Transbay Transit Center Receives $3.4 Billion from Feds
San Francisco's ambitious plan to transform the Transbay Transit Center, located at the Salesforce Tower, into the "Grand Central Station of the West" has garnered substantial federal support, with a pledged $3.4 billion toward the downtown rail extension project. The extension aims to connect California's High-Speed Rail and the Peninsula's Caltrain commuter rail to the heart of downtown, revitalizing the dormant transit hub. Despite the project's expected completion in 2032 and projected costs of up to $8.25 billion, securing matching funds remains a challenge for local leaders. The federal funding commitment covers approximately 41% of the projected cost, but additional funding sources are needed to move forward with construction, slated to begin in 2025. The envisioned project includes new tunneling and an underground concourse linking commuters to BART's Embarcadero Station, contingent on securing necessary funding.

State Updates Income Thresholds for Affordable Housing
The Department of Housing and Community Development released its 2024 State Income Limits for California, reflecting updated median income levels across the state's counties to determine eligibility and calculate affordable housing costs for various assistance programs. Marin County has the highest median income in the state at $186,600, with $109,700 a year income for one household member qualifying as “low income.” Los Angeles County’s median income sits at $98,200 and $77,700 constituing low income for one household member. San Diego County, the second most populous county in the state, has an area median income of $119,500, with $84,900 considered low income. The methodology behind these income limits involves adjustments based on federal guidelines from HUD and California's statutory provisions, including the 2013 Hold Harmless Policy. The state's Hold Harmless Policy, implemented in 2013, prevents any decrease in income limits or median family income published by HUD from being applied to California's State Income Limits. This policy ensures that income limits established by HUD, which may fluctuate due to various factors, do not lead to a decrease in affordability for Californians seeking housing assistance.

Report: 95% of California Residential Land Zoned for Single-Family
A new report from the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley analyzes the state of single-family zoning in California, covering racial and demographic impacts, economic characteristics, statistical relationships, and zoning reform. Their findings show that 95.80% of California's residential land and 30% of all land is single-family-only zoning. Further, excluding unincorporated areas, 82% of residential land is zoned as single-family-only, averaging 77.82% across 519 jurisdictions with a median of 83.93%. They also found a direct correlation between increased single-family zoning restrictions and the percentage of white residents as well as with median household income and the percentage of single-family-only zoning by jurisdiction. To conclude, the report presents a list of target cities for zoning reform using categories such as proximity to central business districts and poor performance in meeting RHNA targets for affordable housing.

San Francisco Tops List of "Urban Mobility Readiness"
A report conducted by the Oliver Wyman Forum and UC Berkeley situates cities across the world within an Urban Mobility Readiness Index, evaluating their approaches to public transit systems, electric vehicle use, and general mobility in terms of social impact, infrastructure, market attractiveness, system efficiency, and innovation. On their recent list, San Francisco took first place, while Los Angeles ranked seventeenth, both displaying a well-rounded approach to urban mobility. Analysts praised San Francisco for its incentives for purchasing electric vehicles and its Slow Streets program, which sections off roads for pedestrian, bicyclist, and other vehicle-free uses. Researchers found that the city could improve its public transit policies, citing public transit as pivotal for urban vitality.

Potentially Destructive Desert Solar Plant to Break Ground
A controversial 2,300-acre solar project in eastern Kern County will break ground this month. It faced much community pushback as residents worry about the removal of 3,500 Joshua trees and habitat destruction for endangered animals, including the desert tortoise. While the project, located near the Mojave Desert towns of Boron and Desert Lake, will provide much-needed sustainable energy for 18,000 coastal California homes, neighboring residents claim that their backyards are being destroyed and they aren’t benefiting from it. The Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the project, in 2021. In response to environmental concerns, the county emphasized that Avantus, the project developer, has put $1.4 million into a fund that works to protect Joshua trees in other areas of the state.

CP&DR Coverage: Court Rules Huntington Beach Must Adopt Housing Element 
A trial judge has ruled that Huntington Beach – perhaps the most resistant city in California to state housing law – must adopt a housing element. Attorney General Rob Bonta said the judge is requiring the city to adopt the housing element within 120 days – which would be mid-September – though the judge’s order didn’t seem to include that specification. In the ruling on May 15, Judge Katherine Bacal rejected all of Huntington Beach’s arguments for not adopting its housing element. Perhaps most significantly, she rejected the city’s argument that passage of the housing element required analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act, noting that the legislature had specifically exempted housing element passage from CEQA.

