State Releases Guidance on Environmental Justice Elements in General Plans
The Attorney General's Office released comprehensive guidance for local governments to address environmental justice issues in their land use planning, as mandated by Senate Bill 1000. This guidance aims to rectify the historical disparity in pollution exposure faced by vulnerable populations, particularly low-income communities and communities of color. It provides cities and counties with information to develop general plans that reduce pollution exposure, promote community health and address these long-standing inequities. SB 1000, passed in 2016, requires local governments to consider these disparities when formulating or updating their general land use plans. The new guidance covers key aspects of SB 1000 compliance, such as identifying disadvantaged communities, community engagement strategies, reducing health risks related to pollution, ensuring safe housing, addressing disparities in access to parks and green spaces and promoting equitable access to healthy food.

Federal Government to Grant $103 Million Statewide for Climate Change Mitigation
The U.S. Forest Service will allocate over $103 million in federal grants to California aimed at mitigating climate change and extreme heat through tree planting initiatives. This funding, part $1 billion being granted nationwide under the Inflation Reduction Act, marks the largest-ever investment in urban and community forests under the act. The urban heat island effect, which makes areas with less vegetation up to 10 degrees warmer, is a key concern being addressed. These grants will support tree planting, maintenance, and enhancements to urban canopies. Organizations like TreePeople will receive grants to plant trees strategically, especially in high-need areas of Southern California. This funding underscores a changing perspective on urban forests as essential infrastructure and arrives at a critical juncture as trees face threats from drought, wildfires, and urban development. Despite past challenges in tree maintenance, proponents are optimistic that proper planning and care can yield substantial benefits, including job creation, enhanced shading, increased oxygen, and relief from heat. The high demand for this funding highlights the pressing nationwide need for urban tree planting.

Legislature to Place Measure for Homelessness Funding on March Ballot
California will move forward with a ballot measure that would secure funding for housing and support for individuals suffering from severe mental illness, many of whom are homeless. The state legislature passed two bills, one redirecting tax revenue from the Mental Health Services Act towards addiction treatment and housing, and another approving a measure that would authorize $6.38 billion in bond funding to build residential treatment facilities. The measure will appear on the March 2024 primary ballot. The focus is on helping chronically homeless individuals with severe mental health issues reintegrate into communities rather than jails and prisons. Additionally, lawmakers unanimously passed SB43, a bill designed to make it easier to compel individuals with severe mental illness into treatment or temporary psychiatric holds, expanding criteria for involuntary medical treatment. This legislation aims to address the mental health and addiction crisis, with San Francisco Mayor London Breed as a key supporter.

Colleges, Faith Organizations Sitting on 170,000 Acres of Developable Land
report out of UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation found there is a large portion of land owned by faith-based organizations and nonprofit colleges that qualify for streamlining incentives and ministerial approval under Senate Bill 4. These projects on over 171,749 acres of developable land could potentially bolstering affordable housing in the state, particularly in areas historically lacking affordable housing, like affluent communities and single-family neighborhoods. Of that acreage, 13 percent is located near transit high-quality transit and half of the land is located near higher opportunity areas. Despite this, significant obstacles remain to expand affordable housing on these sites, like land use regulation issues and a lack of funding. The study concluded there is an opportunity to bridge those gaps by establishing or expanding technical assistance programs to support institutions interested in building housing but lacking the capacity or expertise.

CP&DR Coverage: S.F. Megadevelopment Treasure Island Takes Shape
After over a quarter century of planning and seven years of infrastructure development, San Francisco’s Treasure Island neighborhood is finally taking shape. One of the project’s signature elements—a 22-story apartment tower—topped out in July, and new structures, parks, and public amenities are under construction on the 405-acre landfill site, and on adjacent 300-acre Yerba Buena Island. The forward moves are taking place at the same time that the project’s main developers are suing each other and the Bay Area’s urban housing market has softened. Disputes between developer Wilson Meany and primary funder Stockbridge Capital center on the project’s anticipated profits, which are likely far lower due to current economic conditions than they were in 2016, when the project broke ground. It's also a cautionary tale about how long development takes in California. “I’d like to see cities and design professionals around California focused on getting things built, not just looking at getting things approved,” said Christopher Meany, the project's lead developer.

