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CP&DR News Briefs, October 26, 2015: S.F. Bay Wetland Restoration; VA Campus Master Plan; L.A. Subway EIR, and More

Matthew Hose on
Oct 26, 2015

Report: Wetland Restoration Crucial for Health of S.F. Bay
Bay Area officials need to restore 54,000 acres of wetlands in the San Francisco Bay over the next 15 years if they want to stave off billions of dollars of damage from rising seas, surging tides, and extreme storms driven by climate change, according to a new report from 100 scientists and 17 government agencies. While experts have said that some places in the bay need seawalls, the study, titled "The Baylands and Climate Change: What We Can Do," nevertheless advocates working with nature rather than against it, adding that seawalls and levees would destroy many marshes and probably cost taxpayers more in the long run. "[The marshes will] start to erode," said Letitia Grenier, one of the report's main authors. "We'll have bigger waves coming in on high tides and storms -- and more flooding. We'll lose our wildlife. And eventually the wetlands will be gone. You'll see levees and concrete seawalls. The water in many places will be higher than the land, like it is in New Orleans." A 2012 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that melting ice and expanding warming water will raise the sea level of the bay by one foot over the next 20 years, two feet by 2050, and five feet by 2100. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Veterans Administration Drafts Master Plan for West L.A. Campus
The Department of Veterans Affairs released the draft master plan for its West Los Angeles campus, proposing to transform the 388-acre campus into a center for permanent housing with clinical services, and to cease leasing VA facilities to private entities. The plan resulted from a legal settlement on behalf of more than 4,000 chronically homeless veterans in Los Angeles, who alleged that the VA was illegally leasing land to corporations, schools, and other organizations without providing adequate care for veterans. "This is a good start and reflects hard effort," Gary Blasi, a professor of law emeritus at UCLA who works with the VA to end veteran homelessness, told the Los Angeles Times. "There is still more work to be done, particularly to make sure all voices of veterans and the most important stakeholders have been heard and responded to." Interested parties will have 45 days to submit comments before a final document is ready in early 2016.

Los Angeles Subway EIR Upheld
A California appeals court upheld Los Angeles' Final Environmental Impact Report for the Purple Line Extension, rejecting a challenge from the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District over a section of the subway to run under the Beverly Hills High School Campus. The project will extend the subway from its current terminus at Wilshire/Western to Westwood. The first section of the project between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/La Cienega, is under construction. The second section to downtown Beverly Hills and Century City is in the pre-construction phase and remains on schedule.

Coastal Commission Wades into Sea World Dispute; Faces Suit
Facing a rising tide of criticism over its treatment of killer whales, the parent company of SeaWorld San Diego has said that it will sue the California Coastal Commission for conditions tied to a land-use permit that would ban killer whale breeding in the theme park. SeaWorld had proposed a $100 million project to expand the enclosure for the park's 11 killer whales, but the commission panel added a condition to approval that would force SeaWorld to stop breeding whales and import no new whales. "It simply defies common sense that a straightforward land-use permit approval would turn into a ban on animal husbandry practices -- an area in which the commissioners have no education, training or expertise," Joel Manby, president and chief executive of SeaWorld Entertainment, said in a statement.

SF MTA Endorses 'Google Buses'
San Francisco's Metropolitan Transportation Agency will recommend that Google's bus and commuter shuttle become permanent and continue to use Muni bus stops, with some new conditions. Calling the pilot program a success, MTA nevertheless requests in its plan that the buses stay off residential streets, pay a fee of $3.67 every time a shuttle visits a Muni stop and avoid labor disputes by increasing wages. Critics of the pilot program, which mostly transports the city's elite to and from Silicon Valley using existing bus stops, say that the program is exacerbating the city's housing crisis by increasing rent and is worsening air quality in neighborhoods.

Housing Costs Leading to Overcrowding in L.A.
A new report finds that Los Angeles' steep housing costs are forcing the city's poor -- comprising more that one quarter of residents -- to overcrowd into homes, resulting in health issues, lower student achievement, and psychological issues. The report, issued by the California Housing Partnership Corporation, finds that a household must earn four times the state minimum wage to afford the average asking rent of $2,016 per month, forcing those who cannot meet those costs to pack more people into units. To accommodate low-income renters, the report finds that Los Angeles County would need an additional 527,722 homes, though the loss of redevelopment funds has made affordable housing development more difficult.

