S.F. Supervisors Face Lawsuit over Denial of Housing Project
YIMBY Action filed a lawsuit against the City and County of San Francisco in San Francisco County Superior Court, arguing the Board of Supervisors violated multiple state housing laws, including the CEQA, the Housing Accountability Act, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, and the Permit Streamlining Act, when they rejected the 469 Stevenson housing project near the city's Financial District. YIMBY Law disapproves of the Board's belief that the CEQA review provided "inadequate analysis," especially because the Planning Department had been involved in designing the 500-unit project for four years. The group has previously filed a lawsuit against San Francisco over another housing project and the City of Los Angeles, also for violating state laws that YIMBY Action advocated for. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
High Speed Rail Authority Certifies EIR for Burbank-to-Los Angeles Segment
The California High Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors unanimously certified the Final Environmental Impact Report for the 14-mile segment from Burbank to Los Angeles, making 60%, or 300 miles, of the Phase 1 system from San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim environmentally cleared. This is Southern California's second environmental document certification and the Los Angeles Basin's first from the Board. As funding becomes available, the project will be closer to connecting a new Hollywood Burbank Airport Station to Los Angeles Union Station with high-speed rail service along the Los Angeles River. The location is intended to improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion, and increase accessibility. Going forward, the CEQA and NEPA must file a Notice of Determination and issue a Record of Decision, and the Board will review environmental documents for remaining sections of the project. Officials in the City of Burbank have expressed concerns about the alignment, saying that construction of a tunnel and underground station could disrupt the city's water supply.
Coastal Commission Report Anticipates 10-Foot Sea Level Rise
In its newest report on the danger of sea level rise, the Coastal Commission is using extreme estimates and scenarios to ensure the state is as prepared as possible to relocate vulnerable coastal roads, railways, and sewage plants. In the report, the Coastal Commission assumes sea levels will increase by 10 feet by 2100 in order to ensure that crucial infrastructure is protected. The 224-page draft titled "Critical Infrastructure at Risk: Sea Level Rise Planning Guidance for California's Coastal Zone" particularly focuses on transportation and water infrastructure as two systems that require a lot of prior preparation. The report was released August 16, and public and local jurisdictions may comment on the draft until September 24 for the Coastal Commission to consider final approval in November or December.
Purchase of Mill Site in Fort Bragg Raises Concerns
The owner of Fort Bragg's Skunk Train used its status as a federally-recognized railroad to purchase a vacant Georgia-Pacific mill site through eminent domain. The site nearly covers all of the west side of Fort BRagg, meaning one owner will make decisions regarding residential, business, and tourist-oriented development on 300 bluff-top acres located in an under-resourced community. The move has faced significant opposition from the Mendocino Coast community, including city officials and local residents who have both characterized the deal as a "land grab" to redevelop one of the largest parcels on the North Coast. The company has been trying to purchase the property for the last two decades and has voiced its dedication to working with the government to establish the area as a "blue economy" that considers ocean resources and resilience.
San Francisco Parklets Policy Draws Criticism
Though San Francisco Supervisors approved policy to make outdoor parklets popularized due to the pandemic permanent, strict rules and regulations are driving many restaurants to completely cease their outdoor dining operations. One estimate suggests that as many as 90% of parklets must be removed or severely changed to comply with the over 60-page city guidelines covered in the Shared Spaces policy program, or they may face severe charges. As restaurants receive violation notices, the city is not acting on fine punishments, according to spokesperson for Mayor London Breed's office Jeff Cretan. Meanwhile, worried restaurant owners are working through confusing violation notices and parklet requirements to support their businesses.
CP&DR Coverage: Newsom Proposes $1 Billion in Planning-Related Grants
Anticipating the release of a new statewide housing plan early this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom has promised in his proposed budget to redouble efforts to identify land for new housing and further streamline housing regulations in an effort to accelerate housing production. In addition, Newsom plans to continue funneling money into programs designed to accelerate housing production, including another $500 million for the Infill Infrastructure Grant program, $300 million for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities run by the Strategic Growth Council, $100 million to accelerate housing development on state-owned land, and another $100 million to incentivize adaptive reuse of older buildings for housing.
Quick Hits & Updates
Orange County Superior Court Judge James Crandall ruled that Mission Viejo City Council members acted in accordance with transparency law in their private negotiations surrounding the purchase and redevelopment of the Stein Mart building in the city's downtown shopping center. The property owner who filed the lawsuit argued that the City Council violated the Brown Act.
Under its Universal Basic Mobility pilot program, the Oakland Department of Transportation has issued 500 debit cards to residents and employees of East Oakland who may spend the uploaded $150 on public transit, bike share, and e-scooters. The program, with funding from the Alameda County Transportation Commission and assistance from community organizations to increase awareness about transit options, is intended to minimize financial obstacles to accessing public and shared transit. Once residents complete a survey this month, the city will approve an additional and final $150 upload.
The Rename S-Valley Fresno County coalition, founded by Roman C. Rain Tree, is proposing to replace the derogatory term for Indigenous women with "Nuum," meaning "the people" in Western Mono language. Just before, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland required the Board on Geographic Names to begin removing the term from federal use. While several states have outlawed its use in place names, 650 federal pieces of land still include the term in its name.
Environmental groups that filed a lawsuit to prevent the construction of hundreds of two-story tract homes along Alameda County's wetlands lost after a state district court ruled that the the City of Newark's and developer The Sobrato Organization's Sanctuary West plan with 469 single-family, market-rate homes may move forward. While the groups argued that the city and developer did not sufficiently consider the impact of rising sea levels in the next decades in their environmental review, the court maintained that environmental conditions decades from now should not be accounted for in this current decision, and the developer agreed to raise homes above predicted sea level heights.
The 72,000-acre Frank and Joan Randall Preserve's 13-year effort to form a $65 million wildlife conservancy between the southern Sierra Nevada and Tejon Ranch has been completed after it acquired its last property. Nine Kern County ranches will form an expanse of biodiverse land intended to protect mountain lions, California condors, and other species, producing the largest project assembled in the state by The Nature Conservancy.
To help protect California’s natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the California Strategic Growth Council approved over $65 million in grants to protect agricultural lands on the outskirts of cities from development and support for local governments to develop regional agricultural land conservation strategies. The funding will help the state avoid an estimated 2.4 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.
The Strategic Growth Council (SGC) announced plans to prioritize the establishment of a Racial Equity Resource Hub that would amend the SGC's Racial Equity Resolution to allow more state, regional, and local access to resources that would promote racial equity in policy and practice. The SGC recommends reestablishing its commitment to confronting racism by improving resource access, outreach, and data analysis within the Resource Hub.
While the Oakland A's have been flirting with a plan to develop the team's waterfront ballpark project in Jack London Square for years, the team has officially placed an offer to purchase a piece of land in Las Vegas to potentially host the ballpark site. Though negotiations are still underway, news broke the same day that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff confirmed that the city would receive federal funds for infrastructure improvements at Jack London Square.
As part of Arcata's Strategic Infill Redevelopment Program intended to reduce building sprawl by taking advantage of underused land, the city has released its draft plan for developing housing in the 138-acre Gateway area. The Gateway Area Plan draft will be available for public commentary for about a year before the City Council votes on it.
About 600 San Francisco neighborhoods and 289 neighborhoods in the San Jose metro area have low food access, according to data analysis from ABC7. According to the analysis, 65% of neighborhoods lack access to easily accessible grocery stores, while 18% of the two metro areas both have limited food access and are low-income.