UC Berkeley to Redevelop Moffett Field
UC Berkeley is partnering with NASA and real estate developer SKS Partners to develop a 36-acre research park in the Mountain View area. This research park will serve as a collaborative space for scientists, students and tech companies to work on projects related to aviation, space exploration, climate change and social sciences. UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ highlighted the unique opportunity for academic and physical expansion, emphasizing the potential to translate research findings into practical inventions and technologies. The park will be located on the decommissioned Moffett Federal Airfield, with NASA leasing the land to UC Berkeley for 99 years at no cost. The proposed $2 billion master plan envisions a modern tech campus with offices, labs, classrooms and outdoor work areas. Construction is set to begin within three years, with plans for residential structures and accommodations, pending environmental review. While specific projects for the Berkeley Space Center are yet to be finalized, a focus on electric automated urban aviation is expected. This aligns with United Airlines' plans to offer electric air taxi service to and from San Francisco International Airport by 2026. The collaboration also offers opportunities for space research and drone testing, making it a crucial venture for advancing research and innovation.
REAP Funding Disbursed to Tribes, Rural Communities
The state will provide over $54 million in funding to boost climate-resilient infrastructure and affordable housing. A substantial portion, around $29 million, is earmarked to aid twelve Tribal and Rural communities in addressing their specific planning challenges. The grants acknowledge the unique infrastructure and housing needs of these regions, allowing for greater local control to address their priorities and promote climate-friendly housing and economic development. Administered by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the Regional Early Action Planning Grants of 2021 (REAP 2.0) program aligns with the state's goal to create 2.5 million new homes by 2030, with one million designated for low-income residents. The program hopes to empower local initiatives related to infill housing, infrastructure and community investments, aimed at expanding housing options, reducing vehicle emissions and advancing housing equity. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
California Cities Lead Increase in Bicycling since 2019
A recent report by StreetLight Data highlights a notable surge in cycling across the United States since the onset of the pandemic, with San Diego seeing the second-largest growth in cycling at 71% increase from 2019 to 2022. San Diego also saw an increase to high bicycle sales during the pandemic and the installation of new bike lanes. Bakersfield claims the third spot for highest growth at 70.8% in spite of original low levels of cycling activity prior to 2019. San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan areas saw a 55.7% and 54.1% increases respectively. The report notes that cities experiencing significant growth generally possess better cycling infrastructure and more favorable weather conditions. Conversely, Fresno posted the highest negative numbers in terms of cycling growth at -10%. On a national scale, there was a 37% increase in the annual average daily bicycle trips between 2019 and 2022. Notably, 2020 and 2021 saw substantial gains, while 2022 marked a plateau. The report emphasizes the importance of sustained investment in safety-focused active transportation infrastructure to revive and sustain the growth in cycling. The data is derived from StreetLight’s Active Transportation Monitor, which collects bicycle and pedestrian metrics primarily from smartphone location data.
Biden Administration to Assist Cities with Climate Resilience
The Biden administration introduced the "National Climate Resilience Framework," a comprehensive plan aimed at enhancing climate resilience nationwide. The framework identifies six overarching goals and proposes specific actions to achieve them, emphasizing locally tailored, community-driven solutions. The plan acknowledges the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events due to climate change. The six goals include embedding climate resilience into planning and management, increasing resilience of the built environment, mobilizing capital for climate resilience at scale, providing communities with resources to assess climate risks, sustainably managing lands and waters and ensuring communities are safer, healthier, equitable and economically strong. The administration unveiled the framework alongside a White House climate resilience summit and a commitment of $500 million in climate resilience funding across different agencies. The plan aligns with the federal government's strategy to guide and align climate resilience investments and activities.
