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CP&DR News Briefs December 21, 2021: SANDAG RTP; Santa Cruz SB 35 Project; San Diego City Resiliency Plan; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Dec 21, 2021

SANDAG Adopts $160 Billion Regional Transportation Plan
The San Diego Association of Governments' Board of Directors voted to adopt its 2021 Regional Transportation Plan. It will not include a controversial road mileage tax that would have charged drivers 4 cents for every mile driven. Part of the plan includes a Central Mobility Hub that would directly connect riders to San Diego International Airport and improvements to roads and rural highways. While SANDAG aims to not only expand public transit but make it free in the next decade, it's unclear how they will fund the $160 billion plan. Other potential sources of revenue include sales tax increases, ride-hailing fees, or a "managed lane" system that charges tolls on highways, but all of these sources have also come with significant controversy.

Santa Cruz Approves First SB 35 Project
The Santa Cruz City Council voted, 4-3, to confirm that a mixed-use project it previously denied does, in fact, meet the city's objective design standards. The council was, essentially, required to approve the project at 831 Water Street -- pending the design question -- because the project complies with Senate Bill 35. The Department of Housing and Community and Development released a memo verifying that the 140-unit, 50% affordable-unit project whose approval process was streamlined is consistent with state law and that the city's rejection of the project was illegal. It is the first such project in Santa Cruz to fall under SB 35. The new vote signals that city staff may file a formal letter to inform the project's developer that it may now begin the design phase. In two previous meetings, the city reviewed the project and on one occasion blocked the project from receiving SB 35 approval. The project also faced concerns that Novin Development was discriminating against low-income people by separating affordable and market-rate units into two towers. While SB 35 allows for this if the developer is hoping to receive grant funding, the law also allows local jurisdictions to set inclusionary ordinances, so affordable housing allocation in the building is still up for debate. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

San Diego Formulates Resiliency Plan, Updates Climate Plan
The City of San Diego released a multi-million dollar plan with 86 agenda items to prepare the city for climate disasters. The 536-page plan, titled Climate Resilient SD, introduces adaptation policies such as planting trees to resist the urban heat island effect in low-income neighborhoods. While the plan is expensive, officials argue that failing to introduce a strategy would be four to six times more costly. At the same time, the city plans to amplify its mitigation proposal by overhauling its 2015 climate plan and calling for net zero emissions by 2035. The change follows the discovery that the original greenhouse gas accounting system was flawed and reported untruthful greenhouse gas reductions. Going forward, officials are drafting a more detailed version of their 288-page action plan, which includes policies such as the phasing out of natural gas use in homes and businesses and the reduction of transportation emissions.

Housing Opponents Suffer Costly Defeat in Livermore
Save Livermore Downtown will have to post a $500,000 bond to help offset financial damages that the nonprofit developer, Eden Housing, is facing due to the group's lawsuit to block a 130-unit affordable housing project. An Alameda County Judge and a state appeals court delivered the blow to the lawsuit, which argued that the plan is misaligned with Livermore's downtown standards, and the environmental review process's review of on-site contamination was inadequate. Despite the legal blow, an official ruling is not expected until February, and, in the meantime, Eden Housing may not be able to use the $68 million worth of state and federal tax credit funding until the ruling. The developer also expects to receive $14.4 million in Alameda County Measure A1 affordable housing money, but funding is contingent on starting construction by the end of 2022.

Quick Hits & Updates
The City of San Diego has entered into a 90-day negotiation period with 5 teams hoping to obtain a long-term lease to redevelop 48-acres around the Midway District's sports arena, leaving 2 behind. Discover Midway, Midway Village+, Midway Rising, HomeTownSD, and Neighborhood Next will all have an opportunity to rebuild or improve the sports arena and build housing, 25% of which must be affordable, on the site.

A San Diego Superior Court Judge has blocked Measure E, a ballot measure that would have removed a 30-foot height restriction for new buildings in the Midway District that voters approved in 2020. While many residents support mixed-use development and a new sports arena in the area, the judge ruled in favor of the neighborhood group Save Our Access and required that the city carry out an environmental impact report before allowing residents to vote on the measure.

A Los Angeles County legislator will introduce legislation that disallows freeway extensions in neighborhoods with high poverty rates and severe freeway pollution that has generated harmful health impacts across the state. Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who represents Bell Gardens, is urging other state officials to take action on the racial and health disparities related to freeway construction and use.

The City of Sacramento will dedicate $5 million to fund programs intended to prevent or minimize the displacement of Oak Park residents as the UC Davis Aggie Square development, which has been accused of hastening gentrification, is underway. The money would fund affordable housing, local hiring programs, job training, and eviction protections for low- and middle-income people and people of color who may not receive many of the economic benefits the development is imagined to bring. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a settlement with the City of Huntington Park to bring the city into compliance with SB 1000, a law requiring local governments to address environmental justice in their land use planning. Huntington Park faces some of the highest pollution levels in the state, and its residents are at increased risk of serious health burdens, but the city failed to meet any of SB 1000's requirements in its 2030 General Plan.

To increase affordable housing supply, the San Jose City Council unanimously voted to scrap a requirement that affordable housing projects located in urban villages or near major transit stops include a ground floor dedicated solely to commercial purposes. While the policy was originally intended to encourage job and economic growth near public transit, the city will instead collaborate with nonprofits to encourage commercial use in buildings instead of requiring it and plans to extend this policy to all affordable housing projects.

Climate change is 66% to 88% responsible for increased wildfire risk in the western United States, according to a team of California researchers. The researchers found that the severity of global warming's impact on atmospheric conditions has occurred much faster than expected, and their estimate is likely conservative.

Labor and environmental groups filed a ballot initiative in San Diego County that would raise taxes to fund a $160 billion public transit expansion, including building a rail connection to the downtown airport and a new line between South County and Kearny Mesa. If passed, the plan would increase the regional sales tax by half a cent.

Santa Clara County Supervisors have approved new development restrictions that prevent the construction of large-scale housing on an expansive area of unincorporated Coyote Valley. This move, intended to preserve the area for agricultural use, is the first time the county has limited development on land zoned for agriculture.

The city of San Diego and the Padres will have to determine sale and development terms for a four-block, 5.25-acre East Village parking lot, named Tailgate Park, by January 31. The city extended the negotiation window by three months to allow for time to specify project requirements and community benefits that would result from the Padres' urban, office-anchored district, but the team is still working on a geotechnical analysis of the site's fault lines.

Federal officials have found that BART's four-station extension in San Jose may cost $9.1 billion, which would constitute twice the original estimate for the total cost. While BART officials have not confirmed the increase, the Federal Transit Administration is contributing $2.3 billion in funds to the extension or a quarter of the final cost, whichever is less.

The Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary is getting closer to achieving federal protection as it moves onto the designation phase. The proposed sanctuary has been in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's nomination phase since 2015, and the NOAA will now discuss its potential boundaries and request public commentary on its scope.

Fresno apartment rent prices set another new record last month, reaching $1,472 per month. While the pace of rent growth has mellowed dramatically from its July peak, it continues to exceed pre-pandemic trends, with rent averaging a year-over-year increase of $243 per month, which is nearly 20%.