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CP&DR News Briefs July 25, 2016: Warriors Win Arena Lawsuit; Norco Rejects Hindu Temple; Alameda Co. Bans Fracking; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Jul 24, 2016

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Garrett Wong ruled the city’s environmental review of the proposed Golden State Warriors’ arena in Mission Bay neighborhood was adequate. The court ruled the mitigations were reasonable and that local transit agencies were notified and able to respond to add additional services. The arena will be called the Chase Center after the team reached a deal with JPMorgan Chase. The main opposition to the project is the Mission Bay Alliance made up of UCSF donors. They argue the 18,500-seat arena will create congestion and slow access to the medical center. The team says the Chase Center will open in 2019.

Norco's Rejection Hindu Temple Prompts Accusations of Discrimination
The Norco City Council rejected, 5-0, a proposed Hindu temple that did not fit “western aesthetic” required by the laws of a city known as Horsetown, located in the Inland Empire. Those in favor of the project say it is “thinly veiled cultural discrimination.” The developers appealed to city leaders to meet city standards by lowering the building’s height by ten feet and removing the traditional dome. Council members raised other concerns about adequate parking, water drainage and the effect on residential vistas on the four-acre site. The facility would have drawn people from a 20-mile radius to promote “secular harmony” and “a balance between spirituality and modernity.” The project received seven opposition letters from stakeholders (to one support letter), one of which contended that the temple’s “way of life is not conducive to their beliefs…. I’d like [Norco] to continue on with its hometown atmosphere and not be another casualty of political correctness and tolerance.” The temple’s bakers will have to wait one year before resubmitting a proposal.

Alameda County Bans Fracking
Alameda County has become the first Bay Area County to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing for the purpose of extracting natural gas and other fossil fuels. County supervisors unanimously approved the ban making it the fifth county in the state to do so. The county’s only oil generator, E&B Natural Resources, does not use fracking to extract oil, so the ban is mostly preventative and symbolic. Supervisors contend that the ban will protect residents’ water and their health. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Judge Rules in Favor of Sale of Delta Islands
The California Supreme Court sided with the Metropolitan Water District’s $175-million purchase of five islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. While MWD does not have a project for the land, it has said it could be used for a proposed multibillion-dollar water tunnel system. While this was a win for MWD, there are two other lawsuits facing the Southern California Water District. The first claims a breach of contract and the other argues that an environmental impact report should have been completed before purchase. It could be months or even years before all the legal challenges are resolved. 

Chumash Win Federal Permission to Expand Reservation
The Chumash tribe has received federal permission to annex Camp 4, a 1,400-acre parcel outside the current boundaries of its reservation in Santa Barbara County. The House Committee on Natural Resources moved forward a federal bill that would allow the annexation. Chumash leaders filed for the annexation three years ago, hoping to be freed of the county’s strict permitting process and property tax rolls. The reservation expansion has been the subject of hostility between neighbors and tribal leaders. Those opposed for the bill cite the fact that 10 out of 20 of the bill’s author’s top contributors this election cycle were Indian gambling interests. Others say it is an example of overstepping bounds, and these types of issues need to be dealt with at the local level.

Lawmakers Protest Federal Transportation Grant Decisions
Southern California was excluded from an inaugural round of federal transportation grants aimed at improving freight movement to and from ports, highways, and rail. Local democratic lawmakers sent Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx a letter saying this snub would hurt California and national economies. Los Angeles has the busiest port in the U.S. and is responsible for moving 40 percent or an estimated $396 billion of the nation’s cargo. DOT omitted 16 projects in the six-county region that would improve the Port of Long Beach or pay for zero-emission cranes. Instead the DOT awarded $759 million in projects from Seattle to Louisiana. Only one project, expanding freeway in San Diego County to the Mexican border received $50 million. While the decisions cannot be changed for 2016, the congressional lawmakers hope to make it known how unhappy they are with being overlooked. The delegation is contesting $90 million going to revamp the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington D.C. which connects cars to pedestrian, saying it does not meet the criteria of improving freight movement.

Oakland Approves Rental Protections
The Oakland City Council approved two companion measures to limit the property owners’ ability to raise rents in what is now the fourth most expensive rental market in the nation. The measures will go before voters in November as the Renters Protection Act. They proposals require any annual rent hike of more than 10 percent to be approved by the city. Additionally, the proposal limits the amount the property owners can charge their tenants for capital improvements to their buildings. Buyers of duplexes and triplexes must live in the buildings for at least two years before they are exempt from rent control. Neither measure applies to buildings constructed after 1983, which are exempted under state law that restricts local rent controls.

Los Angeles Strikes Deal with Airbnb to Collect Taxes
The City of Los Angeles will start collecting taxes from Airbnb hosts. The city has had a tax similar to a transient occupancy tax but has faced difficulty making sure the money was collected. In the new deal, Airbnb will collect the tax and hand it over to the city. This would generate an estimated $5 million that may help pay for homeless programs. Airbnb is in favor of the plan and says it will help residents and ensure the city shares in the economic benefits. The tax still represents a paradox. In L.A. it is still illegal to rent out a home for less than 30 days at a time, although planning officials are working on a new law that could legalize and regulate such rentals.

SCAG Issues Report in Advance of Regional Plan Discussions
The Southern California Association of Governments has published a new report called “Toward a Sustainable Future: Is Southern California on Track?” The report hopes to build on the last regional plan by seeking more balance between mobility and housing needs with economic, environmental and public health goals. For instance its goal is to reduce carbon pollution by eight percent in four years and 21 percent by 2040. The four main recommendations include: 1) connecting transportation decisions to impact on climate and communities; 2) investing sooner in alternative transportation; 3) convening leaders and getting better data; 4) and bottom-up regional planning. While good progress has been made in public transportation in LA and Imperial County, major gaps remain in affordable housing in the region.

Updates & Quick Hits

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge denied a request to halt construction on the Regional Connector subway project through downtown LA. The pending lawsuit, filed by owners of Japanese Village shopping center, claims Metro and two construction companies planned to inject a cement-like substance beneath the pedestrian mall without securing easements. This is the third lawsuit the Japanese Village has filed over the Regional Connector.

The Coastal Commission unanimously approved a permit for the planned $2 billion Mid-Coast Trolley in San Diego. The 11-mile, nine-station project will travel through 3.5 miles of designated coastal zone. 

The Santa Monica City Council unanimously voted to put the Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE) initiative on the November ballot. The initiative would subject any new construction over 32 feet or two stories to gain voter approval. While none of the council members supports proposal, they had no choice besides enacting it into law because the group had gathered enough signatures.

San Diego Unified Port District voted, 6-1, to support Seaport San Diego, a $1.2 billion replacement for the 500-foot spire for Seaport Village. The plan includes three hotels with 1,077 rooms, more than 388,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, a 480 “spire” observation tower and an aquarium.

Three lawsuits have been filed in the past month against the City of Long Beach for selling prominent downtown properties without proper parking and traffic studies. The suit alleges the city is “piecemealing” its development projects and not doing a complete environmental study. The plans for the properties include a hotel, luxury apartments, and student housing.

The Alameda City Council voted to place a pro-renter initiative on the November ballot and is now considering placing the current city ordinance-with more modest controls- alongside the renters’ measure. The current ordinance restricts landlords to one increase per year and requiring rises of more than 5 percent to be reviewed by an ad-hoc committee. The pro-renter initiative already approved for the ballot would cap annual increases at 65 percent of the change in the CPI for the previous year. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)
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