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CP&DR News Briefs June 14, 2022: Berkeley BART TOD; S.F. Affordable Housing Plan; Coastal Fracking; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Jun 14, 2022

Berkeley Approves Thousands of Units Near BART Stations
The Berkeley City Council voted to approve the construction of several seven-story buildings with a total of 2,400 units at North Berkeley and Ashby BART stations. The residential buildings could reach 12 stories with a combined 3,600 units using a state density bonus once the developer is established and the design process begins within the next year. With the environmental review already approved, construction at both stations is expected to begin as soon as 2025 and end in 2030. The developments must include a minimum of 35% affordable units. However, many residents who attended the city council meeting urged for 100% affordable housing and discussed the government's displacement of Black residents when it took the land using eminent domain to construct the Ashby station.

S.F. Affordable Housing Plan Would Cost $1.3 Billion
San Francisco would require an additional $1.3 billion to meet housing requirements that are set to begin next year, according to the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development. Over the next eight years, officials must build 82,000 new homes, including 32,000 affordable units. While 11,000 units of affordable housing are underway in the city, San Francisco's market-rate housing construction continues to outpace its affordable housing production; the city produced 48 percent of its affordable goal and 151 percent for market-rate. Primarily to blame are extreme construction costs and San Francisco's affordable housing funding gap, a pertinent topic for the Board of Supervisors' Government Audit and Oversight Committee that will continue to evolve as Mayor London Breed releases her proposed budget.

Court Ruling Curtails Fracking in Coastal Zone
New permits that authorize fracking off the California coast will come to a halt after the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that offshore drilling permits cannot be approved without a complete federal environmental review. The decision comes from a 2016 lawsuit filed by the state, the Coastal Commission, and environmental groups who argued that the federal government violated environmental law when it approved oil drilling using inadequate environmental assessments instead of a full review. California Attorney General Rob Bonta celebrated the decision and emphasized that fracking augments pollution and climate change, citing last year's Huntington Beach oil spill, and many are hopeful that the move will incite plans to end fracking for good.

CP&DR Legal Coverage: CEQA Delays, Project Descriptions
Unless local open space advocates appeal the ruling to the California Supreme Court, a ruling in Marin County would appear to be the end of the line for the property on the southern tip of the Tiburon Peninsula, which the advocates have dubbed “Easton’s Point”. The Martha Company put the property on the market in 2018 for over $100 million but has since dropped its price to around $60 million. Martha and the Trust for Public Land are now engaged in a joint appraisal of the property. If the case does go to the Supreme Court, the judge is essentially daring the justices to draw a bright line on CEQA delays.

An appellate court ruled that Siskiyou County described a proposed water bottling plant project adjacent to Mount Shasta too narrowly. The court also found fault with the way the county analyzed climate change impacts. CEQA experts know that creating the right project description is critical to the environmental review process. Describe the project too broadly and you’ll be required to examine a slew of alternatives that the permit applicant might not be able to pull off. Describe it too narrowly and you face criticism from project opponents that you’ve rigged the process so that only the project being proposed can move forward. That was the argument made by opponents of the Crystal Geyser project – and, while disagreeing with the opponents on several aspects of the project description, the appellate court agreed that the the description was ultimately too narrow.

Quick Hits & Updates

The Huntington Beach City Council has approved a conditional use permit and tentative tract map for a 48-unit condominium project with commercial and parking space that has previously faced multiple rejections. Officials noted that updates to the Housing Accountability Act have reduced opportunities for cities to deny housing projects. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California reached a settlement with the owners of a Marin County apartment development who refused to make any of their 646 units available to low-income residents receiving financial aid under the Section 8 program. The owners have agreed to follow state law which prohibits housing discrimination based on income.

The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with an Oakland ordinance that requires property owners to pay the relocation expenses of tenants they evict after rejecting a challenge by a couple who claims that it has was punished for exercising the right to regain their property when they paid relocation costs in 2018.

A federal judge reversed the Trump-era Fish and Wildlife Service conclusion that the sage grouse, a species found along the Nevada-California border, does not need federal protection. Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ruled that the decision failed to use proper science and that the species should be identified as "threatened."

In a new report, UCLA's Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies analyzes the state's "builder's remedy" for noncompliance with with Housing Accountability Act, finding that the remedy, which allows affordable housing developers to move past cities' zoning and general plan, is so unclear that developers rarely submit a builder's remedy project.

Construction on Amazon's largest logistics network warehouse worldwide is nearly completed, spanning 4.1 million square feet and five stories in southwestern Ontario. At the same time, e-commerce declines and warehouse moratoriums are pressuring the company to reduce its warehouse network.

California has been ranked as the fourth most bicycle-friendly state in 2022, according to a report from the League of American Bicyclists. While the league celebrates the state's recent bicycle policy, it writes that officials must fill the $2 billion gap in funding in biking and walking investments.

Pursuant to SB 1000, a law that requires cities and counties to prioritize environmental justice and reduce harm to impacted communities, Santa Ana officials unanimously approved an update to the city's General Plan that incorporates environmental justice efforts intended to confront public health dangers, notably lead-contaminated soil.

Marin County supervisors have adopted interim ordinances that restrict local control over new residential housing construction. While their approval generally adheres to recommendations from the county's Planning Commission, the supervisors did extend the maximum house size allowed for SB 9 construction to 1,200 square feet instead of 1,000. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Fontana officials have adopted new regulations intended to force logistic centers to reduce their pollution after Attorney General Rob Bonta sued the city nine months ago for violating the CEQA with its approval of a trucking warehouse adjacent to a high school. The regulations include a buffer zone of 10 feet around all warehouse projects sized over 50,000 feet and the planting of drought-tolerant trees within the buffer zone.

The developer of Los Angeles's Temescal Canyon trailhead facility is facing a $6 million fine from the Coastal Commission for violating the access rights of visitors. The enforcement analyst noted that the several failed attempts to transfer the privatized property to city control have specifically burdened low-income and disabled communities and communities of color.

Environmental group Sempervirens Fund will pay the YMCA $9.6 million to preserve Camp Jones Gulch, a 928-acre property the camp owns in the Santa Cruz Mountains that is home to redwood trees. The group will own the timber and other development rights to prevent the YMCA from attempting to deforest the redwoods to fund facility upgrades.

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