Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order to establish a California greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 - the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions over the next decade and a half. It also orders the state to prepare for adaptation to climate change. California is on track to meet or exceed the current target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as established in the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). California's new emission reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 will make it possible to reach the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050. This is in line with the scientifically established levels needed in the U.S. to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius - the warming threshold at which scientists say there will likely be major climate disruptions such as super droughts and rising sea levels."With this order, California sets a very high bar for itself and other states and nations, but it's one that must be reached - for this generation and generations to come," said Brown in a statement. (See CP&DR commentary by Josh Stephens and Bill Fulton on the order's potential impact on statewide Sustainable Communities Strategies.)
OPR Releases Draft VMT Guidelines, Advisory on Tribal Resources
The Governor's Office of Planning and Research announced the availability of two documents related to the Guidelines Implementing the California Environmental Quality Act. The first document summarizes comments submitted to OPR on the preliminary discussion draft of changes to the CEQA Guidelines related to transportation analysis pursuant to Senate Bill 743. All comments that were submitted to OPR on the preliminary discussion draft during the comment period can be accessed through the summary (pdf). OPR is currently developing a revised draft which will be released for additional public review. The second document is a draft technical advisory (pdf) discussing new requirements, added by Assembly Bill 52, related to tribal cultural resources and CEQA. The provisions of the new law go into effect July 1, 2015. OPR is accepting input on the draft technical advisory. (See prior CP&DR coverage of SB 744.)
Caltrans Releases Strategic Management Plan
Caltrans released its new 2015-2020 Strategic Management Plan (pdf), a roadmap of how Caltrans will meet the bold goals it has set for itself in order to be a high-performance, efficient, innovative and modern state department of transportation. The Strategic Management Plan describes Caltrans' five goals and their corresponding objectives, adding performance measures connected to each goal. These performance measures will be used by Caltrans as tools to manage from the Plan. The five categories of goals include safety and health; stewardship and efficiency; sustainabilty, livabilbity, and economy; system performance; and organizational excellence. Examples of metrics for each of these categories are, respectively, fewer than .05 fatalities for every 100 million miles traveled on state highways, and reducing pollutants by 85 percent by 2020; increase from 84 to 88 the percentage of roads rated as having "good" pavement; triple the number of trips taken via bike and double the number taken via walking or transit by 2020; slow the growth of hours of commuter delay; improve stakeholder participation. The plan is a culmination of a comprehensive process that builds upon the efforts of the Caltrans Program Review, Caltrans Improvement Project and recommendations of the State Smart Transportation Initiative. Caltrans is in the process of determining and developing baselines for all performance measures.
State Audit of BART Describes Need for $9.6 Billion in Capital Improvements
The California State Auditor's office reports that the Bay Area Rapid Transit District needs $9.6 billion in capital improvement and reinvestment projects, but that funding for those projects is still up in the air. $4 billion of the needed money would go to the "Big Three" projects: replacing its fleet of railcars (many of which have been in operation since 1972 and which the auditor says will reach the end of their useful lives by 2026), expanding its vehicle maintenance facility, and replacing its train control system. BART's ability to spend on the capital improvements is constrained by an operating budget deficit that is projected to grow from $5.9 million in 2015-16 to $57.3 million in fiscal year 2017-18. Instead, it may have to look to the 2016 ballot for bonds or sales tax increases.
Bay-Delta Habitat Restoration Plan Curtailed
Gov. Jerry Brown announced that the state would significantly reduce the acreage slated for conservation efforts in the Sacramento Bay-Delta. The plan cuts from 100,00 to 30,000 the number of acres of fish and wildlife habitat that will be restored, dropping the cost from $8 billion to $300 million. Along with that announcement, Brown reaffirmed his support for a controversial $15 billion plan to build water tunnels to deliver more water to the Central Valley. Critics contend that the reduced conservation area, which effectively nullifies the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, is a precursor to an ecologically harmful "water grab." Supporters say that a smaller area will be easier to manage ad restore.
