Housing Advocates Sue State for More Units
YIMBY groups have filed a lawsuit against California's Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), alleging that the state agency ignored the law requiring the state to plan for a "jobs-housing balance" when determining Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) for the 2023-31 cycle in the San Francisco Bay Area. According to the suit, an accurate accounting would raise the Bay Area's housing need from 441,000 homes to 580,000. The lawsuit comes just two weeks after the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) adopted the state's RHNA number of 441,000. The YIMBY groups are basing their suit on a study by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Studies that calculated the 138,000 home deficit. (See related CP&DR commentary.)

Huntington Beach Loses Suit over State Housing Laws
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled against Huntington Beach in a lawsuit brought by the city protesting Senate Bills 35 and 1333. The city will not appeal the decision after a 5-2 vote by the Huntington Beach City Council in favor of dropping the case. A city councilmember went on the recording stating the lawsuit was moot since Huntington Beach's housing element is now compliant with the bills. The suit's basis relied on the premise that the state was unconstitutionally usurping city's control of zoning in their respective jurisdictions. In the resulting ruling, Judge Chalfant dissented: "[the] state and intervenors persuasively argue that the specific statues... permit local discretion to the extent feasible." (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

Funding Dispute Imperils BART Extension
The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has withdrawn a plan that would have spent the bulk of Measure B tax dollars on a BART extension into San Jose following outcry from communities across Santa Clara County. A new plan under discussion would distribute Measure B tax dollars to local road and transit projects. But the new plan comes with a bigger price tag: it could add $410 million of debt service over 30 years for the BART extension, and raise overall costs to $2.6 billion more than projected in 2017. The new plan includes $887 million for Caltrain grade separation projects, $156 million for increasing Caltrain's corridor capacity, $230 million for Highway 85 improvements, $236 million for county expressways, $842 million for highway interchanges, and $1.4 billion in discretionary spending.

Survey: Housing Crisis Places Dire Burden on Low-Income Residents
Researchers from the USC Price Center for Social Innovation conducted an in-person, door-to-door survey of 800 Los Angeles renter households to better understand the impacts of the housing affordability crisis. Survey results suggest that high rents may force Los Angeles households to cut back on critical basic needs in impactful and lasting ways: 73 percent of households were rent-burdened (spending over 50 percent of income on rent and utilities); white and Asian households were less likely to be rent-burdened than Latino and Black households; and households with lower levels of education or with fewer working adults were more likely to be rent-burdened. A majority of households have cut back their consumption of basic needs over the past two years in order to afford rent, including food, clothing, and entertainment and family activities. Household cutbacks appear larger and more enduring in Central Los Angeles, where housing costs have been rising more sharply and for longer than in South Los Angeles.

CP&DR Coverage: Marin City Grapples with SB 35
A development in Marin County is testing the efficacy of Senate Bill 35 and stakeholders’ willingness to welcome affordable housing to an affluent area. The fast-tracked approval of a 74-unit affordable housing apartment complex in Marin City, an unincorporated community in Marin County, has again stoked concerns about loss of local control over housing developments approved under Senate Bill 35. But Marin City, a community of 3,100, is already home to a disproportionate amount of multifamily housing. The proposed development, which will be 100% low- and very-low-income housing, is strongly opposed by the local community, he said, which fears the complex could strain sewage and water infrastructure and exacerbate traffic congestion.

Quick Hits & Updates

Only 3 percent of California's cities and counties are on track to meet state goals to build sufficient housing--and 30 percent aren't issuing permits at all for affordable housing, according to new state data from 2019. The gulf continues to widen between how many homes are being built for lower- and higher-income buyers. Of the more than 116,000 permits issued in 2019, 78 percent were for 78 percent were for above-moderate-income housing. Just 13 percent were for moderate-income housing and 9 percent for very low income housing.

Californians for Homeowners, a nonprofit sponsored by the California Association of Realtors, has pledged to come after cities that block new accessory dwelling units. A suit against the City of Coronado accuses the city of illegally blocking the simultaneous construction of houses and ADU's. The group has threatened Irvine over a proposed measure that would impose restrictions on ADUs, and the organization is currently in litigation with Huntington Beach.

An environmental impact report for a twice-daily train service between Los Angeles and Coachella Valley is nearing completion, according to Riverside County's transportation commission. The 145-mile route would take less than three-and-a-half hours and offer an alternative to the often contested Route 91 and Interstate 10.

