Biden Proposes Housing Grant Program Discouraging Single-Family Zoning
In his budget request for the next fiscal year, President Biden has proposed a $10 billion state and local grant program that would work to roll back single-family zoning laws in order to increase affordable housing accessibility in whiter and wealthier neighborhoods. In place of his previous $1.7 billion plan in the Build Back Better package, Biden's new proposal would boost funding for housing as well as road, water, and sewer updates in communities that change their zoning laws. The program would also provide funding for research and technical assistance to help facilitate zoning changes. First, Biden's proposal must get through Congress, but his attempt to confront racial and economic housing inequities at the federal level is significant.
Los Angeles to Spend $3 Billion on Homeless Assistance
Los Angeles has committed to spending $3 billion over the next five years to provide housing for up to 16,000 of the city's estimated 41,000 unhoused residents. Beds would be available to those who do not require daily-living assistance. The move comes in response to a 2020 complaint from a coalition of residents that the city consistently fails to care for its unhoused population. While the investment is significant, homelessness experts and advocates are concerned about the tens of thousands of residents who will remain without shelter under this settlement and the reliability of the new shelters. Additionally, many groups hope that Los Angeles will enact policies to alleviate rent burden and reduce homelessness risk.
State Assess Impacts of Climate Change
The Legislative Analyst's Office released "Climate Change Impacts Across California," one report in a series that considers the existing and impending danger of rising temperatures, severe wildfires, more frequent and intense droughts, precipitation that leads to exaggerated flooding, and coastal flooding and erosion form sea-level rise. The report suggests several risks to California's residents and economy, including short- and long-term impacts and permanent changes that make current activities impractical. Researchers also note that burdens will disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color in terms of heightened risks and reduced access to economic resources to respond to climate disasters. The report lastly identifies the need for government coordination, more information to guide actions, prioritization of vulnerable populations, and state-level financial assistance.
Long-Awaited Bus Line Opens in San Francisco
After decades of planning, six years of construction, and a $346 million price tag, San Francisco has introduced its bus rapid transit along Van Ness Avenue, one of the city's oldest, widest, and most congested corridors. Twenty-seven years after the project was first proposed, the city has its first BRT, which features nine north-south stops along a 2-mile section of Van Ness. The Municipal Transportation Agency has suggested that riders will see a 32% reduction in travel times because transit will be separated from car traffic. More benefits include medians with recently-planted trees and public art. SFMTA expects to see a sharp increase in ridership on the 49 line and hopes that, once Muni operators have adjusted to the BRT, riders can travel between Union and Market Street in 15 minutes.
San Diego County Falling Short of Carbon Goals
San Diego County is far from meeting its carbon reduction goals, according to a study conducted by the Energy Policy Initiatives Center at the University of San Diego. Last year, officials requested a regional report to analyze if current climate policies would allow San Diego to reach net-zero emissions by 2035. The study determined that much larger action on transportation and building and policies that would meaningfully change the way residents work and live are required. Climate action must also meet more impactful social equity and regional collaboration goals through improved support for policy success, outreach to stakeholders, and data collection and tracking methods.
Report Touts Potential of Off-Site Housing Construction
A report from UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation, "Scaling Up Off-Site Construction in Southern California," analyzes the existing parameters of regional off-site construction, primarily specific to multifamily, affordable, and supportive housing, and identifies the significant roles of various industry stakeholders in advancing off-site housing production. Graduate student researcher Tyler Puller concludes that, though the last decade has seen an increase in off-site construction in order to meet housing demands, reduce costs and waste, and increase energy efficiency and construction quality, factory production must be more stabilized, and funding must be more achievable for off-site development to make a significant impact. Additionally, off-site producers, housing developers, nonprofits, and local and state governments all have a role in fostering off-site construction for affordable housing development.
CP&DR Coverage: Cities Play Long Game on Sea Level Rise
Though the most dire effects of sea level rise may still be a long way off, cities are, slowly, beginning to account for the threat in their plans. As of yet, the state does not require coastal cities to account for sea level rise in their general plans, although the “State Agency Action Plan for Sea Level Rise,” released in February, calls for cities to include sea level rise in their Local Coastal Plans and/or general plans starting in 2026. And cities can expect OPR to issue further guidance according to 2018’s SB 1035, which calls for cities to incorporate sea level rise into their safety elements and then to update those plans every eight years. SB 1035 builds on 2015’s SB 379, which requires cities to account for all types of hazards related to climate change in their safety elements or local hazard mitigation plans.
Quick Hits & Updates
A campaign in support of a San Francisco affordable housing measure that could end up on the November ballot has begun, with housing advocates and elected officials responding to the Board of Supervisors' rejection of a measure proposed by Mayor London Breed in January. The Affordable Homes Now measure would accelerate the approval process for new projects.
The Berkeley Planning Commission voted, 5-4, to endorse a zoning change that increases the height limit for new BART housing on top of parking lots at two stations from 7 to 12 stories. This would increase the maximum number of housing units from 2,400 to 3,600.
Amazon is shifting plans to build five new warehouses in the Bay Area due to criticism from labor unions and environmental groups that they would bring unjust jobs and pollution from vans and trucks. While unclear what the next steps will be, the company has either withdrawn, delayed, or modified its plans, in tandem with San Francisco's 18-month moratorium on Amazon delivery stations.
A judge will not block a San Francisco ordinance that permits some small businesses to not pay rent due to pandemic-induced shutdowns, allowing the ordinance, unanimously approved by supervisors last July, to move forward despite pushback from property owners.
The Strategic Growth Council is accepting applications for community-led infrastructure projects interested in receiving a portion of the $106.2 million in funding available as part of Round 4 of the Transformative Climate Communities Program. These developments should center environmental, health, and economic benefits for underserved communities.
The Seaport Planning Advisory Committee, which oversees the protection of San Francisco Bay, has recommended that the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission choose to devote the Howard Terminal waterfront for maritime use, not for the proposed $12 billion mixed-use ballpark development. While not a requirement, the suggestion could severely impact or terminate the project.
San Francisco restaurants and bars that introduced parklets during the pandemic will not face enforcement fines established by the city until the spring of 2023 as declared by an ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors. Exceptions for abandoned parklets and for accessibility requirements are in place.
The Great Redwood Trail Agency acquired a 200-mile segment of a rail corridor between Marin and Humboldt counties, helping a proposal to convert the route into a recreational trail for pedestrians, hikers, and bicyclists advance. The trail would eventually reach 320 miles through redwood forests, hills, and rivers.
While the City of Los Angeles has responded to a lawsuit from the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights by pledging to spend billions of dollars on new housing, Los Angeles County is pushing back, stating that the lawsuit has "no merit." The Alliance's goal is for the city to construct shelter for 60% of the unhoused population, and the city has committed to providing 14,000 to 16,000 beds.
The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project has sued the Port of Oakland, maintaining that its open-air sand and gravel plant, which is currently under construction, will add air pollutants, harming nearby residents' health. The environmental group hopes that construction will halt, though port officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.