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CP&DR News Briefs, February 8, 2016: Lester Defends Record; AHSC Posts Funding Notice; Enviros Sue Over Highway Project; and More

Josh Stephens on
Feb 14, 2016

Embattled California Coastal Commission Executive Director Charles Lester released a twenty-page memo (pdf) detailing his accomplishments and reasons for remaining in his position. Several commissioners have called for Lester's removal, citing poor job Over 17,000 letters have been received from the public, letter with 153 signatures from staff of the agency, and numerous comments from political representatives of the state in favor of Lester as director. Environmentalists and supporters of the current leader of the agency say the ousting has little to do with Lester personally, but is instead a move by pro-development groups to gain control of the Commission. The commission is expected to discuss Lester's possible ouster at its Feb. 10 meeting in Morro Bay. 

SGC and HCD Post Notice of Funding Availability for AHSC Program
The Strategic Growth Council and the Department of Housing and Community Development announced the 2015-16 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) and Application for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program. A copy of the NOFA is available here (pdf). Application access is available through the Financial Application Assistance Statewide Tool (FAAST); search for 2015-16 Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program. Concept proposals are due via the FAAST system by 5:00 p.m., Weds., March 16. SGC is holding three remaining statewide workshops this week in Riverside, Los Angeles, and San Diego to assist applicants interested in applying for the 2015-16 Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program. Small group or one-on-one consultations will also be offered to interested applicants on a first come, first served basis. For more information click here. Agenda, presentation materials, and additional guidance are also available on the AHSC website. AHSC Program Staff will respond to questions sent to [email protected], with answers to frequently asked questions posted on both the SGC and AHSC websites on a regular basis. 

Inland Empire Highway Project Faces Lawsuit
The Federal Highway Administration is facing a second lawsuit trying to block construction of a 16-mile, six-lane freeway connecting Perris and San Jacinto. Last May, County Transportation Commission brought the initial lawsuit, which was dismissed. The new claim is brought on by a coalition of environmental groups including Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club. The proposed project will cost $1.7 billion and environmentalists argue it will increase sprawl, traffic, increase air pollution and threaten wildlife.

Moreno Valley Considers Massive Annexation
The City of Moreno Valley is considering annexing 30 square miles of rugged, sparsely populated unincorporated Riverside County north of the city, bringing the city limits all the way to the San Bernardino County line. The move would increase the city's size by roughly 60 percent. Backers of the annexation say it would enable the city to promote hillside residential developments and development of vineyards, both of which are largely lacking in Moreno Valley currently. After the study is completed, the City Council must decide to file annexation with the county LAFCO. (See prior coverage of Moreno Valley.)
 
Bakersfield Hires Firm for Station Area Plan
The Bakersfield City Council voted, 6-0, to hire urban planning and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill to design a station area plan for the High Speed Rail project. The Rail Authority is studying two alignments through Bakersfield: one that would bring the train along the Union Pacific tracks through the middle of the city, or one paralleling the Burlington Northern Santa Fe route north of downtown. The conceptual alignment, along the Union Pacific tracks, would require taking of fewer land parcels but could hurt Kern County's chances of receiving a heavy maintenance facility for the train and the station would not be located in downtown Bakersfield. Bakersfield Planning Director Jacqui Kitchen told the Californian that the city wants "to make sure we get as much functionality out of this effort as we can, and that it's a process that really results in something that is useful regardless of whether the station is built or not."
 
Dam Removal on Klamath May Proceed
In the wake of a partisan congressional impasse, PacifiCorp has announced that will proceed with removal of four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in Southern Oregon/ Northern California. While many groups, including the states of California and Oregon, have long sought for the removal of the dams, PacificCorp's current proposal would exclude habitat restoration and other provisions of the Klamath Agreement. That agreement, made between farmers, tribes and environmental, promises habitat restoration and a reliable supply of water. PacifiCorp will contribute $200 million and Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed an additional $250 million.
 
Farmland Group to Preserve Land on S.F. Peninsula
Palo Alto-basd nonprofit Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), has announced it will spend $25 million over the next ten years to preserve farmland between Pacifica and Santa Cruz County. The group will purchase private property, and resell it at a 90 percent reduction to farmers, with conservation easements in place to ensure that it remains arable. The area has lost an estimated 200,000 acres of farmland since 1984, with farmland in San Mateo County now among the most expensive in the nation. The program is intended to halt developments of hotels, golf courses, and second homes on the Pacific Coast while tripling the acres of protected farmland. Eyeing up to 2,250 acres, POST hopes to promote organic crops and conventional growing, while allowing Bay Area restaurant and markets the option to purchase local produce.
 
Veterans Administration Releases Plan for L.A. Campus
 In a move to address the growing homeless crisis in Los Angeles, a master plan has been released for converting a neglected West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus into a residential community with 1,200 permanent units for disabled and traumatized veterans as well as 700 short-term units. The proposal includes a village for women who have suffered sexual trauma, gardens, theaters, sports fields, gym facilities as well as recreation centers for non-homeless veterans. Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to house all homeless veterans by the end of this year, and a recent survey suggests there are fewer than 800 homeless veterans in the city, down from over 2,000 the previous year. The development would be on VA land, financed with public and private funds. 

S.F., Sacramento Rent Increases Tied for Second Nationally
San Francisco and Sacramento are tied for the second-highest rent increases in the country last year. Their 10 percent increases rank second, beyond only Portland, with 14 percent. The analysis from Yardi Matrix, shows in Sacramento "renter by necessity" appreciated 0.8 percent in the last three months while "lifestyle" renters dropped by 0.5 percent in the same time period. The difference between the two groups is those who cannot afford to own, such as younger adults or lower middle-income groups, and those that choose to rent because of location or preference. Sacramento's rise in rental prices is a result of the limited supply of available units, the ratio of new units to overall is 0.7 percent, lowest among the top 30 markets.

High Speed Rail Commission Names New Members
The nine-member board of directors for the California High-Speed Rail Authority has gained two new members. Lorraine Paskett, a Glendale attorney and CEO of Cambridge LCF Group is a consultant on energy, water and environmental issues. She replaces James Hartnett of Redwood City who became general manager of Caltrain in March 2015. Assembly Member Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) replaces authority vice chairwoman Thea Selby. Lowenthal was a member of the Long Beach Unified School District and City Council before her election to the state Assembly in 2008. Gov. Jerry Brown will appoint the final member.