owned by Notre Dame de Namur University with the intention to transform the site for its own use. While its exact plans remain unknown, the university has said it hopes to add 200 housing units and 1,350 parking spaces.

Three oil companies must pay the Environmental Protection Agency nearly $50 million for the cost of cleaning up the McColl Superfund Site in Fullerton after a federal appeals court upheld a previous decision. Now, those responsible for the damage, rather than taxpayers, will pay for the EPA's removal of 97,100 cubic yards of toxic waste at the site.

The California Air Resource Board will focus a $2.6 billion investment in sustainable transportation in low-income communities and neighborhoods where pollution is disproportionately high. The investment will prioritize zero-emission transportation systems, bike- and car-sharing, and consumer rebates for electric vehicles to help low-income residents purchase clean cars.

The Builder's Remedy has been invoked in the small Los Angeles County city of Hawaiian Gardens, as a developer has proposed a 13-unit project that was previously rejected by the city over parking and commercial space concerns. The new application includes three affordable units, in line with the 20 percent affordability requirement.

A judge has ruled against a developer who says his real estate companies should have received compensations for payment losses that resulted from pandemic-induced emergency tenant protections in Los Angeles. The judge said that the city did not "take" private property when it approved an eviction moratorium, as suggested by the developer.