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CP&DR News Briefs, February 29, 2016: San Diego Stadium; Group Wants to Fund Water, not Train; O.C. Bus Overhaul, and More

Noemi Wyss on
Feb 29, 2016

Having failed in their bid to relocate to Los Angeles, the San Diego Chargers will pursue a new stadium and convention center in downtown San Diego. The proposal flouts Mayor Kevin Faulconer's proposal for the team to remain in Mission Valley in a replacement for Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers' project will go before voters, and free the Qualcomm center for UC San Diego and San Diego State University. The Chargers' project may receive public funds from a voter-approved TOT increase that can receive tax money from hotels. The Chargers will receive $100 million grant and $200 million loan from the NFL for not sharing the Inglewood stadium that will be occupied by the relocating Los Angeles Rams. There seems to be voter reluctance on grand expenditures, but the team hopes the center can bring economic activity year round such as Comic Con, Super bowls and other large events. The Chargers have indicated that they may pursue the "Tuolumne Tactic" to avoid CEQA review by proposing a ballot initiative for voter approval; this would permit the City Council to approve CEQA exemptions even before a popular vote takes place.

Group Seeks to Divert Rail Money to Water
California Water Alliance, a coalition from California's agriculture industry is gathering signatures for a ballot initiative to use the High Speed Rail bond money for new water projects.  The proponents of the initiative want to reallocate the existing $8 billion and include the $2.7 billion approved for water storage by voters. With half these funds the backers hope to raise Shasta Dam, create new reservoirs and water storage systems throughout the state. Additionally they want to change the constitution that domestic water use and irrigation are first two highest priorities ahead of environmental conservation. As Jim Earp, member of California Transportation Commissions points out to the Los Angeles Times, "They have basically a deeply flawed measure. They couldn't resist overreaching. They couldn't resist the temptation to rewrite water laws to benefit corporate farmers who are going to underwrite the campaign." The farmers behind the efforts have $2 million set aside for signature gathering.

OCTA to Reorganize Bus Service
Orange County Transportation Authority announced a major overhaul of its bus system. OCTA planners have recommended reallocating resources from low to higher demand areas. Very little bus service in South Orange County will be reduced and routes in Santa Ana and the system's central core will be improved. Comments came from disabled residents who worried of shrinking Access same-day taxi program and increased cost; they was assured the hours will be extended and the transfer will be free for 18 months. New service improvements will go into effect in June, and service reductions implemented in October. OCTA had only 47 million boardings during 2015, the lowest since 1997. With the changes to the original proposal, percentage of riders without service went down to 2 percent.

Mission Bay Alliance Appeals Warriors' Office Space Allocation
In another complication for the approved Warriors' arena in Mission Bay, the Mission Bay Alliance is appealing the San Francisco Planning Commission's approval of the project's office space allocation. The group, which has already filed a suit to stop the arena, claims that the city ignored the requirements of Proposition M � a voter-sponsored slow-growth initiative that created an annual limit on high-rise development  -  when it approved more than 600,000 square feet of office space for the two office towers located within the arena complex. "This is just the latest example of the City overlooking clear violations of the law in order to jam through an ill-conceived sports arena," said Bruce Spaulding of the Mission Bay Alliance in a statement.

Light Rail to Santa Monica Opens May 20
Connecting downtown Los Angeles with Santa Monica, the Expo Line light rail will open May 20. The 6.6-mile extension cost $1.5 billion and will follow closely to the 10-freeway before ending at Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue, a short half-mile to the Pacific Ocean. The 15-mile trip from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica will take 46 minutes and trains will run every 12 minutes. This is Metro's second ribbon-cutting in three months, the first was an 11.5-mile extension of the Gold line from Pasadena east to Azusa Pacific University. The two extensions were funded through a half-cent sales tax increase by Measure R voted on by residents in 2008. Four of the seven new stations have no parking, and Metro is partnering with ride-share provider Lyft to track potential customers. See prior CP&DR coverage

