Grand Jury Raises Concerns about Toxicity at Major S.F. Redevelopment
San Francisco's plan to bring housing units, commercial development, and green spaces to the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard space fails to consider the potential impact of hazardous chemicals at the site, according to a new grand jury report. Researchers suggest that rising groundwater propelled by climate change may expose residents living around, working in, or visiting the largest redevelopment project in the city since the 1906 earthquake to toxic particles, including heavy metals and radioactive substances. The report also notes that, in addition to inadequate prevention, the city will be severely underprepared to respond to the public health and environmental crisis. Thus far, the health department has avoided responding to questions regarding the report. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
Report Praises San Diego Density Bonus Program
A new report from Circulate San Diego touts the city's Affordable Homes Bonus Program (AHBP) and details its specific successes as a driver of deed-restricted affordable and market-rate housing construction. The AHBP approves more housing production for developers if they designate a portion of their project as affordable, expanding upon the Density Bonus Law by allowing developers to build 50 percent more homes if 15 percent of the original proposal is set aside for low-income residents. Since its start in 2016, AHBP been used in the production of 6,481 homes (including 463 affordable), and in 2020, 44 percent of authorized homes were part of AHBP. The report suggests that the AHBP is influential and should be referenced as reasoning for increasing the state Density Bonus Law.
51-Mile Los Angeles River Master Plan Finalized
Los Angeles County revealed its final Los Angeles River Master Plan, which prioritizes improving water quality, supporting wildlife ecosystems and biodiversity, and increasing equitable access to green spaces. Proposals include the completion of 51 miles of open space and the L.A. River Trail along the river, providing safe transportation and points of access to the river, connecting wildlife habitats, and planting native species of greenery. Officials have also urged for the construction of affordable housing units nearby to minimize gentrification and displacement. The plan, with an interest in improving the local water supply and engaging the community, features public input gathered at over one dozen community meetings and 15 events with various local organizations. The Board of Supervisors will review the plan on June 14.
Study Finds Fault with Cities' Climate Action Plans
Dozens of city and county climate action plans frequently fail to include actionable plans on equity, according to a new study. The report analyzed 170 current climate plans that have increased language about pursuing more equitable action but fail to consistently include definite action. For example, proposals will frequently include "green" plans, such as planting trees, because they appear less controversial and more budget- and action-friendly, even though sorting through energy and transit use would have a much larger impact. Additionally, plans fail to consider local inequities, can be repetitive, and lack "gray" policies that center affordable housing, transit, and other large focuses. Cities and counties tend to stall and effect minimal true change.
CP&DR Coverage: White House Housing Plan's Implications for California
Mirroring the raft of housing laws, regulations, incentive programs, and planning guidelines that the State of California, the Biden administration announced a collection of programs to do the same on a national scale. Through the plan, the federal government will take a novel interest in local land use, an area technically outside of federal jurisdiction. It does so indirectly through financial incentives, most significantly $11.75 billion in grants to state and local governments to support planning efforts that facilitate housing. The plan calls, in part, for cities to ease away from single-family zoning and other land-use designations that lead to exclusivity and artificial scarcity.
Quick Hits & Updates
In a petition to the Water Resources Control Board, Indigenous leaders and environmental justice activists are urging the state to change its water quality plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, maintaining that the damage to ecosystems is directly related to violence against Indigenous peoples, the taking of land, and efforts to diminish autonomy.
A plan to bring more lanes to the 710 freeway will officially not move forward after the Los Angeles Metro board voted to kill the $6 billion project in favor of looking toward other methods for reducing traffic. Instead of bringing more pollutants to a community facing high rates of asthma and severe health burdens, the decision encourages further environmental justice action.
Dam removal projects on two state rivers is about to begin, with the largest proposal removing four dams along the Klamath River. Moving south, PG&E's license expiration for the Potter Valley Project indicates that dam removal may begin along the Eel River, uncovering the longest free-flowing river in the state.
Oakland officials voted 6-1 to limit rent increases for rent-controlled apartments at 3 percent, a 3.7 percent reduction from the previous one-year rent increases. Many are celebrating the move, as Oakland residents were seeing some of the highest rent increases in the city's history among a housing and homelessness crisis and the pandemic.
The Dublin City Council has unanimously approved an amendment to the 573-unit East Ranch project that will allow the project to move forward by associating it with the state's Housing Accountability Act instead of local rules. Going forward, Trumark Homes will deed-restrict a portion of the units and pay in-lieu fees for the affordable units instead of handing the affordable development off to a private company.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed has introduced a plan to invest $67.4 million in reducing homelessness, with most of the funds dedicated to increasing pay for frontline workers and hiring more on-site case managers who would connect residents to healthcare, jobs, and more resources. The rest of the funding would go toward housing upgrades.
Some of Silicon Valley's most expensive real estate has been identified by Menlo Park for affordable housing construction, drawing criticism that the housing element does not include actionable proposals and should center more transit-oriented locations.
Several experts have criticized a new agreement from the Boeing Company and the state that outlines Boeing's requirements for protecting people and the land in its cleanup of the chemically-polluted Santa Susana Field Lab site, stating that the updated proposal is much weaker than the original 2007 cleanup plan, which was never executed, and will leave too many chemicals.
The state Department of General Services and the Department of Housing and Community Development have awarded two blocks in Downtown San Diego to Michaels Organization, which will construct affordable and market-rate housing and office and retail space. The move is a part of Gov. Gavin Newsom's Excess Land for Affordable Housing Executive Order.
Brookfield Properties has introduced a proposal to redevelop 27 acres of parking lots surrounding the Stonestown Galleria into 3,000 housing units, a retail street, and new parks and plazas. The San Francisco Planning Department is asking for public commentary as the project begins its environmental review process to meet its intended groundbreaking in 2024.