The demise of redevelopment may leave the city of San Diego with a monstrous bill: $271 million to cover the development of its downtown stadium, Petco Park. When the stadium's financing plan was approved in 1998, general obligation bond funds were to be routed through the Center City Development Corp., one of the city's redevelopment agencies. In anticipation of the 2012 shutdown of redevelopment, CCDC transferred over $200 million to the city. The state then determined that these funds were not authorized for exemption from state "claw-back." In a 9-0 vote earlier this month, the City Council determined that it would pursue legal action against the state.
Opponents of Sacramento Arena Raise EIR Concerns in Court
Foes of the efforts to build a new stadium for the Sacramento Kings aired their concerns in court earlier this month, calling the project's environmental impact report inadequate. Justices in the Court of Appeals asked lawyers for the city whether planners had surveyed other alternative sites and considered the impact of stadium traffic on I-5. Opponents of the project are concerned about a $255 million public subsidy that the city is giving to the arena, and that state lawmakers passed SB 743, written specifically for the project and intended to make it much harder for foes to block construction. The hearing ended without a ruling.
Sen. Jackson Seeks to Streamline CEQA Process
The latest attempt to reform CEQA comes from State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (Dist. 19 ï¿½ Santa Barbara). Her bill, SB 122, attempts to streamline the CEQA process but does not make substantive changes to the law. SB 122 would make lead agencies keep an administrative record of all actions on a project in real time. Jackson claims that this change would help streamline much of the data-gathering process, which is now typically done only after a lawsuit is filed. The bill would also establish an online clearinghouse through the Office of Planning and Research that would post all documents relating to environmental impact reports across the state. Finally, the bill would reform what Jackson calls "document dumping" at the scheduled close of the public comment period on draft EIRs.
City of San Francisco Must Pay for Tree Upkeep
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors agreed that the city's Department of Public Works, not local property owners, should be responsible for upkeep of the city's street trees. The vote is a move away from dumping the cost of tree maintenance to homeowners and is in line with the Planning Department's Urban Forest Master Plan. But, the supervisors did not allocate any money toward the $15 million annual cost of upkeep. That could be the toughest part, as Supervisor Scott Weiner said, "trees don't do well in the budget process." A parcel tax is being considered for the 2016 ballot. Meanwhile, the city is hoping to add 50,000 street trees to its urban forest by 2035.
San Diego Awash in Unused Development Impact Fees
An investigation by the San Diego Union-Tribune found that the city has let pile up millions of unspent dollars of developer impact fees, designed to offset the local impacts of big projects. These monies may be used for local infrastructure projects such as parks and fire stations. Over $78 million collected has not been spent as of June 2014; $35 million of that has not been designated for any specific purpose. Public officials have expressed frustration in the wake of a staggering backlog of infrastructure improvements in the city that have not been fixed.
Ranking Gentrification in California
According to a new ranking of incidence of gentrification in America's 50 largest cities, Sacramento and Oakland are the most rapidly gentrifying cities in California. Governing Magazine ranked them Nos. 9 and 11, respectively, in its "Gentrification in America" report. Around 30 percent of both cities' census tracts were determined to have gentrified since 2000. Though California cities have some of the highest rents in the country, cities including San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose ranked lower in part because they have already gentrified dramatically. The report defined a neighborhood as gentrified if growth in its median household income and home value was in the top third percentile as compared with other neighborhoods in its metro area; median incomes and home values had to be in the bottom 40% in 2000 for a neighborhood to be eligible.
High Speed Rail Opposition Files Petition
Two counties in the Central Valley have filed a petition with the 9th District Court of Appeals, hoping to overturn a ruling by a federal agency prohibiting state courts from citing CEQA in opposition to the high speed rail coming to California. The Surface Transportation Board ruled in December that the state couldn't use CEQA because doing so could "deny or significantly delay an entity's right to construct a line that the (Surface Transportation) Board has specifically authorized, thus impinging upon the board's exclusive jurisdiction over rail transportation." Kings County and Kern County, in association with several anti-HSR groups in the Central Valley and Bay Area, contend that the previous ruling "violates petitioners' constitutional right to seek redress of grievances" and that it violates California's sovereignty as guaranteed by the 10th Amendment.