Concord Names New Developer for Former Navy Site
Possibly ending a two-decade saga of false starts and controversies, the City of Concord selected Brookfield Properties as the master developer for the transformation of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station into a massive mixed-use community. Covering 2,300 acres and comprising a significant portion of the site's total 5,046 acres, this project is the largest ongoing development in the Bay Area. Brookfield Properties has committed to designating at least 25% of the housing as affordable, hiring 40% of the construction workforce locally and prioritizing early connections to the nearby BART station. Before the U.S. Navy transfers ownership to the city, environmental concerns must be addressed, including soil assessment and cleanup efforts. The final phases of construction are expected to span the next 30 to 40 years, with ongoing negotiations to clarify timelines and costs. Despite past divisions among Concord residents, Brookfield's proposal has gained approval as the most promising option for revitalizing the former Naval outpost, shuttered in 1999, potentially creating a new city within Concord that could significantly impact the region's housing landscape. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

State to Disburse $757 Million in Grants to Fund 2,500 Affordable Housing Units
The California Strategic Growth Council announced $757 million in funding from the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program aimed at advancing affordable housing construction in walkable neighborhoods with job opportunities. The funds will go to 21 projects statewide, with awards ranging from $19 million to $49 million. The investment is expected to result in development of over 2,500 affordable residences, 150 zero-emissions buses, 50 miles of new bikeways and improvements to sidewalks across various communities in the state. Once completed, these projects are projected to reduce 800,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to removing 178,000 gas-powered cars from California's roads for a year. Governor Newsom emphasized the significance of these investments in addressing climate change and housing scarcity, underscoring their role in creating a cleaner energy future.

San Jose Housing Element Fails to Win State Approval
Regulators at the Department of Housing and Community Development have declined to certify San Jose's draft housing element, which would add more than 60,000 new homes over the next decade. Without this approval, the city risks losing access to crucial affordable housing and transportation funds and relinquishing control over the approval process for new housing projects. When San Jose's City Council submitted the plan for approval in June, it faced skepticism from pro-housing advocates, tenant activists, and construction labor supporters. In HCD's letter to the city, they urge greater community engagement and public input during the housing element revision process while calling for more evidence the identified sites for housing are viable. The letter also demanded more details on programs to streamline permitting processes and combat housing discrimination and displacement. San Jose must specify where and how it intends to facilitate the development of at least 62,200 additional homes, over half of which must be affordable, by 2031. This represents a 20% boost in the city's housing stock and a 77% increase from its previous eight-year housing goal.

San Bernardino Agrees to Update Housing Element to Avoid Penalties
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Governor Gavin Newsom and three state agencies have announced a settlement with the City of San Bernardino for violating California's Housing Element Law. San Bernardino failed to adopt a compliant housing plan within the statutory deadline, prompting state intervention. The settlement requires the City of San Bernardino to adopt a compliant housing element by no later than February 7, 2024, expedited to meet the deadline. Additionally, the city must modernize its zoning code, amend its emergency shelter ordinance to streamline homeless shelter construction, and adjust its local density bonus ordinance to permit increased density for housing projects with affordable dwelling units. Failure to comply with the settlement terms will result in escalating penalties, including limitations on zoning changes and variances and restrictions on permitting any development except for residential projects containing affordable housing. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

CP&DR Coverage: Success and Struggles in California's Downtowns
The depths of the covid pandemic inspired dire proclamations about the “death of cities." Three years later, plenty of cities have contradicted those predictions—while a few still struggle. California cities represent both extremes, with downtowns in Los Angeles and, most notably, San Francisco still struggling while downtowns in San Diego, Fresno, and even Bakersfield are operating as if the pandemic never happened. At both ends of the spectrum, urban planners who focus on downtowns are thinking of new, and more aggressive, ways to maintain or regain their vibrancy. San Francisco’s Financial District may have to reinvent itself entirely. Once home to a high concentration of tech companies and professional services, such as law and accounting firms, the district has an estimated 18 million vacant square feet, and relatively little housing, leading to predictions that the city is facing a “doom loop.” Meanwhile, San Diego credits its success largely to its high concentration of residences--and is doubling-down on policies that led to a residential boom over the past decade. Over 8,700 units, many of them in high-rise buildings, have been developed since 2013.

Quick Hits & Updates

According to an analysis by the San Jose Mercury News, apartment construction in the Bay Area, particularly in Silicon Valley, has come to a standstill in the first half of 2023, with no new projects breaking ground. The slowdown is attributed to higher interest rates, reduced financing returns, lingering material and labor costs from the pandemic, declining demand for market-rate apartments, and persistent obstacles like local regulations and opposition.

The Healdsburg City Council is evaluating three potential sites for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) train extension following the availability of $30 million worth of funding to continue the construction north. The current depot location on Harmon Street has long been planned as the SMART depot, with two downtown station locations under consideration, one north and one south of North Street. SMART recently secured $30 million to cover the remaining cost of the $70 million extension to Windsor, while the rest of the extension still requires $82.4 million. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army have issued a final rule, aligned with a recent Supreme Court ruling, changing the definition of "waters of the United States," potentially reducing federal protections for up to 63 percent of the nation's wetlands and affecting 1.2 million to 4.9 million miles of ephemeral streams. This revision comes in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Sackett v. EPA, which limited the EPA's regulatory power over certain waterways, with the EPA Administrator expressing disappointment but the obligation to follow the court's ruling.

The highly-publicized "Doom Loop Walking Tour" in Downtown San Francisco, originally organized by an anonymous City Hall commissioner, was canceled at the last minute due to concerns about preserving the organizer's anonymity. However, the cancellation inadvertently revealed the identity of the organizer, the vice president of the city's Commission on Community Investment and Infrastructure, who subsequently resigned from his position amidst controversy and criticism from city officials and the community.

The plans for a new housing project in San Jose, located on the former site of the Century 24 movie house, includes a 264-unit residential building with 35 studios, 113 one-bedroom, and 116 two-bedroom apartments, with approximately 52 to 53 units designated as affordable for low-income households. The developer plans to use a "builder's remedy" strategy to expedite the project's approval as San Jose's long-range housing plan is still awaiting state certification.