San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee introduced a five-pronged plan to build and rehabilitate 10,000 affordable housing units in the city by 2020. Significantly, construction will begin in November to allow nonprofit developers to take over federally funded public housing projects in exchange for upgrading them, hopefully repairing 1,400 units by 2017 and another 2,060 by 2018. In the wake of the removal of 5,470 apartments from protected status through evictions from 2004 to 2014, Lee's plan looks to pass legislation to give the city first right to buy the property if it goes on the market and to ensure that when new housing units go on the market, residents of that neighborhood have priority to rent or buy them. Though it strongly advocates for increasing affordable housing, Lee has clashed with sects of progressive housing advocates in opposing Proposition F, which would curtail the use of short-term rental sites like Airbnb, and Proposition I, which would halt construction of market-rate developments in the Mission for two years. While backers say that market-rate housing contributes to soaring prices, Lee says that the moratorium is counterproductive because market-rate developer help finance construction of affordable housing.

Air District Votes for Stricter Controls on Urban Oil Fields

Following a multitude of health and quality of life complaints over the past several years by residents neighboring oil and gas fields, the South Coast Air Quality Management District board in an 11-2 vote approved new rules requiring urban oil fields to control odors and more adequately respond to complaints from nearby residents. Applicable to as many as 240 facilities operating more than 4,000 onshore oil and gas wells, the regulations will require operators to adopt new odor control measures and post signs with instructions on how to report odor complaints. They will also force facilities within 1,500 feet of homes, schools and healthcare facilities to submit reports on the cause of any confirmed release of odors, oil mist, or droplets. Operators of facilities within 100 meters of homes will have to conduct daily inspections of well equipment in a compromise to industry groups that lowered the distance from the originally proposed 1,500 feet for daily inspections. More than 32,000 people in the Los Angeles basin reside within 100 meters of active or or gas wells, and about 1.7 million live within a mile of those wells.

L.A. Olympic Bid May Jump-Start Transit Projects

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority is trying to use Los Angeles' bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics to fast-track two of its most anticipated rail projects. Metro sent a letter to the Federal Transit Administration asking to join a pilot program that would allow it to follow an "extremely aggressive" schedule to finish the $2.3-billion Purple Line subway extension and the $330 million LAX train station by 2024. The Purple Line - currently planned to be expanded in phases to Mid-Wilshire in 2024, to Century City in 2025, and to the Department of Veterans' Affairs campus in West L.A. in 2036 - would be crucial to the success of the Olympics, carrying thousands of international visitors to UCLA's campus to see events, Metro Chief Executive Phillip Washington wrote in the letter. Washington proposed accelerating the plan with concurrent construction on all three phases, hopefully funding the third phase through a $1 billion federal grant and $525 million in local taxpayer revenue, the letter said. They also hope to expedite the LAX "people mover," which will connect the airport with a consolidated car-rental facility, a ground transportation hub and a station on the Crenshaw line, from a 2028 schedule.

FBI Targets Palm Springs Mayor's Ties to Developer

The FBI raided Palm Springs' City Hall in response to allegations that Mayor Steve Pougnet illegally worked as a consultant for a developer when he voted to sell city property to the same developer. The raid comes as the city's downtown - developmentally stagnant for decades - has been booming with construction of new hotels and restaurants due to city incentives of hundreds of millions of dollars. However, the alleged involvement of the mayor with developer Richard Meaney, which the mayor called a mistake, has led some to say that developers have become too powerful in the desert city. "People like to come here because it's an escape from the city, but this council is putting, basically, a miniature Century City in the heart of town," Frank Tysen, who owns a downtown boutique hotel, told the L.A. Times.
Baylands Project Seeks Input from Would-Be Neighbors
Residents in the tiny, 2,000-home city of Brisbane are being surveyed for their opinion on the proposed Baylands project, a huge mixed-use development that would add as many as 4,434 homes, condos and apartments along with 7.5 million square feet of commercial space on 684 acres of abandoned rail yards and bay fill. Center to the survey is how residents feel the surge of growth would alter the way of life in one of the Bay Area's smallest communities, with the survey asking voters to decide whether "I worry that too much is changing too fast in Brisbane and we're losing our small-town character," or "I feel we're maintaining Brisbane's small-town character even as we change and grow as a community." An alternate proposal put together by a citizens groups calls for a similar amount of commercial space, but no housing at all, raising red flags to housing advocates. 

