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CP&DR News Briefs July 26, 2022: Conservation in L.A. Co.; SGC "Resilience Centers;" and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Jul 26, 2022
Thousands of Acres Preserved in L.A., Ventura Counties
As part of a significant effort by nonprofits to purchase land for environmental protection, the Trust for Public Land completed the final purchase phase of 6,000 acres of Los Angeles County ranch land known as the Hathaway/Temescal Ranch. The group transferred the property to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which will operate the land with the goals of improving biodiversity, increasing green space access, and reducing carbon saturation. In addition, the Ventura Land Trust purchased 1,645 acres of Ventura's Mariano Rancho hillsides in an effort to restore wildlife habitats and public access in the next few years. The land trust received financial support from state legislators.

SGC Program Helps Cities Develop "Resilience Centers"
The Strategic Growth Council (SGC) launched its new Community Resilience Centers program as part of the state's 2021-2022 Climate Budget Package. Over the next two years, the SGC will receive $100 million to invest in upgrades to local resilience centers that provide shelter and resources for residents experiencing dangerous climate and environmental conditions, including extreme heat and air pollution. The program also includes food distribution and workforce development training year-found and will center community hubs, such as schools, libraries, health clinics, and places of worship. The SGC intends to release draft program guidelines in September 2022 for public commentary, and the first round of funding is expected to kick off as applications open early 2023.

Environmental Groups File Suit to Block L.A. River Master Plan
The Los Angeles River Master Plan is facing legal trouble after two environmental groups identified officials' failure to adequately review its environmental impacts. In their lawsuit, LA Waterkeeper and the Center for Biological Diversity maintained that the county violated CEQA and are requesting that officials conduct a proper environmental impact review before approving the plan. The lawsuit follows several nonprofit groups' withdrawal of support in advance of supervisor approval, with many specifically concerned about Frank Gehry's plans to build "elevated platform parks." Instead, the plaintiffs and other associated groups hope that the plan more directly concerns naturalizing the path that runs along the river.

CP&DR Coverage: Budget Surplus Skimps on Housing
The state hit the jackpot in 2021 with, by some measures, a surplus of over $95 billion above projections. That surplus is bigger than the entire annual budgets of all but eight states. This year's total general fund budget amounts to $235 billion, up from $196 billion last year. Based on a budget revision released in May and adopted in early July, relatively little of those funds will go toward the state's multimillion-unit housing crisis, with only a handful of line items, each in the hundreds of millions of dollars, dedicated to various housing programs. For planners, the biggest bang for the state's buck may come in the form of increased funding for the Office of Planning and Research, including $65 million to establish a new office dedicated to outreach and partnerships between OPR and localities.

Quick Hits & Updates 
The Pomona City Council approved a 45-day moratorium on new warehouses and trucking facilities while city officials study the burdens of industrial development on neighboring communities. The moratorium may be extended and includes exceptions for businesses expanding by a maximum of 20,000 square feet.

Two donations totaling $2 million will fund the introduction of the University of California San Diego's Homelessness Hub, a program that will conduct research, center education, and inform policy and action on homelessness in San Diego.

A $50 million state grant will help finance the Sacramento Valley Station renovation project, which includes a new regional bus layover and vehicle charging station, additional regional transit stops, and updated payment technology.

The redevelopment of San Jose's Cambrian Park Plaza into a mixed-use village will move forward after the San Jose Planning Commission approved a plan for the old shopping center. The new development is proposed to include housing units, retail and office space, a hotel, and playfields.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the public opening of San Francisco's new 14-acre Presidio Tunnel Tops park. The park received funding from many San Francisco private donors, who contributed $98 million to the park.

The Strategic Growth Council opened the Full Application for Round 1 of the Regional Climate Collaboratives Grant Program with a deadline of October 7, 2022. The program aims to provide more climate grants to under-resourced communities and improve local action and collaboration.

The San Francisco November ballot will include a measure that would add formal oversight to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing following a report that the department does not properly track housing stock.

A proposal for a passenger rail link between the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles's Union Station will move forward after the Riverside County Transportation Commission adopted a service plan for the project. The 144-mile path would use existing tracks and necessitate up to five new stations in Riverside County.

A California federal judge reversed Trump-era restrictions to the Endangered Species Act, siding with several environmental groups and restoring protections for hundreds of wildlife species facing development and climate danger.
A new feasibility study that analyzes redevelopment potential for the L.A. County General Hospital building and 12 acres of surrounding land proposes several options for the 1.2 million square foot Art Deco building, including housing for very low-income residents, community service spaces such as schools and health centers, and open green space.

San Francisco and San Jose have been identified as the first and ninth most livable large U.S. cities, while Berkeley is one of the most livable midsize cities, according to a new tool from AARP. The group's Public Policy Institute has a new Livability Index that identifies the most livable cities using 61 factors, from environment to housing and transit options.

The Santa Ana City Council approved an ordinance that increases developer fees from $5 to $15 per square foot for projects without affordable housing. Officials also established incentives fro contractors to hire local union workers.

Executive Director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Heidi Marton announced her resignation, mentioning her disagreement with LAHSA's board over her decision to increase salaries of the organization's lowest-paid employees.

Fresno County is pushing back against Attorney General Rob Bonta's letter critical of the county's draft general plan that is generous toward industrial development that would harm at-risk communities. Fresno officials describe the letter as a bureaucratic charge.

Measure E, San Jose's ballot measure approved by voters in 2020, has brought in over $140 million over the past two years, with totals a $65 million surplus. The real estate transfer tax was originally intended to contribute $40 million per year to affordable housing and homelessness programs, in which officials plan to invest more with the extra funds.

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