CP&DR News Briefs July 5, 2016: California Transportation Plan; November Ballot Measures; Bay-Delta Plan Blocked; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Jul 5, 2016

Caltrans released the California Transportation Plan 2040, a long-range integrated approach to transportation planning that is multimodal, sustainable and environmentally responsible. Caltrans describes the plan as taking a "whole system" approach toward the state's transportation system that integrates statewide long-range modal plans and programs with the latest technology and tools to articulate the State's broad vision for a single, seamless transportation system that complements regional transportation plans, sustainable communities strategies and land-use visions for greater mobility choices. The plan included input from governmental agencies, tribal governments, advocacy groups, public stakeholders, elected and appointed officials, and community-based organizations from around the state. The CTP includes recommendations and goals for meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets and how to make transportation in California more sustainable and integrated. More information is available at www.californiatransportationplan2040.org.

November Ballot to Include Major Measures Related to Land Use
The November statewide ballot, to be finalized this week, will likely include several measures related to land use. California lawmakers proposed a $3.12 billion bond for the November ballot that would pay for parks, water and climate change actions; 20 percent of the bond must assist disadvantaged communities. Tens of millions of dollars are for specific programs in San Diego, Ventura County, Central Valley and the High Desert/Coachella area. The improvements in state and local parks would improve public safety, health and air quality through added green space. The state parks have maintenance backlog of over $1 billion. The measure was approved in the Assembly, 55-14, and must now go to the senate for a vote. Another measure slated for the ballot is a “No Blank Checks Initiative” which would require a public vote for any state project that spends more than $2 billion in revenue bonds. This initiative could apply to many infrastructure projects, including high speed rail and a plan to construct water tunnels in the Sacramento Bay-Delta. Finally, a measure to legalize recreational marijuana is sure to raise local zoning questions about dispensaries and commercial growing facilities. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Judge Blocks Bay-Delta Management Plan
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny ruled the current management plan for the Sacramento Bay-Delta must be “set aside” because the comprehensive management plan for the estuary is no longer valid. This means a serious delay in Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build the two water tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This means for the tunnels to get built, state officials have to prove the project complies with the Delta Plan for managing land use and water exports in the estuary. The Delta Plan balances the “co-equal goals” of protecting the environment in the Delta and providing stable freshwater for the Southern half of the state. Kenny said the plan fails on many of the environmental issues and failed to provide quantifiable targets for achieving reduced Delta reliance.

Airbnb Files Suit Against San Francisco
Airbnb is suing its hometown, San Francisco, for its decision to fine the company $1,000 a day for unregistered hosts. The fine is intended to compel hosts to register, and may transient occupancy taxes, in accordance with city regulations adopted in early 2015. San Francisco affordable housing advocates have pushed Airbnb to cap its short-term rentals and required hosts to register with the city. However, reports indicate that only 20 percent of the 7,000 hosts registered and Airbnb has not assisted the city. Airbnb is combating the suit by claiming that the city’s regulation violates the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that shields websites from the actions of contributors. Airbnb claims that it is not responsible for content posted by unregistered hosts.

Lands Commission to Address Diablo Canyon Closure
The State Lands Commission is considering whether to waive an environmental impact report for the closure of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in order to speed up its planned decommissioning. The Diablo Canyon twin-reactor facility could forego environmental review and close the site by 2025, nine years before the contract is up. The plant, managed by PG&E, is 31-years old and would close 20 years ahead of planned termination. The twin reactors are located in San Luis Obispo County and built near seismic faults that have triggered an environmental movement to shut down the facility. PG&E says the reactors could withstand a strong earthquake, but the electricity is no longer required from this plant.

Anaheim Bans Short Term Rentals
Anaheim, home of Disneyland and other tourist attractions, has become the largest city in California to ban short-term rentals outright. The Anaheim City Council for the ban during a five-hour special session. Hosts of the 363 permitted STR have 18 months to stop renting. Residents of the city said the vacationers were ruining their quality of life by staying in “mini-hotels” with all-night parties, littering streets and taking up parking spots. STR owners say they invested into turning eyesore properties into beautiful homes. “The sharing economy is exciting and something that gives people a chance to earn extra income but this is not really the sharing economy,” Mayor Tom Tait told the Orange County Register. “These are motels in residential neighborhoods.”

Costa Mesa Approves Plan Update
Amid ongoing controversy about housing in Costa Mesa, the Costa Mesa City Council voted, 3-1, to approve updates to the general plan through 2035. Included in the plan is a program to incentivize motel owners along Harbor and Newport boulevards to demolish their establishments to build high-density apartments. However, affordable-housing advocates say these motels are last-resort housing for many families and individuals. The city said these new units would be 40 units per acres, and 20 percent required affordable for lower-income households. There may be a lawsuit, as these types of incentives may violate state law because it does not set aside low-income units.

Updates & Quick Hits

LA Metro released its draft EIR for the Airport Metro Connector 96th Street Transit Station, which will serve trains on the Crenshaw/LAX line, Green Line, buses, cyclists, pedestrians and the Automated People Mover that brings people to the LAX terminals.

The Monterey City Council approved a citywide bike share program. The city also approved its Climate Action Plan, after receiving a $250,000 grant from the Coastal Commission and the Ocean Protection Council to update its plan.

Richmond has adopted one of the state’s most liberal marijuana regulations. It will allow an unlimited number of permits for commercial cannabis growing operations as well a business permits to produce edibles like cookies, brownies and tinctures. Mayor Tom Butt estimates it will generate $1 million each year.

California senators have approved, 35-1, a $2 billion bond to assist counties in offering permanent housing for mentally ill homeless people. The money would come from an existing fund for mental health care financed by a tax on millionaires that was approved in 2004.

A Stanford University study found that California has three times more groundwater than was earlier estimated. However, this water is located in deeper aquifers,1,000 to 3,000 feet underground, which would require much more money and engineering expertise to access as drinking water. The water quality is unsure, and may require desalination.

The OCTA board voted unanimously to cancel the 3.2-mile, $300 million Anaheim Streetcar project. The Transportation Authority will now conduct a study of the Harbor Boulevard corridor and come up with less expensive transit solutions for the corridor. 

The California Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling that said certain tax increases only need a simple majority instead of two-thirds of voters as required by Proposition 13. Having the court review a case will take months, or even years, before a final ruling is made. The ruling will not affect measures on the November ballot. Supporters of a ballot initiative to approve a new football stadium in San Diego had hoped for the 50 percent threshold.

Ocean Avenue South, a mixed-use, mixed income development in Santa Monica, is one of 26 global finalists for the 2016 Urban Land Institute Global Awards for Excellence. Half of the projects 160 units are affordable housing and was funded by the city’s former redevelopment agency.

L.A. Metro is recommending a combined development team of Trammell Crow Company and Greenland USA to begin negotiations for development of the 15.6 acre Red/Orange Line station in North Hollywood. The project would be one of Los Angeles’ largest transit oriented developments.