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CP&DR News Briefs October 5, 2021: San Diego Solar Suit; San Jose Homeless Housing; State Housing Funding; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Oct 5, 2021
San Diego County Sued over Approval of Exurban Solar Project
A group of Jacumba residents filed a lawsuit against the San Diego County Board of Supervisors after they unanimously approved a 600-acre solar and battery storage project in their East County desert town. They also filed against BayWa r.e., the project developer, and have hired the same law firm who fought the Keystone XL pipeline. The residents claim that the Board of Supervisors violated the California Environmental Quality Act and regional planning and zoning requirements and believe that the project is far too large, will harm nearby wildlife, and damage the town's landscape. One plaintiff noted that the project is inequitable because it would never be proposed in a wealthy community. Proponents of the project believe it will make huge strides in achieving renewable energy and carbon reduction targets and will create 350 union jobs in the construction process.

San Jose Mayor Envisions Significant Development for Homeless Housing
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is proposing to construct 2,300 new housing units for unhoused people by the end of 2022 and is calling on support from city councilmembers to accomplish his goal. His plan includes opening 683 new transitional beds, which would triple the current amount, and asking councilmembers to suggest sites in their districts for building modular apartments throughout San Jose. He is also considering placing the beds in converted motels. For permanent housing, Liccardo plans to increase the housing stock by 1,384 units funded by the city and county and 239 units funded by California's Homekey program. San Jose has an estimated unhoused population of 7,000, and Liccardo is hoping to put a pandemic-induced increase in federal and state funding for confronting homelessness to good use.

Governor Expands Funding for Statewide Homeless Housing Plan
Gov. Gavin Newsom is adding $2.75 billion in funding to the state's Homekey initiative, forming the largest investment in homeless housing in California's history. The $2.75 billion is part of $5.8 billion allocated toward creating 42,000 housing units and treatment beds under the California Comeback Plan. Newsom's plan is to purchase and renovate buildings, including hotels, motels, and empty apartment buildings, and transform them into roughly 14,000 long-term housing units. His administration has noted that Homekey has resulted in the fastest, cheapest, and most expansive permanent housing construction in state history, and its first $846 million investment created 94 different projects. Within its first year, the program been crucial in creating safe and clean living environments for thousands of residents during the pandemic and produced 6,000 affordable units.

Study Links California Poverty Rate to Housing Costs
California's high housing costs are largely responsible for increasing poverty in the state, according to a new study from the Public Policy Institute of California. The PPIC, using data from the 2019 California Poverty Measure and housing costs if they reflected 2013 cost levels, determined that 800,000 fewer Californians, or 2.2% of the population, would have lived in poverty in 2019. Residents living in the Bay Area would be the most impacted; limiting housing costs to 2013 levels would lower the poverty line by 12.3%. Poverty rates for Latinx and Black residents as well as renters would fall the most. The report determined that, while state and federal programs have temporarily helped residents, more effective solutions that lower housing costs are essential to permanently confronting poverty.

Auditor Faults State for Ineffective Use of Federal Homelessness Funds
In its high-risk audit of the California HCD's management of federal funds classified under COVID-19 assistance, State Auditor Elaine M. Howle determined that the Emergency Solutions Grant program failed to effectively use federal funding to address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the state's unhoused population. The ESG program received $316 million from the federal government to help those who were at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness, but the audit found that the HCD was too slow to provide access to the funding to Continuum of Care entities, which aid in homeless services. According to the audit, the HCD also failed by not hiring a contractor who would manage and monitor ESG-funded activities, so direction and organization were lacking, leaving the unhoused population and those at risk to homelessness even more vulnerable.

CP&DR Legal Coverage: Court Strikes Down Use of Financial Pro Formas
Cities and counties can no longer require developers to produce pro-formas in order to justify concessions related to density bonuses, according to a recent appellate court ruling. The case dealt with changes to stater law in 2008. Prior to 2008, the City of Los Angeles had adopted an ordinance requiring developers to provide pro-formas explaining how concessions would make their projects “pencil”. But the court concluded that this requirement was deleted from state law in 2008. Neighbors opposed to the project subsequently sued, saying the pro-forma analysis provided by the developer under the city’s ordinance was inadequate. But the Second District Court of Appeal disagreed, concluding the burden of proof for financial feasibility is on the city and not the developer.

