CP&DR News Briefs December 6, 2022: Salton Sea Funds; By-Right Development; Builder's Remedy Woes; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Dec 6, 2022

By-Right Projects Approved Faster, Especially With Affordable Housing
By-right entitlement, which enables developers to apply for multifamily housing permits directly, leads to faster permitting processes and more dependability in approval time, according to a recently-published study, "Does Discretion Delay Development?" on discretionary versus by-right building processes. A team of researchers from UCLA found that by-right projects saw 28% faster permit approvals compared to discretionary processes, where public entities must first vote to allow the developer to apply for a permit. Due to the delays caused by discretionary review, the authors recommend that planners should encourage by-right permitting, which makes it easier to build multifamily housing and therefore increase housing availability. Additionally, findings suggest that faster approval processes were associated with increases in project size and number of affordable units.

$250 Million in Federal Funds Secured for Salton Sea
Plans for Salton Sea restoration projects will move forward after the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) voted to enter an agreement with federal and state officials that will contribute $250 million in Inflation Reduction Act funds to minimizing the impacts of severe drought. The agreement includes a commitment from the IID to not use 250,000 acre-feet of Colorado River, itself facing worsening drought. Imperial County farmers and environmental groups strongly opposed the decision, as the IID voted 24 hours after the proposal was made public and right before new board members would be sworn in; groups suggest that the agreement demonstrates little care about community input and is an insulting result when Imperial Valley residents have experienced extreme climate burdens for decades. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Aspects of "Builder's Remedy" Could Impede Development
The Housing Accountability Act's complex Builder's Remedy and savings clauses may lead to stalls in housing construction. These problems can be overcome with future legislation to streamline development, according to recent analysis from a researcher at UC Davis. Author Jordan Wright points out that, while builder's remedy prevents cities from blocking affordable housing if the city's housing element is out of compliance, a savings clause secures cities' ability to force development standards on those projects. In this research, Wright proposes that courts either render standards on builder's remedy projects invalid or allow "saved" development standards that can only be applied if they align with the proposed density of the builder's remedy project. The research is intended to prevent the savings clause from obstructing projects and worsening the affordable housing crisis. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Sprawl Increases Flood Risk in Los Angeles Basin
The impact of a severe flood in Los Angeles could be harsher than expected and would largely burden Black communities, according to a recent report from UC Irvine. The researchers found that nearly one million Los Angeles residents live in an area at-risk to an extreme flood, a number 30 times the amount currently suggested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In terms of risk, Black residents are 79% more likely than white residents to face waist-high flooding. Latino and Asian residents are, respectively, 17% and 11% more likely. While the Los Angeles Basin may be overwhelmed by a severe storm, researchers cannot anticipate when the next flood will occur. However, they have confirmed that urban sprawl has contributed to a lack of unpaved ground that would absorb runoff and minimize the impact.

CP&DR Coverage: Fulton's Take on New Housing Laws 
No matter whether they are agree or disagree with the goals of the new laws – and there are plenty of people on both sides – local planners’ heads are spinning trying to keep up with what’s going on. And yet, pro-housing legislators keep introducing new bills, hoping to take credit for any bump in housing production. The truth is that it’s still too soon to say whether these laws are working. But it may be time to consider whether they should be consolidated in a way that simplifies the housing production effort. Consider two possibilities, one involving the newly powerful and controversial “Builder’s Remedy” (see previous CP&DR coverage here and here) and the other involving SB 9.

Quick Hits & Updates

Fourteen veterans living in West Los Angeles have filed a lawsuit in federal court, asking that the U.S. Department of Veterans provide 1,200 permanent homes. The plaintiffs are also seeking 2,500 units for lease and other supportive services within a five-mile radius of the West Los Angeles veterans campus.

Developers' newest plan for San Francisco's Piers 30-32 involves an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a shallow pool, a hot tub, showers and saunas, lockers, and rentals for kayaks and other water-related activities in addition to office space. Strada Investment Group and Trammell Crow hope that their latest waterfront recreation vision will be approved after state agencies rejected their previous prioritization of office space.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced the BLAST initiative, which would implement a Bike Lane Acceleration and Safety Team. BLAST is suggested to collaborate with the Bureau of Street Services and the Transportation Department to contribute 24 protected bikeway projects by July of 2023.

While Tesla, Oracle, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have all relocated their headquarters out of California, many other smaller companies are leaving as well, exiting in 2021 at twice the rate than they did in 2020 and 2019. The moves reflect business costs that are encouraging business owners to seek less regulation, lower taxes, and reduced living costs.

San Diego's plan to divert developer money rooted in wealthy neighborhoods to infrastructure construction in low-income neighborhoods is facing a lawsuit from Livable San Diego, an anti-density neighborhood group claiming that the city's proposal is unfair and unconstitutional.

Thanks to $400 million in city-issued bonds, a mixed-use development project with a hotel, restaurants, and new businesses may soon complement Anaheim's city-owned Honda Center. Officials intend to rely on increased tax revenue generated from the new OC Vibe project rather than Honda Center revenue sharing. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

New analysis from the State Auditor on Richmond's financial stability demonstrates that the city remains at high risk due to anticipated deficits, high pension debt, and mismanagement of the housing authority. The audit predicts long-term deficit, with a projection of a $6.7 million deficit beginning in fiscal year 2023-2024.