Study Questions Link between Food Deserts and Obesity

A study from Santa Monica-based RAND Corp. says that there is little evidence that eliminating food deserts - areas and neighborhoods that are devoid of fresh, healthy food - would improve people's health. Rather, the study said that causes of the obesity epidemic in low-income neighborhoods are more complex and include cost of food, cultural preferences, and marketing, and that simply putting a supermarket in a low-income neighborhood likely won't solve any problems. Specifically, the study found virtually no link between the type of food and drinks that Los Angeles County adults consume and the proximity of fast-food outlets, grocery stores and convenience stores to their homes. However, Dr. Paul Simon, director of the Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said that while government regulations intended to improve public health tended to be too simplistic, the food environment is still one of many important factors in the obesity epidemic.

Cost of Transbay Terminal Development Rises

San Francisco's new Transbay Transit Center, whose price tag for construction jumped from $247 million to $2.1 billion two months ago, will cost an additional $244 million to complete its first phase, according to new estimates from consultant T.Y. Lin International. The project's first phase will set up a bus terminal with room for a railroad in the basement and a park on top, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has repeatedly helped the Transbay Joint Powers Authority balance its budget as the costs have soared. According to the report, much of the reason for the increase in costs is the booming economy pushing construction costs higher, along with a pattern of inaccurate estimates on contracts and overly optimistic assumptions.

Study Identifies Southern California's Worst Air

Residents in an Ontario neighborhood near the 60 Freeway are breathing in the dirtiest air in California, according to new measurements of lung-damaging soot by the South Coast Air Quality Management District as mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The average concentration of fine-particle pollution about 30 feet from the freeway was 18.7 micrograms per cubic meter from January to March, compared with federal health standards limiting concentrations to 12 micrograms. "It's not just people living along the 60 Freeway - anyone close to that many diesel trucks is going to be breathing the same heavy pollution," Penny Newman, who heads the Riverside County-based Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, told the Los Angeles Times. Last year, the EPA instituted new requirements that 100 big cities place pollution monitors next to major roads. Air quality officials used to place monitors at a distance from traffic and other big pollution sources.

S.F. Sup. Weiner Devises Plan for Subway Construction

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener laid out a plan to increase and maintain subway infrastructure citywide through his "Subway Master Plan," which will task San Francisco with "always" having a subway under construction. Seeking to accommodate a potential population boom of over 2 million people in the next 30 years, Wiener's plan would bring Muni subways to the southern and western sections of San Francisco and construct a second BART transbay tube to connect the East Bay with San Francisco and to alleviate traffic as the Bay Area grows. The master plan, which Wiener plans to introduce via an ordinance to the Board of Supervisors this week, does not identify funding sources for subway tunneling, which Wiener said would be acquired on a per-project basis. San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Authority Board of Directors Chairman Tom Nolan, however, said that many of these projects require federal funding, and the government has lately been stingier. "With the current situation, they're not likely to give us an extra billion dollars for more subways," Nolan told the SF Examiner.

San Diego Appoints Planning Director

Jeff Murphy, the planning director for the City of Encinitas, will serve as the new Director of the Planning Department for the City of San Diego, according to a letter from Mayor Kevin Falconer. Murphy has served as the director for Encinitas for 15 years, overseeing land development operations and developing an approach to public engagement on the City's Housing Element Update. He was also instrumental in the rebuild efforts following the 2003 and 2007 wildfires, directing, organizing, and coordinating approximately 100 employees, supervisors, and contract staff in carrying out planning and land use efforts. Murphy succeeds Tom Tomlinson, who had served in an interim capacity for over a year, having succeeded CP&DR Publisher Bill Fulton.