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CP&DR News Briefs May 17, 2022: Fresno Housing Plan; Statewide Housing Construction; High Speed Rail Approvals; and More

May 17, 2022

Fresno Mayor Unveils Housing Plan
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer has introduced his One Fresno Housing Strategy intended to improve housing affordability in response to the county's increasingly hot, and unaffordable, housing market. The proposal spans 150 pages and features 47 priority policies across four categories: "preserving housing, producing housing, preventing displacement, and promoting equity." Policies include affordable housing incentives, inclusionary zoning, eviction protections, and fewer restrictions for market-rate housing construction. The three-year plan will cost an estimated $260 million, and the mayor's office hopes that 6,926 new affordable and 4,110 market-rate homes will become available. This target would not meet the state's RHNA number. The city council will welcome public commentary on which policies to prioritize and implementation strategies.

State Analyzes Location of New Housing; Inland Built Faster than Coastal
Out of the 112,886 single-family, multi-family, and mobile homes constructed throughout California in 2021, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco added the most new housing, in absolute numbers, according to a new report from the Department of Finance. Though these big cities built the most housing, inland communities and regions recovering from wildfire damage saw the largest year-over-year increases in housing, trends that reflect patterns of population migration inland. The research indicates that roughly 46% of the new units were single-family homes, while 52% were multifamily. However, the new units represent only a 0.7% increase, suggesting that cities are far from building enough new units to meet the statewide housing need. Among cities with populations over 30,000, Santa Cruz had the most dramatic increase by percentage, at 11.3%.

High Speed Rail Authorizes Valley-Bay Segment; L.A. Station Upgrades
The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors approved two new projects: one that would modernize Union Station and one that would construct a bullet train from Central Valley to the Bay Area. The first $420 million project includes a management and funding agreement with L.A. Metro through the Link Union Station project. Meanwhile, the 90-mile bullet train route is moving forward after the Authority environmentally cleared a segment between Merced and San Jose. While construction has been in process in the Central Valley for several years, the Authority's vote marks the first approval of a route to the coast. Officials hope the system will confront a jobs-housing imbalance by linking Fresno to San Jose in a roughly one-hour ride, though the estimated opening date has been delayed until 2031.

Portola Valley Residents Threaten Legal Action over Potential Upzoning
A group of homeowners in the wealthy Silicon Valley suburb of Portola Valley have threatened to sue the city over proposed zoning changes that are designed to help the city accommodate its Regional Housing Needs Allocation. The homeowners, through attorney (and former San Jose Mayor) Chuck Reed have filed a request under the Public Records Act for all documents related to the city's proposed zoning changes. At issue are residential properties slated for upzoning that, according to owners, have little or no chance of being redeveloped and, therefore, cannot reasonably help the city fulfill its RHNA requirements. Residents have threatened to sue the city and to report it to the Department of Housing and Community Development to urge the department to find the city's housing element out of compliance.

CP&DR Legal Coverage: AIDS Healthcare Loses Again
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has lost yet another appellate case challenging a mostly market-rate development project in Los Angeles – this time unsuccessfully arguing that affordable housing requirements in the long-extinct Hollywood Redevelopment Plan should still be in place. This time, AHF argued that the city should have imposed a 15% affordable housing requirement on a 200-unit project at Sunset and Cahuenga, three blocks from AHF’s office, because the 15% requirement was contained in the Hollywood redevelopment plan. (The project was approved with 5% of the units set aside for very low-income residents, meaning residents with between 30% and 50% of the area’s median income.) But the Hollywood plan disappeared in 2012 when the state eliminated redevelopment, and the appellate court rejected a variety of AHF arguments that the 15% requirement should have been imposed.

Quick Hits & Updates

Millbrae City Council is planning to approve several restrictions, including size limits and affordability requirements, for projects built under SB 9. The city intends to require that new construction does not differ too much from existing architecture and that a certain number of units houses low-income residents.

Pasadena City Council and Caltrans have approved a relinquishment agreement over a property intended for use in the unconstructed 710 Freeway Extension project. Before the city, which already displaced hundreds of residents to form a freeway connection, decides its next plan for the parcel, the state Transportation Commission must approve the agreement.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved a plan to establish a new office or department that would manage the county's approach to homelessness. The new branch would supervise other agencies and act in close contact with the Board of Supervisors.

Following Attorney General Rob Bonta's letter to Fresno County that warns against industrial development plans, neighbors of the proposed 3,000-acre project are expressing their concerns about the project's impacts. While residents want more housing, high-paying jobs, grocery stores, and health care, the new plan threatens to bring more warehouses and pollution.

While most adults believe homelessness is a big problem in their local community, views on the issue have shifted since the start of the pandemic, according to a survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. The data suggests that the largest change occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the percentage of those who are very concerned about homelessness declined by 24 points, down to 39%.

The San Diego City Council has introduced a new method for increasing ADU construction designated for very low-income tenants: an incentive that shortens the time period that homeowners must keep their second ADU as affordable. The city council suggests that shortening the period from 15 to 10 years will allow for more flexibility for developers, who will then build more affordable housing.

Pasadena housing and rent control advocates have obtained over 15,000 signatures that will put rent control and a pro-tenant, "just cause" charter amendment on the November ballot. The 15,352 signatures must still be approved by city officials.

The Contra Costa County Superior Court sided with Save Mount Diablo and rejected the City of Pittsburgh's and Seeno/Discovery Builders' 1,650-unit development in Faria/Southwest Hills. The court maintains that the environmental impact report violated the law regarding air quality, traffic, and water supply.

A new survey from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies suggests that nearly two-thirds of Los Angeles voters are extremely concerned about rising temperatures, wildfires, and air pollution and their health impacts. The majority of voters expressed a need for concrete action on global warming and fossil fuel pollution, especially relating to transit use and reducing auto-dependency.


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