Mixed-Use Project in San Diego May Face Vote
Opponents of a large mixed-use project in the mostly-residential community of Carmel Valley in North San Diego have gathered enough signatures to force a 2016 public vote. The project, a 1.4 million-square-foot complex of office buildings, condos, and retail stores called One Paseo, generated public outcry and the ire of a shopping center across the street, who claimed that the project would have an unmitigable impact on traffic and would fundamentally alter the community's character. It got approval from the San Diego City Council in February, but the 61,235 signatures against it along with a pending lawsuit that says its Environmental Impact Report was inadequate will force the development onto the 2016 ballot, which is already packed with five city council races, a minimum wage increase, primary elections for president and the mayor, along with a possible public vote on a financing plan for a new Chargers stadium.
Coachella Adopts General Plan Update
The City of Coachella has updated its general plan after four years of work, providing guidelines for the next 20 years as the population continues to grow and the city considers large projects like the La Entrada housing development. The plan, which received a $274,000 grant from the California Endowment and was otherwise funded by $625,000 directly from the city, seeks to fulfill community requests for more transportation options, new opportunities for youth, a sustainable environment, and improvement of schools. The general plan won recognition from the Southern California Association of Governments, which plans on presenting the city with an award for its plan.
Report Urges Development along L.A. River
A recently released report from the Los Angeles Business Council urges the city to meet Mayor Eric Garcetti's goal of adding 100,000 new housing units in part by creating an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District along the Los Angeles River. The report piggy-backs on a billion-dollar plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to revamp 11 miles of the L.A. River north of downtown. "If you look at frontiers and underutilized resources, I think the L.A. River is really fertile land with a lot of development potential," report author and UCLA real estate professor Paul Habibi told the LA Times. "There's market-driven demand, a lot of developers who are eager to get in there." To save time and costs in rezoning to include affordable housing, the report proposed a variety of tools, including local design guidelines and expedited permitting. The report estimates that a new financing district along the river, which would allow the neighborhood to capture new tax revenue and funnel it back into public works, could raise between $5-10 billion in the next 45 years.
Hollywood Project Halted Over Insufficient CEQA Analysis
A judge halted construction of the controversial three-tower Millennium Hollywood development, saying that the city of Los Angeles failed to fully assess in its Environmental Impact Report the impacts of the project on surrounding neighborhoods. The project, which was hailed as an appropriately dense project in a transit-rich area, was backed unanimously by the City Council and by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Community groups and Caltrans said that the project would significantly worsen traffic on the 101 freeway and be unsafe. In his ruling, Judge James C. Chalfant said that the details of the project were also too vague, with the developer's summary of the uses only mentioning "some combination" of residential uses along with hotel rooms, offices, and restaurants among other things. "A developer must present an accurate and stable picture of the project so that the public and decision-makers can decide whether its environmental consequences are outweighed by its public benefits," Chalfant wrote. Opponents also raised concerns about the project's proximity to newly mapped earthquake faults.
Santa Monica Restricts Short-Term Rentals
The Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously to strengthen a prohibition on short-term rentals through the home-share service Airbnb. The new ordinance allows "true" homesharing, wherein a homeowner can rent out rooms or guesthouses to travelers while the primary owner is on-site but prohibits rental of entire units by absentee landlords and managers. Short-term rentals, by which entire apartments or homes are rented out, number from 1,400-1,700 in San Monica and account for about five percent of the city's 33,717 rental units. Residents expressed concerns that with Santa Monica already not filling needed housing supply, the short-term rentals are squeezing even more possible residents out of the market. The ordinance is believed to be the strictest regulation of home-sharing in California.
S.F., Oakland Ranked Highly for Walkability
San Francisco and Oakland came in second and eighth place, respectively, on WalkScore's rankings of the 10 most walkable cities in the U.S. with populations exceeding 300,000. San Francisco received a walkability score of 83.9, narrowly losing to New York City; and Oakland received a 68.5, losing to Seattle and beating Baltimore. The rankings look at how walkable a city becomes by seeing how much space they claim for pedestrian traffic from cars, by looking at the opening of restaurants and shopping centers, and by judging improvements in public transportation.