CP&DR News Briefs February 1, 2022: AHSC Grants; San Diego Inclusionary Housing; Developer Sues Alhambra, and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Feb 1, 2022

$808 Million in AHSC Grants Awarded to 37 Projects Statewide
The California Strategic Growth Council announced $808 million in funding awards for 37 affordable housing projects across the state as part of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program, which aims to promote dense, transit-oriented development and lower housing-related carbon emissions. Combined, the projects receiving this sixth round of awards will avoid over 1.4 million metric tons of CO2, equivalent to taking 304,472 daily passenger vehicles off the road for one year. AHSC is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment, particularly in disadvantaged communities. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

San Diego Amends Inclusionary Policy to Promote Housing in Coastal Zone
The San Diego City Council approved, 8-1, amendments to the city's 2019 inclusionary housing law that requires market-rate housing developers to build affordable housing or face greater costs. City council members reviewed the changes after the Coastal Commission recommended a policy that requires that the affordable units be built within a half-mile of mass transit or areas designated for more housing by the California Tax Credit Allocation Community. The city council also approved a requirement that less than five percent of affordable housing units be government subsidized. While some changes will impact the whole city, most would be targeted toward coastal neighborhoods, though the Coastal Commission must give a final approval before the law takes effect.

Developer Sues City of Alhambra over Rejection of Housing Project
Los Angeles-based real estate group The Ratkovich Company is suing the City of Alhambra in Los Angeles Superior Court to fight to construct more affordable housing. The move is in response to the city's dismissal of The Villages at the Alhambra, the largest housing project in California to be rejected by a local government. Ratkovich's development aligned with all city zoning and development requirements and was intended to bring 790 units to underused land at The Alhambra, which features 1 million square feet of office space near public transit. The company hopes that Alhambra will approve the project after spending four years and 20 public hearings considering the development, a process that had already violated the state's Housing Crisis Act.

PPIC: New Housing Production Falls Short of Need
California's strategies for increasing the state's housing supply does not make up for decades of undersupply with population growth, according to data from the 2020 Census and analysis from the Public Policy Institute of California. The Census Bureau's data shows that new housing has not matched population growth; the amount of people increased 3.2 times more than housing units over the past decade. Now, California is short of the near 3.5 million homes that Gov. Gavin Newsom believes will be essential by 2025. The Census also proved that coastal housing is the most expensive, but inland regions have experienced the largest percent change in housing values because residents are pushed or attracted to their lower costs.

CP&DR Legal Coverage: Development Code Vagueness; Density Bonus Law
In the City of Santa Cruz, 1930 Ocean Street Extension would build eight fourplexes on hilly terrain near the San Lorenzo River. The project’s been in litigation for years – in part because of the potential impact of a nearby crematorium – but the latest battle basically comes down to this: Do the city’s Planned Development Permit rules require the developer to go through a process to modify slope regulations for the project or do they exempt the developer from that process? A Superior Court judge said one thing and now an appellate court has said the opposite. Meanwhile, in San Diego a community association opposed a 20-story apartment building based on two arguments that might have succeeded in the past: conflicts with the general plan and the idea that the project’s “massing and scale” is out of character with the neighborhood. But the Bankers Hill neighbors aren’t winning the argument. They’ve lost all the day down the line, and an appellate court criticized the neighborhood group for “sidestepping” the density bonus law in their arguments.

Quick Hits & Updates 

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria announced that the city will opt-in to Senate Bill 10 in order to streamline the process of building housing near mass transit areas. San Diego will likely be the first large city in California to do so.

Documents filed in a lawsuit over the Angel Stadium deal suggest that city leaders privately decided that they would sell the stadium before formal negotiations between the city and Angels Baseball began in November 2019 and while the public still believed that the city would renegotiate the lease.

The Oakland Department of Transportation is beginning to phase out its Slow Streets program intended to protect pedestrians and bicyclists, a process that began almost two years ago. Officials will start removing Slow Streets infrastructure, including signs, safety cones, and barricades, located on about 21 miles of roadway within the next two weeks, allowing vehicles to return to the streets. (Related CP&DR coverage.) 

The Simi Valley City Council unanimously adopted to extend an an urgency ordinance that will enhance local control over the impacts of Senate Bill 9 for two more years. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

San Francisco developer Republic Metropolitan is suing Santa Clara for violating state housing law and breaching a contract to construct a housing project with 170 units for students and 70 units for low-income residents. The city blocked the project after two years of planning for a mixed-use complex on land owned by the city and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

The Oakland Planning Commission is recommending that the City Council approve the A's Howard Terminal waterfront ballpark project environmental review after considering hours of public input. While some members of the public hoped the commission would take more time, its decision is a major step in moving forward with the $12 billion project.

The frequent use of racially-motivated exclusionary zoning policy has generated unaffordability and exclusion, according to a group of researchers who used the results of a longitudinal survey of local governments in the US's 30 largest metropolitan areas in 2003-2019 to analyze the steps necessary for reforming land use regulation. The researchers argue for urban planners' ethical and legal responsibility to undo the racial segregation embedded in local zoning.

The Strategic Growth Council announced the recipients of the BOOST Program, a state-wide program tailored to help under-resourced California communities advance their climate action, resilience, and equity objectives. The communities include the cities of Barstow, La Puente, Maywood, McFarland, Needles, Rialto, and South San Francisco, who will receive support in the form of trainings, partnership development, community engagement planning and implementation support, grant application assistance, and communications assistance.

The UC San Francisco has introduced a 3-year pilot Community Investment Program intended to advance health equity by funding affordable housing and BIPOC-owned small businesses. The Anchor Institution Initiative has promised to invest $5 million into housing assistance, employment, and small business loans in San Francisco in the Easy Bay.

While California officials voice their commitment to low-emission, climate-focused transit, their actual achievements are negligible, according to a draft report co-authored by researchers at UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC Davis. At both the local and regional levels, policymakers tend to pass car-centric policies, which is evidenced by the fact that programs under AB 285, the state's plan to reduce emissions, only account for 2% of state transit spending.

While a landlord interest group, Santa Ana for Fair & Equitable Housing, was hoping to repeal Orange County's first rent control law, the group announced that it will no longer pursue its effort. Instead, it is considering filing complaints regarding violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act when the council examined and voted on the policy in October.

The Eureka-Arcata-Fortuna metropolitan area took 15th place on The Wall Street Journal and Realtor.com's list of the Top 20 Emerging Housing Markets, which analyzes the markets expected to be advantageous for both homeowners and investors, most of which were smaller markets.