SGC Announces Major Funding Opportunities for Planning and Development
The Strategic Growth Council (SGC) announced $99.2 in funding opportunities for neighborhood-serving capital infrastructure projects in historically underserved communities. These projects must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve both public and environmental health, and create economic opportunities for community members. The funding and program entitled the Transformative Climate Communities Program hopes to allocate funds for communities to decide what projects, goals, and strategies best serve their individual neighborhoods. In this fifth round of the Transformative Climate Communities Program, three Implementation Grants are available totaling $29.5 million each. Multiple Project Development grants are awarded at up to $5 million each. Three Planning Grants total $300,000 each. There is an additional new Advance Pay Program and a new Project Development grant to fund pre-development projects. Additionally, California Indigenous tribes are eligible for a subsection of application for Disadvantaged Unincorporated Communities and Rural Applications. The application is online to gauge interest in available funds and connect applicants with Technical Assistance providers. The application is also a link to an online submissions folder to upload materials. Final applications are due August 1.

San Francisco to Investigate Influential Housing Nonprofit
A San Francisco Supervisor is calling for hearings to probe the business operations of the nonprofit Tenants and Owners Development Corp., also known as TODCO, claiming the nonprofit has dramatically increased spending on lobbying while ignoring the needs of its buildings and tenants. The supervisor is requesting the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing and Mayor Breed’s Office of Housing and Community Development to report on their contracts with the nonprofit. She is also requesting the Department of Building Inspection and the Planning Department to present previously-filed complaints against TODCO buildings. TODCO has about $50 million in assets and multi-million dollars worth of contracts with both the city of San Francisco and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The nonprofit has a long history of controversy and criticism for funding certain ballot measures and opposing other housing developments in the city. It was reported that TODCO’s spending $473,000 in 2020-21 on lobbying in comparison with its previous $5,000 spent in 2012-13. TODCO is one of a number of local nonprofit building contractors facing pushback against spending and business operations in the Bay Area. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Newsom Celebrates Incremental Progress on Homelessness
Governor Newsom announced both that the state is on track to reduce the number of unsheltered people by 15% in the next two years in addition to the statewide construction of 1,200 tiny homes. 350 of those tiny homes will go to the city of Sacramento, 500 to Los Angeles, 200 to San Jose, and 150 to San Diego. The cities will be responsible for finding a location for the homes and funding the upkeep. The homes themselves are as small as 120 square feet, equipped with electricity but not plumbing, water, or cooking capabilities. Some critics state this is a “bandaid” by Newsom on a larger issue only building in severity. Since 2020, homelessness in the state has risen 6% compared to a nationwide increase of only 0.4%. But San Jose, where 500 tiny homes were constructed in the last three years, has seen a 9% drop in the number of unhoused people without shelter. Newsom’s announcements come during the first stop of his four city State of the State tour, where he has promised to announce major changes on issues like housing, health care, and public safety.

Symptoms of Climate Change Growing More Severe in California
The fourth edition of "Indicators of Climate Change in California," published by Cal EPA and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, details the severe increase in climate crisis impacts throughout the state. According to state scientists, the dangers of fossil fuel dependence are abundantly clear and worsening; wildfires, drought, and excessive heat have intensified, placed human health in increased danger, and created irreparable damage to landscapes and communities. Notably, annual average air temperatures have increased by 2.5 degrees since 1895, and eight of the 10 hottest years took place in the last decade. The report, which totals nearly 700 pages, suggests that the state has taken meaningful action in terms of coastal protection, renewable energy, and electric vehicle use, but initiatives must involve stronger actions to prevent the most catastrophic impacts.

CPD&R Coverage: Court Nixes Re-Litigation of Entitlements; CEQA Requires Air Pollution Analysis
In a very strongly worded published opinion, the Second District Court of Appeal has rejected all the arguments of a neighborhood group opposed to an eldercare facility in the Pacific Palisades section of Los Angeles. The three-judge panel shot down the neighbors’ arguments about the project’s incompatibility with the neighborhood’s park-like setting character and current architecture in the strongest possible terms. In so doing, they reiterated the idea that the neighbors cannot re-litigate the permit approval process in court and that the role of the courts is to defer to the city’s judgment when substantial evidence exists.

If you’re going to build housing close to a highway, you ‘d better analyze the air pollution impact on the residents. That’s the lesson from a situation in Grass Valley, where an environmental impact report on a mixed-used project 170 feet from State Route 20/49 didn’t pay much attention to the air pollution impact of the project. The other lesson – one that has come up in innumerable cases under the California Environmental Quality Act – is to bring up every issue you can think of during the administrative process. The plaintiffs’ wildfire arguments fell flat because they were only brought up on appeal.

Quick Hits & Updates

Los Angeles is the most recent city to receive a prohousing designation from the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom praised the city and Mayor Bass’s urgent and proactive action to build new housing in the city, working to address the housing crisis in the area. Los Angeles joins 10 other cities across the state in the designation an d is the first city in the Southern California Association of Governments region to earn the designation. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The California Department of Housing and Community Development is soliciting ideas and input from the public for ways to improve the upcoming Regional Housing Needs Allocation process and address the housing shortage. The Regional Housing Needs Allocation process determines housing needs for the state on a region-by-region basis.

In a new federal budget proposal, the Biden Administration announced a $500 million funding uplift for a Bay Area BART line through San Jose. The Bay Area transit system was previously facing a large funding dropoff as pandemic-era federal funding came to a halt.

Two environmental groups filed suit against the city of Desert Hot Springs, claiming a recently–approved large multi-use development plan violates CEQA by excluding an environmental impact report.

Sacramento city officials are looking into a vacancy tax on empty lots, stores, and potentially homes. The City Council is in the early stages of drafting a tax ordinance, which would appear on ballots for voters to ultimately decide.

With the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, over 500 units of affordable housing in San Francisco expect a delay. Many loans through Silicon Valley Bank will be transferred to the city, but developers are wary of extended delays in production through that process.

Pasadena City Council voted to phase out its planned development zoning designation, ridding the city of a method of accelerating large project approvals, citing concerns of ungovernable projects.

A study by San Francisco think tank SPUR and Concord Group economics firm shows that Bay Area apartments became more affordable between 2010 and 2021 when compared with changing median income. At the same time, wealth discrepancies between white collar employees and blue collar employees has worsened, with middle-income jobs now making generally 80% below the region's median income.

The Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Committee named Andrew Fremier as the new executive director. Fremier previously served seven years on the Federal Transit Administration's executive team and three years as Planning Chief for the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Palo Alto Unified School District Board voted on and approved a new affordable housing project for 29 subsidized units for school district faculty and staff meeting qualifying income levels. The project faced four years of negotiations before finally securing land and a vote of approval.

The proposed 250 apartment project adjacent to San Quentin State Prison cleared its environmental analysis. Half of the proposed apartments will be for Marin County educational staff and employees, and the project will be owned by Marin County and the Marin County Department of Education.