CP&DR News Briefs November 6, 2017: San Diego Approves New Vernal Pool Plan; Supreme Court Turns Down Inclusionary Case; Transformative Climate Communities Finalists; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Nov 6, 2017
The City of San Diego’s new habitat conservation plan for vernal pools, approved unanimously by the Planning Commission with a agreement with environmental groups, is facing new opposition from nearly a dozen environmental groups. Under the plan, federal officials would cede authority over projects that would destroy vernal pools to San Diego officials; in exchange the city would protect many pools and abide by a clear set of rules.The plan would accelerate construction of housing tracts and shopping plazas by removing federal approvals so that development of projects proposed for properties with vernal pools can commence significantly more quickly. Opponents contend the plan uses an incomplete inventory of local pools (roughly 2,500 citywide), allows destruction of some important pools, management of the pools is inadequate, and the cost over 31 years will be significantly higher than the $13 million the city officials estimated. City officials say the inventory relies on years of comprehensive analysis of the local vernal pools and stress that the plan will be updated each year as new staff hired become aware of additional needs. The plan is expected to be presented to the City Council for final approval before the end of the year.

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear W. Hollywood Takings Case
The United States Supreme Court turned down a property rights case from developers of an 11-unit condo in West Hollywood that challenged a California requirement about subsidizing the creation of affordable housing. The builders claim the fees violate the Constitution’s prohibition against taking private property “for public use without just compensation”. The California courts have said these fees are not an “exaction” or a taking of property, but rather a reasonable regulation of development. Citing the San Jose case two years ago that said the purpose of the in-lieu housing fee is not to defray the cost of increased demand on public services resulting from the specific development project, but rather to combat the overall lack of affordable housing.

Transformative Climate Communities Program Names Finalists
The Transformative Climate Communities Program received seven concept proposals for implementation grants. The concept proposals were reviewed by an Interagency Review Panel and the following were recommended to be invited to submit Full Applications: Green Together: NE Valley, City of Los Angeles, The Trust for Public Land (Lead Applicant); Ontario Connects - People Places Prosperity, City of Ontario (Lead Applicant); River District Transformation Project, City of Sacramento, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (Lead Applicant); South Los Angeles (LA) Transformative Climate Communities Greenhouse Gas Reduction Project, City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Lead Applicant); Transform Fresno, City of Fresno (Lead Applicant); Watts Rising Collaborative, City of Los Angeles, Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (Lead Applicant). The deadline to submit the full application is Nov. 30. 

Sonoma County Considers Changing Land Use Rules for Fire Recovery
Sonoma County supervisors are considering plans to provide more emergency housing options, regulate cleanup, and create a new fund to pay for some of the disaster response in an effort to speed up the region’s recovery from recent fires that destroyed thousands of structures countywide. One major proposal would allow landowners to temporarily rent out structures on agricultural properties. Another proposal would put standards in place for homeowners who opt out of the government’s free debris removal program, requiring private contractors to meet the same standards as their public counterparts for removing, transporting and ultimately disposing of hazardous waste. Most significantly, supervisors unanimously agreed to place a moratorium on new vacation rental permits and allow housing in temporary locations such as RVs, pool houses, and sanctioned overnight parking lots.

California Named Third-Most 'Bicycle Friendly' State
The League of American Bicyclists ranked the 50 states on their "bike friendliness” in 2017.Washington was number one, Minnesota two and California third. The rankings credited California for five bicycle-friendly actions, but lower ratings on legislation and enforcement. North Dakota, Hawaii and Nebraska were 48, 49 and 50 on the list, respectively. The data was analyzed in five categories: Infrastructure and Funding, Education and Encouragement, Legislation and Enforcement, Policies and Programs, and Evaluation and Planning. Additionally it was noted the number of bicycle friendly actions taken by each state which include Complete Streets policy, safe passing law, statewide bike plan, spending more than two percent of federal transportation money on biking and walking, and a bicycle safety emphasis area. 

San Jose Coyote Creek Named to List of Threatened Landscapes
The Cultural Landscape Foundation announced its list of 2017 Landslide Program, which help raise awareness about threatened and at-risk landscapes and works of architecture. There were 13 places named to the list nationwide, and Coyote Valley in San Jose was the only California place named. Coyote Valley is the largest undeveloped landscape overlaying Silicon Valley’s groundwater aquifer and provides 2,500 acres of floodplain to mitigate flooding. The major threat to the open space includes sprawl from pressure to increase housing in the region. TCLF is nonprofit that educates and engages the public to make “our shared landscape heritage more visible, identify its value, and empower its stewards”. 