CP&DR Coverage: Newsom Signs Most Housing Bills
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed virtually all remaining housing and land use bills, including the high-profile SB 4 and SB 423. Having vetoed the social housing bill previously, he did not veto any of the additional bills CP&DR has been tracking. Of all the high-profile bills, SB 423 is potentially the most transformative, especially in the Coastal Zone. The bill extends SB 35 until 2036 and applies it in the Coastal Zone for the first time. The bill will subject the Coastal Commission and local coastal programs (LCPs) to objective design standards for the first time – which could be a difficult transition, as coastal development permits to the classic subjective (and often non-specific) standards that SB 35 and the Housing Accountability Act have sought to eliminate. See full coverage of this year's legislative season.
Quick Hits & Updates
The Local Agency Formation Commission of Monterey County approved the annexation of nearly 49 acres to the City of Gonzales, allowing for the development of a 313,800-square-foot agricultural cooler processing facility, which is set to open in the spring of 2025. The facility will create over 430 jobs and is expected to contribute around $75,000 in tax revenue, processing agricultural crops from nearby fields, providing cold storage, processing lines, administrative offices and mechanical and storage rooms.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the Empty Homes Tax, which targets vacant apartments in buildings with three or more units left unoccupied for over 182 days in a tax year. This tax is expected to activate nearly 5,000 units over the first two years, generating over $20 million annually to support affordable housing initiatives in the city. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
The industrial city of Vernon, south of Downtown LA, is undergoing a significant transformation with a new zoning ordinance that will add up to 874 apartments, more than quadrupling its population. This change is in contrast to the city's history, where limited housing and city-owned properties allowed for political control through electoral manipulation. The new ordinance, which encourages housing and small-scale commercial uses, aims to make Vernon a more residential and community-oriented city, easing housing challenges for workers in the area.
President Biden announced California is one of seven recipients of a $7 billion federal hydrogen hub grant program aimed at advancing clean energy efforts and climate goals. California will receive up to $1.2 billion to develop hydrogen projects for public transportation, port operations and transport, focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While critics express concerns about hydrogen's energy-intensive production and potential environmental risks, California aims to create a hydrogen hub exclusively using renewable energy and biomass, contributing to clean energy and the reduction of carbon emissions in various sectors.
Conservationists purchased a 394-acre property along the Russian River in Sonoma County, which includes the Clar Tree, a 2,000-year-old redwood believed to be the tallest tree in the county. The Clar Tree was threatened by a timber harvest plan, which led to a legal battle and ultimately the land purchase. Save the Redwoods League raised $6.5 million to secure the property. The organization plans to transfer the land to Sonoma County for ongoing stewardship and restoration, improving wildfire resilience and nurturing the forest toward old-growth status, with a potential for public access in the future.
Preserve Calavera has reached a settlement in its lawsuit concerning the Tierra Norte project, which aimed to build up to 400 homes in Oceanside on land historically used for agriculture. The agreement calls for all-electric housing, a comprehensive transportation demand management program to reduce single-occupant vehicle trips, new height limits near existing homes, improved landscaping and noise reduction measures.
La Cañada Flintridge argues a statewide law to desegregated historically discriminatory communities, known as "affirmatively furthering fair housing" is unconstitutional based on the recent precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on affirmative action in an effort to push back against approving the area's first multifamily housing project in more than a decade.
Analysis released by the Environment California Research & Policy Center suggests Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego counties could potentially generate renewable energy equivalent to powering over 270,000 homes annually by installing solar infrastructure along their highways. The report indicates these counties possess more than 4,800 acres of suitable space for solar development alongside highways, with the potential to accommodate up to 960 megawatts of renewable energy capacity.
A federal appeals court panel has suspended an upcoming gold mining venture in the eastern Sierra Nevada, scheduled to start this week by Kore Mining Ltd. near Mammoth Lakes, where they intended to drill 12 600-foot holes on roughly 1,900 acres. This action follows a lawsuit filed by environmental organizations against Kore Mining and the U.S. Forest Service in October 2021, asserting that the drilling would harm groundwater feeding into the Owens River and disturb the bi-state sage grouse's habitat.