Budget Surplus May Boost Funding for Climate, Infrastructure, Affordable Housing, Homelessness Programs
State Senate leaders have proposed several plans for spending California's budget surplus, which has blown past the projected $29 billion figure to $68 billion. Several officials are primarily seeking to return $8 billion in tax rebates to help residents face rising costs and small businesses repay federal unemployment debt. Proposals related to housing include $3 billion for each of the next three years on houselessness programs and extending Project Homekey and $2.7 billion for affordable housing projects. For students, officials propose $5 billion toward housing and facilities maintenance. Meanwhile, $20 billion would go toward previously proposed infrastructure projects and $18 billion for climate resilience programs, including a new and balanced water system and wildfire prevention programs.
California Population Declined Slightly in 2021; Losses on Coast, Gains Inland
While California's declining population trends seem to be slowing, continued outward migration trends reflect the persistent impacts of the pandemic and the housing crisis. Population numbers between April and December of 2020 demonstrated a decline rate of 0.59%, while the rate between Jan. 1, 2021 and Jan. 1, 2022 totaled 0.3%, with 117,552 residents leaving California. Experts suggest that, as the pandemic slows, so do COVID-19 related deaths and federal delays in approving migration to California from out of the country. However, population loss along the urban coast remains severe, especially in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange, California's three most populous counties. Meanwhile, the Central Valley and Inland Empire, where affordable housing and remote work opportunities remain attractive, continue to see strong growth.
Upscale S.F. Neighborhood Seeks Historic Designation to Thwart SB 9
A state commission unanimously approved a recommendation to designate San Francisco's St. Francis Wood, a famously wealthy neighborhood, as "historic," which would allow the community to avoid SB 9. To fully circumvent the construction of denser development, the neighborhood would still have to receive the approval of Keeper of National Register of Historic Places Joy Beasley within 45 days, before which Beasley will accept public commentary. Many residents have suggested that St. Francis Wood is intentionally attempting to restrict housing to single-family development, while the St. Francis Homes Association claims that it has been hoping to achieve this status for years to honor its unique architecture and landscaping. Many have also brought attention to the neighborhood's history of exclusion, marked by the blatant banning of people of color from owning property when it was established in 1912.
Study Catalogs Prevalence of Single-Family Zoning in L.A. Area
A study from UC Berkeley's Othering & Belonging Institute that considers single-family zoning in the greater Los Angeles area found that 78% of neighborhoods are zoned for single-family homes and therefore do not allow apartment buildings. Additionally, six of the 191 cities studied feature purely single-family zoning. Areas with these restrictions are also frequently whiter and wealthier, which suggests that this policy contributes to racial segregation and inequitable access to significant educational and financial resources for low-income communities and communities of color. The report builds on a previous UC Berkeley study that found that, in 2020, 85% of San Francisco Bay Area neighborhoods were zoned for single-family housing, demonstrating a statewide trend amidst a major housing crisis.
California Cities among Most Polluted in United States
California metro areas composed 11 of the top 25 spots on the American Lung Association's annual State of the Air Report, with Los Angeles-Long Beach taking the number one spot for ozone pollution. Meanwhile, several Bay Area metros, notably Bakersfield and Fresno-Madera-Hanford, topped the list of the areas with the most year-round particle pollution. People of color were 3.6 times more likely than white people to live in a county with failing pollution grades. The report also found that nine million more people were exposed to increases in deadly particle pollution and that 40% of U.S. residents, or over 137 million people, live in environments with unhealthy levels of particle pollution or smog.
CP&DR Coverage: Emeryville Embraces High-Density Housing
The second-smallest city in the Bay Area, Emeryville currently has a current population of 13,000--and it wants to get larger. In the RHNA process, the Association of Bay Area Governments has assigned the city an increase of about 1,800 units. If built, those units will not alleviate the area’s housing shortages on their own. But for many leaders in Emeryville, the greater densities that the RHNA goal will require, and the amenities that will accompany them, are goals in and of themselves. The city is also deliberately pursuing a “Prohousing Designation” from the Department of Housing and Community Development, which will unlock financial assistance from the state.
