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CP&DR News Briefs March 15, 2022: Transportation & Climate; San Jose BART Extension; High Speed Rail Costs; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Mar 15, 2022

State Reviews Impact of Transportation Spending on Climate Goals
The Strategic Growth Council (SGC) published the California Transportation Assessment (AB 285 Report), evaluating how transportation planning and funding in California support long-term common goals, including building and maintaining a transportation system that advances the state's climate goals and meets the transportation needs of Californians. The AB 285 report, written by researchers from the University of California Institute of Transportation Studies, analyzes state and regional transportation plans and institutions, funding allocations to various state, regional, and local transportation programs and funding sources, and the legal frameworks that govern how transportation funds are spent in California. In addition, the report identifies the initial actions all levels of government and legislators can take to improve quality, sustainability, and equity of transportation in California.

BART San Jose Extension Faces Delay
The Federal Transit Administration released a 145-page report that suggests that BART's San Jose extension will likely be delayed another four years until 2034. Officials conveyed concerns about the project's complexity and the Valley Transit Authority's time and budget challenges. The report explains why the project may total $9.1 billion, $4.4 billion more than the VTA's original projection and $2.2 billion over its most recent estimate, noting that the VTA acted in both an "insufficient" and "illogical" manner. The FTA's consideration of the project acts under a federal pilot program intended to streamline funding for new transit proposals, which resulted in $2.3 billion of funding for the San Jose extension. In response to the FTA's report, VTA officials noted that they will not currently amend their estimated cost and schedule.

Projected Costs of High Speed Rail Segments Rise Again
A Bay Area addition to the California bullet train will cost $19 billion, 40% higher than the High-Speed Rail Authority projected, according to a new environmental report. The cost is also far higher than can be made available. The report consisted of the environmental clearance process for a 90-mile segment that would connect Merced County to San Jose. The route would also include a 13.5-mile tunnel, the longest underground railway passage in North America, that runs over an active seismic fault. In 2008, voters approved $9.95 billion for high-speed rail construction from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Now, the entire project may cost $105 billion. The authority faults rising inflation and expensive land costs for the extreme rise in price.

Climate Change Report Bodes Ill for Central Valley
A UC Merced report suggests that the San Joaquin Valley's annual average temperature may increase by 4 degrees by 2050, putting low-income farmer communities with inadequate resources for adapting at high risk in an environment with damaging water quality, extreme heat, and health burdens. The report is part of California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment and considers the worst-case scenario by midcentury for life in the southern Central Valley, where many residents depend financially on agriculture, 55% of the population lives in poverty, and water sources are already depleting. The report does outline several recommendations for turning this outcome around, mostly relying on clean energy and green space initiatives would advance environmental justice for the region's residents.

State Suit Targets Inland Empire Logistics Center for Environmental Impacts
Attorney General Rob Bonta and the state of California are challenging a decision that permitted the operation of the $200 million Eastgate Air Cargo Logistics Center, a formative aspect of Amazon's package air network, at San Bernardino International Airport, arguing that the decision is inconsistent with current environmental law and burdens the health of nearby residents due to truck and jet emissions and particulate matter. The Federal Aviation Administration approved the development in 2019, and a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit re-approved the project in 2020, allowing Amazon to run dozens of flights and hundreds of truck drives daily by the middle of the decade and generating at least 1 ton of toxic air pollutants that would largely impact low-income communities and communities of color. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

CP&DR Coverage: Pending Land-Use Legislation 
After a few years featuring big, controversial housing bills, this year's crop of land use legislation appears to be more subtle. The potentially biggest bill would establish a statewide housing authority that would actually build housing. Other bills would make it easier for cities to convert golf courses to housing and to facilitate adaptive reuse. A bill to limit parking requirements is back, as is a bill to promote active transportation. For the full rundown, click here

Quick Hits & Updates

Governor Newsom signed SB 118, which ensures that student enrollment at a college campus is not singled out as a project under the California Environmental Quality Act, while preserving requirements that campus long-range development plans are comprehensively reviewed for environmental impacts. The bill was introduced in response to a recent court order that could have forced UC Berkeley to shut the door on thousands of potential college freshmen and transfer students, disproportionately impacting students from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds.

Pleasanton officials rejected a proposed five-story, mixed-use building in the city's downtown area, stating that the project did not adhere to SB35 and Housing Density Bonus requirements as well as local objective standards and therefore could not receive ministerial approval. The project would have included a 48,000-square-foot building with 3,000 square feet of retail and 37 affordable units near the Pleasanton Public Library.

The city of San Diego and the Padres development team are hoping to close escrow by the end of the year now that they have agreed on the $35 million sale and development terms for the four-block Tailgate Park. The developer has a $1.5 billion plan to build a 1.3-acre community park and 1,800 apartments, 15% of which would be affordable.

Santa Cruz County staff released a 15-page report that imagines the impacts of a June ballot measure introduced by Santa Cruz County Greenway Inc. on county government and a proposed trail along the Branch Rail Line. The measure would change the county's General Plan to make way for two lanes for bicycles, a divider, and a walkway. The Regional Transportation Commission has also outlined an "interim plan" for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The Coastal Commission has unanimously approved a cap on short-term rentals in San Diego after agreeing to a provision that the city reviews the new restrictions in seven years. Commissioners warned that restricting short-term rentals could impact coastal access, so the new policy should be reviewed after a substantial time period with the rule in effect.

The Oakland City Council voted against a sixth extension of a two-building, 360-unit housing project with market-rate and affordable units near Lake Merritt on city-owned land, with members saying that the land should be used for purely affordable housing. The lot was empty for six years until a council member initiated a tiny home village for the unhoused population.

A mid-sized concert venue may come to Sacramento after SKK Developments proposed a live music, comedy, and event theater that could host 2,300 audience members in the city's midtown. The development would replace a vacant industrial building, cover roughly 43,000 square feet, and accompany a nearby light rail station.


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