Quick Hits & Updates

Lathrop, a suburban city about 10 miles south of Stockton, has become the fifth-fastest growing city of at least 20,000 people in the United States. Its population doubled, from 19,000 in 20213 to 40,000 in 2023. As Bay Area residents move to the Central Valley in search of more affordable housing, Lathrop will prioritize development, housing, and business to keep up with the increased growth. 

San Diego County’s unhoused population increased only by 3% from Jan. 2022-2023, a stark contrast and improvement to the previous tally which showed a 22% jump. With both the city of San Diego and the state legislature facing millions of dollars in deficits, there is much concern surrounding the future of programs and resources that assist in decreasing the unhoused population statewide and citywide. 

Two San Francisco mayoral candidates have presented plans to bring a satellite university campus downtown into vacant spaces in an effort to revitalize the area post-pandemic. Mayor London Breed announced a proposal offering city grants to develop a satellite campus of an (unnamed) historically Black college , while District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai suggested legislation to create a fund for public universities to purchase distressed properties for educational use. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The San Francisco 49ers and the City of Santa Clara have restructured terms in the original Levi’s Stadium agreement after years of legal litigation and lawsuits. The new settlement establishes a new threshold of $360,000 per game for policing, covered by the 49ers and reduces the Stadium Authority's reimbursement obligations.

U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui has requested $5 million in federal funding to support the Downtown Sacramento Partnership's plan for a park connecting downtown and the Sacramento River, with hopes of revitalizing the latter area and providing green space. The Sacramento Stitch Park Riverfront Reconnection Project aims to connect these two areas currently divided by Interstate 5 in order to host both special community events and passive recreation. 

In an affluent neighborhood of northwest Fresno, the Planning Commission unanimously rejected an 82-unit housing development proposal, citing concerns about traffic and community impact. Despite recommendations from city staff to approve the project, commissioners voted against it after facing overwhelming opposition from residents during a well-attended hearing. 

The Cupertino City Council adopted its 2023-2031 Housing Element on May 14, fulfilling state requirements to update housing needs and policies. With an allocation of 4,588 new housing units, the city is now proceeding with the rezoning process, expected to be completed in July, before final submission to HCD for certification.

Two San Francisco nonprofits, Artists Hub on Market and Mercy Housing of California, are proposing to build around 100 affordable housing units for artists at 1687 Market St., funded by a $100 million donation from an anonymous donor. The project aims to include apartments, community spaces, studios, rehearsal rooms, a theater and a ground-level cafe, with all units designated for artists and individuals in arts administration earning at or below 80% of the San Francisco Area Median Income.

In an analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California, the federal government's 2023 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) highlights California's struggle to meet the growing need for homeless housing programs despite promising growth in permanent housing capacity. While federal support during the pandemic bolstered permanent housing, recent declines in rapid re-housing capacity indicate challenges ahead. The state also faces a shortage of shelter beds, with only 71,131 beds available for an estimated 181,399 homeless individuals, prompting calls for increased transparency and careful use of funding to address homelessness.

Environmentalists are concerned about a proposed housing project including 1,500 homes in the hills southwest of Pittsburg overlooking Thurgood Marshall Regional Park. Save Mount Diablo and other environmental groups are urging for a buffer zone between the development and open space to mitigate environmental impacts, while the developer maintains that the project satisfies all environmental regulations and that the delays are primarily caused by misunderstandings. The Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission has postponed the decision on annexation, citing concerns raised by Save Mount Diablo and other environmental advocates.

The Sacramento City Council approved a plan to develop Innovation Park on the former site of the Sacramento Kings' arena, aiming to create a vibrant area with businesses, housing and a teaching hospital. The project, expected to generate billions for the city and create thousands of jobs, will be funded through an enhanced infrastructure financing district, with a portion allocated for affordable housing and a requirement for local workers.

The estimated cost of building a water tunnel beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta has risen to $20.1 billion, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The department's analysis concluded that the benefits of the proposed Delta Conveyance Project, including improved water supply reliability in the face of climate change and sea level rise, would outweigh the costs, although opponents argue it is a costly project that would harm the delta's ecosystem.