Three environmental groups are suing Riverside County over a climate action plan and amendments to its general plan. Plaintiffs claim that, contrary to the plan's stated goals to combat climate chance and protect the environment, the plan actually creates increased traffic, air pollution and threats to wildlife. Plaintiffs include the Center for Biological Diversity, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, and the Sierra Club. The groups argue that the Board of Supervisors violated CEQA by certifying an inadequate environmental impact report. The county argues its plans are up to the state's standards and designed to assist California in meeting its GHG emission-reduction targets. According to the groups, Riverside County is not discouraging sprawl by increasing density in existing cities, not actively reducing pollution, and allows for developments near sensitive wildlife areas. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 22.
NFL Approves Rams' Move to Los Angeles
After a 21-year wait, the National Football League has finally approved the relocation of a team to the Los Angeles area starting in the 2016 season. NFL owners voted, 30-2, to allow the St. Louis Rams to transfer to Los Angeles. They will temporarily play at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and then move to a new stadium complex in Inglewood. The San Diego Chargers have a one-year option to join, but must decide by Jan. 15, 2017 or else the Oakland Raiders will get the year-long option. If they both choose to stay in their home markets they will each get $100 million for their own new stadiums. The proposed stadium in Inglewood will open in 2019 and cost almost $3 billion with no public funds. The 298-acre site will include entertainment, retail, housing, performing arts venue, and privately financed stadium with 70,240 seats.
Study of Bay Area Carbon Footprint Released
UC's CoolClimate Network, which includes researchers from UC Berkeley and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, recently released a ranking of census blocks in the nine-counties in the Bay Area according to carbon consumption. The per-household measurements are based on transportation use, food consumption, goods and services used, energy to heat or cool home, materials going into construction, electricity use and waste. The study is the first detailed carbon study of a major metropolitan area. "One of the things that really struck me the most was the wide variation within cities," Christopher Jones, program director of the CoolClimate Network, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Oakland, for example, has some of the highest and lowest carbon footprints in the entire Bay Area, all within the same city." The study found that Atherton has the largest per-household carbon footprint in the Bay Area, at 85.7 tons; Emeryville has the smallest, at 30.7 tons.
Caltrans Issues Statewide Bikeway Guidelines
Caltrans has issued a long-awaited "Class IV Bikeway Guidance" (pdf) document to assist planners and engineers in building protected bike lanes. In 2014 the Protected Bikeways Act mandated Caltrans create a category and guidance documents. The guidelines provide, for the first time, a statewide standard to help local planners design and implement bike infrastructure. The document is written with a permissive rather than restrictive attitude to encourage the local jurisdictions to specialize to fit their communities. The guidance document are continuing protected intersections, loading zones and driveways. This document is designed to help engineers and planners build bike lanes for those commuters less comfortable with using the road alongside vehicle traffic. "We didn't want to dictate from a Caltrans statewide perspective," Kevin Herritt, chief of Caltrans' Office of Standards and Procedure, told Streetsblog. "The guidelines are intended to be flexible, so that all local jurisdictions can do what they need to do given their specific local circumstances."
Coalition Proposes Region-wide Tax to Restore San Francisco Bay
A coalition of Silicon Valley business leaders, Bay Area Council, and environmental groups such as Save the Bay are teaming up to create a new local tax for the Bay Area to vote on in the next election. This initiative would put a $12 tax on each parcel to grow a fund for bay restoration to protect against rising sea levels. If approved this program would raise $500 million over the next twenty years for levees and restoration of natural buffers such as marshes and wetlands. The tax poses complex issues in communities not adjacent to the Bay, such as Gilroy, Livermore, and Half Moon Bay that would still pay the tax. There is discussion of structuring it more like a benefits assessment; those that live closest to the potential danger should pay more. The San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority voted Jan. 13 to place the measure on the June 7 ballot.
Los Angles Landlords May Pass Some Seismic Retrofit Costs on to Tenants
Under a plan recently approved by the Los Angeles City Council, property owners and tenants can split the costs of seismic retrofitting, with tenants having rent increases of less than $38 a month over a ten-year period. The plan clarifies an ambitious ordinance passed in October that requires around 15,000 buildings to be retrofitted, especially unstable wood-frame apartments and concrete buildings. The costs of retrofitting these types of buildings could cost between $130,000 to millions. With the cost-sharing discussion resolved, the question of implementation remains. Property owners have seven years to retrofit wooden apartments and twenty-five years for concrete. According to Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety there are approximately 13,500 soft-story wooden buildings that need retrofitting. The city is continuing to search for financing options to assist landlords such as low-interest loans, permit fee waivers and tax breaks.
