Apparently hoping to lure the San Diego Chargers northward, real estate magnate Philip Anschutz has proposed a football stadium in a newly created redevelopment project area near Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Mayor James Hahn has endorsed the proposal even as Los Angeles County prepared to sue the redevelopment action.
The Los Angeles City Council approved the creation of an 879-acre redevelopment project area in the southern part of downtown in early May. The day after the council dropped a proposal to ban the use of redevelopment funds for a stadium, Anschutz and his company, AEG Entertainment, unveiled stadium plans and revealed that they had purchased much of the necessary land.
The other major development expected in the redevelopment project area is a new hotel. The L.A. Convention Center — located adjacent to Staples — has languished in recent years, apparently because a convention-quality hotel does not exist nearby. Conventioneers must stay several blocks north and shuttle to the convention center.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a former Los Angeles city councilman, has led the effort by Los Angeles County to sue. He claimed that the project, which is expected to generate more than $2 billion in tax-increment funds over 45 years, is "taking money out of the mouths of poor people" and "defies common sense."
A Little Hoover Commission report on the state's housing shortage recommends the state play a much larger role in ensuring housing gets built. The report notes that in 2000, California housing production fell short of need for the eleventh consecutive year. The report contains five major recommendations for the state:
o Strengthen the housing element law and refocus it to ensure housing gets built, not simply planned.
o Reform brownfields policies to encourage affordable housing development.
o Draw more investors into the housing market by promoting partnerships, identifying new sources of capital and encouraging cities and counties to streamline permit processing and be flexible with development fees.
o Provide more subsidies for unit construction and infrastructure.
o Make subsidies easier to access, streamline reporting requirements and provide technical assistance.
The report, "Rebuilding the Dream: Solving California's Affordable Housing Crisis," is available on the Little Hoover Commission website, www.lhc.ca.gov/lhc.html
The City of Santa Rosa has adopted an affordable housing fee that will be imposed on market-rate units. The sliding scale ranges from 40-cents-per-square-foot for 850-square-foot units, to $7.35 a square foot for homes of 2,000 to 4,500 square feet. City officials hope the fee, besides raising money for affordable housing programs, will encourage development of smaller units that are more affordable to working families.
A variety of housing, conservation and other land use programs were hit in the annual "May revise" of the state budget. Gov. Davis proposed reducing the Housing and Community Development budget by $27.9 million, including a $11.5 million cut in the Farmworker Housing Program.
The proposed 2002-03 budget eliminates $39 million in subventions the state would pay local governments that participate in the Williamson Act farmland and open space protection program. And the governor's budget recommends eliminating the Williamson Act backfill permanently.
The budget would force redevelopment agencies and multi-county special districts to participate in the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund, which shifts property tax dollars from local governments to school districts. Under the May revise, redevelopment agencies would send about $75 million to schools, and multi-county special districts would lose about $45 million to schools.
The State Water Resources Control Board would lose $6.2 million for its stormwater pollution control program.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has ordered California to end farmers' exemption from the federal Clean Air Act. The federal decision was issued to settle three lawsuits over Central Valley air pollution filed by the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment and other environmental and health groups.
The decision appears to mean that huge diesel engines that power water pumps must have emission control devices. Dust from huge livestock operations would have to be controlled better, as would the spraying of pesticides.
Farmers contend that urbanization and Bay Area smog are to blame for the valley's air pollution, which ranks among the worst in the nation (see CP&DR Environment Watch, April 2002). If the state does not eliminate the exemption by October 2, the federal government will take over Clean Air Act enforcement on farms.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service issued a final designation of critical habitat for the San Bernardino kangaroo rat in late April. The agency designated 33,295 acres in western San Bernardino and Riverside counties as critical habitat for the k-rat, which has been central to Southern California endangered species battles since the 1980s.
The decision appeared to satisfy neither environmentalists nor builders. The critical habitat designation is about 22,100 acres fewer than originally proposed, and biologists questioned the elimination of some areas the USF&WS said were not necessary for species survival. On other hand, about 90% of the critical habitat area is privately owned and much of it is subject to intense growth pressure.
The City of Tustin and the Santa Ana Unified School District have settled a dispute over reuse of the Tustin Marine Corps base (see CP&DR Deals, October 2001). Under the agreement, the school district, which had wanted 100 acres for school sites, will get 22 acres for an elementary and middle school, plus $38 million to buy land for a high school elsewhere. If the designated 22 acres proves too polluted or the district opts not to use it, the city must pay the district another $22 million.
The City of Milpitas has sued the City of San Jose for approving a 180-megawatt power plant in the Alviso neighborhood, near the border of the two cities. The lawsuit claims that the environmental impact report did not adequately address the visual and air quality impacts of the proposed 90-foot-tall combustion stacks and 60-foot-high cooling towers. Milpitas filed the suit in late March, about one month after San Jose approved Calpine's Los Esteros Critical Energy Facility. The California Energy Commission began conducting public hearings on the project in May.
Wal-Mart announced in May it plans to open 40 "supercenters" across California during the next four to six years. At approximately 225,000 square feet, the supercenters are 50% to 100% larger than most existing Wal-Marts in the state. The supercenters include full grocery stores. Less than a week later after Wal-Mart's announcement, Albertson's said it would build 30 new grocery stores and remodel 82 others in Southern California, and the chain plans to build 96 new Sav-On drugstores and remodel 20 more.
A City of Redondo Beach specific plan for redevelopment of 150 acres along and near the waterfront will be the subject of a voter referendum. Opponents of the "Heart of the City" plan formed in March because of the scale of development the plan would allow (see CP&DR Local Watch, January 2002). They quickly gathered enough signatures to force a vote during the November election.
The nonprofit organization Greenbelt Alliance has released a new guidebook that provides details on 12 strategies for infill and mixed-used development. The report by Stephen Wheeler recommends updating zoning ordinances, revising parking requirements and preparing specific plans for neighborhoods.
"Smart Infill: Creating More Livable Communities in the Bay Area" is available at http://www.greenbelt.org/resources/reports/index.html.