Trump Administration Considers Opening Marine Sanctuaries
President Trump has received a report from the U.S. Commerce Secretary with recommendations on which of America’s national marine sanctuaries and ocean monuments should be eliminated or have their boundaries changed. Among the 11 areas listed, multiple are located in California: parts of Monterey Bay, and the Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries off the Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino coasts. The report has not been released to the public, which makes environmental groups furious. As Richard Charter a senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation told the Mercury News, “We’re in a strange new world in which documents that the public has every right to see are being withheld from public view.” Secretary Ross received 100,000 comments this summer during the public comment period, with 99 percent in favor of retaining the existing boundaries of the protected ocean areas.

Quick Hits & Updates

The California Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling on billionaire Vinod Khosla’s repeated refusal to grant public access to Martins Beach in San Mateo County. In 2008, Khosla purchased beachfront property and erected “Beach closed, keep out” signs which began a legal battle. Khosla has 90 days to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the plantiff Surfrider Foundation sees it as a victory that the state’s highest court will not be reviewing the decision. 

San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved plans for a massive development at the city’s Pier 70. The project will turn 35 acres of shipyard into housing, commercial space, waterfront parks, and artist studios. The developer, Forest City, reduced the amount of commercial space from 2.3 million to 1.75 million square feet to satisfy community groups. 

The owners of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows have released plans to link the two ski resorts with a 13,000-foot gondola named the California Express. The project must be approved by Placer County planning officials and the U.S. Forest Service, but the resorts hope to have it running by the 2019-2020 season. The two ski resorts are jointly owned and operated by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, and this project would create the largest ski area in California. 

Disneyland Resort will shelve plans for a new transportation hub and will instead build a 6,500-space parking structure near its shopping district. The transportation hub “Eastern Gateway” would have included a new pedestrian bridge, 6,800 parking spaces, and driveways for taxis, buses, and shuttles. Shop owners around the resort are thrilled the project is dropped because they were worried the bridge would divert foot traffic from their shops. 

Today, Nov. 7, residents of Santa Barbara are voting on Measure C, which would raise city sales tax to 8.75 percent from the current 7.75 percent. The revenues generated would pay for renovation and infrastructure improvement projects and would bring in an estimated $22 million a year, roughly the same as the city’s redevelopment agency before it was dissolved in 2012.

San Francisco landlord Anne Kihagi must pay $3.5 million after a jury found her guilty of harassing and illegally evicting tenants. Kihagi violated the law when she kicked three tenants out of a rent-controlled home and said her sister would be occupying the unit. Kihagi also harassed residents by reducing garbage services, shutting off electricity, and not calling back when repairs were needed. San Francisco’s city attorney won a judgment against Kihagi in May after filing a lawsuit against her saying she waged “a war of harassment, intimidation and retaliation” against her rent-controlled tenants to illegally evict them.

A national survey completed by WalletHub ranked 100 of the largest cities in the county by the “greenest” lifestyle. Seven of the top ten cities are in California: San Francisco (first), San Diego (second), Fremont (third), San Jose (fifth), Sacramento (seventh), Irvine (eigth), and Oakland (tenth). The survey looks at environment, transportation, energy sources, and lifestyle and policy. Some of the indicators used to evaluate include greenhouse gas emissions per capita, miles of bicycle lanes, and average commute time by automobile.

The Fresno City Council unanimously approved the relocation of a meat-rendering plant out of southwest Fresno to a new plant three miles west near the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Neighbors of Darling Ingredients have complained about odors since 2012, when a group of residents filed a lawsuit. As Councilman Oliver Baines said, “The community wins, the company wins, and our city wins.”

The City of Los Angeles selected Gruen Associates to design the final 12-miles of the Valley portion of the Los Angeles River Greenway. The first step will be a detailed feasibility study, which is anticipated to take nine months with community input and review. 

The Trump administration indicated that it opposes the Delta tunnels project, meaning the project might not receive the funding Gov. Jerry Brown was hoping for from the U.S. Interior Department. Those opposed to the project say the comment puts the California WaterFix further in doubt. So far, most of the major State Water Project customers have agreed to participate, with Metropolitan Water District of Southern California agreeing to spend more than $4 billion to build the tunnels. 

Exposition Park officials will update the park’s master plan for the first time since 1993 to prepare for the groundbreaking in 2018 of the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, construction on the Banc of California soccer stadium, and prepare for the 2028 Olympics. The master plan update will be overseen by architecture firm Torti Gallas + Partners, and is expected to take three years to complete.