Huntington Beach Sues State over Housing Targets, Flouts Builder’s Remedy 
At the authorization of the Huntington Beach City Council, the Huntington Beach City Attorney announced he is preparing a lawsuit to protest the city’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation of 13,368 units. At the same meeting, a council member said the city was working with the Department of Housing and Community Development to meet the allocation requirement. Council members said that, while the the city is working on meeting state requirements, they plan to fight the state on the "unfair" attempt to urbanize the city. At the same time, the city’s Planning Commission voted this week to reject all “builder’s remedy” applications, even if they comply with state law.. On Feb. 25, , the California Attorney General and Department of Housing and Community Development both wrote urging the city reject a newly proposed ban on ADU housing projects and projects that fall under Senate Bills 9 and 10. "The City of Huntington Beach continues to attempt to evade their responsibility to build housing, but they will simply not win,” said Governor Gavin Newsom in a statement. (See related CP&DR coverage here and here.)

State Allocates $2.5 Billion in Transit Funding, Favoring Los Angeles and Bay Area
Gov. Newsom announced awards totaling more than $2.5 billion to 16 ongoing public transportation projects in the first wave of an infusion of state funding to expand transit and passenger rail service throughout the state, helping to cut planet-warming pollution. Today’s funding announcement is part of a larger, multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment to upgrade the state’s transit system to enhance mobility options, improve service and reduce overdependence on driving. The grants are administered by the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) as part of the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP). Projects receiving funding include:

  • $600 million for LA Metro’s East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project to complete the 6.7-mile initial segment between Van Nuys/Orange Line and Van Nuys/San Fernando stations, scheduled by 2030. 

  • $407 million for the Inglewood Transit Connector, scheduled to be completed in time for service to support the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

  • $375 million for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s BART Silicon Valley Phase II Extension project, which will bring BART service to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara. 

  • $367 million for the Peninsula Corridor Electrification project, which is electrifying Caltrain rail service.

  • $142 million for the Valley Rail project, ensuring completion of nine project components stretching throughout the Altamont Corridor Express and San Joaquin service areas.

  • $19 million for the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority’s West Valley Connector Bus Rapid Transit and Zero-Emission Bus Initiative, which will introduce a new 19-mile bus rapid transit system.

San Bernardino city official claim the awards are biased towards Los Angeles City and County railway projects; the Gold Line Authority, through LA Metro, requested full funding for the project ($798 million) but was denied. In addition to the $2.54 billion announced today for existing TIRCP projects, CalSTA will award another $1.14 billion to new transit projects and improvements at high-priority intersections by the end of April. The recent announcement represents the first round of awards as part of a sixth cycle of TIRCP investment, which will eventually total $25 billion.

Berkeley People’s Park Ruling Sparks Calls for CEQA Reform
In response to a ruling blocking construction of UC Berkeley student housing on the site of People’s Park--ruled in part on the grounds that “noisy” college students qualify as an environmental impact under CEQA, Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for wholesale CEQA reform. In a tweet posted on the governor’s official Twitter account, Newsom wrote, “Our CEQA process is clearly broken when a few wealthy Berkelely homeowners can block desperately needed student housing for years and even decades. California cannot afford to be held hostage by NIMBYs who weaponize CEQA to block student and affordable housing. This selfish mindset is driving up housing process, and making our state less affordable. The law needs to change, and I am committed to working with lawmakers to making more changes so our state can build the housing we desperately need.” Assembly Bill 1700, sponsored by Joshua Hoover (AD 7, Folsom), may be a frontrunner for addressing the issues in the People’s Park case; it “would specify that population growth, in and of itself, resulting from a housing project and noise impacts of a housing project are not an effect on the environment for purposes of CEQA.” (See related CP&DR coverage.)

San Diego Authorizes Taller Buildings Farther from Transit Stations 
The San Diego City Council voted, 5-4, to enable the construction of taller buildings and more backyard housing units further away from transit lines than was previously allowed. The limit for more backyard units had been one half-mile from a transit station. The loosened regulations allow for denser housing citywide; proponents hope it will help address the housing shortages. With the expansion of the ADU zone to a full mile radius, the total acreage expanding to 5,224 additional acres of homes for a developer density bonus. Another 4,612 acres are now eligible for San Diego's backyard apartment bonus program. But most residents who spoke at the meeting opposed the changes to the ruling, citing people will not walk a mile to transit and will consequently reduce the use of public transit. They also site the lack of city infrastructure plans to match the dense housing, and pointed to wildfire-prone areas where higher density housing can now be built.

CP&DR Coverage: Battles Rage over Bay Area Housing Elements
No fewer than 12 jurisdictions are facing lawsuits from a loose coalition of housing advocacy groups, and many more--presumably all of the noncompliant cities--were instantly made subject to "Builder's Remedy" provisions, by which developers can essentially force the approval of projects that have a sufficient amount of affordable housing, regardless of the projects' mass and density. Californians for Homeownership, California Housing Defense Fund and YIMBY Law have each filed a handful of suits. Defendants include Santa Clara County and the following cities: Belvedere, Burlingame, Cupertino, Daly City, Fairfax, Martinez, Novato, Palo Alto, Pinole, Pleasant Hill, and Richmond. Five of the twelve jurisdictions are on the San Francisco Peninsula, where resistance to new housing has historically been fierce.

Quick Hits & Updates

The city of Oakland will turn over 380 loading zones into “smart zones,” using a contactless payment method for commercial deliveries.

The housing nonprofit Californians for Homeownership is suing the city of Beverly Hills over its housing policies, hoping to enforce the builder’s remedy. Californians for Homeownership believes the city must start approving any housing project with a certain amount of low-income housing, per the remedy.

Acrisure Arena in the Coachella Valley city of Palm Desert opened recently as both the home of the AHL’s newest Coachella Valley Firebirds and a large music venue, hosting approximately 11,000 concert-goers or 10,500 hockey fans.

Riverside-San Bernardino County – in addition to Palm Beach, Tampa, Phoenix and Fort Worth – is now one of the most undersupplied housing markets in the country, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting. The housing market in the area is measured by vacancy rates as well as overcrowding conditions in family homes.

An old Honda dealership on Market street and South Van Ness avenue in San Francisco will be home to a 55 story tower, but the developer, Crescent Heights, was afforded a four-year extension by the City Planning Commission to start construction. Crescent Heights has already spent $40 million to fulfill its affordable housing requirement, and say that they could break ground sooner.

The scooter company Bird – previously permitted to operated 1,500 scooters in San Francisco – is now leaving the city, citing low profit in the city and burdensome business regulations.California High-Speed Rail Authority now reports the cost of the bullet train construction between Merced and Bakersfield has increased by billions of dollars due to inflation. The completion of construction is also now estimated between 2030 and 2033.A new study claims that San Francisco is losing billions in economic activity due to work-from-home policies, as workers' spend on average $3,567 less per year per person on businesses near their places of work.The Apartment Association of Orange County, a group of landlords, is set to sue the city of Santa Ana over housing policies first approved in 2021, including protections for tenants against rent increases and evictions.According to a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California, rates of homeless continue to rise throughout the state, particularly in urban areas, with 30% of the nation's homeless population residing in California.