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CP&DR News Briefs November 22, 2022: Carbon-Neutral California; Burbank SB 35 Project; Vallejo Housing Suit; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Nov 22, 2022

State Seeks Carbon Neutrality by 2045
The California Air Resources Board released its plan for achieving carbon neutrality by 2045, a proposal that relies on increased electric vehicle use and renewable energy such as wind and solar--in addition to many land-use initiatives already underway. According to state law, officials must plan to reduce emissions by 48% by 2030 and 85% by 2045, and their newest proposal invests in clean energy sectors that will promote economic growth. Officials also plan to implement prescribed burning to minimize wildfires and their emissions. However, as the world's fourth largest economy, California has a lot to achieve; by 2020, emissions had only reached 14% below 1990 levels. If approved by the air board at its December 15 meeting, the plan will move forward, but experts have criticized the strategy for its reliance on other agencies and failure to consider bureaucratic obstacles. The final proposal is available to the public online.

Burbank to Face Another SB 35 Housing Proposal
Now that Burbank has settled its SB 35 lawsuit with a developer who wants to build housing at the Pickwick Bowl, another developer in the Rancho neighborhood has applied for SB 35 approval of a housing project. Butterfly Gardens LLC has switched its proposed project from 23 office pods to 21 townhome units under SB 35 on a parcel almost adjacent to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. Proposed redevelopment of the Pickwick Bowl site in the same equestrian-oriented neighborhood stimulated a major battle over whether SB 35 applied. (See previous CP&DR coverage here and here.)

Residents Sue Vallejo over Supportive Housing Project
Vallejo is facing a lawsuit from two American Canyon residents who are opposing the city's 48-unit supportive housing project due to environmental, traffic, and noise burdens, claiming that Vallejo violated the CEQA when it approved the project with an exemption from CEQA review. The two residents also suggest that the project, with its 48 studio apartments, will detract from the existing single-family residential neighborhood. Vallejo approved the project one month before the lawsuit, along with a deed restriction to ensure its status as a supportive housing project for the next 55 years and an acquisition agreement that authorizes the city to acquire the property as soon as construction is completed.

State Refines Tsunami Hazard Maps & Evacuation Routes
The California Geological Survey has introduced new tsunami hazard area maps that measure tsunami risks and plans for evacuation routes in Ventura, San Diego, Marin, Napa, Santa Cruz, Solano, and Sonoma counties. Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as eleven others, have received updates over the past year. While changes in risks remain minimal from thirteen years ago, the new maps expand upon those last published in 2009 with new data and technologies. The state has reiterated that tsunamis are not a major threat in California, though preparedness is always important considering the 26.3 million residents who live along the California coast. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Two California Rivers Named "Most Endangered"
American Rivers announced its list of the United States' ten rivers that are most endangered due to global warming and environmental injustice in 2022. At the top of the list, the Colorado River, which reaches California's southeast border and provides water for 40 million U.S. residents, was spotlighted for its declining water levels that have threatened the lives of 30 federally recognized Tribal Nations and seven states. Meanwhile, the Lower Kern River took seventh place, and the Los Angeles River came in ninth place. American Rivers also recommends several actionable solutions, including empowering Trial Nations' and frontline advocates' leadership to propel racial and economic justice as related to water security.

CP&DR Coverage: Ballot Measure Roundup
Last week, voters in cities across the state faced the choice of whether or not to make planners’ lives harder. In most cases, voters rejected anti-housing measures and approved pro-housing measures—mirroring state legislators’ enthusiasm for policies that promote housing. Among over 50 local land use measures proffered on city, council, and special district ballots on November 8 — the most in recent memory — measures that called for financing and/or development of affordable housing were approved widely and by wide margins. Measures that sought to accommodate more housing via general plan updates and new zoning--changes likely to be palpable to residents--had mixed results.

Quick Hits & Updates

A lawsuit from seven San Diego residents claiming that city officials are responsible for heightening generational poverty and segregation by clustering low-income housing in less wealthy neighborhoods will move forward. The residents argue that the city's policies are out of compliance with state and federal housing requirements.

Responding to housing pressures, the Santa Cruz City Council has approved in a 5-2 vote new objective design standards and zoning changes. The city will now have material and tree requirements and will update zoning from community commercial to high- and medium-density mixed use in over 350 parcels.

Once an environmental review is conducted on the redevelopment of San Diego's central Embarcadero, including its Seaport proposal, Port Commissioners will vote on whether or not to spend $3.5 billion on the megaproject. The development would include 16 acres of green and open space, over 2,000 hotel rooms, 230,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, piers and marinas, an event center, a tech campus, an aquarium, and much more.

The League of California Cities is voicing opposition to an anti-local ballot measure that is slowly moving forward to the November 2024 ballot. The California Business Roundtable ballot measure, composed and advanced by several major corporations, would primarily reduce local taxing authority.

Oakland officials are considering implementing an enhanced infrastructure financing district that would fund affordable housing and infrastructure improvements throughout the city using property tax revenue. Officials have suggested they will primarily invest in Black neighborhoods that have seen severe impacts from racist planning policies.

Brightline West's high-speed rail extension from Rancho Cucamonga to Cajon Pass is moving forward and under environmental review, with public hearings having occurred on November 12 and 15. The momentum is pushing forward Brightline's greater plan for a rail line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

Nonprofit group Trust for Public Land has purchased a property along the Ventura County coast from the original private owners for $25 million with the intention to hand the acreage over for protection to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

The Hoopa Valley tribe has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that the Biden administration has allowed for the destruction of the northwestern Trinity River that it depends on. Additionally, the tribe argues that the administration has allowed contractors to extract water without contributing to restoration projects.

Los Angeles has completed the most apartment conversions this year nationwide, according to a report from Rentcafe. The city transformed offices and commercial buildings into 1,242 units and also leads in pending conversions, with 4,130 apartments planned for completion.

Billionaire MacKenzie Scott unexpectedly donated $2.4 million to the Greater Sacramento Urban League, a nonprofit seeking to construct a mixed-use housing development in Del Paso Heights. This is the largest donation offered to the nonprofit, which typically offers job training and housing assistance.

Brightline West will purchase five acres of land in Rancho Cucamonga to develop the Cucamonga transit station along the high-speed rail from the Inland Empire to Las Vegas. The Florida-based company is in the process of developing its 170-mile interstate electric train along the 15 Freeway.

Between 2011 and 2020, the southern Sierra Nevada lost over one-third of its forests due to wildfires, drought, and bark beetle infestations. Due to the reduction in density, thirty percent of conifer forests in the area are no longer considered forests.

The Indio City Council has approved its first comprehensive zoning update since the 1990s. The Unified Development Code, which aligns with the 2040 General Plan, is intended to allow for more a more livable and vibrant city.