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CP&DR News Briefs January 11, 2022: Los Angeles Housing Element; Complete Streets; Angel Stadium Redevelopment; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Jan 11, 2022

AIDS Healthcare Foundation Sues to Block Los Angeles Housing Plan
While the L.A. City Council wants to use the city's Housing Element to rezone and add nearly 500,000 homes by October 2029 (as mandated by the city's Regional Housing Needs Allocation), the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has filed suit to obstruct its plans, arguing that officials failed to adequately consider environmental impacts. The nonprofit noted in its lawsuit that it will intervene because upzoning for more density without establishing affordable housing requirements would spur displacement and gentrification. The city argues that its plan will provide renter relief by increasing supply, will generate 185,000 units of affordable housing, and adheres to state environmental law. To meet the proposal in its updated Housing Element, "The Plan to House L.A.," the city will need to approve about 57,000 units per year, a significant increase from the 16,700 units permitted annually since 2014. In 2017, AIDS Healthcare previously a defeated ballot measure to restrict development citywide and has filed several anti-development suits in the city. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Caltrans Releases Complete Streets Policy
Caltrans announced its new policy for all new transportation projects it funds or oversees to include “complete street” features that provide safe and accessible options for people walking, biking and taking transit. This policy is intended to expand the availability of sustainable transportation options to help meet the state’s climate, health and equity goals, though some advocates remain skeptical considering the department's pro-highway history. As part of the new policy, Caltrans commits to removing administrative barriers and partnering with communities and local agencies to ensure more projects on state and local transportation systems improve the connectivity to pedestrian, bicycle, and transit facilities and accessibility to destinations. If not appropriate to the context or community of the project, projects must receive approval from Caltrans before complete streets features are excluded.

State Challenges Anaheim's Plans for Angel Stadium
The state Department of Housing and Community Development has issued a Notice of Violation of the Surplus Land Act to the City of Anaheim over its Angel Stadium land sale. While the city has been trying to convince the HCD that its project satisfies California affordable housing law requirements, the state found three violations related to a lack of prioritization of affordable housing developers. Anaheim argued that, in addition to the 466 affordable units promised at the moment, the final project has a goal of 777, and the city will work with Angels owner Arte Moreno's company to provide 518 affordable homes outside of the development. They claim that the state declined their proposal to pair affordable housing with the Angel Stadium project. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

San Diego May Appeal Ruling Against Midway District Plans
In its attempt to move forward with a redevelopment of the sports arena site, the City of San Diego is facing a court ruling that overturned a voter-approved ballot measure that would have relaxed building height restrictions in the Midway District. The city will respond with two approaches: an appeal from the city attorney office and an environmental impact report on tall buildings in the area. San Diego County Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal ruled that the city failed to analyze the environmental impacts of Measure E, which would eliminate the 30-foot height limit, before putting it on the ballot. Since the appeal process may take over a year, the city hopes that conducting an analysis could be an easier path to putting the measure on the ballot again in 2022. Five firms remain in the running for developing the mixed-use site with thousands of new homes.

CalEPA Updates CalEnviroScreen
The California Environmental Protection Agency finalized the release of an updated version of CalEnviroScreen, a geospatial program first launched in 2013 and designed to identify communities that experience the highest levels of pollution burdens and risks. The tool helps officials make more equitable policy decisions and allows other organizations and individuals to more easily comprehend California's environmental injustice. Environmental justice grants, environmental law enforcement, site cleanups, and sustainable development are all due to the effectiveness of CalEnviroScreen. Also, the program's identification of "disadvantaged communities" allows the state to more easily decide who will receive California Climate Investments from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. The newest update analyzes data from 21 indicators of environmental, public health, and socioeconomic conditions in 8,000 census tracts. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Court Rejects Challenge to Controversial Lafayette Apartment Complex
Contra Costa County Judge Barry Baskin rejected concerns from opponents of a 315-unit apartment complex that the development would not be environmentally dependable, allowing the project to move forward. Save Lafayette, the group challenging the complex, filed a lawsuit to stop construction of the Terraces of Lafayette after the city council approved the project amongst talk that the project would yield environmental challenges. The apartments are poised to include 63 affordable units across 14 buildings as well as a 2-story clubhouse, a leasing office, and 550 parking spaces on 22 acres. Judge Baskin found that the city's approval of the environmental impacts, including tree removal, is still acceptable, though Save Lafayette is arguing that environmental conditions have since changed. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Quick Hits & Updates

Palo Alto is considering what may be the state's first SB 9 project that would build four homes on a single-family, one-acre Barron Park lot. The architect applied for approval just two days after the law took effect and plans to demolish the existing home and storage unit to construct a two-story home, an ADU, and two single-story homes. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

To increase affordable housing supply, the San Jose City Council unanimously voted to scrap a policy that requires affordable housing projects located in urban villages or near major transit stops to plan for commercial space on the ground floor. While the policy was originally intended to propel economic growth, 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.

The Coastal Commission approved Laguna Beach's updated Downtown Specific Plan, which includes relaxed parking requirements and the implementation of permit-by-right for new businesses instead of conditional use permits to simplify the process of establishing commercial spaces in the city's village. The plan will not go into effect until the city council approves the commission's amendments.

The state has approved a $30 million grant for the City of Sacramento to help construct The Railyards north of the city's downtown with developer LDK Ventures. The 240-acre site will include a Superior Courthouse, a Kaiser hospital, and a 345-unit housing development with 69 units for affordable housing and retail

Google announced a plan to construct several hundred homes atop the proposed site for a new San Jose BART station near the Diridon transit hub. Public records show that Google's project within its Downtown West Village would include 500 units and 18,000 square feet of retail and commercial space.

Citrus Heights City Council unanimously approved a plan to transform the Sunrise Mall by reducing retail space by over 1 million square feet and constructing 2,220 residential units, 960,000 square feet of office space, and 480 hotel rooms. The Sunrise Tomorrow Specific Plan will be revitalized in phases, likely beginning with construction on surplus parking space.

San Jose City Council is considering expanding on SB 9 to allow upzoning in historic districts. The policy finds support from city planners and the Planning Commission as an effort to increase the area's housing supply.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development is reviewing Oakland City Council's delayed approval of a 222-unit residential project across from the West Oakland BART to decide if the city violated state laws. Their investigation comes a week after announcing their review of San Francisco Supervisors' denial of a 495-unit project.

Long Beach will resubmit its plan to meet the state's RHNA requirements with an amendment that allows for more housing to be built on parcels designated as "high resource" areas. The change responds to state demands and should contribute to the requested construction of 26,502 units over the next 8 years.

While Gov. Gavin Newsom has committed to ceasing the issuing of new fracking permits by 2024, the state is getting a head start by rejecting permits in areas deemed unfruitful. The state has denied 109 permits since July using references to the environmental and public health dangers of fracking.

The latest proposal for the redevelopment of San Diego's Midway District into a new sports arena would include 4,000 new homes and 20 acres of park space. Developer Zephyr and affordable-housing company Chelsea Investment are spearheading the proposal that would reinvest in the 48-acre space surrounding the existing Pechanga Arena.

The Clovis City Council voted to reduce its sphere of influence by 1,000 acres northeast in response to a developer's uncovering of a habitat of California tiger salamanders, a species that is either threatened or endangered throughout various parts of the state. Wilson Homes is urging the city to only adopt 155 acres into its sphere of influence, and Wilson Homes would develop 75 acres instead of the originally planned 350 acres.