Builder's Remedy Comes to Palo Alto
A new SB 330 pre-application project in Palo Alto would include nine units of affordable housing out of a proposed 45-unit building, with plans to invoke the “builder’s remedy.” A SB (Senate Bill) 330 project can submit a pre-application to collect zoning, design, subdivision, and fee requirements that would then be applied to the entire project’s construction process. After the pre-application process, the project cannot be impacted by a city’s new ordinances, policies or fees. The applicant must then submit a formal application within 180 days of the pre-application. The applicant’s plan to apply as a “builder’s remedy” project would then prohibit the city from denying the housing project regardless of non-compliance with zoning or city plan as the project has a number of affordable housing units. The project is still required to comply with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the city’s review process. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Yet Another Developer Sought for Concord Naval Weapons Station
The Concord City Council is once again looking for a new developer for the third time in three years for the Naval Weapons Station. The massive project, first proposed over 20 years ago, is projected to take four decades to complete. The Concord City Council scrapped a contract with the project's most recent developer over internal legal battles within the developer's organization and questions over trustworthiness. The 5,200-acre parcel of land was abandoned by the U.S. Navy in the 1990s, and the city's new plan includes thousands of homes, millions of square feet of commercial space, parks, and new schools. The City Council is expected to approve a new list of potential developers by late next month. The list of developers would then each submit a proposal to the city for a vote. Concord City Council is now requiring all potential developers to disclose any litigation against them, as well as agreements to negotiate with local labor unions. Multiple developers have already reached out to the city expressing interest in the project, despite another long setback for plans of a mini-city.

San Bernardino Carousel Mall Redevelopment Imperiled by Violations
San Bernardino city officials violated four state laws in the planning behind the long-awaited redevelopment of the Carousel Mall, the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) wrote in a letter. City officials now have a two-month timeframe to resolve the wrongdoing before incurring penalties of 30% of the sale price for the first violation, and 50% for each of the three other violations. The first of the violations occurred in August 2021 when the city claimed they received no qualifications of interest in the property, when in fact two different affordable housing developers reached out. Secondly, before declaring surplus land, the city negotiated contracts with at least one developer, violating surplus land law. Then, the city failed to negotiate at all with both of the affordable housing developers. Finally, the city is facing penalties for not providing accurate documentation for the property. HCD stressed the need for future compliance, and the city has until May 15 to resolve the offenses. City officials state the individuals involved in the 2021 dealings are “no longer with the city.”

San Francisco Considers Menu of Housing Streamlining Reforms
San Francisco officials are advancing legislation to streamline office-to-housing redevelopment projects, subsequently easing guidelines in the Union Square area to help the area move away from their reliance on corporate retail stores. Mayor London Breed and Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin hope this will revitalize the downtown area, jumpstarting local business and housing after the pandemic dramatically impacted the area’s economy. They are also starting to understand the permanence of the impact of the pandemic on the downtown area, hoping to change the area away from just office and retail spaces. San Francisco’s current office vacancy rate is at 29.4%, an increase from the last quarter. The legislative changes could speed up redevelopment by as much as 18 months. The legislation will also diversify how the spaces are used, loosening retail and office space requirements of buildings.

CP&DR Coverage: Cities Fight Back Against Builder's Remedy
The Town of Los Altos Hills and the City of Sonoma are relying on technicalities to assert that their housing elements are valid and the builder's remedy is moot. Both jurisdictions are part of the Association of Bay Area Governments region, whose deadline for certification and adoption of housing elements was January 31. Sonoma has thus far blocked the builder's remedy application for The Montaldo, a multifamily development slated for a two-acre site that currently contains only a single-family house. The Montaldo was previously proposed for 55 units. The builder's remedy version calls for 64 units, all of which would be designated for middle-income residents. Los Altos Hills faced builder's remedy applications for three relatively small projects (including one project with two variants) and determined that all four applications were "incomplete."

Quick Hits & Updates

Governor Newsom announced Los Angeles as the newest prohousing city in the state. Newsom praised the city and Mayor Karen Bass’s action to build new housing in the city, working to address the housing crisis in the area. Los Angeles joins 10 other cities across the state in the designation. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The California Transportation Agency released their first ever document detailing why certain state projects did not receive funding, including two large LA Metro rail projects. The document based decisions on a ratings sheet, ultimately concluding they wanted to geographically space out projects that received funding.

According to new data, San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has hundreds of millions of funding to address their homelessness issue, but are slow to spend over the last several years due to internal understaffing, bureaucratic procedures on how money is spent and pandemic-related housing issues.

National City is taking new steps to address nonconforming, vacant buildings by issuing permits to building owners for temporary use of the property for reasons other than the original zoning requirements, like coworking spaces, retail, health centers or pop-ups.

A new report by the Apartment List found Los Angeles ranks 39th of the country's 50 largest cities in residential permitting, only permitting 2.5 new units for every 1,000 residents in 2022. That rate is gradually increasing from previous years, with 2.4 new units per 1,000 residents permitted in 2021 and 2 new units per 1,000 residents in 2020.

The Inglewood Center – home to 21 businesses – is facing demolition to make way for the $1.6 billion transit system connecting the Metro K Line to SoFi Stadium and other events arenas in the area. The Inglewood Center houses multiple small businesses facing higher rent in the area, despite the city's offer of reimbursement.

In a comparison by the National Transit Database, ridership on Los Angeles' transit system did not drop to the rates of the Bay Area transit system ridership lows during the Pandemic, and LA Metro and buses in Los Angeles are seeing a higher increase in ridership post-pandemic.

Sacramento city officials are looking into a vacancy tax on empty lots, stores, and potentially homes. The City Council is in the early stages of drafting a tax ordinance, which would appear on ballots for voters to ultimately decide.

Two environmental groups filed suit against the city of Desert Hot Springs, claiming a recently–approved large multi-use development plan violates CEQA by excluding an environmental impact report.

Pasadena City Council voted to phase out its planned development zoning designation, ridding the city of a method of accelerating large project approvals, citing concerns of ungovernable projects.

In a new federal budget proposal, the Biden Administration announced a $500 million funding uplift for a Bay Area BART line through San Jose. The Bay Area transit system was previously facing a large funding drop-off as pandemic-era federal funding came to a halt.