A pact between California, Oregon and a private utility, PacifiCorp, could finally lead to the demolition of four hydroelectric dams that block salmon migrations up the Klamath River. It does so without requiring direct federal involvement and, therefore, without requiring congressional approval.  In 2010 a pact gave US Interior Department a major role in decommissioning of dams and required Congress to sign off on the removal; Congress refused to do so last year hen it was in the throes of partisan gridlock. According to the agreement California will contribute $250 million in state bond money and PacifiCorp customers will pay a surcharge up to $200 million, which should cover the estimated costs. The removal of the dams will be managed by the new Klamath River Renewal Corp.
Solar Plant near Baker Wins Federal Approval
In a move designed to increase national energy independence, the Obama administration approved a 1,767-acre solar energy plant at Soda Mountain, in the Mojave Desert. Located near the town of Baker, the project is on land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and being developed by Bechtel. The project will provide enough power for 86,000 homes. Many environmental groups are upset. They claim that the move undermines the administration's recent designation of new national monuments in the California desert and claim that the project threatens migration patterns of desert bighorn sheep. The BLM counters that the approved project is smaller than what was proposed and that steps have been taken to mitigate its impacts on the Mojave National Preserve.  
Berkeley Mayor Advances Housing Package           
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates is proposing a solution to the city's housing crisis that he calls the Omnibus Housing Package. From 2010 to 2015, Berkeley's population grew by 5.5 percent while housing supply increased by 1.2 percent. The proposal includes five main ideas: streamlining approval for "green" housing projects, new city density bonus to create workforce housing, incentives for TOD, increased student housing, and incentives for landlords to rent to low-income tenants. Berkeley Progressive Alliance, which frequently opposes what it considers Bates's pro-development stance, calls the ballot measure speculative. The Alliance wants a ballot measure to increase business license tax on large landlords and taxes on short-term rentals, with proceeds going to a city Housing Trust Fund. Both Bates and the alliance want to raise affordable housing impact fees by $6,000 per unit, although Bates will give discounts if fees are paid early.
San Jose Receives Grant for High Speed Rail Station Area Planning
The city of San Jose has received $600,000 in state and federal funds from CA High-Speed Rail Authority to transition Diridon Station into a regional train hub. The Diridon Station Area Plan lays the groundwork for high-density and transit-oriented development surrounding the station. Through this agreement, the City of San Jos� is receiving $400,000 in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA) funds and an additional $200,000 of state funds to advance the Diridon Station Area Plan process. The station already is a hub for many rail and bus services. "Our Diridon Station Area Plan envisions a vibrant and urban mixed-use setting that serves as a regional hub of jobs, housing, transportation and entertainment," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in a statement. "I thank High-Speed Rail for investing in the implementation of the City's vision for this area, and look forward to working with them and stakeholders throughout the community to create a world-class destination in and around Diridon Station."

Hispanic Homeownership Rises in Central Valley, Statewide       

While homeownership has declined across the country, a new report indicates that Hispanic homeownership rates are steadily increasing, especially in traditionally Hispanic centers such as the Central Valley. According to the State of Hispanic Homeownership Report, since 2000, "Hispanics have accounted for 52 percent of the growth in U.S. homeownership." Issues like wage inequity, lack of employment opportunities, education and training related to homeownership are significant hurdles that prevent Hispanics from purchasing their own homes. Nearly 38 percent of Hispanics in California are millenials, and new programs are targeting these first-time homebuyers by requiring less money down for good credit. There are multiple barriers to Hispanic ownership such as the large group of Latinos that are "credit-invisible" meaning they pay for purchases in cash and therefore have no credit history or are "unscorable".

Long Beach to Pursue Infrastructure Financing Measure
A coalition of Long Beach City leaders have filed papers to put a sales tax measure on the June ballot to fund infrastructure repairs throughout the city. The "Mayor Garcia, Foster & O'Neill Committee to Support the Measures A &B to Protect Police & Fire and Repair Infrastructure in Long Beach" can spent  The tax, currently at 9 percent, would increase to 10 percent for six years; it would then drop to 9.5 percent for the remaining four years. The increase would finance infrastructure repairs and reverse budget cuts affecting police and fire departments. Long Beach Police Officer's Association spent $13,300 on polling to find out voters approval for the tax measure.
Bakersfield Council Protests Proposed Rail Station           
Bakersfield City Council voted, 7-0, to approve comments oppose a proposed interim high speed rail station north of Shafter.  A recently revised CAHSR draft Business Plan indicates that the high-speed train is will stop north of Bakersfield rather than in the center city from 2025 to 2029. The switch will not give the city the economic boost it is expecting from the station for those four years. Calling the system a "fraud," councilmembers claim that the Shafter site contradicts a law suit settlement in which CAHSR pledged to locate a station in Bakersfield. The city and nearby communities have been working with CAHSR to advance the environmental process for a station at F Street and Golden State Highway in Bakersfield. The letter notes that the current proposed Shafter station would increase greenhouse gases locally, by requiring another rail system to connect Bakersfield to the station.

L.A.'s Ports o' Call to Get Makeover
Seeking to revitalize a long-struggling destination at the Port of Los Angeles, developers have released a plan to transform the kitschy Ports o' Call in San Pedro. Rebranded as San Pedro Public Market, the first phase will cost nearly $100 million; construction will begin in 2017 and be finished in 2020. The developers, The Ratkovich Co. and San Pedro-based Jerico Development, are going for an authentic wharf-and-warehouse look similar to San Francisco's waterfront developments. The first phase would take up 16 acres with 150,000 square feet of restaurants, shopping, fresh markets, boutique-style office space and a half-mile promenade.  San Pedro's historic Red Car will return to carry visitors up and down the wharf. The goal is to make the new waterfront area an attraction for everyday, and not just weekends and holidays.

 Demolition of Rent Controlled Buildings Rise in Los Angeles

Amid soaring rental rates, an investigation finds that rent-controlled buildings in Los Angeles are being demolished to build expensive homes, condos and new rentals at an alarming rates. The Los Angeles Times found that more than 1,000 rent-controlled apartments were taken off the market last year, a threefold increase over previous years. City records indicate the loss of 20,000 units since 2001, with tenants evicted under the provisions of the Ellis Act. Many of the recent demolitions are of properties that had been purchased in the past year. To help preserve affordable housing, the city is looking at an annual cap on demolitions of rent-controlled apartments. Activists are also calling for reforms to the Ellis Act.

Bransen Appointed Executive Director of Transportation Commission           
Susan Bransen was appointed executive director of the California Transportation Commission  April 1. She was previously chief deputy director, chief of staff and policy advisor for the agency's director. She replaced Will Kempton, who will continue his advocacy on transportation issues as Executive Director of Transportation California. 

 S.F. Bike Share Program to Expand

San Francisco's Bay Area Bike Share program is expanding, moving into the Mission, further into South of Market and Duboce Triangle. Motivate, the firm that operates the system, announced 72 new potential station locations throughout the city including 700-1000 more bikes. San Jose will see an increase in 13 new stations and 150 more bicycles. The system has annual permits or short-term passes available that allow for unlimited number of 30-minute rides. Since summer 2013, approximately 10,000 people have annual passes and 60,000 have used short-term permits. Online surveys, dozens of meetings were held to learn where people wanted new stations.