Quick Hits & Updates 

The House of Representatives passed Representative Salud Carbajal's Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act designed to make public lands, including the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument, more accessible to local communities. Carbajal noted that this policy, which is part of the "must-pass" National Defense Authorization Act, would be very impactful in terms of climate change, access to the outdoors, the economy, and plant and wildlife protection and could permanently ban development on 288,000 acres of land on the Central Coast.

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission has amended and approved its draft DTLA 2040 plan to house over 175,000 new residents and generate 100,000 new jobs in just 1 percent of Los Angeles' total land area. The plan to rezone the city's Downtown center, eliminate parking requirements, and streamline design standards will now head to City Council for review.

The Trust for Public Land, a San Francisco environmental group, purchased the 540-acre Nyland Property ranch for $4.4 million to prevent the area from becoming a luxury development and protect San Juan Bautista's rustic scenery. The ranch is composed of oak-studded grasslands, wetlands, and seasonal streams and is situated along 1.5 miles of Highway 156 in San Benito County.

A federal appeals court reversed a decision made by Judge David O. Carter's that ordered Los Angeles to offer housing to Skid Row's entire unhoused population by October. The three judges ruled that Carter did not follow basic legal requirements when making his decision because he based it on racial discrimination, but the claims made by the LA Alliance for Human Rights were not race-based.

Thousands of UC students are struggling to find housing due to rising off-campus costs and limited availability for on-campus housing, according to a Mercury News analysis. The difficulties are due to limited density in off-campus housing for social distancing, and there are few additional on-campus rooms available for students who cannot afford off-campus housing.

Amazon is planning to open several 30,000 square-foot retail stores throughout California and Ohio, putting more traditional department stores on edge. Their stores would be smaller than most department stores, which Amazon believes will attract more customers

While Simi Valley City Council in 2019 rejected a proposal for a 108-unit assisted-living facility and suggested that it would harm single- and multi-family neighborhood character, the council approved the proposal, declaring that it had no option based on a judge's ruling. The site would include 68 assisted-living units and 40 memory-care units in addition to a gym, a communal dining room and kitchen, a lounge area, and a hair salon.

While heatwaves and drought have drained water levels in Lake Tahoe over the past few years, water levels are expected to rise exponentially, according to a study from environmental scientists at the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center. The influx of water could put several towns in the Lake Tahoe area at risk of severe flooding.

Zoning and investment in Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade may undergo a significant transformation to allow for housing and hotel development along the stretch. Part of the Third Street Promenade Stabilization and Economic Vitality Plan also includes expanding outdoor dining on sidewalks and rooftops as well as a "town square" for large gatherings in order to bring more sales tax revenue to the city lost during the pandemic.

Fix the City, Inc. filed an unsuccessful lawsuit that maintained that two Los Angeles housing projects fail to meet requirements under Measure JJJ, which includes Transit Oriented Community Guidelines. The court rejected all of the group's claims, stating that the proposals meet all four requirements for TOC incentive eligibility.

Emile Haddad, CEO of developer Five Point, developer of several large-scale developments statewide, will step down from his position at the end of the month and take a senior adviser role while remaining on the board as chairman emeritus. Stuart Miller and Lynn Jochim will take over on the management team, while Haddad hopes to focus on growing public interest projects and confronting the housing crisis.

Mountain View City council unanimously approved a plan to transform a parking lot near the City Hall building into 120 affordable apartments as well as a ground-floor retail and community space intended to promote pedestrian attraction. Alta Housing plans to set 20 units aside for residents facing homelessness, another 20 for those making up to 30% of the area's median income, and 40 for those making between 30% and 50%.

San Bernardino is moving forward with the redevelopment of its boarded-up and closed Carousel Mall after entering an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement with the developer, Renaissance Downtowns USA and ICO Real Estate Group. Moving forward, the city and developer will begin negotiating and determining their terms and conditions for the 43-acre site's sale and development.

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