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CP&DR News Briefs, February 1, 2016: L.A. Transit Ridership Declines; SANDAG Sales Tax Measure; TOD ADU's in Oakland; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Jan 31, 2016

A report by the Los Angeles Times indicates that transit ridership in the Los Angeles area has steadily declined since the Great Recession. Ridership on Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus and rail lines dropped 10 percent from 2006 to 2015, to 453 million boardings. Other agencies experienced similar drops Metro has spent over $9 billion on construction of new light rail and subway, more frequent bus times, changing routes, but the ridership has not increased. Orange County bus ridership fell 30 percent in the last seven years. The shift could be because of gas prices, fare increases, changes in job markets, locations of ridership, law that allows illegal immigrants to apply for drivers license, increase in rides by companies like Lyft and Uber, among many others. Metro plans to spend $12 billion over the next decade for new rail lines and three extensions.

SANDAG Considers Sales Tax Initiative
The San Diego Association of Governments is gathering citizen input  through phone conferences, meetings and online surveys to gauge support for a proposed half-cent countywide sales tax measure. Possible projects, which are all included in the agency's recently adopted Long Range Transportation Plan, range from walkable communities, highway improvements, surface rail, bike lanes and more. SANDAG is seeking public input in order to tailor the ballot measure according to voters' preferences. The proposed sales tax would remain in place for 35 years.

Oakland to Allow Transit Oriented Accessory Dwelling Units
The City Council of Oakland will now allow construction of secondary housing units or backyard cottages without dedicated parking if the lot is within half a mile of a bus or BART station and relaxing height and setback requirements. As Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a press release, "This will also help preserve the diversity of our communities by keeping renters and owners in the same neighborhoods, while creating income opportunities for homeowners who also feel the pressure our region's high cost of living." Berkeley passed similar rules last year; however it banned the use of these new units for short-term rentals such as Airbnb.

Gilroy Revokes Approval of 4,000-Home Development
In response to a lawsuit recently filed by the Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation Commission, the City of Gilroy has pulled the application to develop Rancho Los Olivos, a 4,000-home project on 721-acres bordering south Gilroy. The $3 billion project has faced two lawsuits and over 2,000 complaints. The land is not inside Gilroy's city limits, and must be annexed first with approval from LAFCO. The project has been shelved until the 2040 General Plan has been completed.
 
Study: Airbnb Profits Create �Full Time' Hosts in San Francisco
A study by Pennsylvania State University shows that profits from Airbnb are prompting landlords to short-term rent instead of long-term. San Francisco is one of the most profitable markets for Airbnb landlords, with 300 "full-time" hosts making a total of $44 million, which is 22 percent of the Airbnb profit across the entire city. Studies estimate that San Francisco has lost between 10 and 12,000 units, which hurts the already suffering housing economy in the city. Airbnb calls the Penn State study flawed as many hosts list their units available for the entire year, but rent out for much fewer days.

Fresno Approves Novel Rules for Tiny Homes
The City of Fresno has, according to city officials, become the first city in the nation to officially accommodate the emerging trend of tiny houses. The city recently updated its building code to allow landlords to park tiny homes on existing lots as secondary dwellings. These eco-conscious homes can provide homes for caregivers living in the backyard or as rental units for extra income. Fresno's new rules require that tiny houses, which are generally around 300 square feet, to be on wheels. "This is an important step forward for the tiny house movement because it sets a precedent for other jurisdictions nationwide," says Amy Turnbull, one of the directors of the American Tiny House Association, told the Fresno Bee. "This ordinance sends a clear message: we need to adapt our codes to accommodate new housing models and we need to do it quickly and decisively."

Sierra Club Files Suit to Block The Edge's Malibu Homes
The Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit to block development of five homes by U2 guitarist The Edge in Malibu. The homes were recently approved by the Coastal Commission after a long debate.  The Sierra Club contends that the project's full impacts were not assessed in accordance with CEQA and that the EIR must consider alternatives with no homes or a single home. Evans first applied in 2011 and was denied, he then sued along with three other Malibu property owners saying it was an unconstitutional taking without compensation. A compromise was made with a scaled-down version and a farther set back from the ridgeline. The opponents of the project want the area to remain open space.

L.A. Launches Comprehensive Transportation App
The City of Los Angeles, in collaboration with Xerox, has launched an app that helps commuters choose travel routes while also taking concerns for health and environmental impact into account. The Go LA app provides detailed information on every available mode of getting around the Los Angeles region. Go LA aggregates and calculates the time, cost, carbon footprint, and health benefits from walking, biking, driving your own car, parking, taking public transit, or using transportation network companies. The details provided include length of trip, price, number of calories burned, and how much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. As the app learns more about its user's individual preferences, it will eventually recommend and highlight personalized commuting options. 

High Speed Rail May Switch First Segment
In a reversal of plans announced in 2012, the California High Speed Rail Authority announced that its initial operational segment may be from San Jose to Bakersfield. The first segment was originally to be from Bakersfield to Los Angeles. Crossing the San Gabriel and Tehachapi Mountains is a complicated and expensive segment of tunnels and aerial structures. In a hearing Jan. 27 HSR Chairman Dan Richard said, "It may take us a little longer than we said to do this" but did not elaborate. A business plan update is expected in the next few weeks that will show reductions in cost.
 
L.A. Abandon's Ambitious Olympic Village Proposal
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced that UCLA will serve as the Olympic Village for the city's 2024 Olympics bid. A projected estimated to cost $1 billion to $2 billion had been proposed for the Piggyback Yard property owned by Union Pacific Railroad, near the L.A. River. Backers hoped that Piggyback Yard site could be converted to much-needed residential housing following the Games. It also would have been a centerpiece of the city's plans to revitalize the L.A. River. (See prior CP&DR coverage.) 
 
Sacramento Considers Upgrades to Downtown Public Spaces
Sacramento officials announced plans to rebuild two public spaces adjacent to the capitol building, Capitol Mall and Crocker Park. City Councilman Steve Hansen hopes to turn the Mall into an event and festival space, will bring the topic to the attention of the City Manager to discuss with the City Council in March. Crocker Museum has plans to turn Crocker Park into Sacramento's own "Central Park" with sculpture gardens, art-oriented children's playground, performance area and potentially a parking garage underground. With the new $507 million arena under construction, plans for 10,000 more housing units downtown and others, city officials are calling for a revitalization of the downtown public space.
 
Group Says San Luis Obispo Can't Handle Student Population
A group of San Luis Obispo residents are asking Cal Poly SLO to cap its student body in order to return the city to a "well-maintained family community" instead of the "alcohol-consuming venue for large numbers of students" it has become, according to a petition circulated by the country. In 2015, 7,377 of the university's 20,049 students lived on campus. The group claims that the city cannot absorb so many students living off campus. The petition calls for the university to reduce enrollment to 18,000 in 2017 and 20,800 in 2035, compared to the 25,000 in the master plan. Cal Poly President Armstrong said enrollment would remain steady around 21,000 for the next few years, with 65 percent of students housed on campus. The city council has not yet weighed in on the petition.
 

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