Caltrans Issues Survey on 2018 State Rail Plan
Caltrans is gathering input for the California State Rail Plan for the next 20 years. The plan will address improved rail and community connections and "have positive effects on mobility, environmental health and economic vitality," according to Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. The Rail Plan will be completed in 2018 and will provide long-term strategy for intercity and commuter rail operators, freight railroads, and communities to plan for the future. The Plan will include a vision for integrating the high-speed rail, prioritize funding, and meet greenhouse gas emissions reduction mandates. A public survey is available on the website through March 4. 
Los Angeles Councilmember Faces Recall Vote over Development
Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian is facing a recall petition over alleged favoritism he has shown to development interests over community requests. Krekorian represents North Hollywood, Valley Village and Studio City. The petition to oust the Krekorian has five sponsors who argue he supported zone changes and exemptions for projects that conflicted with city rules, opposed efforts to designate historic monuments, and failed to respond to concerns about dangerous demolitions. Krekorian told the LA Times, [JS1] "there will always be a few disaffected and unhappy individuals, but I'll continue to work hard every day to represent the interests and the values of the people of the 2nd District."  To win the recall, 15 percent of the district, or in this case 18,000 residents, must sign the petition.

Ventura Rejects Growth Cap
The Ventura City Council voted, 0-6, against a controversial proposal called the Residential Allocation Plan, which would have limited the number of developments the city could approve in coming years.  It would have allowed approval of up to 1,050 units in a three-year period, with no more than 450 in any single year. The program would have ranked housing proposals by existing city goals, such as housing type, near existing infrastructure and providing transportation. The program was rejected 5-0, by the Planning Commission in November. While the City Council has rejected the cap in the RAP, members have said that they will look closely at design guidelines, zoning and the General Plan.

Mobility Plan Would Put Downtown San Diego on Road Diet
The San Diego City Council is considering a Downtown Mobility Plan that would introduce a new network of 9.3 miles of protected bike lanes, 5.5 miles of pedestrian greenways, curb bulb-outs, road diets, and more. The city estimates the plan will cost just under $64 million. Funding is not a significant barrier as local sales tax pays for active transportation projects and the regional planning agency sets aside funds to encourage biking and walking. The public has until March 11 to give comments; the City Council will vote in May.

Legislation Would Prevent Trademarking of State Parks
Assemblymember Ken Cooley has introduced legislation to block concessionaires from trademarking names of California State Park lands. Last month, a privately held company Delaware North, which had run concessions in Yosemite National Park, claimed the trademarks for Curry Village, Badger Pass, the Ahwahnee Hotel . National Park Service is planning to change the names of these assets rather than pay royalties to Delaware North. Cooley's bill is designed to prevent any such trademarking.

Billionaire Seeks $30 Million to Open Property for Coastal Access
Vinod Khosla, billionaire venture capitalist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, is asking the state to pay $30 million as well as costs for road repairs, annual operations and maintenance to provide public access to Martins Beach. Khosla bought property above the beach as well as another parcel, for $32.5 million in 2008 . Khosla has refused to allow access across a 49-acre parcel, including the road, beach and coastal cliffs citing high cost of maintenance and liability. The Friends of Martins Beach, Surfrider Foundation and Khosla have been suing for almost six years. California Senate passed legislation in 2014 ordering State Lands Commission to negotiate with Khosla for a year, or the beach would be seized by eminent domain. The year ended in December and no agreement has been reached.

SPUR Calls for Second Transbay Tube
The urban thinktank San Francisco Planning and Research issued a white paper recommending the development of a second Transbay Tube to expand capacity of the regional rail transit network. The paper suggests that the combination of the Bay Bridge plus the current tube connecting Oakland and San Francisco is nearing its capacity, with no increases since 1974. The White Paper lists multiple alignment possibilities and station locations. The authors argue the Bay Area lacks a modern regional transit system that can withstand earthquakes, increased populations, and growing interest in public transit over driving. The paper calls for regional to incorporate a second tube into regional plans currently being drafted.