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CP&DR News Briefs October 22, 2019: Market St. Car Ban; I.E. Nixes Rail; San Jose BART; and More

CP&DR Staff on
Oct 21, 2019
San Francisco Bans Cars on Market Street
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency unanimously approved a ban of vehicles on Market Street – the busiest street in the city. The $604 million Better Market Street Project proposal transforms the street between Octavia Boulevard and the Embarcadero. The ban includes personal vehicles, Ubers and Lyfts, but Muni buses, emergency vehicles, paratransit, bikes, and taxis would still be able to ride down the street. Market Street will add full protected bike lanes, transit-only lanes, and pedestrian safety improvements.The plans work toward the city’s “Vision Zero” safety goals: pedestrian deaths are uncommonly high in San Francisco streets. It also works towards the city’s climate goals and adds public space to the city. The project has been gaining traction in recent months: city agencies, elected officials, and even Mayor London Breed have endorsed the plans. Pending approvals, construction for phase one could begin as soon as 2020, and be completed as soon as 2025. “A half million people walk on Market Street each day, yet it’s one of our city’s most dangerous streets for traffic crashes,” Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk San Francisco told SF Curbed. “The Better Market Street plan will finally change that."

Inland Empire Gives Up on Light Rail Extension to L.A.
Following through on last month’s threat to “throw in the towel,” the San Bernardino Transit Authority (SBTCA) axed a decades-in-the-making plan to extend the Metro Gold Line to Montclair in favor of a scaled-back Metrolink line. The agency said the revised plans would save taxpayers money, though the “Gold Link” trains would run less frequently and likely attract fewer riders. Days later, the Montcliar City Council shot back with a 22-page resolution in support of the Gold Line, claiming that the authority would violate state law if it failed to pursue its initial plans. The city has invested over $500 million in housing, retail, and office development around the expected Gold Line stop. Currently, the Gold Line Construction Authority is falling short in funding for multiple segments of its Los Angeles-to-Asuza line. The SBTCA has raised $80 million for its segment, but is still $17.4 million short. The Gold Link alternative will only cost $55 million, and the authority has recommended diverting unused funds to transit projects such as a rapid bus line. In its response, the city council outline several potential legal pushbacks to the about-face, including the approximately $40 million in earmarked Gold Line funds from the 2004 tax Measure I. 

San Jose BART Extension Delayed to 2030
In yet another delay for the much-anticipated San Jose downtown BART extension, the project will not be completed until 2030. The project, which will add four stations to the San Jose area, was originally timeliness for 2026. However, BART officials say that environmental clearance got pushed back, and the single-tunnel redesign caused more delays. BART officials also say that the new estimate is tenuous, and won’t be reliable until design is past 10 percent and 30 percent complete. Meanwhile, it was recently announced that the 6.5-mile, four-station downtown extension will receive $125 million in federal grants. The Federal Transit Administration selected Valley Transportation Authority for a new “Expedited Project Delivery Pilot Program" to fast-track funding for major transportation projects. When the project is complete it will carry 52,000 riders each weekday and reduce 27 million miles of car travel. This boon comes just weeks after Google released the first details of its downtown redevelopment plans for San Jose, including a mega transit-oriented village around the forthcoming station. (See prior CP&DR coverage here and here.)

Report Estimates 650,000 Homes at Risk of Wildfires
Nearly 650,000 California homes are at “high” or “extreme” wildfire risk, according to an analysis from data consultancy CoreLogic. CoreLogic ran a study of the 11 most at-risk states in the contiguous United States for wildfire. Its top four most at-risk metro areas were all in California: Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, and Sacramento. According to their report, these cities stand to lose $71 billion, $41 billion, $36 billion, and $26 billion, respectively, in property damage. In fact, nine of their fifteen top-ranked cities were in California, adding San Francisco, Truckee, Oxnard, Redding, and Salinas to the list. In total, CoreLogic says that 405,715 California residences are at high wildfire risk, and 240,580 are at extreme risk.

