Caltrain Extension to Salesforce to cost $6.7 Billion
The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) released a new estimate that puts the cost of extending Caltrain 1.3 miles to the Salesforce Tower in downtown San Francisco at $6.7 billion. In spite of the 34% increase in estimated cost from 2015, transit planners have set a completion date for “The Portal” at 2032. It would be one of the costliest rail projects, on a per-mile basis, in the world. The project costs come largely from building the new underground station and tunnel. In an effort to reduce budget Caltrain has already decided to shrink proposed tunnel size and eliminate an underground passage from Salesforce Tower, which was constructed with space for an underground rail station, to the Embarcadero BART station. TJPA is hoping to secure at least 50% of their proposed budget from the Biden administration, which may be difficult given that Caltrain ridership three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is still down 60%. Caltrain is already projecting operating on a deficit, which could affect its proposed 2024 rollout of electrified trains.
Los Angeles Further Extends, Enhances Tenant Protections
11 days before COVID-19 anti-eviction protections were set to expire, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to expand tenant protections. Small landlords made their voices heard during public comment on the policy, with many claiming they were already severely burdened under the existing COVID-19 protections. The new tenant protections will stop landlords from evicting tenants unless there were documented lease violations, unpaid rent, and or owner move-ins. This will expand just-cause evictions protections, like those already given to tenants in rent-stabilized units, to an additional 400,000 units in the city. Evictions for tenants with unauthorized pets and with added residents not listed on leases are also paused until 2024. The council also voted to extend the timeline for tenants to pay back-rent, and directed city departments to propose new relief programs for smaller landlords within 30 days.
Supreme Court Rejects Lawsuit over Bay Area Toll Hikes; Capital Improvements to Proceed
The California Supreme Court dismissed a 2018 lawsuit intended to challenge toll hikes at seven Bay Area Bridges through Regional Measure 3. While Measure 3 passed in 2018 with 55% of the vote, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association argued that since the funds generated by the toll hikes would benefit the general public — not just bridge users — it should have been on the ballot as a local tax, which would have required two thirds of the vote. The toll hikes still went into effect in 2019, but the hundreds of millions already generated by the measure are sitting in an escrow account. Now, with the lawsuit dismissed, BART, MUNI, and other Bay Area Transit agencies will have access to funds that could alleviate their existing financial burdens. Money from Measure M will go towards projects like BART’s expansion into downtown San Jose, the ongoing replacement of old BART cars, the San Francisco Bay Ferry’s expansion into Mission Bay, and Caltrain’s extension into the Salesforce Transit Center.
Major Sonoma County Redevelopment Faces Lawsuit
A bid to redevelop a former state-run Sonoma Developmental Center in Glen Ellen is facing a lawsuit from citizen groups. The plaintiffs, Sonoma County Tomorrow and Sonoma Community Advocates for a Livable Environment have filed suit to contest the county’s environmental impact report for the site, raising concerns about wildfire evacuation risks, danger to wildlife corridors, and preservation of historic buildings. The county’s land use and development agency, Permit Sonoma, has responded to the lawsuit insisting that they take their responsibility to uphold their obligations under the California Environmental Quality Act seriously. The county has a sizable need for additional housing, and the closed developmental center’s 945 acre plot posed a rare opportunity to combat the housing shortage. The county has already scaled down the proposed number of units from 1,000 to 700. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
CP&DR Coverage: Does Los Angeles's New Mayor Understand Development?
Newly elected and installed Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass comes into office with an unenviable task: solving the country's worst homelessness crisis and providing affordable housing for potentially hundreds of thousands of residents who are rent-burdened or otherwise housing insecure. She has pledged to develop affordable housing. Unfortunately, she has also expressed her antagonism toward "luxury housing," which, in Los Angeles, means pretty much anything with a door and four walls. CP&DR's Josh Stephens explain how Bass is given into tired NIMBY tropes and why antagonism toward any housing type is not what the city needs right now.
Quick Hits & Updates
An attempt by the city of Lakeport to annex 137 acres south of Main Street and East of Highway 29 was halted by the Lake Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCo). The area in question contains a lucrative commercial corridor which is at the heart of the city’s desire for annexation.
A study commissioned by the Housing Inclusionary Program in San Francisco casts doubt on the city’s ability to meet a state mandate of building 82,000 units by 2031. In the current market, many proposed projects are not financially viable for developers, and with mandated affordability requirements they become even less so.
The Los Angeles County city of El Segundo is revamping its Downtown Specific Plan, with the city hoping to adopt an updated version by summer 2023. The new update could accommodate up to 300 new residential units, 130,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space, 200,000 square feet of new office space, and 24,000 square feet of medical offices.
A Palo Alto environmental group bought an 839 acre property adjacent to Mount Madonna for $10.6 million. The property had been in the Estrada family since 1848, and sold it to Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) with the agreement that the property will be managed by the Estrada’s to ensure its preservation. POST, founded in 1977, has preserved 82,000 acres between Santa Cruz, San Mateo, and Santa Clara county.
A deal to sell the 387-acre Banning Ranch for public use as a natural open space has closed escrow. Environmental activists are celebrating the $100 million sale, a process which took over 30 years and will prevent future development on the land.
A campaign titled Stop the Energy Shutdown is gathering signatures to place a referendum on the 2024 California ballot that would overturn the recently-passed SB 1137, which outlaws new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of schools, homes, and hospitals.
San Diego developer 1HWY1 will seek $550 million in public funding to help finance site infrastructure and amenities as part of its downtown seaport redevelopment. The $3.5 billion proposal includes hotels, an urban beach, and new marinas.
The Menlo Park City Council approved Meta's (formerly Facebook) plan for a mixed-use urban village with housing, office, and retail space in Willow Village. Despite unanimous approval, some council members remain concerned that the project, in its effort to avoid neighborhood opposition, is too distant from transit centers.
Santa Monica developer WS Communities (WSC) has filed its first Builder's Remedy project application for a 10-story, 75-unit apartment building with 15 affordable units. WSC has proposed most of the Builder's Remedy projects expected to come to Santa Monica. (See related CP&DR coverage.)