LAFCO Authorizes Incorporation of Mountain House, Pending Vote
Mountain House, a new master-planned community west of Tracy in San Joaquin County, will become the county's incorporated eighth city if voters approve in March 2024. The San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission unanimously approved a resolution authorizing incorporation in September. The community added 624 housing units in 2021, achieving a 9.2% growth rate and a population of 28,044 as of January 1, 2022, with roughly 10,000 registered voters. A $70,000 study approved by the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors will assess Mountain House's financial ability to stand alone as a city. The community generates approximately $900 per capita for municipal services due to a special tax that assesses all square footage. Incorporation would make it California's 483rd city. Incorporation is feasible partly because of the financial structure already in place in Mountain House, including the existing Community Services District and special taxes. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Massive Google Project in San Jose Loses Partner, Will Still Proceed
Google and real estate partner Lendlease terminated their partnership to develop four large Bay Area projects, including a transit-oriented neighborhood in downtown San Jose. Despite the split, all four projects will continue. The decision to end the agreements came after a comprehensive review of Google's real estate investments and mutual determination that current market conditions didn't favor the existing agreements. Many tech companies have scaled back their office space needs due to the pandemic, prompting Google to optimize its Bay Area real estate investments. Despite the change, downtown San Jose's economy is recovering, and Google states they remain committed to the Downtown West project, which includes housing commitments and mixed-use development. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

San Francisco Punts on Ordinance to Bring Housing Element into Compliance
San Francisco supervisors once again delayed a vote on legislation to bring the city's housing element into compliance with state housing laws. The Constraints Reduction Ordinance, sponsored by Mayor London Breed, was introduced as one of 28 actions that San Francisco must take to comply with state law, giving them 30 days to pass the bill. The ordinance streamlines the Planning Code by cutting many forms of discretionary review of housing projects. The Land Use and Transportation Committee has been reviewing the ordinance, and lawmakers have been adding and debating amendments. The city's Department of Housing and Community Development issued a letter last week, warning the committee members to pass the ordinance as originally written, and lawmakers now have to wait for the city attorney's office to review the amendments before proceeding.

Terner Center Identifies Homelessness Trends
A new report out of UC Berkeley's Turner Center for Housing Innovation summarized five recent trends in California homelessness, utilizing the 2022 Point in Time Count. The report found the state's homeless crisis reached a greater magnitude than that of any other state, continuing to deteriorate throughout the pandemic; racial and ethnic disparities in homelessness rates have continued to expand; homelessness without shelter remains more prevalent in California than in any other state; some of the most significant increases in homelessness in recent years have occurred in regions that previously had low levels of homelessness, such as suburban and rural areas. On any given night in 2022, 30 percent of people experiencing homelessness nationwide were in California. The study found the rate of homelessness among Black individuals was the most pronounced, with approximately 205 people per 10,000 experiencing homelessness; this rate is nearly five times greater than the state's general homelessness rate. The majority of individuals facing homelessness in California, accounting for two-thirds of the 2022 homelessness count, are unsheltered, residing in tents, vehicles or other locations not designed for human habitation. Rates of homelessness were highest in Humboldt County, followed by San Francisco, Mendocino, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles counties. The study suggests, despite proactive interim housing prioritized by the state, funding to address homelessness must increase, programs must be culturally competent and address racial disparities and the housing crisis must be addressed.

CP&DR Legal Coverage: Courts Fault Beverly Hills Housing Element, Exempt San Diego Parking Ordinance from CEQA
A Los Angeles judge ruled that the Beverly Hills housing element is “deficient” in a variety of ways, including the city’s calculations of potential housing development based on its current density standards. The city has announced plans to appeal the ruling, but if ity loses on appeal that could open the door for several builder’s remedy projects that have been proposed by a single developer. Californians For Homeownership, the nonprofit legal arm of the California Association of Realtors, sued the city over the adequacy of its housing element, just as it did with La Cañada Flintridge.

In an unpublished appellate ruling, a unanimous three-judge panel ruled that the San Diego’s ordinance reducing parking standards for multifamily developments near transit stops is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act. The city was sued by CREED-21, a group typically represented by frequent CEQA litigator Cory Briggs. The appellate court made short work of CREED-21’s “circling for parking” argument, partly because of SB 743, which switched the CEQA analysis for traffic from level of service to vehicle miles traveled.

Quick Hits & Updates

The California Transportation Commission approved CEQA review for the 2.2-mile extension of "The Portal," San Francisco's Downtown Rail Extension. This extension will connect the 4th Street Train Station to the Salesforce Transit Center, accommodating Caltrain and future high-speed rail. The project involves a new underground station at Fourth and Townsend, connecting to the Transbay Transit Center underground station, with completion expected around 2032.

The Los Angeles City Council reached an agreement with the Unite Here Local 11 hotel workers' union to remove a measure from the March election ballot that would have mandated hotels to participate in a program placing homeless individuals in vacant hotel rooms. In exchange, the union’s proposal for placing homeless residents in vacant hotel rooms would be explicitly listed as voluntary, a move that would cause it to resemble Inside Safe, the program created by Mayor Karen Bass to combat homelessness.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is considering a "shared passenger track alternative" for its Los Angeles to Anaheim segment, which would add a fourth track for freight, Metrolink and high-speed rail operations. The plan is part of efforts to accommodate both passenger and freight services and address community opposition to a proposed freight facility in Colton.

A dispute between city and county officials over sewer capacity has caused delays in the approval of 600 homes in Visalia. County representatives blocked three projects proposed for annexation into the city, leading to a standstill in new development, with each side claiming capacity issues or lack of communication as the root cause.

Ventura County has the largest housing shortage in the United States, with home construction in the region falling 12.5% short of local needs, resulting in an underproduction of 36,161 homes, according to a study by Up for Growth. California accounts for 11 of the 25 metropolitan areas with the most significant housing shortages, contributing to the state's shortfall of 873,730 homes, or 6.5% of the total statewide.

An athletics training center in Oakland once used by various professional sports teams, including the Raiders, has remained vacant for months, with no buyers coming forward, causing concern as city officials expected it to generate millions of dollars. The property, which includes a training facility and sports fields, sits on 16 acres, and a summer auction resulted in no bidders. The property is currently zoned for commercial manufacturing, but experts suggest that exploring residential development may be a more viable option given the lack of interest in commercial use.