San Francisco Misses State Deadline to Adopt Key Housing Ordinance
San Francisco has missed a deadline set by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for adoption of a "constraints reduction" ordinance pushed by Mayor London Breed’s aimed at streamlining residential development. HCD considers the ordinance key to the success of the city's housing element. Failure to comply might result in the loss of local control over project approvals and decertification of the city’s housing element. Simultaneously, efforts are underway to swiftly pass legislation to maintain control over zoning authority and avoid bypassing local planning, particularly concerning the proposed 600-foot tower at Sloat Garden Center. Supervisor Melgar aims to avoid disruptive projects like the high-rise tower near Ocean Beach by passing the legislation within the extended timeframe, confident in preventing undesired outcomes. The focus remains on addressing compliance concerns of the ordinance with local and state laws, with Supervisor Joel Engardio emphasizing the importance of meeting the state deadline to avert potential consequences such as the construction of massive towers in sensitive areas like the Sunset District via a builder's remedy application. Supervisors may reconsider the ordinance today (Nov. 28).
LAO Catalogs $3.3 Billion Plan for Housing and Homelessness
The Legislative Analyst's Office reviewed the 2023-24 California Spending Plan, which encompasses a $3.3 billion budget for housing and homelessness programs within various departments, including HCD, CalICH and the Tax Credit Allocation Committee. It allocates significant amounts to programs like Homeless Housing, Multifamily Housing and Adaptive Reuse. Additionally, it introduces $672.5 million in solutions, involving spending delays, reductions and trigger restoration for CalHome and Downtown Rebound programs, alongside $600 million in new discretionary spending and tax credits. Notably, it expands the State Low-Income Housing Tax Credits by $500 million and authorizes a $100 million one-time increase for the Multifamily Housing Program. However, it's noted that discretionary spending for housing beyond 2023-24 is limited, with some funds having multiyear expenditure authority. The plan includes legislative measures to enhance oversight and accountability, linking HHAPP funding to regionally coordinated homelessness action plans and revising the California Dream for All program to better target loans. Moreover, proposed legislation transfers grant administration from CalICH to HCD and separates CalHFA as a distinct entity within the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency.
Berkeley to Upzone Area around University to Accommodate Student Housing
The Berkeley City Council unanimously voted to allow taller buildings, up to 12 stories, in Berkeley's Southside area near UC Berkeley, facilitating the addition of 2,652 residential units. This move addresses the city's housing crisis, particularly the shortage impacting UC Berkeley students. With only 23% of students housed by the university, the low rate prompted a judge to temporarily halt student acceptances due to insufficient housing. The zoning modifications aim to alleviate student housing challenges, allowing buildings to rise up to 85 feet on certain streets and potentially reaching 16 stories for projects incorporating affordable and middle-income housing, in line with new state density laws effective next year. Concerns have been raised about density overshadowing green spaces, prompting the council to explore incentives for new housing projects that enhance pedestrian spaces and green roofs. This vote aligns with the city's efforts to comply with state mandates to boost housing, with further changes planned to cater to middle-income households and revise single-family zoning.
Study Reviews Impacts of Switch to VMT Analysis
A study out of UC Davis found switching from automobile level of services (LOS) to Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) to study transportation-related impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) left many jurisdictions in varying stages of studying environmental impacts of VMT on projects. In 2018, Senate Bill 743 (SB 743) was signed into law and changed the best practices of studying transportation-related environmental impacts. Some jurisdictions, according to the study, have since had difficulty quantifying and projecting VMT impacts from completed land use developments. The study additionally found jurisdictions overwhelmingly use LOS outside of CEQA, but those analyses using LOS are not as comprehensive and expensive as they would be for CEQA studies. The study found that jurisdictions can speed up development in urban areas using VMT, and suggested education and funds allocated towards that shift. (See related CPD&R coverage.)
San Diego Proposes High Rises in Hillcrest Neighborhood
San Diego planning officials unveiled a proposal for the Hillcrest neighborhood that would cap residential density at 86 units per acre, while introducing downtown-style high-rise housing along existing transport corridors and redeveloped areas of the neighborhood’s two large hospital campuses. The update would also include a historic district celebrating the legacy of Hillcrest’s gay community, with preserved buildings, public art, plaques and other attractions. The changes would result in the construction of approximately 20,000 new housing units, increasing Uptown’s population from 51,000 to an estimated 113,500 by 2050. Critics say the proposal is rushed and overly ambitious, while others are concerned that it does not address the lack of libraries and parks in Hillcrest, or its transportation infrastructure.
