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CP&DR News Briefs October 13, 2020: Statewide Conservation Plan; San Jose Bike Plan; L.A. County Freeway Widening; and More

Robin Glover on
Oct 13, 2020

Newsom Seeks to Earmark 30 Percent of State Lands for Agriculture, Conservation
Governor Gavin Newsom advanced an executive order "enlisting California's vast network of natural and working lands... in the fight against climate change," according to a press release. The order directs state agencies to deploy carbon-storing measures through healthy soil management (like cover crops, for example), wetlands restoration, active forest management, and green infrastructure in urban areas like trees and parks. The order also sets a first-in-the-nation goal to conserve 30 percent of the state's land and coastal water by 2030 to fight species loss and ecosystem destruction. Conservation includes both preservation and "working lands" for agriculture. The order directors the California Natural Resources Agency to form a California Biodiversity Collaborative to spearhead the "30 by 30" goal. 

San Jose Adopts Ambitious Bike Plan 
San Jose City Council approved a plan that commits the city to building a 550-mile network of bike lanes, boulevards, and trails. The Better Bike Plan 2025 includes over 350 miles of protected bike lanes, 100 miles of bike boulevards, and 100 miles of off-street trails. While the additional miles of bike lanes will undoubtedly please San Jose's current biking population, the plan aims to bring new riders into the fold, who may not feel comfortable riding on busy streets. To accomplish that, the city plans to include buffers between bikers and traffic with either parked cars or widened lanes. In the same vein, the plan creates a "low-stress" network of "bike boulevards," on San Jose's residential streets.

LA Metro Plan to Widen Freeway Draws Fierce Criticism
Los Angeles County Metro announced plans to widen the 605 and 5 Freeways--which would necessitate the demolition of hundreds of Downey homes. The plan has officially been opposed by the City of Downey in a press release and drawn criticism from both transportation advocates, who oppose the development of new freeway lanes, and social justice advocates, who oppose the demolition of homes belonging to minority and low-income residents. Broadly the release touts "minimiz[ing] the number of homes... taken" while seeking "a reasonable... locally preferred alternative that will provide capacity enhancements and improved operations, while minimizing right-of-way impacts." In August, Metro announced four alternative plans, but three of the alternatives are essentially identical in terms of right of way impacts. The other alternative is the legally required no-build alternative. The least invasive option would fully acquire 242 parcels; the most would take 257 Downey parcels.


Quick Hits & Updates 

A five-square-mile plume of groundwater contaminated with chlorinated solvents and other manufacturing chemicals has been placed on the federal Superfund list, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced. The plume is within the Orange County Water Districts, which provides water for 2.4 million residents in 22 cities. As a Superfund site, the EPA could compel anyone who might have polluted the groundwater basin to help pay the estimated $100 million cleanup cost.

Two citizen groups who advocated for a ballot measure in Redondo Beach in 2017 that would block a proposed waterfront development will appeal a lower court's decision to invalidate Measure C, which would have altered zoning in the waterfront. The project had already been approved by the City had not won Coastal Commission consent. The citizen groups say the matter would substantially weaken the California Coastal Act, allowing cities to approve construction projects in the coastal zone without approval from the Commission. The developer is also suing the city for $15 million in damages in a separate case.

Sunnyvale, the recipient of a $338,000 sustainable communities grant from Caltrans, will move forward with a 10-year plan to boost the number of commuter cyclists and pedestrians, as well as create safer streets for children along school routes. With the grant money, city staffers did research to craft the plan, which included biking and walking tours, path audits, focus groups and public outreach.

Manhattan Beach City Council voted unanimously to appeal a decision from Los Angeles Superior Court that ordered the city to stop enforcing a ban on short-term rentals in Manhattan Beach's coastal zone, escalating the case to the state level. According to the final judgment, the ban has no legal effect and is unenforceable in the coastal zone without approval from the Coastal Commission.

In a surprise move, Sacramento Regional Transit board is scheduled to redo a vote on a $130 million proposal for a passenger rail bridge just a week after voting the proposal down. The RT board rejected the plan by a split vote under the transit district's "weighted voting system. A crucial vote that represents 10 percent of the weighted total will weigh in after missing the first vote. A yes would put the project back on track.

A feasibility study conducted by a private consulting firm indicates that the Horton Plaza redevelopment project has the potential to establish a downtown tech hub in San Diego. The mega-campus, with over a billion square feet of planned commercial space, has a link to Clearway Energy Center San Diego, subterranean delivery tunnels, and proximity to Lindbergh Field and San Diego trolley stations. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Two announcements of federal transportation funding were made recently: the Federal Transit Administration finalized the $1.2 billion grant for BART's Core Capacity program. On the same day, the Federal Highway Administration announced its annual August redistribution. For California that means almost $500 million in federal transportation dollars.

A slim majority of Californians support Proposition 15, the November ballot measure that would change how commercial property is taxed. The survey, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California on a wide range of issues, also found that most Californians are concerned about contracting COVID-19. On race relations, attitudes shifted significantly since 2019. Six in ten Californians believe race relations have gotten worse in the last year.

Amid mounting controversy and concerns over environmental justice, California American Water withdrew its application for a desalination project in the City of Marina. The proposal had become one of the most fraught issues to become before the commission, and would have been the first major test of its new power to review harm to underrepresented communities.

A planned 16,000-acre luxury resort project between Clear Lake and Napa Valley is being challenged by the Center for Biological Diversity in courts shortly after Lake County officials approved it. The approvals allow for 400 hotel units in five "boutique" co-plexes plus 450 resort units, 1,400 estate villas, 500 workforce housing bedrooms, according to the EIR.