The San Diego City Council unanimously approved a new Climate Action Plan, one of the nation's most ambitious plans to cut carbon emissions by creating legally binding mandates for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The plan requires annual emissions be cut in half during the next two decades based on a strategy to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. The plan will also require that the city boost the urban tree canopy by 15 percent by 2020 and 35 percent by 2035, recycle or compost 75 percent of all solid waste by 2020 and 90 percent by 2035, and cut car trips in key transportation areas by 20 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2035. Importantly, since the plan is a legally binding mandate, the city opens itself up to lawsuits from environmental groups and the state attorney general if it doesn't follow through on the plan's promises. The most controversial decision could be whether to implement community choice aggregation, a program that would take control away from the local electric utility when deciding how much renewable energy a city uses.
L.A. Approves Sale of Ontario Airport
The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a $250 million agreement to return control of Ontario International Airport to the city of Ontario. The move comes in the wake of a 2013 lawsuit that Ontario filed against Los Angeles claiming that the city, Los Angeles World Airports, and the airport's board of commissioners had made administrative moves since 2007 that cut flight service and cost millions of passengers and billions of dollars to the local economy. Though the Los Angeles vote concludes local government and airport board approvals for the agreement, no transfer can take place without Federal Aviation Administration approval. If the FAA decides to approve the transfer, the city of Ontario will reimburse Los Angeles World Airports about $60 million for all outstanding Ontario bonds. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
U2's The Edge Gets Blessing from Coastal Commission for Five Homes
U2 guitarist the Edge received approval from the California Coastal Commission to build five homes atop an undeveloped ridge in an unincorporated area of Malibu despite a decade of protest from environmental groups and residents who say the project would needlessly despoil sensitive habitat and mar the visual landscape. Each house will be more than 10,000 square feet and feature its own swimming pool. However, the approved plan is a step back from original plan. It includes efforts to use exterior colors that help the structures blend in with the environment, won't contain as much glass as originally proposed, and the guitarist will conserve 140 acres of the property as open land and allow a hiking and equestrian easement linking to the Coastal Slope Trail. Construction of the homes, on just over five acres, of the property will require 63,390 cubic yards of grading and disturb 17 acres of habitat classified as environmentally sensitive.
Bakersfield Moves Ahead with Station Area Planning
The Bakersfield City Council unanimously approved spending $750,000 to hire a Chicago-based urban planning and engineering firm to plan a downtown station for the state high speed train project. The council voted to hire Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, whose projects include the expansion of Denver's historic Union Station into a regional transportation hub; a master plan for Philadelphia's 30th Street Station Precinct; a high-speed rail terminal in Tianjin, China; and three stations for the All Aboard Florida passenger train network. "They impressed us with their planning and urban design experience. The fact that they've worked on some rail and transit-oriented projects," Community Development Director Doug McIsaac told Mass Transit Magazine. "The main premise is how the city can best leverage and take advantage of the station being located here, for the benefit of the surrounding area and the entire downtown." Bakersfield will contribute $200,000 in staff time to help create the station area plan, but most of the $550,000 to hire Skidmore comes from federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
Los Angeles River Seeks Federal Planning Funds
Thirteen Los Angeles-area members of Congress have signed a letter asking President Obama to include $4.2 million in the fiscal 2017 budget for planning and redesigning the proposed 51-mile Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration project. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said last year the federal government would split the cost, putting the the city on the hook for about $500 million, but a report by L.A.'s chief legislative analyst stated that the city's share of the estimated $1.3 billion cost could rise to as much as $1.2 billion. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) were the original signers of the letter, and were joined by 10 colleagues from the Los Angeles area. "The progress of this project is the product of several years of collaborative work by citizens, stakeholders, and elected leaders to reestablish [the] Los Angeles River as a source of Angelino pride and vitality," they wrote to Obama. "Your leadership to move this transformative project forward will not only improve our communities for today, but the world we leave for our children tomorrow."
Court Rejects Malibu Anti-Chain Store Measure
The Superior Court of California overturned Malibu's Measure R, which voters approved to enact a 30% cap on the number of chain stores in shopping centers citywide and to create a voter-approval requirement for new commercial centers if they measure over 20,000 sq. ft. After their case against the City of Malibu was declined to be seen by a federal judge, opponents of the measure filed the suit in state court.
Carson Considers NFL-Inspired Development Moratorium
In an attempt to entice the National Football League to move both the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders to a shared stadium in Carson, the City of Carson is considering putting a development moratorium on about 600 acres of land adjacent to the proposed stadium. Carson Mayor Albert Robles said the moratorium, affecting land west, north and east of the 157-acre stadium property, will help the city bring appropriate development to the area.
Controversial Hollywood Project Gets Boost
The Los Angeles City Planning Commission officially backed the proposed Palladium Residences development, which would bring two 30-story residential towers and 731 housing units to Hollywood on a stretch of Sunset Boulevard served by bus routes and the nearby Metro Red Line subway. A spokeswoman for Palladium developer Crescent Heights told the LA Times that the company will restrict rents in 5% of the project's apartments for tenants who earn 120% of the region's median annual income. The neighboring AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has said the project is too big for the neighborhood and will accelerate the gentrification of Hollywood, promises to keep fighting as it heads to a City Council vote next year.
