A joint committee of the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has approved a draft update of Plan Bay Area. Called “the Final Preferred Scenario,” the update to the region’s long-range transportation and land use plan shows that the region will need to accommodate an additional 800,000 households in the next 30 years. The proposed plan, which serves as the region's Sustinable Communities Strategy, also projects 3.4 million households in the region by 2040, a 30 percent jump from 2010. 46 percent of projected the housing growth will take place in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. The plan also projects a majority of new housing, 77 percent, will come in Priority Development Areas adjacent to transit and job centers. The draft plan now must now undergo an environmental review under CEQA and an action plan that includes measurement and monitoring components and actual policy prescriptions to meet housing goals when Plan Bay Area 2040 is officially adopted next summer. (See prior CP&DR coverage of second-generation SCS's.)

San Diego City Auditor Issues Scathing Report of Expediting Program
The San Diego City Auditor Eduardo Luna released a report finding that many projects fast-tracked under the city’s “Affordable/In-Fill Housing and Sustainable Buildings Expedite Program” were neither affordable, sustainable or even expedited. Luna found half the permits reviewed were completed and not under the deadline. Nearly one-third were granted to single-family homes that should not have been admitted to the program. The program promised an expedited permit for $500 if the project had four or more units. The program, passed in 2003, was meant to reduce the cost to develop affordable housing but was instead solar energy systems for small unit owners. The average size of projects approved was 5,000 square feet, nearly twice the size of the average home, and was located near the coast. The director of Development Services Department reassured that his department would immediately stop letting single family residence into the pipeline. This comes at a time when San Diego needs to be building significantly more affordable housing units.

Stanford Releases Ambitious Growth Plan
Stanford University has released its plan for future growth between 2018 and 2035. The plan envisions construction of nearly 2.3 million square feet of new academic buildings and up to 3,150 new housing units. Instead of developing the 2,000 acres of open space, the university will develop its central campus more intensely and will develop new transit programs. The most controversial part of the document will be traffic: first from long-term construction, second from increased commuter traffic, and third handling congestion management. Goals for the university include new research and teaching facilities, more on-campus housing for graduate students, faculty and staff, and more dormitories for growth in the undergraduate population. The university will hold a presentation about its plan in a “Community Forum” in late January and Santa Clara County will hold a public hearing in early February.

Water Board Calls for Long-Term Conservation
The State Water Resources Control Board has released a new draft conservation plan ban water-wasting practices like hosing down driveways and excessive lawn watering permanently. These practices are banned during the drought, but under the plan urban water suppliers would have to meet new conservation targets by 2025. The reduction would be based on a variety of factors including indoor and outdoor water use, commercial and industrial water use, and water lost due to leaks. As Max Gomberg, climate and conservation manager with the WRCB said, “this really sets us up to better deal with the droughts to come, to deal with climate change and what it’s doing to our water systems up and down the state and to really take us beyond 2020 in terms of our conservation goals on both the urban and agricultural side of things.” The measures will require legislative approval and a final plan will be released in January.

Construction Boom Predicted for L.A. County
Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC)’s Institute for Applied Economics released a study of the construction industry that focuses on Southern California, including Los Angeles County. Funded by JPMorgan Chase, “Building the Future: Construction in Southern California, the Industry, its Jobs and its Economic Contribution” reveals that the regional construction industry has finally rebounded from the Great Recession and poses is significant job opportunities. The industry currently employs more than 313,000 workers across Southern California and is expected to generate 95,000 new jobs in the next five years, with a third being in skilled occupations such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and masons. The report also shows the changing nature of the built environment, predicting that more multi-family residential units will be built. In L.A. County, multifamily permits has risen from 53 percent ten years ago to 81 percent today. However, housing affordability continues to be a major issue with a projected need of an additional 100,000 units per year to be built in California in addition to the 100,000 to 140,000 units expected to be built to mitigate the affordability problem.

Sacramento Planners Seek to Jump-Start Stalled Parks Projects
City park officials in Sacramento are advancing a plan to ask City Council in January to approve a city ordinance to kick-start major parks projects throughout the city. Several parks have been languishing. For instance, North Natomas Regional Park was designed in 2000 to include an amphitheater, botanical garden, farmers market, boathouse, and café. Today, the amphitheater and only few other amenities have been built, but the majority of the 200-acre park is undeveloped as funding ran out. Miller Regional Park and Del Paso Regional Park have similar stories, as do other small parks throughout the city. The shortfalls occurred because the city required developers of new homes and commercial buildings to pay fees to buy and build 5 acres worth of neighborhood or community parks for every 1,000 residents in an area. However, the city does not have the same dedicated revenue source to build regional parks and other larger recreational facilities. The proposed plan does not create new funds but instead shifts about a third of the existing park impact fees from small park development to larger parks. This should free up an estimated $3 million annually.

Oakland Mayor Schaaf Pledges to Support Space for Artists
In the wake of the devastating “Ghost Ship” fire that killed over 30 people in an improvised live-work artists space in Oakland, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced the dedication of $1.7 million in philanthropic funds to support sustainable, long-term solutions to creating affordable and safe spaces for Oakland’s artists and arts organizations. Funds coming from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation will go to the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST)- a nonprofit real estate organization, that will have financial and technical assistance programs to support art organizations facing displacement. Mayor Schaaf also announced additional city staff will support arts and culture in Oakland. CAST’s new two-year pilot initiative “Keeping Space—Oakland” launches in December and will assist arts and cultural organizations that are seeking real estate expertise and funding. The program will offer grants up to $750,000 to arts organizations that have been or are facing displacement in Oakland.

