Huntington Beach Fails to Adopt Housing Element
Huntington Beach continues to push back against state housing mandates by blocking the approval of a large-scale housing plan, and a federal judge denied the city's requested injunction against the mandates. In a tied vote, the Huntington Beach city council again deadlocked and failed to adopt its Sixth Cycle housing element, pushing the vote again until their next city council meeting. State housing law provides that a city may incur monthly fines up to $600,000. Huntington Beach recently brought the state to federal court over the monthly fines, arguing the city needed a restraining order to prevent the state from enforcing the fines until the issue was settled in court. The U.S. District Judge rejected the requested injunction "given that there is insufficient evidence in the record of any imminent fines, penalties or other punitive measures against the city." State Attorney General Rob Bonta applauded the decision, stressing city's must cooperate with state efforts to increase housing and address the housing crisis. Huntington City Council will meet again April 4 to raise the housing element vote once again. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Bonta Puts Elk Grove on Notice over Denial of Supportive Housing Project
Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a letter to the mayor of Elk Grove putting the city on notice that its denial of a proposed supportive housing project violates state laws including Senate Bill 35, the Housing Accountability Act, and fair housing laws intended to prohibit discriminatory land use practices. The proposed project, known as the Oak Rose Apartments, would have added 66 units of supportive housing for lower-income households at risk of homelessness, in a jurisdiction in dire need of low-income housing opportunities. The Elk Grove City Council improperly denied the project, claiming that it did not meet the City’s zoning standards and was therefore ineligible for SB 35 ministerial review. Attorney General Bonta urged Elk Grove to take prompt corrective action to realign with state law, threatening legal consequence. Initially after the city's denial of the Elk Grove project, the state Department of Housing and Community Development issued a notice that the denial violated state housing laws. The city responded that the project violated city zoning laws; Bonta, in turn, claimed that the restriction itself was not a strong enough basis to deny the project.

Legal Options Run Out for Opponents of Infamous Lafayette Development
Following a 12-year political and legal struggle, a 315-unit housing project in Lafayette is moving forward after the California Supreme Court declined to hear the case against the project. The court also refused to depublish a Court of Appeal ruling in favor of the project. The declines, which implicitly affirm that the project complies with the Housing Accountability Act and CEQA, mark the end of Save Lafayette's campaign to stop development of Terraces of Lafayette, which turned into one of the most high-profile symbols of the Bay Area's housing shortage and the lengths to which project opponents will go to impede a project. The city's approval of the project came in 2020 after 120 public meetings; Save Lafayette then sued, setting in motion the legal actions that culminated in this month's Supreme Court action. Pro-housing organizations see this as a large win for housing in the wealthy Bay Area suburb, reinforcing the Housing Accountability Act. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Tracking Land-Use Fallout of Silicon Valley Bank Collapse
A new map tracks the 11 affordable housing projects across the Bay Area with Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) loans or equity impacted by the bank's failure. The projects now face a period of scrambling for funding nearly 1,000 units of affordable housing. SVB loaned or invested almost $2 billion in affordable housing projects across the Bay Area before federal officials seized $209 billion of assets. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation assured project developers lines of credits established by SVB will continue for projects already under construction, leaving unanswered questions about loans SVB agreed to for new projects not yet under construction. At least six projects comprising over 600 units in San Francisco were primarily funded by loans from SVB, and San Francisco officials now say they will seek alternative funding and loan options for the projects all at various stages of development. The interruption and delays in construction poses a time risk to these projects, concerning officials and project developers. One developer with impacted housing projects across the Bay Area remains optimistic other banks will step in as funders.

Does SF Charter Grant Power Of Discretionary Review Or Not?
UC Davis law professor Chris Elmendorf has published a brief paper challenging the idea that the San Francisco city charter gives the city expansive discretionary power over development projects. “The drafters of the charter did not choose it, and the voters who adopted the charter did not ratify it,” Elmendorf wrote. “Rather, it was invented by the city’s lawyers decades later—during the heyday of antigrowth activism in the late 1970s—and then “ratified” by a careless and unnecessary passage in a Court of Appeal opinion.” Discretionary review, of course, opens the door to the California Environmental Quality Act. Elmendorf’s argument would make many San Francisco development projects subject to ministerial review only.

Study Tracks Inequitable Impacts of Pollution in Los Angeles
A study by USC's Sol Price School of Public Policy found that Los Angeles residents who primarily drive are less likely to be exposed to the same degree of air pollution as residents taking public transit. The study tracked the driving habits of white commuters through non-white communities in the city due to years of racist city planning decisions putting non-white residents in direct contact with the impacts of citywide commuting. Predominantly non-white communities razed in the 20th century to build freeways now face disproportionate rates of air pollution, regardless of the socio-economic makeup of the non-white communities. The study proposed a number of public policy decisions to amend the discrepancy, including raising fuel efficiency standards for cars and encouraging electric car usage, creating tolls or pollution taxes, incentivizing work from home, and zoning for more residential units in job-rich communities.

Quick Hits & Updates

A lawsuit originally filed by the city of Santa Ana has been dismissed after ultimately compelling a developer to finish a previously-delayed homeless shelter project. The city filed a federal lawsuit after the developer paused or slowed construction on a 200-bed shelter, violating their lease agreement. The project finished during the lawsuit, after mounting pressures in court after multiple hearings. The federal judge then dropped the case, citing that neither party formally won as the objective of the litigation is complete.

A team of scientists, using both satellite and ground instruments, mapped nitrogen dioxide in the state, down to a neighborhood level. They found high levels of nitrogen dioxide particularly near high-rise apartments and food processing infrastructure in Los Angeles.

A group of investors and business owners are pushing a large-scale transformation of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, including a food hall, interactive museum, short-term apartment rentals, and public space centering on and around Pier 45.

The Long Beach City Council is once again considering a plan to replace a Terminal Island freeway with a large park space to work as a green buffer between the Port of Long Beach and the western part of the city impacted by traffic congestion and air pollution.

Governor Newsom asked the federal government to permit Medicaid funds to apply to up to six months of rent or temporary housing funds for enrollees on the brink of or struggling with homelessness. Experts expect a scrutinized response from the Biden Administration at the effectiveness of the plan.

During his most recent announcement as part of his State of the State tour, Governor Newsom reported a new plan for wide-scale mental-health based housing and treatment facilities in the state, using at least $3 billion in bond measures. Newsom plans to annually use another $1 billion from the already-implemented income tax of top earners to upkeep the housing and treatment facilities.

Activists in La Jolla are making a renewed push to establish the community as a city separate from San Diego. The Association for the City of La Jolla is presently seeking funding for a financial analysis of the move, saying that it would financially benefit both La Jolla but San Diego.

A team of scientists, using both satellite and ground instruments, mapped nitrogen dioxide in the state, down to a neighborhood level. They found high levels of nitrogen dioxide particularly near high-rise apartments and food processing infrastructure in Los Angeles.

National nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners and the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority released a report and database on the Bay Area’s expected affordable housing, tracking 395 affordable housing projects in multiple stages of development. They anticipate, with the completion of all of these projects, the region will see over 33,000 affordable homes.

A development company paid $559 million to acquire NASCAR's San Bernardino Auto Club Speedway racetrack in Fontana. The racetrack will be replaced by a planned 6.6 million square foot logistics space, returning the speedway to its pre-NASCAR industrial past.

The San Francisco Chronicle released an interactive map of the nine Bay Area counties according to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) walkability index. The map indicates that neighborhoods like San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland are considered more walkable, whereas suburbs in the North and East Bay are found to be less walkable according to the index.