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CP&DR News Briefs August 24, 2021: Moreno Valley Suit; "Tree Equity;" Urban Segregation; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Aug 24, 2021

Sierra Club Sues Warehouse-Heavy Moreno Valley over General Plan
The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against Moreno Valley, maintaining that the city's 2021 General Plan Update violates CEQA because it fails to consider current conditions regarding population size, existing warehouse projects, and environmental concerns. The group notes that the city council is using estimates from the 2006 General Plan, which will allow developers to use inaccurate information that could further traffic and air pollution and put residents at risk to environmental harm. The suit cites the city's relatively recent growth in warehouses, and specifically calls out environmental impacts of the forthcoming 40 million square foot World Logistics Center. Currently, the American Lung Association has given Riverside County an F in air quality, and hundreds of thousands of residents in the county have respiratory illnesses. Moreno Valley's interim city attorney disagrees with the group's claims and maintains that the city has attempted to reach out to the community for commentary multiple times. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

California Cities Lack "Tree Equity"
Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Jose were included on American Forests' list of 20 large-scale cities that could benefit significantly from expanding urban forestry. These five cities demonstrated low Tree Equity Scores, which analyzes equitable distribution of tree cover, so they could have a lot to gain from planting trees, including job creation and carbon absorption. Planting more trees will also reduce the "urban heat island effect," which puts communities at risk to extreme temperatures. Currently, vegetation is lacking mostly in communities of color and low-income communities; those with 90% or more residents living in poverty have 41% less tree canopy than wealthier neighborhoods. American Forests suggests that communities with a low TES demonstrate an opportunity to significantly end patterns of economic and climate crises.

UC Berkeley Study Analyzes Urban Segregation
Segregation in the United States has increased over the past three years, according to a study from UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute concerning the relationship between racial residential segregation and unequal health, education, and life outcomes. The Pacific region was rated the third most-segregated region, out of nine, and the Los Angeles area rated the sixth most segregated metro area. The study mentions the impact of decades of segregation and discriminatory practices of redlining that have handed resources and space to white communities. In communities of color, access to better schools, jobs, hospitals, grocery stores, and parks is limited, and police brutality is intensified. Over 200 metropolitan regions nationwide saw considerable increases in segregation, with Santa Rosa-Petaluma coming in 20th, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara ranking 37th, Vallejo-Fairfield ranking 70th, and San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont coming in 163rd.

Studies Suggest Californians Are Not Fleeing State
While California made headlines for losing a congressional seat due to its first recorded population decrease, multiple studies from the University of California suggest that residents are not fleeing the state. A recent study from UC San Diego of more than 3,000 residents determined that only 23% were seriously thinking of leaving, while 26% had given some thought to it. Both of these figures were slightly down from their 2019 equivalents. San Diego and Orange County residents were the least interested in leaving, while 37% of residents outside the Bay Area were particularly interested in moving elsewhere. Previous UC studies have come to the same conclusion that most residents do not have intentions of leaving the state.

CP&DR Coverage: Fulton Parses Census Numbers of Race
Last week’s 2020 Census release, which gives us data at the municipal level, does show that Blacks are leaving cities in the metropolitan core are relocating to cities on the periphery. But the question of who’s replacing those Black residents in the core remains hard to answer – in large part because the Hispanic population is growing much faster than the white population in these areas and because of the dramatic increase in people identifying themselves as multiracial on the Census forms.

Quick Hits & Updates

A group of self-identified "green activists" is opposing the 350-acre Aramis Renewable Energy Project, the largest proposed solar plant in the Bay Area that would supply carbon-free electricity to 25,000 homes annually. The project, designed by ranchers, farmers, and environmentalists, will likely still move forward, but the group still plans to sue on the grounds that the project would destroy open space and ecosystems.

