State Flood Maps May Have Blind Spots; 1.1 Million Properties at Risk
Northern California--where most of the state's water supply originates--has been exceptionally dry this year, part of an unfolding decades-long "megadrought" affecting much of the West. While the focus of attention is naturally on managing drought, two new studies suggest that flood maps vastly underestimate the state's flood risk. Most major floods in California are associated with atmospheric rivers, or narrow concentrated bands of atmospheric moisture, that produce prodigious amounts of rain. A new study suggests warming atmospheric rivers--a result of climate change-- will dramatically increase both intensity and volume of precipitation. Warmer storms produce less snow and more rain, adding to potential runoff. The combined effect could overwhelm levees on rivers and storm water management in cities. A second study by the First Street Foundation presents new estimates of current and future flood vulnerability across the US with updated models and a better accounting for climate change and sea level rise. The takeway from this work is that the state and its federal partners may have underestimated the number of properties at substantial risk of flooding by half. The study estimates 1.1 million properties are at risk, and another 150,000 properties will join them in the next 30 years.
Calif. Planning Roundtable Envisions Solutions to Housing Crisis
The California Planning Roundtable (CPR) released a roadmap Planning to House California: Beyond 2020 exploring ways cities and counties can create favorable conditions for increased housing production. The first principle--start with a plan--recommends allowing for flexibility within an objective framework. I.e., cities should (and must under SB 35) require objective design guidance for building form and site design, but allow for variation of density and scale in different contexts. The report recommends cities to embrace and zone for housing in all forms: rather than focus on housing type when crafting zoning laws, metrics like floor-area ratios or units per acre opens up a wider range of possibilities. With those standards in place, cities can then facilitate by-right housing and use CEQA for streamlining housing projects. The adoption of by-right zoning means that housing projects are ministerial in nature and not subject to CEQA review. Finally, the authors address how to pay for the infrastructure and amenities that complete communities. Impact fees, a common mechanism, are often high at the margin, do not raise sufficient revenue, and exacerbate the housing affordability challenge. CPR sees a need for more funding tools from the State and fiscal incentives for cities that meet RHNA housing goals.
San Diego Places $900 Million Housing Bond on Ballot
The San Diego City Council voted to place an affordable housing bond on the November ballot, but rejected measures for publicly financed elections and for pro-union construction deals. The $900 million housing bond measure would pay for the construction of roughly 7,500 new affordable housing. 2,800 of those units will be for the formerly homeless, while the rest would be for veterans and senior citizens. In addition to the local money it would raise, the measure would help San Diego secure matching state and federal funds devoted to homelessness and affordable housing. If passed, the measure would cost homeowners approximately $115 more per year. Supporters of the publicly financed elections measure said the goal was reducing the influence of developers and labor unions on city elections. Supporters withdrew, without comment, the proposed ballot measure that would have reversed a partial city ban on "project labor agreements," or pro-union construction deals.
CP&DR Coverage: SB 35 Draft Implementation Guidelines
Among both litigation and confusion, the Department of Housing and Community Development has issued updated draft guidelines for cities and counties to implement SB 35, as well as an updated list of jurisdictions that are required to adopt what HCD is calling the “Streamlined Ministerial Approval Process”. About 95% of the state’s jurisdictions must accept SB 35 applications for at least some projects.