CP&DR Coverage: Long Beach Sees Potential Housing in Moribund Commercial Strips
Upzoning is one thing. Getting developers and property owners to redevelop is quite another. Unlike many other coastal cities, Long Beach, population 456,000, has generally welcomed new housing. No major battles arose over its RHNA allocation (around 27,000 units), and it has, of late, aggressively up-zoned many parts of the city to allow multifamily and mixed-use development. The city is targeting, in part, countless small--and, by many accounts, underperforming--retail strips that line its boulevards. Planners have turned into cheerleaders and advocates to encourage complacent property owners to consider building dense housing rather than let storefronts lie vacant.
Quick Hits & Updates
The City of Los Angeles may pursue an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD) for Downtown. Following the recent approval of the DTLA 2040 plan, set to bring in a significant influx of residents and jobs to Downtown Los Angeles, a proposal aims to fund the area's unmet park and transportation projects through an EIFD. The district would be bounded by the Los Angeles River, the 110 and 10 Freeways and surface streets, which could generate between $1.5 billion and $3 billion for various projects, according to a study.
A federal bill advanced by Rep. Mike Thompson could extend the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area, including 62 acres of publicly owned land in Solano County. The legislation aims to enable Rio Vista to access federal grants for redeveloping the decommissioned Rio Vista Army base. This expansion request, prompted by Rio Vista, targets parcels like the Army Reserve Center and Wastewater Treatment Plant, owned by the city, intending to preserve cultural heritage and natural beauty while benefiting from $10 million in federal grant funding.
A developer plans to erect a 71-story residential tower at 530 Howard St., potentially becoming the tallest apartment building on the West Coast and third-tallest structure in San Francisco. The proposal, featuring 672 apartments, aims to utilize a state approval process, avoiding the need for Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors' approval.
The Downtown Oakland Specific Plan, slated for potential City Council approval next year, aims to transform the urban center over 20 years, focusing on housing, economic growth, mobility, culture, health and land use. This 342-page document hopes to revitalize downtown, promote racial equity and generate business by allowing taller, denser housing near transit hubs, fostering a downtown cultural district and simplifying permits for entertainment venues.
San Jose State University secured a landmark $113 million deal to convert a vacant downtown hotel tower into student housing, intending to accommodate 700 to 800 students and extend the university's influence over a mile from campus to the western edge of downtown San Jose.
Conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service for replanting burned giant sequoia groves in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, arguing that the project violates wilderness designations and interferes with natural processes of regeneration. Park officials aim to restore over 1,200 acres by planting seedlings, using methods like mule trains and helicopters, but critics claim this intervention is unnecessary and inappropriate, alleging that the burned areas are already displaying signs of natural regrowth.
A state appeals court concluded a 12-year legal battle between Golden Gate Fields racetrack owners and the East Bay Regional Park District over the Bay Trail's cost. The court upheld the district's $2.125 million payment for waterfront land, rejecting the racetrack's demand for $12.85 million, focusing primarily on procedural aspects while leaving the case's merits and potential further appeals uncertain.
The Los Angeles Rams are planning a $650 million mixed-use corporate office and practice facility in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, in the largely suburban San Fernando Valley, plus a retail and commercial component. This project aims to transform underdeveloped spaces into a sports-centric community hub, exemplifying the transition of suburban areas to more experience-oriented, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
According to business website Chamber of Commerce, workers in San Francisco have the costliest average annual commute, losing on average $12,650.66 in wages. The average daily commute cost amounts to $48.66 at an average commute of 58.4 minutes when accounting for median wages. Women in San Francisco, as a result of gender pay disparity, lose an average of $15,381. Fremont has the second most expensive commute nationwide, with lost wages amounting to a yearly average of $12,048. Santa Clarita, Sunnyvale and Huntington Beach each sit in the top 10 most expensive commutes at 6th, 8th and 10th respectively.
The San Francisco Housing Authority is suing a development company for breach of contract in the mismanagement of the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8), alleging incomplete paperwork and missed deadlines leading to $6-10 million in financial losses. This mismanagement impacted vulnerable residents' housing assistance, forcing the authority to dip into reserves.