As part of Mayor Darrell Steinberg's "Comprehensive Siting Plan to Address Homelessnees" in Sacramento, city council unanimously approved 20 sites that will be dedicated to homeless shelters, tiny homes, and sanctioned tent encampments that can accommodate 2,209 people at one time. Councilmembers hoped that approving the 20 at one time, none of which are in the city's wealthier neighborhoods, would make it easier to avoid individual neighborhood opposition.

Zoning and investment in Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, one of the state's most successful pedestrian malls, may undergo a significant transformation to allow for housing and hotel development along the stretch. Part of the Third Street Promenade Stabilization and Economic Vitality Plan also includes expanding outdoor dining on sidewalks and rooftops as well as a "town square" for large gatherings in order to bring more sales tax revenue to the city lost during the pandemic.

Environmentalists plan to file a lawsuit against Menlo Park developer Laguna Sequoia Land Company's proposal to dredge a part of a 21.9-acre San Francisco Bay tidal lagoon in Redwood City and use the fill as a base for a 350-unit apartment complex. Though the developer still has to obtain building permits, advocacy groups are prepared to fight against the plan that could destroy an ecosystem and put apartment residents at risk to sea level rise.

Lead emissions from airplanes flying near East San Jose's Reid Hillview neighborhood is putting thousands of children at risk to permanent developmental issues, according to a study commissioned by the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. Because airplanes flying out Reid-Hillview frequently rely on leaded fuel, children living within a half-mile of the airport, mostly in low-income neighborhoods, exhibited much higher levels of lead in their blood than did those who live outside of the radius.

Mountain View City Council is fighting a lawsuit against the decision to ban RV residents from parking on narrow streets brought by the ACLU despite extensive advocacy from homelessness support groups. While RV and other oversized vehicle dwellers have relied on street parking due to the Bay Area's affordable housing crisis, the city plans to put up its first "no parking" signs later this month, which will exclude these residents from parking on 444 of the city's 525 streets.

California led all of the states in receiving LEED Multifamily Certifications in 2020, with 14 communities collecting certifications at the LEED Platinum level and 27 at the Gold level. One featured project was an affordable, 153-unit community-owned project in Indio that is occupied only by farmworkers.

Researchers at UC Irvine have determined that climate change is endangering plants in Southern California's portion of the Sonoran Desert, including Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. From 1984 to 2017, temperatures increased by 3 degrees, and vegetation diminished by 1% annually.

New research from UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs professor Adam Millard-Ball sheds light on the housing, schools, parks, and other infrastructure that we lose out on because planning prioritizes wide streets. Millard-Ball found that, in 20 of the country's most populous countries, the median 50-foot-wide residential street took space away from building more housing to address the country's affordable housing crisis.

Research from UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation suggests that off-site construction could be critical in increasing affordable housing availability in Los Angeles County. The report expresses that, to fully realize the potential of off-site construction, policy makers must provide cross-stakeholder education, improve permitting processes, obtain funding, adjust zoning requirements, and advance economic development benefits.

Rule over the Queen Mary has returned to Long Beach to better maintain the decaying, 87-year-old ship and floating hotel, which, without quick restoration, is at risk of capsizing. Not only does the Queen Mary require $23 million for immediate repairs, but a 2017 study suggests that essential flood-prevention upgrades come with a $289 million price tag.

California's state budget will apportion $18.9 million to restore the 150-year-old Pigeon Point Lighthouse that stands over the San Mateo County coast. Currently, the lighthouse is in danger of collapsing, and officials hope that the funding will soon allow visitors to explore inside the landmark.

A new report from the Manhattan Institute clarifies just how wide the gap is between job and housing availability in the Bay Area. From 2009 to 2019, every new home permitted paired with more than three jobs created, with the San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward area experiencing the most extreme gap.

Los Angeles County received the Award for Excellence in Sustainability for its 2019 OurCounty Sustainability Plan, which prioritizes environmental justice in its approach. The American Planning Association honored the community-based program for its comprehensive and multifaceted goals, which include fast-approaching renewable energy and urban forestry deadlines as well as housing, clean water, and waste regulations.