Rep. Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) is sponsoring a bill, the California Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act, that would reserve roughly 300,000 acres of Southern California desert for off-road vehicle use. The bill has been approved by the US House of Representatives and is now being considered in the Senate. Almost 90 percent of Cook’s district is federal land, and the goal of the proposal is to balance conservation concerns with off-roaders’ desire to roam. Cook introduced a similar bill in 2015 which would have allowed new mining claims, expanded off-roading areas, and made Mojave Trails National Monument a less-restrictive special management area. The California Wilderness Coalition supports the bill, but the Sierra Club says too much land is set aside for off-roading.
UC Davis Plans for Increase of 5,000 Students
The University of California, Davis released its new Long Range Development Plan and accompanying EIR for approval before the latest meeting of the UC Regents. The new plan would include capacity for an additional 2 million square-feet of academic and administrative space and up to 9,050 beds of new on-campus housing. The plan forecasts 18,868 students by 2030, a 5,000 student increase, and 2,000 employees over the next ten years. UC Davis also asked the regents to approve construction of a new student housing at West Village that would include 3,265 new beds for incoming transfer students and continuing undergrads. Groundbreaking for the West Village expansion is targeted for late 2018 with over 1,400 beds ready by fall 2020 and the rest available fall 2021. The LRDP outlines housing, academic space, and enrollment projects for the next decade.
San Mateo County to Vote on $2.4 Billion Transportation Measure
The San Mateo County Transit (SAMTrans) Board of Directors approved placing a measure on the November ballot that would invest approximately $2.4 billion from a new half-cent sales tax in a plan designed to relieve traffic congestion in the county. The San Mateo County Congestion Relief Plan includes five investment categories, eleven core principles, and an independent oversight process to ensure that revenues are invested in accordance with the Plan. The three main priorities are reducing highway congestion, reducing congestion on local roads, and increasing and improving public transit options.
Klamath River Dam Removal Seeks Federal Approval
The corporation created to remove four Klamath River dams has filed its “Definite Plan for the Lower Klamath Project” with the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC). The 2,300 page document provides analysis and detail on project design, deconstruction, reservoir restoration, and other post-deconstruction activities related to the proposed removal of the four dams. The FERC will now review the plans to confirm the corporation has the technical, legal, and fiscal capacities to become the licensee of the dams. The dam removal project is expected to improve water quality, revive fisheries, create local jobs, and boost tourism and recreation.
Beverly Hills Launches Another Protest against Subway Extension
In another chapter of a long-running conflict between stakeholders in Beverly Hills and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the group “Friends of Beverly Hills High School” is calling Trump and US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to withhold federal funds in order to force Metro to reroute its Purple Line subway extension into Century City under Beverly Hills High School. The group refers to the subway as the “Purple Menace” for its alleged potential to damage the school. The matter had been settled years ago when a federal court ruled that construction could proceed. Starting early July, an online petition on change.org asked President Trump to prevent Metro from running the subway under BHHS. The petition gathered 122 signatures after being posted for nearly a week. Meanwhile, the Beverly Hills School Board voted unanimously to approve a contract with Geo Instruments to monitor subway construction under the campus of Beverly Hills High School. The contract includes perimeter dust, vibration and sound monitoring. The data will be stored and accessed by the district’s legal team, presumably to serve as the basis of any complaints or protests that might be filed. (See prior CP&DR commentary.)
State Reaches 40 Million; Faces Declining Birth Rates
California’s population will finally surpass 40 million this summer. However, the state’s birth rate has fallen to its lowest rate ever, there are greater rates of out-migration than in-migration, and international immigration remains low. According to the Orange County Register, the state’s policies surrounding underinvestment in schools, infrastructure, and housing discourages family creation and adds to the high cost of living. This had led to a rapidly aging Californian population as many of the younger population are leaving the state.
Quick Hits & Updates
The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a proposal to divide California into three cannot be placed on the ballot. The state Supreme Court wrote that “significant questions have bene raised regarding the proposition’s validity” and “the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election.” However, the court asked sponsor Tim Draper to respond with any reasons why he believes the lawsuit is wrong, leaving open the possibility that the “Three Californias” might make it onto a future ballot.
A new report from RentCafe found that the number of families with children who own homes in San Francisco metro area has dropped dramatically, while an increasing number are renting. Researchers found a ten percent decrease in homeowner families, meaning 31,000 fewer households with children within the metro area. There was a 33 percent jump in a decade in families renting. Between 2013 and 2018, median prices of a single-family home soared 80 percent while rents increased by 39 percent.
San Clemente city officials are suing the Transportation Corridor Agencies, alleging that it is in violation of the California Public Records Act because it has not turned over information regarding money spent on lobbyists and public relations in its outreach over expanding toll roads throughout the county. In the lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court, city officials believe the information they requested will show the toll road builders have spent more money on lobbyists than on building new toll roads. City officials estimate in two decades, TCA has spent upwards of $20 million for these services to avoid consolidation of the OCTA.
A Santa Cruz neighborhood group Opal Cliffs Recreation District says rather than negotiating with Coastal Commission officials it does not need renewed permission to charge $100 annual fee to access a county park known as Privates Beach. The district argues it already has the right, established by state and county permits, to sell gate keys and use proceeds to keep the beach clean and safe. The California Coastal Commission has stepped in and voided the entire gate operation, declaring that access to the beach is a fundamental right guaranteed to everyone. The commission demanded the group start the permit process from scratch, however the district leaders fought back and withdrew from the process entirely.
The City of Berkeley Zoning Board has turned down an infill housing project near the Ashby BART station in order to preserve an existing gas station. The project would have had no residential car parking, but 48 bicycle parking spots and six commercial spaces for the planned ground-floor café. The South Shattuck Plan specifically called for a pedestrian-scale mixed infill development on undeveloped lots but the city did not follow its adopted plans.
Warner Bros has proposed a tramway that would transport visitors to and from the Hollywood Sign, starting from a parking structure next to its Burbank lot. The Hollywood Skyway would cost an estimated $100 million and would take visitors on a 6-minute ride to a new visitors center near the sign, with pathways to a viewing area. The purpose would be to give visitors a way to see the letters without driving and hiking through residential neighborhoods.
After a three-year investigation, investigators with US HUD found the City of Port Hueneme had mismanaged millions, in some cases charging for the same thing more than one and overcharging the housing authority for work done by city employees. Under a settlement recently finalized between the two groups, Port Hueneme will ultimately pay $230,000 to HUD.