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CP&DR News Briefs May 25, 2021: First Major Housing Bill; SPUR's Bay Area Vision; Warehouse Lawsuit; and More

Robin Glover and Mckenzie Locke on
May 25, 2021

Newsom Signs Bill to Expand CEQA Streamlining for Housing
In what may be a preview of a strongly pro-housing 2021 legislative season, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 7, which extends expedited California Environmental Quality Act review for key developments and expands the streamlining process to include small-scale housing projects – boosting the state’s economic recovery with the creation of more housing and good jobs. SB 7, known as the Housing + Jobs Expansion & Extension Act and a centerpiece of the senate’s “Building Housing for All” package of 11 bills, extends through 2025 the provisions of legislation enacted in 2011 (AB 900) that created an expedited judicial review process under CEQA for large, multi-benefit housing, clean energy and manufacturing projects. To allow smaller housing projects to qualify for streamlining, SB 7 lowers the threshold for eligible housing projects to those with investments between $15 million and $100 million that include at least 15 percent affordable housing and are infill projects. AB 900 has resulted in the approval of nearly 20 major new clean energy and infill housing projects, creating over 10,000 new housing units and thousands of high-wage construction and permanent jobs. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

SPUR Envisions Collaborative Effort to Add 2.2 Million Units to Bay Area by 2070
SPUR released its long-awaited Regional Strategy, an ambitious set of policy proposals to create a more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous Bay Area by the year 2070. The numerous proposals include building 2.2 million new housing units, ending exclusionary zoning practices, eliminating fossil fuels use, preventing future wildfires through land use planning, building housing and job centers around transit, and fundamentally re-envisioning Bay Area transit. The report is based around five big ideas, primarily that housing is infrastructure, that protecting vulnerable Bay Area residents is important, and that Bay Area communities should be inclusive and diverse. The second big idea is growth as opportunity. The third centers around closing the wealth and well-being gap to build economic security for all people. Finally, equitable environmental goals must include a 21st-century transportation system where it's easy, fast, and enjoyable to get around without driving alone.

Developer of Controversial Warehouse Complex Settles Lawsuit
After over five years of legal battles, developer Highland Fairview and a coalition of environmental groups signed a $47 million settlement agreement that brings the World Logistics Center a step closer to development. If completed, the 40.6 million square feet of warehouse space--about 700 football fields--would be one of the world's largest logistics centers. The settlement requires Highland Fairview to invest up to $12.1 million in electric vehicles, use solar electricity to generate at least 50% of each warehouse’s demand, create electric vehicle charging infrastructure, electrify the complex and take measures to reduce the World Logistics Center’s impact on air quality, local wildlife and area residents. Highland Fairview doesn’t yet have the green light to begin construction as another legal challenge is still underway. (See prior CP&DR coverage.)

CP&DR Coverage: Parking Reform Hits the Gas
Cities across California are lowering, or even eliminating, parking minimums in an effort to de-emphasize the use of cars and promote dense development. Some cities' reforms are citywide, while others apply to localized areas such as downtowns, other commercial centers, and transit nodes. One of the first major reforms came nine years ago, when Los Angeles reduced parking densities around 20 or so rail stations. Santa Monica followed suit in 2016 by eliminating parking minimums in the downtown area. In the last two years, however, California has seen a dramatic increase in activity around parking reform. At the same time that cities are reconsidering their approaches to parking, the state legislature is doing the same. Assembly Bill 1401, currently in committee, would prohibit cities from imposing minimum parking requirements on any development within a half-mile of public transit.

Quick Hits & Updates

Major League Baseball has granted the Oakland A’s permission to explore relocation to other markets as they continue to pursue a deal with the city to build a waterfront ballpark in downtown Oakland. Opening the possibility for relocation could add urgency as the A's have asked the Oakland City Council to vote on the ballpark proposal by July.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals paused a sweeping order by a district court judge that would require the city and county of Los Angeles to house everyone on Skid Row by fall. The reprieve is only temporary: a three-judge panel issued a stay in the district court judge’s preliminary injunction until June 15, while a hearing in the case overseen by Carter proceeds on May 27.

San Jose's planning commission gave its blessing to the updated Diridion Station Area Plan, greatly increasing the capacity for both residential and commercial development around Diridion Station. The City Council will voted on the amended DSAP during the same meeting it votes on Google's San Jose campus proposal, which could happen as soon as late May.

While California's population is trending downward, the latest data shows that people who move to California are more likely to be working age, to be employed, and to earn high wages--and are less likely to be in poverty--than those who move away. Those who move to California also tend to have higher education levels than those who move out.

San Diego leaders voted, 3-2, to adopt a countywide temporary rent cap of roughly 4 percent and new rules to make evictions more difficult for landlords during the pandemic. Landlords under the new law can no longer evict tenants for “just cause” reasons, such as lease violations, and can only be removed if they are an “imminent health or safety threat.” It also blocks a homeowner from moving back into their property and kicking a renter out.

A Court of Appeal sided with the Coastal Commission and ruled that the City of Santa Barbara must permit more vacation rental properties in order to facilitate coastal access. The city lost a 2015 decision which determined that any development proposal must apply for a Coastal Development Permit; the court determined that the city’s attempt to restrict vacation rentals is considered a “development.”

The Coastal Commission's recent decision to prohibit off-roading at theOceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is facing legal challenges from Friends of Oceano Dunes. The organization, which filed two other pending lawsuits against the Coastal Commission, argues that the site should be legally designated for OHV use.

The Blackstone Group, one of the largest residential landlords in San Diego County, intends to purchase 5,800 units for over $1 billion, marking a momentous real estate transaction. The private equity firm's assets in the area currently total $4.5 billion, and the group plans to spend $100 million to renovate its upcoming purchases. The firm also expressed its goal to ensure affordable housing with free in-building services. (See related CP&DR commentary.)

San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman is proposing a policy that allows for the construction of four-unit buildings on corner lots that are currently dedicated to single-family housing. Mandelman claims that his legislation would address development disparities in the city, where multifamily housing production on the east side is limited, but many find his approach to be too weak to make significant improvements to San Francisco housing. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The McCloud River, in Siskouyu and Shasta counties, has been named to American Rivers’ 10 “Most Endangered” list. A Trump-era decision to raise the height of Shasta Dam on the McCloud River could have devastating implications for theWinnemem Wintu tribe. Though the river is federally protected from dams, the height increase, if left unmitigated by the Biden Administration, would flood 5,000 acres of nearby forest and riverside habitats.

The Clovis City Council will appeal a court ruling that rejects the state's approval of Clovis' Housing Element. The city faced opposition from Central California Legal services, which argued that the city’s housing policies exclude low-income households. Clovis maintains that, in collaboration with the private sector, it will develop affordable housing. The court, meanwhile, expressed that state law requires the city to allocate sites for low-income housing, but those proposed for its Housing Element could also be designated for lower-density housing.

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