Culver City Abolishes Parking Minimums
Culver City council members have voted, 3-2, to abolish minimum parking requirements across the city in an effort to incentivize affordable housing construction, reduce auto-dependence, and make the city more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. In his vote of approval, Councilmember Alex Fisch noted that there is no real benefit to requiring parking spaces and that requirements often cause more harm than good. The new policy will not entirely eliminate parking but rather allow each project to decide whether or not parking would be beneficial. Culver City joins several cities throughout the state, including Sacramento, Berkeley, Emeryville, and Alameda, but it is the first in Los Angeles County to make the change. The move comes in advance of the implementation of AB 2097, restricts cities' ability to impose parking minimums in many urban areas of the state.

High Speed Rail Awards Contracts for Station Area Planning
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has awarded $35.3 million to two-London based companies, Foster + Partners and Arup, to plan station areas along the initial operating route of the future statewide high-speed rail system. The architectural and engineering consulting firms will operate under a 30-month contract to plan stations through the San Joaquin Valley, including Fresno, Merced, Hanford, and Bakersfield. In addition to analyzing the existing sites and acquiring the property, the joint team will begin developing designs for the stations and may potentially be the team that finalizes and executes plans for construction. Eventually, the second stage will connect the Bay Area to the Los Angeles Basin.

Two Bay Area Cities Permitted to Sue Oil Companies over Climate Change
A federal judge has ruled that San Francisco and Oakland officials can sue major oil companies for releasing fossil fuels and attempting to conceal how their activity exacerbates climate change in a California state court. The oil companies were fighting to restrict the case to federal court, citing their operations on federally-owned land. However, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled against them, aligning with a ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that would allow California courts to rule on a similar fossil fuel lawsuit from local governments against BP, Chevron, Conoco, Exxon Mobil, and Shell. Alsup's ruling is based on the impact of oil operations on local residents' health and well-being.

HCD Cautions Elk Grove in SB 35 Dispute
The Department of Housing & Community Development has weighed in on the Elk Grove SB 35 dispute, issuing the city with a “Notice of Violation”. As CP&DR reported last week, Elk Grove rejected an SB 35 application for supportive housing in the city’s Old Town, saying a ground-floor retail requirement was a “fundamental” land use that couldn’t be waived under the state’s Density Bonus law. HCD’s letter to Elk Grove said the city violated several state laws and failed to implement its Housing Element. “The City’s response should include, at a minimum, a specific plan for corrective action, including allowing the Project to move forward at 9252 Elk Grove Boulevard,” the department wrote.

CP&DR Coverage: Bill Fulton on Builder's Remedy
If the Builder’s Remedy becomes widely used, it could disrupt the local housing planning process even more than recent housing production laws. But there is no question that the Builder’s Remedy has become more attractive because of recent housing production laws that have strengthened the Housing Accountability Act and jacked up the number of units virtually every city must plan for in their housing elements. Projects can only be rejected for a narrow set of specified reasons, including lack of conformance with “objective standards”. If a preliminary application is filed, the “objective standards” in place at the time of the filing are locked in. Developer law firms in Northern California are already signaling to their clients that they might pursue the Builder’s Remedy.

Quick Hits & Updates

San Diego officials have adopted several programs intended to increase affordable housing construction, but the city issued much fewer housing permits for low-income residents in 2021 compared to previous years. While officials issued 1,254 permits in 2020, only 451 were approved in 2021. Meanwhile, rates for market-rate housing development remain steady.

For the first time in 200 years, the Tongva people have land in Los Angeles County after an Altadena homeowner returned a one-acre stretch of land to the Tongva people. Tongva leaders intend to foster a place of community where land ownership will allow for ceremonial practices, culture, and healing.

The Fish and Game Commission has delayed its decision on whether or not to list the Joshua tree as a threatened species, leaving it under consideration until at least February. Officials have noted that they want to continue conversations with tribal nations as they consider the tree's cultural and ecological importance.

Permit Sonoma is circulating its final Environmental Impact Report and Specific Plan that will provide more information on redevelopment plans for the Sonoma Developmental Center. The proposal now includes 700 acres of open space and 1,000 housing units, including 283 affordable, as well as an affordable housing timeline priority.

The Los Gatos Town Council has voted to push back the deadline of its decision on whether to allow voters to revise the 2040 General Plan or do it themselves until spring 2023. The revision would address an appeal from residents unhappy with the number of housing units planned for. Meanwhile, council members are working on the Housing Element.

At the start of the new year, Chief Justice of California Tani Cantil-Sakauye will become the president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California. Cantil-Sakauye will retire from her current position to assume her new role, which received unanimous support from the PPIC Board of Directors.

UCLA will purchase two large properties in Rancho Palos Verdes currently owned by Marymount California University for $80 million in an effort to allow for more students on satellite campuses. The university, which accepted about 6,600 new students last year, hopes to add 3,000 more undergraduate students by 2030.

While the Oakland Athletics organization says it is "privately financing" its new waterfront stadium, taxpayers will likely still contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the project. Government grants for off-site infrastructure total $321.5 million, though officials also imply that those estimates are likely to be far below the final costs.