APA Legislative Platform Calls for Housing Development
The American Planning Association of California released its 2023-2023 Legislation Platform outlining priorities in the next two years of statewide city planning issues, offering a resource to APA members, policymakers, advocates, and the public. The Legislation Platform is organized by seven sections ranking by priority, including housing, equity, climate resilience and hazard mitigation, infrastructure, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), healthy communities, and community planning. Planning principals and actions are highlighted under each of the seven sections. Their highest prioritized housing section stresses evaluating existing housing resources, locating and designating appropriate sites for all types of housing, and encouraging "objective development standards" and infrastructure plans for affordable housing. APA also stresses the flexibility of zoning in denser areas. Action items include supporting legislation, projects like multi-family housing units in single-family zones, and advocating for new state funding for housing.
High Speed Rail Authority Lowers Ridership Estimates
Plans for the nation's largest infrastructure project are facing setbacks as the California High-Speed Rail Authority decreased expected their ridership rates between Merced and Bakersfield by 25%, outlined a general schedule setback, and estimated a much higher cost of entire production than originally anticipated. Following slow economic and population growth in the state, the rates of expected ridership went from 8.8 million in a 2019 forecast to 6.6 million in the project's update. The entire length of the high-speed railway now exceeds secured funding by $10 billion due to higher inflation, a decision to elevate stations and lines, and a new contingency plan. Transportation experts cite the urgency over these decisions, stating the project's future is at risk due to the change in ridership and increased costs. Additionally, Republican House leader McCarthy states federal funds will no longer finance the project's additional costs due to the project's missed deadlines and looming engineering obstacles, including the tunnels needed to build through state mountain ranges. The state will know whether or federal funds are approved by next year. The project may again turn to voters to subsidize the additional costs of the Bakersfield-Merced line.
San Francisco, Los Angeles Score Highly among Walkable Cities
A new report from Smart Growth America ranks the nation’s 35 largest metro areas by walkable urbanism. The report takes into consideration multi-family rental rates, for-sale home prices, and premiums in commercial rents. Four California cities, San Francisco (6), Los Angeles (8) fared well while Sacramento (24), and San Diego (28) ranked in the bottom half. The same four cities performed entirely differently on the Social Equity Index. Despite being ranked eighth in walkable urbanism, Los Angeles ranked 35th on the Social Equity Index (SEI), from a combination of low rankings on affordability, transit systems, and proximity to walkable areas. Sacramento was the highest performer of the California cities on the SEI rankings at 20, with San Francisco close behind at 22. The report also found that 6.8% of the US population and 19.1% of the total US real GDP is contained in 1.2% of the landmass of the top 35 U.S. metros.
Online Dashboard Illustrates Impacts of Housing Policies
Researchers at UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation released a new Housing Policy Dashboard tool intended to allow elected officials, planners, and the public to access data regarding housing policy impacts in Los Angeles. The tool builds on an earlier system, the Housing Development Dashboard, which targeted Bay Area cities. Now, researchers hope that Los Angeles decision makers will better consider the feasibility of policy ideas before implementing them, therefore leading to greater housing supply. Primarily, the tool registers on which parcels of land housing complexes can be built and how much, depending on each policy filter. Researchers' takeaways include that each policy leads to more housing but has different impacts in terms of equity and sustainability, signaling the importance of a comprehensive solution with several policies involved.
State Auditor Identifies Cities Financially at Risk
For the fifth year in a row, the City of Compton has landed the number one spot on the state auditor's office list of the most financially at-risk cities. Other cities that made the list's top 20 include San Gabriel, which improved slightly from second to third place; Montebello, which regressed from seventh to fifth place; Torrance; Redondo Beach; West Covina; and Los Angeles. Compton, San Gabriel, and Montebello were classified as "high risk," meaning they are vulnerable to waste, fraud, and mismanagement. Meanwhile, Torrance's ranking improved, and the city is no longer in the high risk zone. The report considers the status of reserves, debt burden, liquidity, revenue trends, and more and found that many cities have been impacted by low reserves and high pension liabilities.
CP&DR Coverage: Huntington Beach Battles State over Housing Laws
Rankled by state efforts to promote housing development, the City of Huntington Beach has sued the state to opt out of SB 9, SB 10, and the builder's remedy--and the state has sued back. The city's complaint, filed in federal court, claims that the state's enforcement of housing laws “will continue with an unbridled power play to control all aspects of the City Council’s land use decisions in order to eliminate the suburban character of the city and replace it with a high-density mecca.” Some Huntington Beach officials claim that the city's RHNA numbers are unfairly high and therefore "fraudulent." The state filed a countersuit and a motion for preliminary injunction against the City of Huntington Beach for violating state housing laws. In the complaint, the state argues that the city’s ban on approval of certain affordable housing projects is illegal under the HAA, SB 9, the ADU law, and the Housing Crisis Act, and must be struck down. Attorney General Rob Bonta and HCD have both separately sent letters warning the city that the proposed ordinance violates the Housing Accountability Act and would harm the public by illegally blocking affordable housing projects for low- and middle-income residents. Meanwhile, over two-dozen builder's remedy projects have been filed in Southern California, with others pending in the Bay Area.
Quick Hits & Updates
A new housing development at the Ashby BART station in Berkeley is stalled by negotiations between the city and BART. City officials want a portion of the development to serve the community, including affordable housing and space for a market, which would prove less profitable to BART. BART is already undergoing a record high financial crisis as federal pandemic funding dwindles.
Google, amid layoffs and downsizing office space, is reassessing the construction timeline of planned San Jose transit village. Although emphasizing the company's commitment to the project, Google warns of delays to develop the site.
The Culver City City Council voted this week to ban camping in public spaces in a highly-criticized move to address the homelessness crisis in the area. City officials responded by saying the ban will not go into effect until several plans – including a "designated safe" camping site and 73 additional units of shelter – find footing in the city.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission decided to grant PG&E an exception to seek a 20-year permit on Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo County. The decision only allows the power plant to remain in operation through 2023, though, to smooth a transition from nuclear to renewable energy in the state.
The California Air Resources Board, the state's emissions regulations agency, added a community in San Francisco and one in Los Angeles to its emissions-reduction program. The program is the first of its kind, offering top down solutions from the state agency to address communities disproportionately impacted by greenhouse emissions.
Stanford University filed suit against Santa Clara County arguing that faculty homes fall under a "college interest" and therefore should be exempt from the same property ownership taxes.
San Diego officials are solidifying plans for a Mission Bay redevelopment, including a wetlands restoration project as part of a climate action plan set, a small golf course, and a camp site. Stakeholders are adding amendments to the project plans, but have until April 20 to do so.
In the wake of population loss in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and more generally in the state, inland suburbs like Menifee are seeing huge population boons. Coastal cities are increasing in price of living, so many families are choosing to move to smaller towns.
The Winnemem Wintu people are warning that sacred Indigenous lands are at risk of submersion if Shasta Dam is enlarged. They oppose the project as many of the last remaining sacred sites of the tribe would be flooded.
Abundant Housing LA released a housing element quality map this week, scoring areas of Los Angeles based on not only housing element but also HCD certification, number of single-family housing and previous performance in housing development.
An appellate court has denied a rehearing request by Save Livermore Downtown. The group hoped to move a 130-unit affordable housing development to an undetermined location and instead use the area for a public park. The court upholds the affordable housing development.
California state Department of Toxic Substances Control, after citing a deficit of funds to address lead removal in Los Angeles County, missed a spending deadline and forfeited more than half of their $6.5 million budget set aside for testing for lead and cleaning up lead contamination in neighborhoods.