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CP&DR News Briefs September 14, 2021: "Secret" North Coast Railroad; Vallco Mall Troubles; S.D. County Housing; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Sep 14, 2021
North Coast Officials Wary of "Secret" Railroad Proposal
The recently-formed North Coast Railroad Company, LLC filed a pleading with the Surface Transportation Board hoping to secretively build infrastructure that could support coal shipment overseas from Montana, Utah, and Wyoming through the Port of Humboldt Bay. The 14-page filing, which lacks names of any company executives or representatives, notes that NCRCo. plans to spend $1.2 billion to purchase and redevelop the broken-down rail line and will use it to move unspecified "high-volume shipments." State and local officials, however, are dedicated to blocking their plan over environmental concerns regarding the coal industry, and the North Coast Railroad Authority hopes to build the 320-mile Great Redwood Trail between Marin and Humboldt Counties.

Disputes Could Derail Vallco Mall Development in Santa Clara
While demolition is underway at the Vallco Town Center in Cupertino, tension between city and state housing officials could throw off future progress. A special approval designed to approve the development is set to expire on September 21, which the state disagrees with. However, local officials are concerned about meeting the state's housing requirements, and this project would bring 2,402 housing units in addition to 400,000 square feet of retail and 1.8 million square feet of office space to the city. The expiration on its own is unlikely to derail the project's momentum because the developer can request a one-year extension, but residents who oppose the development might use it as ammunition for their fight against the project that has already made it through a ballot referendum, some lawsuits, and many city council debates. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

San Diego County Adopts Expansive Housing Plan
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a plan designed to make housing more accessible to low- and middle- income residents. The plan, centered in "equity, sustainability, and affordability for all," urges the General Services department director to make a real estate market assessment of Sorrento Valley East and West and the chief administrative officer to form a plan that will make it easier for stakeholders to participate in the proposal. Supervisors also approved a new policy that will expand affordable housing construction through a voucher program. The Health and Human Services Agency will be in charge of analyzing voucher attrition rates and transfers, projected fair market rents, voucher availability, and a waitlist system as well as giving voucher priority to projects near high-transit areas and that use sustainable construction materials and design principles.

Report Analyzes Pandemic's Effect on Small Residential Property Owners
Findings from UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation underscore the unequal economic impact of the pandemic on tenants and small rental property owners. The study considered responses from 1,690 rental property owners and managers, who reported that more than 1 in 5 tenants fell behind on rent payments, and low-income and Black residents were the most impacted. At the same time, landlords of small rental properties, 1 in 3 of which brought in less money due to COVID-19, plan to evict residents once moratoria are lifted, and owners of 13% of the reported units have sold or taken steps to sell their properties. Researchers noted that the findings stress the importance of expanding emergency rental assistance programs and increasing public outreach to make these programs more accessible.

CP&DR Sponsorship: Interview with Housing California for 2021 California APA Conference
CP&DR is please to be a media sponsor of the 2021 California APA Conference, taking place today and tomorrow on the internet. Housing California Executive Director Lisa Hershey, a longtime advocate for housing and public health in a variety of public sector roles, will be participating in the panel “Tackling the Homeless Crisis in California,” one of the three “Big Conversations” at this week’s conference. CP&DR’s Josh Stephens spoke with Hershey, along with Housing California Associate Director David Zisser, about the organization’s vision and its message for planners at this year’s conference.
Quick Hits & Updates 
Facebook will give $38 million to four affordable housing projects as part of its $150 million Community Housing Fund included in the $1 billion the company has pledged to confront the housing crisis over ten years. The $38 million will go toward the 94-unit Villas at Buena Vista proposal in San Jose, Lighthouse at Grace in San Jose, the 160-home project at 1171 Sonora Court in Sunnyvale, and the 132-unit Elevate Apartments project in Alameda County. (See related CP&DR commentary.)

The US Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration awarded a $960,000 grant to Vallejo to complete an infrastructure study of Mare Island's sewer, water, storm drainage, roadways, and electrical system with a third-party engineering firm. The $960,000 will pair with Vallejo Flood and Wastewater District and Southern Land/Nimitz Group's $540,000 donation to total $1.5 million for an assessment that could allow for more federal grant funding to make improvements on the island.

The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the city of Los Angeles cannot take and destroy bulky items such as mattresses, sofas, and carts left on public property by the city's unhoused population. In a 2-1 decision, the panel asserted that the ordinance proposed by the city violated the 4th amendment, which protects people from unreasonable government seizure of their property, including on public grounds.

Cal Poly Pomona and two real estate development firms, Edgewood Realty Partners and Greystar, are negotiating an agreement to redevelop a state-owned facility once used to care for those with mental illnesses into a mixed-use community. Redevelopment of the 300-acre Lanterman site near the SR-57 would include existing historic structures and new construction.

Oakland City Council will choose between two Black developer groups to purchase the city's share of the Coliseum site and develop the A's waterfront site at Howard Terminal that includes housing, offices, hotels, and spaces for sports, music, arts, and culture. The city will enter negotiations for six months before recommending either the African American Sports and Entertainment Group or another group led by Dave Stewart and Lonnie Murray to city council.

Veterans, residents, and politicians continue to fight over the fate of an Irvine military cemetery. While veterans are advocating for the Irvine cemetery to honor those who served, developers, residents, and city officials are looking to other locations due to various reasons concerning traffic congestion, property values, and neighborhood character.

Nearly half of LA County tenants could not pay all of their rent throughout the pandemic, according to a study by researchers from UCLA and USC. The report indicates that renters owe a median $2,800, and debt has continued to increase since the start of the pandemic. While over 15% of tenants who were behind on rent payments were faced with eviction in 2020, that figure rose to 25% in 2021.

A prominent marijuana businessman, Helios "Bobby" Dayspring, will plead guilty to bribing a San Luis Obispo County supervisor and filing a false tax return. Dayspring will also pay $3.4 million in restitution, which equals the amount by which he underrepresented his income, and will work with prosecutors who are investigating larger cases of political corruption.

Voter-approved funding through Measure M could turn LA Metro’s $8 billion proposal to build the 63-mile High Desert Multi-Purpose Corridor from Palmdale/Lancaster to Victorville/Apple Valley/Adelanto into a widening of LA County's SR-138 and SR-18 in San Bernardino County. Previously, Metro planned to use the money to fund an 8-10 lane freeway, a bike path, solar panels, high-speed rail.

LA Metro released the draft environmental impact report for the proposed 19-mile West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor that would connect Los Angeles County to downtown Los Angeles. The agency is still considering a public-private partnership to execute the project and is accepting public comments on the project until September 13.

Save Surf City, a conservative group based out of Huntington Beach, is attempting to recall every council member but one with the justification that the six council members do not represent the interests of Huntington Beach residents and acted dangerously in their decision to hand over local zoning control to the state. Now that all members are aware of the the recall intent, they will have to draft a maximum 200-word response, and the recall petition will be published locally for signature collection. (See related CP&DR coverage.)