Mixed-Use Transit Center Proposed for N. San Diego County
The North County Transit District heard four developers present competing plans to build a mixture of parking, retail, shopping, and residential buildings with the upcoming renovation of the Solana Beach Transit Center. All developers agreed on the basic outline of the project, which includes preserving the hut-shaped train station, expanding parking, adding new uses and fitting in with nearby architecture and activities. Chestnut Properties of Solana Beach proposed The Station Solana Beach, based on "lifestyles and beach culture"; the Strategic Assets Group led by two local businessmen proposed three levels of underground parking and an additional bridge across the below-grade railroad tracks; the Creative Housing Associates of Los Angeles proposed a boutique hotel, which the community currently lacks, and automated parking; the Dahlin Group of Solana Beach proposed an iconic restaurant, 96 apartments, and a park-like area for the community.
Anaheim Streetcar Plan in Jeopardy
Dealing a significant blow to Anaheim's beleaguered streetcar project, a committee of the Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors is recommending that Anaheim officials drop their plans for a 3.2-mile streetcar system. Citing the over $300 million cost and the likelihood that federal funding won't materialize, the ad-hoc committee is recommending that the city quit the streetcar project and instead explore alternatives, like enhanced bus services. "This is not a project that's in the best interest of Orange County taxpayers, who are ultimately going to be asked to pay for the entire project, which will be, including operations and maintenance, $400 million to $500 million," board Chairman Jeffrey Lalloway said, according to Voice of OC.
Rents in San Francisco See Rare Decline
For the first time in eight months, San Francisco's rental market saw a decline in prices, as the city's rent fell by 4.6 percent to $3,500 per month for a one-bedroom in November, according to research from Zumper. Oakland, on the other hand, jumped to become to the fourth-most expensive city, as one-bedroom rents surged to $2,190, a 19 percent increase over the past year, which is the biggest jump anywhere in the country. "East Bay migration is definitely a compelling argument � the fact that Oakland rents continue to outpace San Francisco. in percentage terms shows there's a healthy appetite for property there, even as prices are now ahead of Washington, D.C. and San Jose," said Devin O'Brien, head of strategic marketing at Zumper. "I think there's also a certain threshold at which it doesn't make sense for people anymore. Once rents hit a certain percentage of income, people just will refuse to pay and look for alternate options, perhaps with a commute." One caveat of the data is that it focuses on one- and two-bedroom units, and San Francisco and Oakland both have a large percentage of their stock as single-family homes, which are often rented out to multiple tenants.
$11 Million at Stake for Oakland Transit Village
Oakland may finally realize its long-awaited transit village next to the Coliseum BART Station, but not before contributing an $11.6 million subsidy to the project with no guarantee of ever getting it back. The Oakland City Council's Community and Economic Development Committee will vote on Dec. 22 on whether to sign a development agreement with Oakland Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit corporation that has consisted of a transient cast of businessmen and whose non-profit tax status was earlier revoked for failing to file tax forms for at least three consecutive years. Until recently, the development was planned as a market-rate project, but now the developers say that half of the apartments on the 1.3-acre lot would be affordable. The plan requires Oakland to provide public funds via an $11.6 million loan with a 55-year term and a stipulation that Oakland Economic Development Corp. won't have to pay a cent back if half the apartments remain affordable. BART would have to agree to lease the parking lot to the developer.
Riverside Considers Streetcar Line
Riverside officials are looking to Arizona for evidence that a long-awaited 12-mile streetcar line could revitalize the city's ailing downtown area through an influx of development and college-aged students into the area. Several Riverside officials, including Mayor Rusty Bailey and three City Councilmembers, took a trip to Arizona to see the cities of Tucson, Tempe, and Phoenix, all of which have thrived with new streetcar lines near millennial hubs, which helped convince them that a new streetcar would be directly followed by private building projects. The trip could help sway the opinion of several officials that have been on the fence about Riverside's project. The city's study is six to eight months behind schedule because city planners aren't satisfied with the estimates of how many people might ride a streetcar, and officials acknowledge that laying tracks would be years away and cost hundreds of millions.
Kings Seek EB-5 Funds for Development Around Arena
The Sacramento Kings are utilizing a federal program that trades green cards for hefty investments that create jobs to lure Chinese investment dollars to finance redevelopment of the site around the new Sacramento Kings downtown arena. The Kings and their development partner, JMA Ventures of San Francisco, are planning to build more than $300 million of development in the Downtown Commons, including a hotel-office tower and a shopping and dining district. The EB-5 program, which provides permanent U.S. residence to foreigners who provide investments of at least $1 million, is a source of controversy, with many members of Congress seeking reforms to the program after it sunsets on Dec. 11. The program has produced $11.2 billion in investments in the United States since its launch in 1990 and has provided investors with as many as 10,000 green cards a year, according to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.