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CP&DR News Briefs August 17, 2021: Huntington Beach Lawsuit; L.A. Homeless Housing; Housing & Wildfires; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Aug 17, 2021

Huntington Beach Ruling Could Weaken Housing Affordability Act
A 48-unit, zoning-compliant housing development in Huntington Beach may not move forward after a trial judge blocked the proposal because the Housing Accountability Act supposedly does not protect the project. The judge called the complex, which would include affordable housing, into question due to "health and safety" concerns, which arose just before the vote. In a statement released on August 11, the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund contended that the judge's move exemplifies cities' frequent avoidance of laws that are intended to expand housing availability. The organization intends to appeal the ruling on the grounds that the judge approved the city's illegitimate findings, which are out of compliance with state law. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Los Angeles Strives for 25,000 Permanent Units for Homeless
Los Angeles City Council approved a plan that would build 25,000 units to house the city's homeless population by 2025. The proposal, presented by councilman Kevin de León, intends to construct both permanent and transitional housing by transforming old hotels, apartment buildings, and modular units into new housing. de León hopes that 25,000 units will accommodate a significant number of the (likely underestimated) 29,000 residents living on the streets or in cars. The proposal remains somewhat vague, and the rest of city council is asking de León for more specifics on how to construct the 25,000 units and what it will cost before moving forward.

Report Links Housing Shortage and Wildfire Risk
SPUR, Greenbelt Alliance, and California YIMBY released six principles essential to combatting two significant threats to California residents: wildfire risk and the housing crisis. The six approaches operate under the relationship between the threat of increasingly devastating wildfires and the housing shortage that forces residents to move farther away from transit and jobs and causes them to drive more and escalate greenhouse gas emissions. Their approach includes determining development plans based on the level of fire risk, establishing plans for how towns and cities at high risk should tackle development and minimize fire danger, improving existing infrastructure, and ensuring that utility planning and insurance regulation policies consider fire risk.

Study: Commercial Conversion Bill Could Yield 2 Million Units
A new study from UrbanFootprint that analyzes the potential of SB 6, a bill designed to address the statewide housing crisis by converting commercial properties into residential units, determines that the bill could generate 2 million new homes and increase net tax revenues for cities. Under the bill, 374,000 acres of land, or 0.6% of California’s land area, could qualify for redevelopment. Not all 2 million market-feasible units would be developed, and construction would be concentrated in dense, coastal cities. In addition to its analysis, the report recommends that legislators reject redevelopment in areas at high risk to climate disasters and rather prioritize housing in existing urban areas. It also recommends that policymakers set higher minimum densities to accommodate more significant housing development.

CP&DR Coverage: HCD Director on "Prohousing" Designation
Unveiled earlier this month, HCD’s “Prohousing” program is meant to identify jurisdictions that voluntarily take steps to increase their housing stock and to reward those jurisdictions with favorable treatment in the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of annual grants (see prior CP&DR commentary). CP&DR’s Josh Stephens spoke with HCD Director Gustavo Velasquez about whether the program really can turn jurisdictions that are anti-housing into pro-housing communities.

Quick Hits & Updates 

The American Public Transportation Association named the Sacramento Regional Transit District the best transit system of 2021 with annual ridership between 4 and 20 million. SacRT officials credited the program's lower fares, increased ridership, fare-free ridership for students, and the smaRT ride program for its success.

San Francisco and Los Angeles were named third and ninth, respectively, among the top 10 most expensive cities to build across the globe in a 2021 international construction market survey from Turner & Townsend. Worldwide, many respondents noted the pressure put on labor and supply chains due to the pandemic, though some have called attention to North America's high incomes for construction workers, which averages $104.90 hourly in San Francisco.

In an effort to expand affordable housing units, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board approved several new rules that will allow more homeowners of parcels of all sizes to build ADUs and incentivizes ADU construction near transits and town centers and at affordable rates. The units cannot be rented for more than 30 days in order to ensure that housing is dedicated to local workers. (See related CP&DR coverage.) 

For the first time ever, Encinitas' state-required housing plan was submitted and approved on time, but concerns from city Planning Commission members and the state HCD department remain. Some city officials find that the current plan will benefit developers and fall through on providing sufficient affordable housing to residents, and the state has asserted that the city must prove that it will accommodate more high-density housing projects. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The Oakland A's will be able to avoid lengthy lawsuits after a state appeals court ruled that their plan will have to go through a full environmental impact review, but any legal challenges must be resolved by within 270 days due to AB734. While getting the A's and the city to agree in the first place has been an extensive process, many believe that the judge's decision is dangerous because the A's have long been attempting to avoid rules.

Santa Monica Developer New Urban West hopes to create a down payment fund to provide home-ownership assistance to teachers but can only do so if its Carmel Mountain project, The Trails, is developed. New Urban West says that their plan is dependent on The Trails' approval because sales from the 1,200-unit project would pay for the fund. (See related CP&DR coverage.) 

Single family zoning is making it extremely difficult for the Bay Area to keep up with the demand for housing, according to findings by a pair of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. The researchers found that the area constructed under 25,000 units annually over the last 3 years, while it would need to build double that amount to keep up with its population growth.

The approved budgets for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach include strong commitments to waterfront development and infrastructure upgrades. The Port of Los Angeles will spend a significant portion of its $1.7 billion budget on encouraging visitor attraction to Wilmington and San Pedro waterfront projects, while over half of the Port of Long Beach’s $622.4 million budget will be dedicated toward improving terminals and roads.
To simplify the facilitation of its cannabis expansion ordinance, San Diego County will complete a full environmental impact report. The Board of Supervisors voted to approve the two-year process, which officials believe will grow the cannabis industry more quickly by minimizing costs and permit requirements and therefore reducing legal challenges.

Caltrans will, for the time being, not be able to sell a South Pasadena property to Friendship Baptist Church after a judge blocked the sale because the local church’s plan would not give tenants an opportunity to purchase their units. The church planned to redevelop the 12-unit building into affordable housing under the Roberti Act, a bill that requires Caltrans to sell its many properties to connect the Long Beach and Foothill Freeways.

People for Housing Orange County, a section of the YIMBY Action Network, is circulating a petition in response to a lawsuit filed by the Orange County Council of Governments over disagreements about city housing allocations determined by the HCD. The petition insists that the figure determined by the HCD, 1.34 million homes in Southern California by 2029, is correct and necessary for preventing displacement and homelessness. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Environmental group California Coastkeeper filed a lawsuit against Sonoma County over concerns that the county is too careless with allowing groundwater drilling, which could harm Russian River stream flows. The group demands that county officials approve new requirements for analyzing the impact of extraction on the Russian River at a time when drought conditions are extreme, and well drilling is more frequent.