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CP&DR News Briefs April 20, 2021: Cargill Project Dead for Good; S.D. Convention Center Ballot Measure; TOD Value-Capture, and More

Robin Glover on
Apr 20, 2021

After Decades of Rancor, Cargill Abandons Redwood City Development
Redwood City Salt Plant, LLC, an affiliate of Cargill Incorporated, abandoned its latest attempt to facilitate selling off its salt ponds on the San Francisco Bay for a development of up to 12,000 homes, a prospect that dates back as far as the late 1970s. By dropping its appeal of the 2020 Federal District Court's ruling, the legal decision stands that the Redwood City salt ponds are protected under the Clean Water Act and the “Waters of the United States” doctrine. In 2019, the EPA removed federal Clean Water Act protections from the South Bay salt ponds by issuing a determination that the ponds are land, not water, and thus not subject to clean water protections. After local environmental groups challenged the agency determination in court, Judge William Alsup ruled that the ponds are connected to the Bay, and therefore require Clean Water Act protection. Both Trump’s EPA and Cargill appealed the ruling. In February, the EPA abandoned its appeal of the court's decision. The litigation, San Francisco Baykeeper vs US EPA, includes plaintiff partners San Francisco Baykeeper, Save The Bay, Committee for Green Foothills, and Citizens’ Committee to Complete the Refuge. The State of California sued the EPA separately, and the cases were later combined. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Cargill may try to sell the land to the federal government for conservation. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

San Diego Convention Center May Go on Ballot Again
San Diego officials are trying to use some potentially clever legal maneuvering to revive a March 2020 ballot measure that would have generated nearly $7 billion for convention center expansion, homelessness programs and road repairs. The City Council is planning to take the legal position that the ballot measure was approved despite receiving support from less than two-thirds of voters, which was thought to be the approval threshold at the time of the vote. The council may also direct City Attorney Mara Elliott to file a “validation” lawsuit that would ask the state Supreme Court to determine the ultimate fate of the measure. The city’s new stance is based on three recent appellate court decisions that a simple majority approval is enough to trigger a tax hike if the measure is placed on the ballot by citizens.

Report Recommends Value Capture for Transit-Oriented Development
New research from the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University examines transit-oriented developments (TODs) and obstacles that impede their development and success. Researchers found that many cities have TODs but barriers related to land use, zoning and value-capture tools (like joint development projects and tax increment financing) often create issues for them. VC tools capture land use value increases from public improvements such as rezoning, and most transit agencies are unable to attain the necessary land use or zoning powers. To overcome these barriers, researchers recommending zoning and land use changes: considering land use zoning, and VC in an integrated manner, and providing more power to transit agencies over adjacent land use and zoning. They also recommend public agencies focus on reducing developer risk, use all tools at their disposable to assemble land parcels, and press for systematic and comprehensive assessment of property value increases.

CP&DR Coverage: Fulton on Biden Infrastructure (and Zoning!) Plan 
The Biden Administration is proposing a $5 billion infrastructure grant program available only to local jurisdictions that loosen zoning regulations. The most amazing part of this proposal is the not the grant program itself but the weird, upside-down political reaction it’s received. For decades, progressive lefties have favored strict land use regulation in order to empower communities and rein in evil developers, while conservatives have favored a more market-oriented approach that involves minimal regulation. Which brings us to the question of whether $5 billion will make much difference. In the big picture, the answer is probably no – but combined with the state’s own efforts to fund zoning reform, it could be an important incremental measure.

Quick Hits & Updates
The Los Angeles City Planning Commission voted 5-2 to support the adoption of a new Hollywood Community Plan, which covers a 22-square-mile area. The updated land use rules would accommodate the Southern California Association of Government’s housing requirement and then some, allowing for a population ranging from 243,000 and 264,000. The plan has been through several iterations and been stalled by lawsuits over the past decade. 

Housing California and the California Housing Partnership unveiled California’s Roadmap Home 2030, a 10-year comprehensive, racial equity-centered and evidence-based framework of bold policy solutions to end homelessness and create stable, affordable homes for all Californians.

Two San Diego County Supervisors are proposing that the county repeal resolutions that prohibited the region’s 18 tribes from expanding their reservations. The ban, which was put into place when casino operations were proliferating at the turn of the century, made it impossible for tribes to purchase reservation or trust lands that support tribes’ rights to self-determination.

A study out of the UCLA Institute on Inequality and Democracy found that evictions are much more likely to occur in neighborhoods with higher poverty rates and/or shares of African‐American individuals than in neighborhoods with rising rent or income levels. These findings suggest that court‐based evictions are much more likely to be found in areas with low‐income households and racial minorities than in areas experiencing rapid neighborhood change.

A fresh redevelopment proposal for a San Jose shopping center would add nearly 1,000 homes, shops, restaurants, and offices to San Jose. A major change from prior proposals is the removal of plans for a school that would have been part of the development. Instead, the primary focus would be the homes and over 100,00 additional square feet of office space from previous proposals and a 3.5-acre park.

The Coastal Commission issued approval to Dana Point Harbor Partners to begin construction on the redevelopment of the marinas, putting the partners in a position to potentially start construction by the end of this year. The massive, mixed-use project—which will include renovating an aging marina, as well as constructing new restaurants, shops and hotels—completely reimagines Dana Point’s 49-year-old harbor.

San Francisco supervisors approved an 806-foot tower that will be the city’s fourth-tallest building, the culmination of a four-year process that faltered after an office lease was canceled by Salesforce when the pandemic popularized remote work. The project includes 325,000 square feet of office space, 165 condos and 189 hotel rooms.

Amid complaints from residents, Lake Tahoe’s destination towns have set new rules on short term rentals in recent months or are in the process of curtailing their spread. The pandemic has strained long-standing tensions between Lake Tahoe locals and tourists as people from urban areas opt for local rather than international travel, juicing the short-term rental market.

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