San Francisco Considers Major Streamlining Proposal
San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Joel Engardio proposed new legislation that would eliminate Planning Commission meeting hearings delaying development by months or even years. The proposed legislation would "eliminate unnecessary processes and hearing, eliminate certain requirements and geographic restriction and expand housing incentive programs," according to Mayor Breed's news release. The legislation targets the conditional use approval process requiring developers to appear before the commission on projects already compliant with zoning laws. The legislation focuses on north and west sides of the city, with higher resources and increasing units. Mayor Breed hopes the change will help build multifamily housing, increasing the flexibility in location and form for housing. Breed also announced a program to permit public financing of infrastructure costs for projects, as well as a proposal to adjust the site permitting process.
Lawsuits Threaten Treasure Island Redevelopment
The companies leading the redevelopment of San Francisco's Treasure Island--Kenwood Investments, Stockbridge Investments, and Wilson Meaney--are suing each other over expected returns on the project. The project is set to be the largest housing development in Northern California, redeveloping the naval based to include approximately 8,000 units of housing, retail property, parks and public transportation. Some fear the lawsuit will delay the project. Two of the three real estate companies are suing the third over a longer projected timeline, decreasing previously anticipated profits. The third real estate company is countersuing on the grounds of a conspiracy to breach contract for profit. The project agreement dates back to 2001, with concerns in where share now lies between the three companies due to contract changes over the years. The redevelopment poses a huge economic boon to the developers involved, but the site poses environmental issues and barriers, including lawsuits over environmental concerns. The most recent project on Treasure Island is a 138-unit project including 71 units for formerly unhoused families coming out of supportive housing, 43 units of lower-income housing and 23 homes for current residents. 27% of the homes and apartments slated in the redevelopment will be affordable housing as part of the 2011 approval of the project.
State Chooses Developer for Major Parcel in Sonoma County
Following months of considerations, the California Department of General Services selected the Grupe Company and Rogal & Partners to head the $100-million redevelopment project at the former Sonoma Development Center in Sonoma Valley. The deal requires the firms to purchase a 180-acre plot of the 945-acre state-owned property "as is" to create a mixed-use development including 620 housing units, businesses, a proposed climate research center and a hotel. The rest of the acreage will be preserved open space. The supervisors hope the project will create 900 new jobs. The deal between the county to lead a project on state-owned land is first of its kind in the state. The Grupe Company and Rogal & Partners were chosen for their previous project experience and consistent plan for the site. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
Report Quantifies Vacant Land in Major Cities
A new report from CommercialCafe ranks the 20 most populous cities in the US with the largest amount of vacant acreage, with Los Angeles ranking 6th highest, San Diego ranking 12th, San Jose ranking 13th, and San Francisco ranking last among the 20 cities studied. Los Angeles specifically has over 40,000 acres of unused land (against a total area of 502 square miles) with an average parcel size of 1.25 acres across almost 34,000 parcels of land. The study additionally found 11 million square feet of unused office space in Los Angeles. According to the study, there exists ample space in Los Angeles to develop but, despite the high demand in Los Angles for housing, the city's approvals process is slow. New incentive programs exist in the city to spur density and speed up the permitting process. A different study earlier this month found Los Angeles ranked almost last in the nation's large cities issuing new residential permits. San Diego and San Jose both have around 11,000 acres of vacant parcels, though San Diego's total area is nearly twice as big as San Jose's. San Francisco has a grand total of 473 acres of vacant parcels. Dallas and Fort Worth rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the story.
CP&DR Coverage: Court Chastens Clovis over Density Workaround
In a complicated ruling, an appellate court has concluded that Clovis – an affluent suburb of Fresno – violated the Housing Element Law by using a citywide overlay zoning district (known as the Regional Housing Needs overlay) that still allowed lower densities than the Housing Element called me. The court also made important decisions on the discrimination front, saying that “disparate impact” can be found even if a project is not denied and that the overlay problem also created a violation of the state’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing law, or AFFH. Legal experts are debating the significance of the ruling, especially since it appeared to find fault with the approach of the Department of Housing and Community Development, which found Clovis’s Housing Element compliant. UC Davis law professor Chris Elmendorf said that even though HCD was criticized in the ruling, overall it was a win for the state. The ruling, he said in a tweet, “lets HCD make practical judgments about what's reasonable and workable rather than itself being a box-checking stickler.”
Quick Hits & Updates
The California Department of Housing and Community development found both the City of Pleasanton and the City of Orange's 2023-2031 Housing Elements non-complaint. The city of Orange cited multiple land parcels unlikely to be inventoried land including an existing hotel, school, training facility and multiple shopping centers. Pleasanton's Housing Element lacked proper insight into the same, in addition to unaddressed environmental issues and Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing policies and programs.
The Inglewood City Council unanimously approved a development plan to relocate 41 business and 305 workers to make way for a people mover between the Metro K Line and stadiums. The $12 million plan includes "relocation specialists" for each business presently located at the Inglewood Center shopping plaza and the Holly Park Plaza.
A lawsuit filed against the city of Coronado by nonprofit Californians for Homeownership concluded with the court siding with the city. The original lawsuit claimed the city illegally refused ADUs permits with new, single-family homes. The court found that, of 89 permit applications for ADU filed in the city between 2013 and 2020, the city approved all but 14 simultaneous construction of ADUs and single-family homes.
Following a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife released a recommendation to protect the greater sage grouse under the state's Endangered Species Act. Their report found the Center for Biological Diversity's petition contained enough scientific evidence to list the birds as either endangered or threatened.
A developer in Claremont submitted a Preliminary Housing Application (SB 300) under the "Builder's Remedy" for an 87-unit project at the site of the former La Puerta Middle School. The project would include 20% low-income housing, making it eligible for a streamlined review under the "Builder's Remedy" state housing law.
Researchers have found even more evidence concerning the health and community impacts of warehouse facilities on low-income communities and communities of color. The report details the burdens of air pollution, noise levels, and congestion on residents living near warehouses. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
A development group proposed a $2.5-billion soccer stadium to a host a new Major League Soccer team in San Diego County's Vista Bayfront. Petra Development Group plans to singlehandedly pay for the stadium.
As part of Alhambra's longterm planning for roads and infrastructure, the city is hearing early plans for the end of the 710 Freeway to reconfigure the interchange. Presently, the end of the freeway creates excess traffic in Alhambra, and the plans to address the Freeway deposits includes converting the six-lane freeway stub into a four-lane street with extra pedestrian accessibility.
Huntington Beach City Council approved a 90-day plan to address homeless in the city. The plan follows the City Council's vote against a housing plan addressing homeless. The new 90-day plan includes outreach, communication to business owners about resources and rights and a review of existing programs for the unhoused population.
Fresno has joined the ranks of eleven new jurisdictions designated Prohousing by the state. "This designation comes at a critical time as we work to address availability and affordability in Fresno," Mayor Jerry Dyer said.