Quick Hits & Updates
The state Department of Finance owes the City of Huntington Beach at least $5.2 million in redevelopment loan reimbursements, as determined by a California Superior Court judge. The city sued in 2018, hoping for a $75 million reimbursement for multiple loans intended to spur Surf City Development starting in the 1980s.
The City of Vernon, which had 222 residents according to the 2020 Census and has been plagued by accusations of corruption throughout its history, is attempting to increase housing availability with its Westside Specific Plan, which has begun its environmental review period. The plan, in line with the 2021-2029 Housing Element, would bring mixed-use and multifamily complexes in place of more industrial development. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
San Francisco Supervisors have voted, 7-4, to permanently keep the east end of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park car-free following months of public debate. About 1.5 miles will be dedicated strictly to the walkers, runners, and bicyclists, who began to make use of the street in larger numbers toward the beginning of the pandemic.
Senator Anthony Portantino has is sponsoring SB 932, a bill that would prioritize bicyclist and pedestrian safety by requiring cities and counties to include a map of areas where high rates of injury occur in their general plans, which would then force them to implement policies that protect bicyclists and pedestrians.
The Southern steelhead trout has received temporary protection status under the Endangered Species Act, meaning future development in Ventura County must consider and reduce impacts on the species. In the next year, the Fish and Wildlife Commission will determine if the species should be listed as "endangered" or "threatened."
LADOT's Sustainable Transportation Equity Project, in an effort to achieve "universal basic mobility," is offering 2,000 South L.A. residents $150 monthly to pay for public bus and train fares, shuttles, and scooter and bicycle rentals. Priority will be given to low-income residents, students, senior citizens, and people with disabilities, and the program will also aim to increase clean transit and pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets.
In 2021, San Jose saw new records of permits for accessory dwelling units, totaling 804 requested permits and 464 issued. While San Jose began issuing ADU permits in 2015, numbers increased in 2019 with the city's introduction of its ADU permit program, which helps inform residents through the process, and upward trends are continuing through 2022.
State officials are proposing a $2.6-billion deal with the federal government and several water suppliers that would support the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a critical water source and habitat that has been significantly depleted to meet human demands. The new memorandum of understanding suggests an eight-year plan for identifying supplies to restore the river, though environmental advocates reject the proposal, stating it was created through backroom negotiations and will not benefit the river delta.
A judge will not block a San Francisco ordinance that permits some small businesses to not pay rent due to pandemic-induced shutdowns, allowing the ordinance, unanimously approved by supervisors last July, to move forward despite pushback from property owners.
Amazon is shifting plans to build five new warehouses in the Bay Area due to criticism from labor unions and environmental groups that they would bring unjust jobs and pollution from vans and trucks. While unclear what the next steps will be, the company has either withdrawn, delayed, or modified its plans, in tandem with San Francisco's 18-month moratorium on Amazon delivery stations.
The Strategic Growth Council is accepting applications for community-led infrastructure projects interested in receiving a portion of the $106.2 million in funding available as part of Round 4 of the Transformative Climate Communities Program. These developments should center environmental, health, and economic benefits for underserved communities.
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla announced that the Federal Transit Administration will provide over $1.9 billion to California over the next year to fund transit projects, including buses, trains, and ferries, that will increase accessibility and reduce pollution.
UCLA Lewis Center Housing Initiative released a report that advances the idea of the "zoning buffer" and its impacts on land values and affordable housing. Author Shane Phillips contextualizes the zoning buffer, or the gap between existing housing and maximum housing allowed by zoning, with current attempts to upzone for higher-density housing to combat historical downzoning and housing shortages that has resulted in higher land values and decreased affordability. He argues that broad upzoning, or policies permitting at least moderate density on many parcels is the only way housing will become more affordable in the long-term because it results in expansive development opportunities that minimize increases in land value, benefitting many stakeholders and maintaining affordability.