Ojai Approves Total Ban on Short-Term Rentals
Enacting what may be the strictest limits on short-term rentals in the state, the Ojai City Council voted, 5-0, to ban informal rentals from sites such as Airbnb and VRBO in all areas of the city including mixed-use and commercial zones. Councilmember Betsy Clapp told the Ventura County Star, "online business model circumvents and undermines community zoning laws" by allowing renters who do not enroll in schools, volunteer or contribute to the community. While some citizens said they rely on short-term rentals for financial support, the majority of the community was against this new home-based hotel system. The council also voted, 4-1, to subpoena Airbnb, VRBO, and others for records on existing vacation rentals in Ojay. The restrictions go into effect Feb. 1.
Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Suit over Santa Ana Sucker Fish
By refusing to hear a suit brought on by 21 Inland Empire water agencies, the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively put to rest an ongoing dispute over the protection of the Santa Ana sucker fish, which has been listed as threatened since 2000. The species lives in a specific 2-3 mile stretch of the Santa Ana river in Riverside, with over 9,000 acres in the county designated as critical habitat. Plaintiffs claimed the designation was based on flawed science and threatens billions of dollars of future water capture and groundwater recharge projects. With the ruling, the agencies must develop plans to protect the species.
McKeever to Step Down as SACOG CEO
Mike McKeever has announced, that 2016 will be his last year as Chief Executive Officer of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. During McKeever's 12-year tenure as CEO, the organization has been recognized as an active participant in collaborative regional decision making. The work of SACOG and the region is highly regarded nationally for the visionary Blueprint framework, the Rural Urban Connections Strategy (RUCS), several high performing Metropolitan Transportation Plans, and programming hundreds of millions of dollars for members and partners to construct transportation projects that increase transportation choice and mobility. Don Saylor, SACOG Board Chair for 2015 and Yolo County Supervisor, said in a statement, "Mr. McKeever is a tremendous asset to the Sacramento region. He has assembled a great team at SACOG and has been extremely effective at serving our diverse 31-member Board." A successor has not been announced.
Transfer of Control over Ontario Airport Nears Completion
Following an agreement over the sale of Ontario International Airport to the City of Ontario, the city is applying to the FAA take control of airport operations. Approval could come as early as July, thus substantially completing transfer of the airport from Los Angeles World Airports to the city. There are multiple payments being negotiated between the various cities, airports and agencies. Los Angeles World Airports will operate ONT during the transition phase and assist with the protection of workers positions and salaries. Upon transfer, Ontario will owe LAWA $120 million, to be paid for largely through $2 per-passenger fees.
Redondo Beach Develops Plan for Waterfront
The City of Redondo Beach is considering a public-private partnerships to redevelop its pier and other waterfront properties. Infrastructure repairs to fix the pier, crumbling parking garages and waterfront cost around $108 million. CenterCal Properties and the city of Redondo Beach are working together on a $250 million project called Waterfront Redondo. The plan has 11 acres of public open space, improved beach and swim area, public market, 700-seat specialty theater, hotel, retail space, and wider boardwalk. Some residents have expressed concerns over restricted views, threats by exploding sea lion population and resistance to a mall by the sea. The proposal will go to the City Council in March for approval.
Accessory Dwelling Units Catch on in Marin County
The San Rafael City Council voted, 3-2, to approve "junior second units." Council members agreed that additional units need to be built in the city. However, two council members disagreed on the requirements for the new units, expressing concerns about overcrowding and excessive parking use. The new junior second units will be constructed without minimum lot size or additional parking spaces. Officials will monitor the program for two years to watch for overcrowding or other problems, which warrant revisions. The move is part of a trend in Marin County. Novato and Tiburon adopted ordinances earlier and Fairfax, Larkspur and Belvedere are moving towards adopting standards.
San Jose Considers Approval of Apple Facility
Even as Apple Computers constructs its new headquarters in Cupertino, the company has received endorsement from the San Jose planners for the construction of a new campus in North San Jose, near the airport. This 86-acre development would bring 16,000-20,000 Apple employees to the area. The development plan gives the campus 4.15 million square feet and 15 years to add buildings. Planners see the campus as an anchor for economic development in that part of the city.