Strategic Growth Council staff are currently finalizing the review of submitted concept proposals for Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities grand program. All AHSC applicants will be notified of the results of the concept proposal reviews by no later than Monday, March 16th. The full application will be posted on or before Wednesday, March 18th. The due date for the full applications will be extended to April 20, 2015. Applicants will be notified when the full application is available via email. For more details, see CP&DR's coverage of the AHSC workshops.

Draft of California Transportation Plan Released

Caltrans released its long-range draft plan for the next 25 years of transportation projects in California. The plan, called the California Transportation Plan 2040, presents a wide range of strategies to reduce the transportation sector's greenhouse gas emissions, as required by the A.B. 32 Global Warming Solutions Act. The plan says that the state will not meet its reduction goals unless it implements every one of the plans most aggressive recommendations -- including road pricing, increasing carpool trips, building bike lanes, and changing most of the cars and trucks on the road to zero-emission vehicles. However, there's some concern that the plan won't come with any "teeth," and that Caltrans won't be able to enforce its directives.

Odds of Earthquake Danger Revised Upwards

Based on newly analyzed data, geologists have raised the chances of California being struck by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in the next three decades to 7 percent from 4.7 percent. Part of the reason for the increased risk is a growing knowledge base of California's faults.  "It has become increasingly apparent that we are not dealing with a few well-separate faults, but with a vast interconnected fault system," seismologist Ned Field told the Los Angeles Times. Scientists now expect a magnitude 8.0 or greater quake - which would be devastating to a populated area - to come once every 500 years, as opposed to previous estimates of once every 600 years. Cities across the state, most notably Los Angeles, are embarking on programs to encourage seismic retrofitting of older buildings. In other earthquake news, a USGS analysis of the damage wrought by last year's earthquake in Napa reveals that the vast majority of damaged buildings were built before 1950.

Desert Solar Lands Cut

In response to over 12,000 mostly critical comments on the draft plan to create renewable energy facilities in deserts across the state, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan will for now only apply to public lands, reports the L.A Times. The plan originally would have managed renewable energy projects on 22 millions acres of public and private lands, but many counties objected to having the state and federally funded programs on their land. Now, officials say that they will first focus on 10 million acres of public lands, and roll out the rest later once local issues are resolved. The lands under the permitting authority of critical counties - including Los Angeles, San Diego,and San Bernardino among others - would be suitable for about 80 percent of the projects expected to be built under the plan. However, counties claim to have many different issues with the plan, including concerns that the development will displace agriculture, and that the designation of certain land as conservation zones would restrict moneymaking land uses like mining. Nevertheless, officials hope to build enough to help meet the Obama administration's goal of generating 20,000 megawatts of power from federal land by 2020.

Laguna Resident Sues City, Coastal Commission, over Hotel Expansion

A local resident is suing the city of Laguna Beach and the California Coastal Commission over the approval without an Environmental Impact Review of a hotel renovation project in Aliso Canyon - some areas of which are described as a "rare habitat." The resident, Mark Fudge, said that the renovation of the 84-acre property known as the Ranch requires an EIR, and that the California Coastal Commission and the city inappropriately approved it without one. The renovations would increase the number of hotel rooms by splitting 32 existing one-bedroom suites in half and removing the kitchen to make 64 standard-sized rooms. The developer insists that the work on the rooms is being done within the existing framework for the project.

Denver Official to Head L.A. Metro 

Los Angeles County transportation officials chose the former leader of the Denver Regional Transportation District to lead the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Anticipating a new phase of multibillion-dollar expansion of its rail system amid coming years of projected budget shortfalls, officials chose Phillip Washington to replace outgoing CEO Art Leahy. Metro is simultaneously building five rail lines and is in the early stages of drafting another tax that could fund a dozen more projects. However, the agency faces a projected deficit of $83 million in 2018 and $248 million in 2013 due to rising pension costs and operations of new rail lines. Washington managed Denver's transportation authority during a similar time, securing more that $1 billion for the city in the midst of a multibillion-dollar expansion. Leahy will become CEO of southern California commuter rail network Metrolink. 

Study: Short-Term Rentals Exacerbate Housing Shortage in L.A.

A new report shows that Airbnb is an important contributor to the housing shortage in Los Angeles, as more than 7,000 housing units have been taken off the market for short-term rentals through the online platform. The report estimates that in tourist-friendly neighborhoods like Venice and Hollywood, the listings can account for 4% of all housing units in the region, decreasing the supply available and increasing prices. While many participants are just homeowners renting out a spare room to tourists, there are signs of growing professionalization of the service, with some property-manager middlemen listing dozens of properties on the site. "In places where vacancy is already limited and rents are already squeezing people out, this is exacerbating the problem," Roy Samaan, who wrote the report, told the L.A. Times.

Tulare County General Plan Litigation Settled

The final lawsuit challenging the County of Tulare's general plan has been settled, paving the way for implementation of the plan. The Tulare County General Plan 2030 Update was approved in 2012 by the Board of Supervisors, but was challenged separately by the City of Porterville and the Sierra Club. The settlement calls for the revised plan to include incentives for solar power, protection of prime farmland, and reduction of diesel emissions from trucks. "The reason we filed suit was the plan didn't commit the county to anything about many of the major issues as far as we saw - air pollution, farmland loss, water issues, climate change," said Gordon Nipp, vice chairman of the Sierra Club chapter that covers Tulare, Kings and Kern counties, told the Visalia Times-Delta. The revisions will be subject to public comment and a vote of the Board of Supervisors. 

Santa Monica Considers Moving Interstate Offramp in Downtown Plan

With a colossal traffic problem at the exit on the farthest East part of Interstate 10 in Santa Monica, city officials there are expediting a realignment of the interstate that would change the way vehicles exit onto Fourth Street. The plan, known as the Olympic crossover or the freeway flyover, would completely remove the current off-ramp to Fourth street and instead bring traffic over the freeway to tie in with the recently-built Olympic Drive. The off-ramp would be one piece of the new Downtown Specific Plan, which is still in the draft stages but could provide the framework for land-use in downtown Santa Monica.