CP&DR News Briefs January 17, 2023: GHG Scoping Plan; L.A., Long Beach Housing; Sunnyvale Housing; and More

Tatum Troutt & CP&DR Staff on
Jan 17, 2023

Legislative Analyst Skeptical of Greenhouse Gas Scoping Plan
The Legislative Analyst’s Office has reviewed the California Air Resources Board’s updated Scoping Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The review states that despite updating both the statutory and Scoping Plan reduction goals for 2030 to 40 percent and 48 percent of the 1990 levels, respectively, the plan does not provide enough specific policies or guidelines for successful implementation. The review found that the plan primarily relies on assumptions, such as a percent reduction in per capita vehicle miles traveled, to drive emission reductions instead of specific, actionable policies. Due to the lack of actionable items, there is risk of not meeting the goals, of increasing costs, and of limiting both the global impact of California’s leadership in climate change policy and its ability to effectively make policy and budget choices, the review states. The review also evaluated the Cap-and-Trade program’s contributions to meeting the 2030 goals and found that it is not positioned to make up for the shortfall of other emissions reductions programs because it is not stringent enough. Recommendations for improving the plan include the Legislature requiring a report by the California Air Resources Board with additional details about the policies and cost-effectiveness and updating the Cap-and-Trade program to be more stringent under an extended timeline. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Los Angeles, Los Beach Accelerate Efforts to Develop Affordable Housing
Newly-elected Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass is instructing city departments to accelerate their processing of affordable housing and shelter applications, requiring completion within 60 days. Further, Bass has ordered departments to waive discretionary reviews for projects that do not necessitate zoning changes. As a result, city officials expect that processes for 31 projects currently under review will be streamlined for approval. The move follows Bass' declaration of a state of emergency on homelessness, an initiative echoed by Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson, who has requested that city officials draft a similar emergency declaration. Richardson's priorities in addressing the crisis include increasing shelter capacity, improving homelessness outreach teams, and making use of the city's Alternate Crisis Response Program, intended to enhance mental health and medical resources.

Sunnyvale to Lift Prohibition on Residential Development in Moffett Park
To meet the state's 12,000-home RHNA requirement, Sunnyvale plans to bring new housing to Moffett Park, where residential development is currently prohibited. In its Moffett Park Specific Plan draft, officials are planning to add 16,000 to 20,000 new homes by 2040, with 15 percent being affordable, to an area which holds public office and research hub facilities. Planners expect that much of the housing would be developed alongside office and research campuses owned by large tech companies, which have already inhabited the area. Officials also released a draft environmental impact report which outlines that the city would increase development by about 10 million square feet, 3.4 million of which have already been approved, in addition to the new homes.

Report Assesses Slow Uptake of SB 9 Housing Units
A new brief authored by researchers and analysts at UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation considers the barriers to providing missing middle housing, which encompasses housing developments that range in size from accessory dwelling units to small-scale apartment complexes. Though state officials have approved SB 9 and various zoning reforms, regulatory, financing, and construction hurdles make missing middle housing construction too rare to make an impact. The authors recommend that policies surpass zoning reforms to include statewide design standards, reduced costs and requirements, and streamlined processes which make it easier to construct units that help alleviate the housing crisis.

CP&DR Legal Coverage: Housing Accountability Act Supports Livermore Housing Project
A challenge to a major downtown Livermore affordable housing project has failed in large part due to the Housing Accountability Act, especially the objective standards provisions. And the fact that the project was in a specific plan area helped bulletproof it against legal challenge under the California Environmental Quality Act. On the downtown project, the First District Court of Appeal ruled in an unpublished opinion that Save Livermore Downtown’s litany of claims was meritless. The city found that the project conformed with the city’s general plan and the downtown specific plan and concluded that because of the specific plan conformity the project was exempt from CEQA. Save Livermore Downtown challenged both the conformity and the CEQA exemption. In the local media, Save Livermore Downtown immediately promised to ask for a rehearing.

Quick Hits & Updates

A tentative court ruling has halted plans for the University of California’s plans for redevelopment of People’s Park in Berkeley to accommodate housing for students and people experiencing homelessness. The ruling stated that the university failed to conduct an environmental impact review of alternative sites and that it did not consider impacts such as noise and displacement of existing residents in the area surrounding the site. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The City of Los Angeles is facing multiple lawsuits which seek to prevent last month’s city council decision to ban all new oil and gas production and phase out all existing production over the next 20 years from taking effect. The lawsuits argue that the city did not conduct an environmental study of the change in compliance with state and local requirements, while activist community groups arguing in favor of the ban are citing health problems linked to living near oil wells.

A draft of the North Paramount Gateway Specific Plan in the Los Angeles County city of Paramount includes 5,000 new residential units, 31,000 square feet of commercial space, and public improvements such as bike lanes and wider sidewalks. The Specific Plan covers 279 acres between the two planned stations of the West Santa Ana Branch light rail line within Paramount, and the city is seeking to rezone the land to accommodate the new, denser developments outlined in the plan.

Guidelines for implementation of AB 2097 have been circulated by the Los Angeles Department of City Planning. AB 2097 prohibits public agencies from imposing minimum parking requirements on most types of development within one-half mile of a major transit stop. The guidelines indicate a new data collection process for the city to better understand the impact of the law on housing development and a process for submitting evidence in favor of parking requirements from interested parties.

The Los Angeles Planning Commission approved a pilot plan to implement rules for homeowners developing new structures in the hills between Griffin Park and the 405 freeway to prevent further harm to wildlife. The ordinance will head to the Planning and Land Use Management Committee before reaching the city council.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) is pleased to announce the availability of the Housing Element Annual Progress Report (APR) forminstructions, and FAQs. The form is for jurisdictions to report housing activity during the 2022 calendar year. Local governments are required to submit 2022 APRs to HCD and Office of Planning and Research (OPR) by April 1, 2023.

The Del Mar City Council sent a letter to Senator Toni Atkins to protest the implementation of Senate Bill 9, the 2021 law that permits the development of multiple units on lots currently zoned for single-unit homes. The letter claims, “the State mandates raise concerns about loss of local control, unnecessary impacts to community character, and impacts to the general fund." The letter raises specific concerns about implementing SB 9 in the Coastal Zone.

Though California is home to 11 of the top 20 most expensive regions in the United States, the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley metro area is the most expensive, according to recent federal data. Analysts found that severe housing and utilities costs were 19.8% higher than the national average.

San Francisco housing developers typically wait 627 days before receiving a full building permit for multifamily projects and 861 days for single family developments, according to recent data from the city's Department of Building Inspection. The delays point to role of bureaucratic processes in worsening the housing crisis.