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CP&DR News Briefs November 30, 2021: Los Angeles Housing Element; San Diego Trolley; San Francisco Fourplexes; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Nov 30, 2021

Los Angeles Adopts Housing Element to Accommodate Quarter-Million New Units
The Los Angeles City Council approved revisions to the city’s Housing Element that would establish one of the most ambitious rezoning programs in the nation and address systemic inequity in planning and land use policies that has contributed to the city’s current housing crisis. The rezoning program plans to allow for over 250,000 new housing units within three years of the plan's adoption and would put the city on track to meet the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation requirement for nearly 500,000 new units by 2029. The Housing Element also includes anti-displacement strategy studies, eviction defense programs, inclusionary zoning studies, a Citywide Housing Needs Assessment, and a focus on rezoning in higher opportunity areas near jobs and transit. 

Plan to Upzone Single-Unit Lots in San Francisco Moves Forward
The San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved a plan, authored by Sup. Gordon Mar, that will authorize fourplexes to be built on over 110,000 sites that are currently intended for either single-family homes or duplexes. Going forward, 75,000 single-family and 36,000 duplex parcels on both corner and mid-block lots could be rezoned, and the Planning Commission is hoping that the city will permit six-unit complexes on corner lots. About 80% of residents at the meeting voiced their support for the plan, hoping that it would increase housing stock through a medium-density approach. The Planning Commission has recommended a few amendments to Supervisor Rafael Mandelman's legislation, though city planners are hoping to pass the legislation before SB 9 goes into effect in order to supplement the state policy with provisions that it lacks.

11-Mile Trolley Extension Serving Northern San Diego Opens
San Diego launched its 11-mile trolley line that connects Old Town to La Jolla, for the first time connecting La Jolla, UC San Diego, Mission Bay Park, Pacific Beach, and Clairemont via light rail. The $2.2 billion project is the most expensive infrastructure endeavor in the region's history. City officials are celebrating its potential to connect jobs, homes, and access to education and healthcare, specifically through its stops near UC San Diego; the region's largest employment center, University City and the Golden Triangle; and other popular destinations. Local leaders agreed to make all rides free for the new system's first day in an effort to convince San Diegans to use the new system and witness its quick commute times. (See related CP&DR commentary.)

Developer Sues Santa Clara over Blocked Housing Project
Developer Republic Metropolitan filed a claim against the City of Santa Clara, claiming that the city violated state housing laws after it deferred plans for a mixed-use project near El Camino Real. The developer was supposed to build housing, 12,000 square-feet of retail, and 32,670 of recreational space on the parcel owned by the city and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Of the 240-units proposed on the 2.6-acre site located between the CalTrain Station and Santa Clara University, 170 would have been for students and workers, and 70 would have been affordable. The developer argues that its $3.5 million and lengthy time investment in the project was wrongly and unjustifiably terminated in October 2020 when Republic Metropolitan met with the city council in closed session.

HCD Names Head of Housing Accountability Unit
The California Department of Housing and Community Development has named David Zisser as the new leader of its new Housing Accountability Unit. The new unit will play a critical role in ensuring that local leaders fulfill their legal responsibility to plan, zone for, and permit their share of the state’s housing needs. HCD Director Gustavo Velasquez hopes that Zisser, formerly associate director of advocacy group Housing California, will promote housing policy accountability. Zisser will, going forward, lead a team dedicated to generating prohousing incentives and planning grants supporting local jurisdictions to comply with state housing laws, education and technical assistance to help jurisdictions understand state law, and accountability actions for non-compliance as needed. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

CP&DR Coverage: Rejection of Tower in San Francisco Sets off Renewed Housing Debates
A residential tower of nearly 500 units at 469 Stevenson in San Francisco's South of Mission district had received approval from the city’s Planning Commission. But a neighborhood group called the Yerba Buena Consortium filed an appeal based on the California Environmental Quality Act, leading supervisors to vote the project down, 8-3. The decision has set off renewed debates over San Francisco’s willingness to address its housing crisis and to uphold the city’s famously progressive values. This approach to housing production, to the extent that it represents a widespread view among San Francisco Supervisors, puts the city out of step with other expensive, housing-constrained cities such as Berkeley, San Jose, and San Diego.It has also caught the attention of the state Department of Housing and Community Development’s accountability unit, which is launching an investigation with support of the state Attorney General’s Office.

