Santa Monica Seeks Legal Remedy to "Builder's Remedy"
The City of Santa Monica plans to fight the “Builder’s Remedy” in court. At a recent city council meeting, City Attorney Doug Sloan said the city has hired an outside law firm to mount a legal challenge, though he did not say which firm had been hired. Sloan said the city will probably challenge the October 15 deadline for state approval of their housing element as the trigger for the Builder’s Remedy. He said the city will claim that the deadling should be date of an earlier letter from the Department of Housing and Community Development saying the city was “substantially in compliance.” “Some of these builder’s remedy applications we received after that we may not have to treat that way,” he said. Builder’s Remedy approval of some 5,000 units – apparently required under the Housing Accountability Act – set off a firestorm in Santa Monica and fear among cities around the state, though the lawyer representing the Santa Monica developer said the Builder’s Remedy may not be used as widely as some believe.

Governor Rejects Cities' Homelessness Plans, Withholds $1 Billion
Gov. Gavin Newsom rejected every plan to confront the statewide homelessness crisis, declaring that they are not bold or actionable enough. The move is largely symbolic, with Newsom acknowledging the validity of the public's arguments that elected officials are not fulfilling their promises to improve resources and housing availability. Now, $1 billion in funding for cities and counties will be delayed, though the governor has committed to collaborating with local government leaders to advance their homelessness plans. The move has faced criticism, with San Francisco Mayor London Breed and other officials stating that restricting funding puts services and shelter at risk for people who need it most while muddling the plan for moving forward.

California Cities to Vote on Land Use Questions
Roughly three-dozen land use questions that appear on local ballots stateside will be decided by the end of today. As usual, voters in the City and County of San Francisco face by far the most local measures. This year, the number is seven, including competing measures about whether to close a major street to vehicular traffic and several measures related to taxation for affordable housing. Several other cities, including Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, are also considering local taxation measures to fund affordable housing, homeless services, and parks. There are only a few instances of "ballot box planning," in which voters are being asked to accept or reject individual development projects; they include a question about a hotel in Laguna Beach. One of the more esoteric measures in recent memory is a question to change the name of the Ventura County city of Port Hueneme to the "City of Hueneme Beach." CP&DR will report full results of local ballot measures.

Bay Area to Promote Transit-Oriented Communities Regionwide
The Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission has adopted a Transit-Oriented Communities Policy intended to boost the Bay Area housing supply while increasing density in transit-rich areas; incentivize commercial development near transit hubs; improve transit, walking, and biking paths; and improve quality of life in transit-oriented communities for all residents. The policy is designed to upzone areas while prioritizing affordable housing and preventing displacement, and it includes the elimination of minimum parking requirements throughout most areas, encourages shared parking between residential and commercial spaces, and requires one parking space per new housing unit. The new policy will replace a previous initiative implemented in 2005 and will apply to areas within a half-mile of several transit options, including BART, Caltrain, SMART, and ferry terminals.

Coastal Commission Approves Scaled-Down Desalination Plant in Orange County
Having rejected a plan for a desalination plant in Huntington Beach five months ago, the Coastal Commission has unanimously approved a smaller, $140 million, publicly-owned plant that would produce five million gallons of potable water per day. One-tenth the size of the former proposal by Poseidon Water, the South Coast Water District's Doheny Ocean Desalination Project is intended to provide water to 40,000 Orange County residents in face of extreme drought. Water would also come from a closer source instead of pumped from the Colorado River or through the State Water project. This is the first desalination plant approved by the Commission since the implementation of more environmentally-conscious regulations.

Quick Hits & Updates

After four years of planning, Redlands City Council members have unanimously approved the Transit Villages Specific Plan, which details planning guidelines, including neighborhood-oriented zoning, for areas within a half mile of city transit stations. CalTrans financed the plan, which featured an information website, announcements, and workshops to encourage community input. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The Oceanside City Council upheld the approval of Oceanside's Ocean Kamp resort, which would include a surfing lagoon amongst restaurants, retail stores, a hotel, and homes. The approval was challenged for its extreme water use potential by a local nonprofit group composed of environmental advocates.

The Coastal Commission extended a permit for a site holding the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which includes over 50 canisters of nuclear waste. The 13-year extension was unanimously approved, though commissioners noted their desire for the federal government to locate a permanent storage space.

The City of Alameda, which owns the 333-acre Corica Park golf course, and the golf course's operators, Greenway Golf Associates (GGA), are both suing each other over conflicts about discrimination, contract breaches, and accusations of a campaign to switch control of the complex. The issue began when Umesh and Avani Patel purchased GGA and improved efforts to make the greens more accessible, leading to pushback from the city.

About 55,000 people left San Francisco to find a new home in one year, according to new data from the Census Bureau. This figure makes up 6% of the city's population, though an additional 7.6% of residents have considered relocating as well.

A Texas developer who intended to redevelop San Bernardino's Carousel Mall is not moving forward with its plan due to "economic" reasons. The land on which the 43-acre mall sits remains in the hands of the city, though Renaissance Downtowns USA and ICO Real Estate Group may continue with their principal development role.

As part of the Transformative Climate Communities program, the state has awarded $96.2 million in grants to 10 disadvantaged, unincorporated, and tribal communities to support local projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health, and expand economic opportunities. The 10 projects are expected to reduce emissions by 64,000 metric tons.

In 2020, California reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by nine percent compared to the previous year, but that year's devastating wildfires eliminated two decades of reductions progress, according to recent findings. On top of a return to heavy car use, wildfires and insufficient reduction efforts are counteracting many of the state's emissions reduction strategies.

The City of Whittier is facing a lawsuit from Whittier Conservancy, a nonprofit opposing the approval of a four-story, 52-unit apartment development. City council members approved changes, including less restrictive parking standards, to allow the project to move forward, which the conservancy alleges have not been properly considered in the environmental review.

The percentage of vacant homes in San Francisco increased by over 50% between 2019 and 2021, according to a report from the Budget and Legislative Analyst's office. The data aligns with suggestions of a mass exodus from the city that began closer toward the beginning of the pandemic.