Train Manufacturer Eyes Sacramento
State high-speed rail officials are calling for bids from high-speed rail companies to build about $3.2 billion worth of rolling stock for the system. German company Siemens is currently in a good position for a bid at its Sacramento plant, as it opened a 125,000-square foot manufacturing facility this year on French Road and set up a full-size mock-up of a bullet train car on the state Capital lawn. "It would be fabulous for the region if we could get this additional business,"  Armin Kick, the executive in charge of Siemens' Sacramento bullet train development efforts, told the Sacramento Bee. "It would set up Sacramento as the (national) hub for high-speed technology. And these hubs, like Silicon Valley, don't move around. It would bring additional employment and technology-driven jobs." If Siemens got the bid, it would likely bring along hundreds of jobs to Sacramento. Other competitors may include Bombardier of Canada, Alstom of France, Talgo of Spain, Italy-based AnsaldoBreda, Japan's Kawasaki, South Korea's Hyundai Rotem and two major Chinese companies. The California High Speed Rail Authority will ask for the bids to build the trains in mid-2016.

CARB Endorses Shasta SCS
The California Air Resources Board has determined that the Shasta Metropolitan Planning Organization's Sustainable Communities Strategy meets the board's greenhouse gas reductions target for the next 20 years. The goals, implemented by the sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, set standards for the state's Metropolitan Planning Organization to meet regional greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020 and 2035.

Costa Mesa to Use Zoning to Curb Vice
In order to shut down problem motels that have become hot-spots for drug use and prostitution, the city of Costa Mesa is looking to revise its property zoning rules to allow motel owners to change their zoning from commercial to high-density residential, hopefully clearing the way for large apartment complexes to be built in place of the run-down motels. In doing so, officials hope that the changes would boost property values and incentivize the motel owners to sell their properties. In a 3-2 vote to begin the process of incorporating the changes into the city's general plan revision, the City Council hopes to save more than $100,000 in costs due to mounting police calls in recent years. "We're looking at ... properties that have been a cancer to the city," Councilman Jim Righeimer told the Orange County Register. "This is using the general plan to fix a crime issue." The zoning changes, if approved, would apply to 12 regions, centered around 14 of Costa Mesa's 17 older motels, which are largely remnants of an the 1950s and '60s, when inland families would vacation in a city that offered cheaper rates than Newport Beach.

Santa Ana Kills Moratorium on Short-Term Rentals
Santa Ana officials surprisingly declined to extend the city's 45-day emergency moratorium on short-term rentals for an additional 10 months and 15 days. City Councilmembers, taking a turn from residents' uproar over an out-of-control short-term rental in West Floral Park neighborhood, instead heard from residents who spoke against extending the ban. Councilwoman Michele Martinez, who brought up the moratorium last month, led a unanimous City Council in moving the short-term regulation issue for consideration by the Development and Transportation Council Committee. "My goal is not to be restrictive, prohibitive and overreaching," Martinez told the Orange County Register.

Major L.A. Redevelopment Finally Moves Forward
After three decades of false starts and financial woes, the long-awaited Marlton Square redevelopment in Los Angeles is one step closer to coming to fruition as Kaiser Permanente broke ground on its new $90 million, 100,000 square foot community center there. The facility is included in an 8.65 acre property bought by Kaiser in 2012 to build a Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw medical facility. The Kaiser project joins several other redevelopment efforts in the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw area, including a $2-billion light rail line that will connect Crenshaw to the Los Angeles International Airport is slated to open in 2019. A new residential and retail village is also planned around the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. The 22-acre site was first tapped for redevelopment in 1984.

SunCal Reported to Look at Oakland Coliseum
A new developer is poised to take on a larger role in the development of a new Oakland Raiders stadium. The developer, Southern California firm SunCal, recently met with city officials to discuss closing the $400 million funding gap needed for a new stadium at the O.co Coliseum site. Officials with the team and the city are remaining publicly mute about this prospect. 

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