Quick Hits & Updates

The Transformative Climate Communities Program's (TCC) Draft Round 4 Program Guidelines and updated TCC Mapping Tool is available for public comment until December 15. The Round 4 Program Guidelines will expand eligibility to under-resourced unincorporated communities, California Indigenous tribes, and the top 25% of disadvantaged communities according to CalEnviroScreen.

The Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium, LLC, a subsidiary of the non-profit Tenants and Owners Development Corporation (TODCO), filed a petition to block the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Plan Bay Area 2050. TODCO is arguing that the plan does not align with the CEQA. 

While the Oakland A's have been flirting with a plan to develop the team's waterfront ballpark project in Jack London Square for years, the team has officially placed an offer to purchase a piece of land in Las Vegas to potentially host the ballpark site. Though negotiations are still underway, news broke the same day that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff confirmed that the city would receive federal funds for infrastructure improvements at Jack London Square.

Bakersfield is participating a pilot program that will select 100 vulnerable, young residents to participate in a year-long study that examines how free access to public transit and electric scooters and bikes impacts their lives. The program reflects a nationwide interest in the concept of universal basic mobility, which would guarantee a minimum level of transportation accessibility.

The Wildlands Conservancy closed escrow on a 26,600-acre ranch in Northern California and will transform the space with a 10-bedroom lodge into an open space with mountains and valleys for the public. The family of investment giant Dean Witter sold the plot on the Eel River for $25 million to the conservation group that plans to welcome hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming, and camping on the site.

Burbank City Council is proposing an ordinance that would allow city council to have control over final ministerial design review and approval authority for projects eligible under SB 35. The 2017 housing bill simplifies the process for housing construction, including the review process, if cities do not meet certain RHNA requirements.

The Inland Empire city of Chino, which is home to several large industrial projects, enacted a 45-day moratorium on future warehouses and logistics centers located north of Schaefer Avenue. In the meantime, officials will study the impact of truck traffic and air pollution on Chino residents and consider if northern Chino should welcome other purposes. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

San Diego County released a plan to significantly reduce carbon emissions across the region, the first step of which is its "Regional Decarbonization Framework," which proposes net zero emissions by 2035. The framework is intended to meaningfully change the way San Diego residents power transportation, buildings, and land use.

The Institute for Local Government presented its Platinum 2021 Beacon Vanguard Award to city of Fremont and a Silver to the city of Thousand Oaks for their cumulative success in energy savings, natural gas savings, agency greenhouse gas reductions, community GHG reductions, and sustainability practices. Several other cities, including Piedmont, San Rafael, and Alameda, also received Beacon Spotlight Awards for their triumphs within specific categories.

Three people have been charged with counts of fraud and embezzlement for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Los Angeles funds intended to help the city's unhoused population. According to Attorney General Rob Bonta, the three people, two of whom worked for nonprofit People assisting the Homeless, applied for the nonprofit to use fraudulent financial assistance to help people who were not eligible for assistance because they have homes.

The Sacramento region has the least affordable new home market in the country, according to a report released Thursday by real estate technology firm Knock. The report found that 80% of households cannot purchase a newly constructed home, which would cost residents $128,447 to afford the down payment, and the median income is $76,706.

Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a plan to look into prioritizing 100% affordable housing projects in neighborhoods with abundant public transit, green space, education, grocery store, and health access. The vote comes after a report presented in front of the council found that 14% of affordable units approved in the last decade are located in high-resource areas, while the remaining 86% are in low-resource and low-income communities.

Implementation of a $1.3 billion plan to introduce rail service from Sacramento to the Central Valley and San Jose is already three years behind schedule and over budget. Officials are now discussing plans to let go of some of the 16 train stations that would have been part of a larger regional expansion of rail service until they can get additional funding.

Community group Downtown Crenshaw is fighting a plan to redevelop the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles after Harridge Development Group, known for its high-end housing projects, bought the property. While Harridge purchased the plaza, which has long been a part of the predominantly Black community of South Los Angeles, for $111 million, Downtown Crenshaw's $115 million offer to grow co-ops, green space, and small businesses on the property was rejected, signaling that systemic racism will propel gentrification in the area.