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CP&DR News Briefs October 6, 2020: Phasing Out Gas; Questioning Housing Numbers; Sacramento Homeless Housing; and More

Robin Glover on
Oct 6, 2020

State to Phase Out Gasoline-Powered Vehicles in 15 Years 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that phases out the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035--the most aggressive clean-car policy in the United States. Although it bans the sale of new cars and tracks after the 15-year deadline, it will still allow such vehicles to be owned and sold on the used-car market. Newsom also threw his support behind a ban on petroleum fracking, but called on the California Legislature to make that change. Transportation is California's biggest source of emissions, while other sources of emissions, like those from the electricity sector, are falling due to ambitious climate policies. Electric vehicle sales have been steadily rising in recent years, although they accounted for fewer than 8 percent of all new cars sold in California last year. While considered crucial for meeting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions targets, the demise of gas-powered cars may affect regulations that seek to reduce pollution via land use controls that reduce vehicle miles traveled. 

Study Contends State Overestimates Housing Need by 900,000 Units

The Embarcadero Institute conducted a series of studies that contend California's Regional Housing Needs Allocation process has overestimated the housing need in the state's most populous regions by more than 900.000 units over the next decade. According to the institute's calculations, a conventional economist approach suggests San Diego County, for example, would need 112,000 homes by 2030 instead of the nearly 172,000 in the state's updated Regional Housing Needs Assessment. The Bay Area, Sacramento region, Sacramento region, San Diego County, and the remainder of Southern California need 2.11 million more homes, according to RHNA allocations. The institute says it should be 1.17 million. Experts warn that inaccuracies on this scale obscure the lack of funding to affordable housing, while surpassing California's market-rate housing targets.

Developer Sues Sacramento Over Temporary Homeless Housing

A plan to get more than 100 homeless people into permanent housing in a Sacramento hotel could be derailed by developers of a high-end apartment building across the street. The Project Roomkey program, launched by Gov. Gavin Newsom when the coronavirus struck, provides state funding for cities to get homeless indoors in motels. Developers immediately sued Sacramento in Superior Court after the city council's vote to seek state funding for the homeless housing project. The developers claim the city is going back on its promise not to increase homeless services in the River District. Hundreds of homeless people sleep in tents lining several blocks of streets along the American River Parkway. Newsom has announced the city will receive state funding for another Homekey hotel in the Parkway neighborhood of south Sacramento, with another 100 rooms.

ACLU Sues Palo Alto over Residents-Only Park

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California is suing Palo Alto for a nearly 50-year-old ban of nonresidents from using Foothills Park, calling the prohibition "a legacy of the city's history of racial discrimination." Only 1.6 percent of Palo Alto's population is Black, a stark contrast with adjacent East Palo Alto, which has a Black population of 16.7 percent. Access to the park's rolling hills, lake, campground and picnic areas has been restricted to Palo Alto residents since 1969, when the city adopted an ordinance allowing fines of up to $1,000 and sentences of up to 1 month in jail for nonresidents caught using the park. The suit claims the ordinance perpetuates Palo Alto's history of housing discrimination and racial exclusion that lasted into the 1950s, transforming the park into a "preserve for the fortunate few," namely those who were not victimized by racial exclusion in the past.

CP&DR Coverage: Newsom Signs Housing and Planning Bills
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed virtually all planning and housing bills on his desk on Monday, vetoing only a bill that would have required the California Housing Finance Agency to get involved in financing accessory dwelling units. Most of the bills are not sweeping. The entire package of Senate housing production bills failed in the session, with several bills dramatically falling on the last night of the session.

Quick Hits & Updates 
A bid to expand rent control in California faces a large hurdle to pass in November, a new poll of voters statewide has found. Just 37 percent of likely voters support Proposition 21, which would give cities and counties greater authority to implement rent control in their communities, according to a poll from UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies.

Los Angeles's "Al Fresco" initiative has been put on indefinite pause due to a lack of funding. The program has been aimed at offering brick-and-mortar restaurants the opportunity to quickly expand outdoor seating into parking lots, sidewalks, and closed-off sections of public street. While 50 restaurants were approved for on-street dining as part of Phase Two, funding for the physical safety infrastructure has run dry.

Caltrain's board adopted a $35 million budget to get through the end of 2020 as the train system fights for survival amid vanishing ridership. The train system still faces a shortfall between $18 million and $31 million for the entire fiscal year if ridership remains at only 5 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

In a play to crack down on short-term rentals listed on sites like Airbnb, Los Angeles City Planning has launched a new online system that makes it easier to identify and take down illegal rental listings. The site implements an agreement, developed by City Planning, that Airbnb made with the city to continue operating legally amid a housing shortage. Ineligible units for homesharing include rent stabilized and affordable housing units.

A union pension fund is set to inject $1 billion into Bay Area housing construction, an initiative the group says will help finance more than 4,000 new residential units by 2025. The AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust will invest $500 million in a broad spectrum of housing types, including market-rate apartments, middle-income workforce housing and affordable units. The trust will leverage another $500 million from local unions, investments, low-income tax credit investors and other partners.

The elusive, cat-sized Homboldt marten is now officially protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species. The decision comes 10 years after conservation groups petitioned for the animals to have protected status and after they sued the Trump administration for its long delay in finalizing protections for the fewer than 400 martens remaining in northern California and southern Oregon.

The Justice Department is urging a federal judge to uphold the Trump Administrations determination that salt ponds along the San Francisco Bay are not protected waters under the Clean Water Act. The case, brought by California and a coalition of environmental groups, has been ongoing for a year. During a hearing on dueling motions for summary judgment, prosecutors argued the EPA failed to justify its abrupt about-face despite previously classifying the area as protected.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the nation's first 2500-foot health and safety setback from oil wells as part of their General Plan. More than 8,500 people in Ventura County live within 2,500 feet of an active oil or gas well, about 60 percent of them Latino. Across the state, the vast majority of Californians who live in close proximity to oil drilling are from communities of color.

The Los Angeles Clippers received final approval from the Inglewood City Council for a $1.8 billion basketball arena and will move forward with construction next summer. The team's owners have already opened a wait list for season tickets and "other arena experiences." The 18,000 fixed seat basketball arena is slated to open in time for the start of the 2024-25 NBA season.

Plans to build a light rail bridge that would have connected downtown Sacramento with West Sacramento were rejected by Sacramento's regional transit board. The board's refusal appears to end a decade-long cross-river rail effort--once envisioned as a four-mile streetcar line, plans were scaled down to a 1.1 mile-long rail line. But city officials could not guarantee full funding to build the new project, nor cover the estimated operating costs of $1.5 million annually.

Since the start of a statewide stay-at-home order due to COVID-19, a new report showsbicycle ridership is up more than 40 percent from 2019 in San Diego County. From mid-April to the middle of May, bicycle traffic was up a 66 percent from 2019. Traffic fell to 28 percent as the weather began to heat up and more people headed to work in their vehicles.

Los Angeles' best hope for housing the homeless is remodeled hotels and open dormitory-style buildings, says city Controller Ron Galperin, who cited two projects whose costs soared to nearly $750,000 per unit. The city's Housing and Community Development manager pushed back on that assessment, saying the two projects are outliers and that savings from hotel conversions, while appealing, are unproved.