Quick hits & Updates

A study by Visit SLO CAL and Beacon Economics found that short-term rentals (STRs) do not significantly drive up rental rates and housing prices in the county. According to the study, STRs have contributed to the growth of tourism in the county and benefit the local economy more than they harm housing availability or affordability, and converting STR properties to long-term rentals would have minimal impact on housing affordability, with rents decreasing by less than 1%. The study suggests that addressing housing affordability issues should focus on building more multi-family housing rather than solely targeting STRs.

The Friant Water Supply Protection Association - a water user group in San Joaquin Valley's east side - filed an appeal on July 24 in the Fifth District Court of Appeals after concerns and environmental challenges against the proposed Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir were dismissed by a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge in October 2022. The proposed project would allow the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractor Authority to store up to 84,000-acre feet of water west of Interstate 5, potentially affecting Friant water supplies in dry years and the Friant group seeks assurance in the project's environmental documents that it won't negatively impact other water users.

The Tübatulabal Tribe in Kern River Valley has reclaimed ownership of 1,240 acres of ancestral land, marking their first land title since the 1800s. With support from various conservation organizations, the land will be preserved as a conservation easement for public access and ecological restoration, aligning with the tribe's belief that the land is like a mother that cares for them.

San Francisco is grappling with the challenge of preserving its historic waterfront, including iconic landmarks like the Ferry Building, in the face of rising sea levels caused by climate change. The city is considering measures like strengthening the sea wall and potentially elevating structures to protect its heritage, although there are differing opinions among residents about how to balance preservation with community interests.

Newport Beach City Council plans to override the Orange County Airport Land Use Commission's decision to make amendments to land use, noise elements and zoning codes to allow for housing near the airport. Residents are predominantly against this move, expressing concerns about increased aircraft noise and pollution due to residential projects near the airport, but the council aims to find housing solutions while protecting the city's quality of life.

Cal State Long Beach's draft environmental impact report outlines a master plan update for campus development until 2035, including expanding on-campus student housing by about 1,600 beds and introducing faculty and staff housing. The plan is expected to be adopted by the university's Board of Trustees in January 2024.

San Diego County's beaches require ongoing and expensive efforts to maintain their tourist-friendly, wide, sandy appearance, as revealed in the 2023 "State of the Coast" report by the San Diego Association of Governments. According to the study, shorelines in several areas, including south Oceanside, south Carlsbad, Leucadia, and Coronado, are rapidly eroding, with only beaches replenished by sand from nearby lagoons, harbors, and offshore deposits retaining or increasing their width. Human activities, including construction and upstream development, have contributed to beach losses, making beach preservation and nourishment crucial, particularly in the face of rising sea levels.

The Los Angeles County Metro's long-awaited Regional Connector has officially opened, offering more direct access to downtown Los Angeles and facilitating transfer-free journeys across the city. This project features three new underground stations and aims to enhance transit connections by linking multiple Metro lines, although it comes amidst concerns about rising crime rates and safety on public transit systems. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Following state certification of its environmental study, Marin County's largest affordable housing project of the last 50 years plans to move forward. The project, covering almost 8.5 acres, will provide 135-units of workforce housing for teachers and local housing district staff, as well as 115 homes for low-income families, addressing the pressing need for affordable housing in the area.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) requests the public submit new names for the proposed West Santa Ana Branch rail line that will run from downtown Los Angeles to Artesia through southeast LA County. LA Metro aims to eliminate confusion as the project's current name references Santa Ana, which is not within its route, and rebrand it to reflect the actual area it will serve.

The Vernon City Council progressed with new zoning rules allowing residential development in the industrial city south of Downtown LA. The Westside zone changes target underutilized sites along Santa Fe Avenue, offering property owners the option to redevelop with residential, office, retail and industrial uses, with draft environmental impacts suggesting the changes could result in 874 residential units, 360,429 square feet of office/research and development and 253,021 square feet of production retail.