Los Angeles Considers Strengthened Rent Control
In advance of a new state rent cap law taking effect in January, Los Angeles City Council members are pushing for emergency interim provisions against evictions and large rent increases. Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed AB 1482, which limits annual rent increases to five percent plus inflation for the next decade. It also prevents tenants from being evicted without documented lease violations once they’ve lived in an apartment for a year. However, landlords can still evict tenants without cause until January 1. In response, Los Angeles city council members introduced emergency stopgap measures that effectively carry the future law into the present: one that prevents no-fault evictions until January, and another that would limit rent increases to what is allowable when the cap takes effect.“We think this is very, very urgent to prevent thousands of people literally becoming homeless in the next couple months,” council member Rene Christian Moya told the Los Angeles City Council, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Quick Hits & Updates

The San Francisco Giants released plans for the remake of a 5-acre parking lot into a “constructed ecosystem” waterfront park with tide pools and a bayside lawn. The site will combat the effects of sea level rise on the park, by raising the site 5 feet and installing several landscaped hillocks. This public space is just the first effort of the long-delayed 28-acre Mission Rock mixed-use project, which will add two office buildings and two residential towers to an area that includes the shoreline and Pier 48. The plans are still awaiting a final sign-off from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the Port of San Francisco.

The nation’s first licensed cannabis consumption lounge and restaurant recently opened in West Hollywood. Notably, the law still prohibits Lowell Cafe from serving food infused its own food with cannabis. But the cafe is also a dispensary for cannabis products, and patrons will receive separate checks for food and cannabis products. Patrons are encouraged to consume their separately-purchased cannabis while enjoying dishes designed to complement cannabis. (See prior CP&DR coverage here and here.)

The American Hockey League announced an extension of its franchise to the city of Palm Springs. The league’s 32nd team, an affiliate of an expansion NHL team in Seattle, will play at a new $250 million arena planned at the Caliente Indian Reservation in downtown Plam Springs, expected to break ground in early 2020, and will open in fall 2021. Many Palm Springs residents have criticized the plans, citing traffic and parking concerns in the downtown area.

California schools should accommodate affordable housing, according to a recent policy brief from the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate. The brief, authored by CityLab-UCLA Director Dana Cuff, notes that a single-use zoning mentality has excluded schools as potential housing sites. However, her research has found that the real estate of the 10,668 public schools statewide is ample and in need of a revitalization. And she notes that when land costs comprise 10-15 percent of total development cost for affordable housing, building on public land vastly increases the state’s options. Cuff writes that such affordable housing could serve teachers, staff, and students alike.

The Sacramento Bee announced a new partnership with the Sacramento Tree Foundation to improve the long-term health of the city’s tree canopy. In a recent article, the publication noted that the canopy is crucial to mitigate local greenhouse gas emissions and protect the area from summer heat. It also outlined the various threats to Sacramento’s trees from climate change, sprawl, invasive species, and an aging tree stock. Through the partnership, the Bee will publish a series on the canopy, will cover local tree planning events, and offer a special digital subscription with a donation to the Tree Foundation.

Facing a federal deadline, San Francisco’s first potential Opportunity Zone development might be delayed due to significant community opposition. The Opportunity Zone program, part of President Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul, allows investors to get a 10 percent reduction in capital gains tax if they’re invested in low-income neighborhoods. The plan to build nearly 200 homes on Ocean Avenue in the Excelsior District would be funded from that tax break – needs local approval to qualify for the program. However, advocacy groups like Communities United for Health and Justice organized against the development, arguing that the new homes are not intended to meet the needs of the community, and would displace current residents. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

The San Jose City Council narrowly voted to extend incentives for downtown housing developers to encourage development through 2023. The incentives, including waivers on affordable housing impact fees, are intended to incentivize new building in an ever-more-expensive market. Critics of the measure argued that the model has been enacted since 2007, it has yet to produce sufficient affordable housing. The package also includes a 50 percent-off discount on park impact fees and primary construction taxes, and delays payment of those fees until tenants are in place. Downtown developers also get a break on a $17-per-square-foot affordable housing impact fee.

The cities of Gustine and Encinitas are the latest cities to come into
compliance with the state Housing Element law since Governor Gavin Newsom met with mayors in February, according to a press release from the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Gustine completed rezoning sites to allow for greater density, as well as a streamlined review on developments that create a minimum of 20 percent of units to low income families. Encinitas came into compliance by gaining Coastal Commission approval their Local Coastal Plan amendment, by encouraging affordable development within the Coastal Zone. These are the 10th and 11th cities to come into compliance this year.

A federal appeals court unanimously upheld Santa Monica’s ban on most short-term vacation rentals. The city’s 2015 law prohibited rentals shorter than 30 days on the grounds that it “disturbed the residential character” of the area. A resident sued the city, saying the law was unconstitutional because it denied outsiders’ access to Santa Monica’s neighborhoods. However, the ninth circuit panel of judges rejected the appeal.
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