Developers in California may have a more difficult time creating mitigation plans in wetland areas as of this year. The US Army Corps of Engineers released a new set of guidelines adding more rigorous requirements to mitigation plans, which "will undoubtedly complicate and significantly increase the cost of preparing and implementing mitigation plans for new development." The guidelines are intended to keep up with 25 years of research since the last update, placing greater emphasis on preservation of California's wetlands.
San Francisco Loses $1 Million of Impact Fee Funds
Officials in San Francisco are puzzling over the disappearance of $1 million of public funds intended for park and pedestrian developments- possibly ending up in the hands of a developer. Officials in the mayor's office argue that a portion of the city's Market Community Stabilization Fund was incorrectly given to the developer of One Rincon Hill without permission from the mayor's office. However, an Association of Bay Area Governments official said that the developer was entitled to the money as a reimbursement for bonds sold to a special tax district designed to improve public spaces.
HCD Invites Applications for $120 Million in GHG Reduction Funds
The Department of Housing and Community Development announced the availability of approximately $120 million in funding for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program. The AHSC Program furthers the purposes of AB 32 and SB 375 by investing in projects that reduce GHG emissions by supporting more compact, infill development patterns, encouraging active transportation and transit usage, and protecting agricultural land from sprawl development. Funding for the AHSC Program is provided from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, an account established to receive cap-and-trade auction proceeds. A complete original concept proposal must be submitted to HCD using the Financial Assistance Application Submittal Tool (FAAST) system no later than 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 19, 2015. The AHSC Program's full application forms, workshop details, and related program information, will be posted on its website at http://www.hcd.ca.gov/fa/ahsc.
Inglewood One Step Closer to a Pro Football Stadium
The City of Inglewood cleared its first hurdle to building a new 80,000-seat football stadium for a possible move by the St. Louis Rams. Backers of the stadium plan gained over 20,000 signatures in a petition drive to put a question about rezoning the proposed stadium site on an upcoming city ballot. By going through the initiative process, developers are hoping to avoid doing a costly and time-consuming environmental review for the 238-acre site, which is the location of the shuttered Hollywood Park race track. Much of the Hollywood Park site is already being redeveloped as a residential community.
Veterans Administration to Dedicate West Los Angeles Campus to Homeless
The US Department of Veterans Affairs will provide permanent housing for homeless veterans on its 387-acre campus in west Los Angeles a result of a legal settlement. A suit alleged that the VA was misusing its property by giving leases to private corporations and non-veteran related companies. The ACLU Foundation of Southern California sued in 2011, alleging that "the VA was misusing the campus while failing to care for veterans" by neglecting to provide adequate housing and to use the campus for the direct benefit of veterans. As a result of the settlement, the VA will hire a homelessness expert to craft a master plan for the campus. The parcel, which was deeded to the VA in 1888, has long been coveted by developers.
Oil Project Abandoned in Carson
Oil company California Resources Corp. abandoned a huge drilling project in Carson in the wake of community opposition and a drop in oil prices. Residents near the proposed site had expressed concerns that the company, a recently spun-off subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, would use controversial drilling methods in its operations. The City Council went as far as to issue a moratorium on all oil drilling in the city last year as lawmakers studied the effects of fracking and acidization. With depleting capital budgets because of the fall in oil prices, the company abandoned the project for now.
Glendale Sues State Over Redevelopment Agency
The city of Glendale sued the state for over $30 million in lost funds from its now-defunct redevelopment agency. The redevelopment program was shut down in 2011 as part of Gov. Jerry Brown's efforts to return tax increment monies to state coffers, and Glendale was still owed millions of dollars for loans it had given for revitalization projects. However, the city alleges that also it should have received payment of interest based on a rate that existed at the time of the origination of the loan. The state claims that Glendale is only entitled to a 0.28% interest rate, cutting the amount they would receive from outstanding loans by over $30 million.
Report: State Parks System Needs Overhaul
California's parks are deteriorating and need a new source of funding to be fixed, according to a report by the California Parks Forward Commission. The report links the failing conditions of the parks system � denoted by increasing fees to hikers, outdated technology, and a lack of accountability � to shrinking budgets, a backlog of $1.3 billion, and money source of the parks. Right now, funds for the parks system come from the state's general fund, making the budget subject to the whims of the state budget. To fix the system, the state needs to allocate a specific funding source outside of the general fund, according to the report.
SPUR Opens Oakland Office
The urban policy think tank and advocacy group San Francisco Planning and Urban Research has extended its reach further by opening an office in Oakland. Based in San Francisco's Financial District, SPUR also has a location in San Jose. According to a statement, SPUR is committed to both regional and local planning in the Bay Area and will use the Oakland office to focus on issues specific to the East Bay.