CP&DR News Briefs January 3, 2023: L.A. "Mansion Tax;" Proposed National Monument; Social Justice in San Diego; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Jan 2, 2023

Opponents of Los Angeles "Mansion Tax" File Suit
Several real estate and antitax organizations are fighting Measure ULA, a policy that will tax the sale of properties over $5 million which Los Angeles voters just approved on the November ballot. The funds generated from Measure ULA, expected to total $600 million to $1.1 billion annually, will contribute to alleviating the homelessness crisis, constructing new housing, and tenant support in the city. Now, the coalition is arguing that the measure, which passed with almost 58% of the vote, violates the state constitution. While Los Angeles already has a similar policy, Measure ULA significant increases the tax to reach 4% for property sales totaling over $5 million and 5.5% for sales over $10 million. Though Mayor Karen Bass is considering how her team will implement Measure ULA in the administration's state of emergency on homelessness, wealthy homeowners are considering dividing their properties into smaller parcels to evade the tax while hoping for a favorable outcome in this legal battle.

1.4 Million Acre National Monument Proposed in Sierras
Proposed legislation would protect 1.4 million acres of mountains and forests that connect Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks. Introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier, the Range of Light National Monument Bill would transfer the area in between the two national parks from the oversight of the federal Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to the National Park Service in order to improve preservation. If the bill moves forward, the Range of Light Monument would replace the Sierra National Forest and the San Joaquin Gorge. Currently, the land is available to be logged, mined, and grazed, operations which would stop if the legislation is approved, though hydroelectric facilities and existing cabins or private land may remain.

San Diego to Direct Infrastructure Funding to Underserved Areas
The San Diego City Council members approved a new policy that will prioritize infrastructure funding for low-income neighborhoods. The plan involves a scoring system that evaluates which neighborhoods have systemically been underfunded and under-resourced and where residents typically earn low incomes. While factors including public safety, state laws, and environmental considerations will also be factored in to assess citywide concerns, this policy means that equity and growth potential must be evaluated as well. Now, low-income communities are expected to see improved roads and new libraries and parks, whereas higher-income neighborhoods will wait longer. The policy is also intended to increase decision-making abilities concerning land use projects for low-income areas.

Redevelopment of Concord Base Could Grow to 15,585 Units
The plan to redevelop the Bay Area's Concord Naval Weapons Station may grow to include 27% more housing , for a total of 15,585 units. Developer Concord First Partners and Concord city planning staff have formed a "term sheet" with the new plan, which the city council will consider on Jan. 7. The developer hopes that increasing the number of units will re-establish enthusiasm for the project, which has dropped due to the high cost of building and the instability of the housing market. Concord First Partners, in addition to proposing 3,313 more units on the 2,225-acre site, is offering to make 879 of the 25% affordable units "junior accessory dwelling units," or backyard cottages, instead of units in multifamily buildings.

CP&DR Coverage: The Year That Was
CP&DR wrapped up 2022 with a look back at one of the most action-packed years in urban planning in recent memory. The most telling CP&DR headline of 2022 came very early in the year, on January 10: "Cities Move Quickly to Regulate SB 9 Housing Units." Typically, urban planning does not move "quickly." Nor does it move fast, swiftly, rapidly, or with any other adverb not associated with mollusks or tectonic plates. But this year flew by, and stories erupted. Sometimes it was hard to keep pace. Our most-read news story, and second-most-read story overall, also chronicles a reaction to SB 9: the proposed "Our Neighborhood Voices" ballot measure, that would have not only nullified SB 9 but also limited many of the state's other powers to regular local land use. In the middle of this year, CP&DR wondered whether NIMBYism--for decades, the beating heart of California's land use regime--was "on the way out." We answered in the affirmative. That blog was read more times than any other CP&DR article this year, so much so that its readership was double that of the next most popular story. California's planners can read into that what they will.

Quick Hits & Updates 

In addition to attempting to outlaw Builder's Remedy projects in the city, Huntington Beach City Council members have approved, 4-3, an ordinance that would allow the city to fight against their RHNA requirements. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The Department of Housing and Community Development is accepting applications for its new Infill Infrastructure Grant Catalytic Program, which will provide $105 million to communities to promote the construction of infill housing intended to alleviate the housing crisis while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Six environmental groups are fighting a legal battle to revitalize Bakersfield's Kern River, which has dried out since officials drained the source for agricultural use. If the advocates win, the decision may set a precedent for future protections for water sources amidst a worsening drought.

Facing unusual heavy rains and flooding, Los Angeles supervisors have commissioned a report on the potential for improving flood control infrastructure along the Los Angeles Basin from the Department of Public Works. The move follows warnings from scientists about the dangers of climate change induced-flooding, especially for low-income neighborhoods.

Los Angeles street vendors are fighting a legal battle against the city’s no-vending zones established in 2018. The lawsuit will attempt to prevent further fines amidst the rising costs of gas, food, and parking.

Direct and indirect costs associated with homelessness in Oakland, including housing, shelter, food security, mental health services, and trash removal at encampments, total $122 million per year, according to estimates in a recent city report. Officials found that the city spent $73 million in the direct costs of addressing the crisis and $49 million in indirect costs.

San Bernardino County voters approved an advisory ballot proposal that instructs officials to examine what it would mean for the county to secede from the state. Though actual secession is unlikely, interest in the move indicates frustration with political alienation and stagnation.

Several cities in Napa, Marin, and Sonoma counties have chosen to keep outdoor parklets popularized earlier in the pandemic as part of permanent city infrastructure. Despite concerns over parking, enthusiasm for the policy's infusion of vibrancy throughout city streets has prevailed.

In an auction for leases to develop five commercial-scale wind farms located off the coast of California, many of the winning bids, which totaled $757 million, came from European companies. The five farms, which cover 583 square miles of the Pacific Ocean, would produce enough energy to power 1.5 million homes.