A developer is suing the city of La Habra for more than $100 million for blocking a 443-home development as part of what the developer alleges are delay tactics. Plans call for 277 houses and 166 townhomes in four gated neighborhoods, 40 acres of parks, and retail development.

Citing the climate crisis and the imminent threat of rising seas, a cohort of Bay Area Democrats in Congress is supporting a new bill seeking $250 million in federal funding over th enext five years to restore tidal wetlands in San Francisco Bay. About 90 percent of the bay's natural wetlands have been destroyed over the past century and a half.

San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman will introduce an ordinance making it harder to build large single-family homes by making it legal for any corner lot in the city to allow up to four units. And the legislation will allow any parcel within a half mile of a major transit stop to be converted into a fourplex.

Long Beach will soon require the developers of new housing projects with 10 or more units in the Downtown and Midtown neighborhoods to include affordable units — or pay into a fund to develop affordable units. The policy would allow for a three-year phase-in period for developers to adjust to the new requirements: 5 percent in 2021, 6 percent in 2022, and 11 percent for projects submitted in 2023.

The city of Marysville filed a lawsuit in Yuba County Superior Court challenging the decision of the California Department of Transportation to approve the Highway 70 expansion project, according to court documents. In its petition to the court filed on Jan. 5, Marysville alleged that Caltrans failed to comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it approved the project.

San Diego city leaders want to explore creating California’s first government-run public bank, which could loan out tens of millions of dollars in city reserves for projects related to affordable housing, climate change, social equity or other goals. The City Council took the first step by asking Mayor Todd Gloria to study the feasibility. If approved, San Diego would launch its public bank with hundreds of millions of dollars from city reserves that it now keeps at Bank of America and US Bank.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a motion to streamline the permit process for opening a restaurant, with a particular focus on the future of outdoor dining. The new motion advises specific city departments to assess and recommend actions for streamlining.

After years of setbacks, the Livermore City Council approved plans for a neighborhood of nearly 4,100 homes, with parks, office and retail space within walking distance of a train station to be built on the 580 Freeway. The Isabel Neighborhood Specific Plan, will develop over the next 20 years of 1,100 acres of mostly vacant land, imagines a complete neighborhood with condos, banks, restaurants, nail salons, and a grocery store; sports fields, hiking trails, and room for a K-12 school.

The Encinitas City Council approved a climate emergency declaration that, among other things, declares Encinitas will commit to cutting carbon emissions, educating the public about climate change, and will support climate-friendly development. Councilmembers have said Encinitas should prioritize actions that help reduce global warming because it's a coastal city and sea level rise is a threat to coastal areas.

Rancho Cucamonga annexed roughly 4,000 acres of chaparral-covered land that will become a neighborhood with 3,000-single-family homes, some shops, a K-8 school, and open space will 11 miles of trails. The annexation extends the city's boundaries by 6.3 miles, growing the city to about 47 square miles. The land was formerly unincorporated county territory.

A Superior Court judge rejected a California Environmental Quality Act claim that would have blocked a bid to build 469 homes on the edge of Newark's wetlands. Because the homes and streets will be constructed in the "upland agricultural" portion of the site along and between adjacent wetlands, they will sit atop as much as 15 feet of fill soil to comply with city flood regulations. The rest of the property will remain largely seasonal wetlands and marshes.

A plan to restore the largest coastal wetlands complex in Los Angeles County, Balboa Wetlands Ecological Reserve, has received state approval. The project aims to restore the ecological function of 566 acres of the reserve, which lies between Playa del Rey and Marina del Rey. More approvals will be needed over the next few years, including from the California Coastal Commission, before a final determination is made.

Phil Ansel, the head of Los Angeles County's Homeless Initiative, is stepping down. Ansell contributed to the design and implementation of the Measure H sales tax. He oversaw Project Roomkey, and helped lead an effort to use money from the state to purchase hotels and other properties to house homeless people permanently.

A new ranking of the nation's best cities for living without a vehicle includes San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Irvine in the top 20. The rankings are based on factors like walkability, transit options, and pedestrian safety. The city topping the list is San Francisco. Los Angeles is the first Southern California city to show up on the list, ranked at No. 16, followed by Irvine at No. 17.

A non-profit organization in Oakland is implementing a pilot program to manage homeless encampments by paying campers for their belongings. The council will only offer money to people who are violating Oakland's new encampment management policy, which bans camps from being within 150 feet of schools or within 50 feet of homes, businesses, and parks. The organization hopes to encourage people who may not want to leave their possessions behind to make a fresh start.