San Jose Sues Santa Clara over Santa Row Development
The City of Santa Clara filed a lawsuit regarding San Jose’s Santana West development project. Santana West is a 13-acre development across from Santana Row, south of Santa Clara’s municipal boundary. The project is proposed to have 970,000 square feet of office space and 29,000 square feet of retail. The property includes the Century 21 Theaters, which is a historic landmark. San Jose City Council approved the project and its EIR in October but Santa Clara had sent a letter to San Jose in September objecting the approval of the project. Santa Clara claims the project’s EIR is inadequate and that approving the project is inconsistent with San Jose’s General Plan. The City of San Jose had recently filed a similar lawsuit against Santa Clara’s 240-acre City Place Project. The suit comes on the heels of a lawsuit by San Jose protesting Santa Clara’s approval of CityPlace. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Clovis Adopts Specific Plan to Enhance Downtown, Promote Mobility
The Clovis City Council approved a new Central Clovis Specific Plan which covers 676-acres and is the long-term plan for the next 30 years. The city is proposing new bike lanes, additional pedestrian walkways, more housing and a downtown that would attract college students that attend the local colleges. Planning Director Dwight Kroll hopes to reinvest in residential development because more residents in Old Town mean an improved business environment. Kroll says building second units on the back of homes facing into alleys will double densities without changing the outward appearance. The plan follows the adoption of ambitious downtown plans for neighboring Fresno. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Los Angeles Moves Forward on Anti-‘Mansionization’ Policies
The Los Angeles City Council voted, 13-0, to update two sections of two city ordinances that regulate size of homes. The aim of the policy is to place restrictions on “mansionization”- the practice of constructing houses that are far larger than those nearby. Councilmember Paul Koretz said the complaints about “very boxy, ugly homes” are lead by developers who want to build as many bedrooms to make maximum profit. One measure would reduce the allowable square footage for houses in R-1 zones to 45 percent of overall lot size. This is down from 50 percent previously. The second change will be to eliminate provisions that allow homebuilders to build 20 percent larger houses when they followed environmentally friendly design standards.

Quick Hits & Updates

The Pacer County Board of Supervisors approved, 4-1, the Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan. The development includes an 850 room hotel, condominiums, and residential units. The project is expected to cost $1 billion. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

The Strategic Growth Council’s data from its second round of Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program awards is now available. The data includes in-depth information on each of the innovative housing and transportation project that were awarded grants, including amounts of affordable units to be built, types of transportation improvements, community co-benefits, and more.

In Los Angeles, more than 75 organizations asked the Board of Supervisors for a March Ballot Measure to address the worsening homelessness crisis. The organizations included homeless advocates, business, labor, faith-based and environmental organizations. The number of homeless in LA County has increased by 123 percent in the past 3 years and now includes more than 47,000 people.

The Sebastopol City Council unanimously approved the city’s new general plan with a last minute amendment to accommodate the wishes of a fifth-generation resident and her illegal in-city farm because of change in zoning. Before the meeting her parcel was allocated to remain zoned at medium residential density (MRD), which does not allow for the amount of animals she has. The change from MRD to low residential density allows her to keep her farm in compliance.

Facebook is investing in affordable housing in Silicon Valley because of its plans to expand its headquarters in Menlo Park. The company will spend $20 million to construct affordable units and assist tenants facing eviction. (See prior CP&DR commentary.)

San Francisco State University is the only university in California named to this year's League of American Bicyclists list of Bicycle Friendly Universities. This is the first time S.F. State got the award and the University is proud to be awarded Bronze Level status.

L.A. Metro’s Board of Directors approved the final environmental study for the Airport Metro Connector 96th Street Transit Station that would serve the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Green Line. This will also be the main transfer point for the future LAX people mover train that sends passengers between the rail station and the airport’s terminals.

A judge struck down a Kern County voter initiative passed in 2006 that banned dumping of about 450,000 tons a year of treated human waste from Southern California on Kern County farmland. The City of Los Angeles purchased Green Acres, a 4,700-acre farm in 1999 for $15 million for treated waste to be used as fertilizer and soil amendment. A lawsuit filed by a coalition of farmers, contractors, and public agencies led by the city to abolish Measure E made it a misdemeanor to dump treated waste known as biosolids on unincorporated county land.

The California Transportation Commission announced that the 50-mile mixed-use pathway in Coachella Valley would receive $24 million in grant funds, but is now recommending that the money go to five projects in other parts of the state. Apparently the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG) made an error on the state application that could cost them the funds to build the CV Link. The commissioners will meet to make a final decision.

In an ongoing dispute with billionaire Vinod Khosla, the California State Lands Commission decided to explore condemnation proceedings to gain public access to Martin’s Beach. If the Commission decides to proceed it will be the first time in 78 years that it has used the condemnation rules. The three-member panel directed its staff to study the use of eminent domain after two years of negotiations with Khosla to obtain an easement on his property failed.