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CP&DR News Briefs November 9, 2021: Housing "Strike Force;" San Diego Regional Plan; Sacramento Arena Redevelopment; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Nov 9, 2021

Attorney General Launches "Strike Force" to Enforce Housing Laws
To confront California's affordable housing crisis, Attorney General Rob Bonta will form a 12-member "strike force" that would support tenant protections and challenge local governments that do not adequately adhere to state housing laws. Members of the strike force will include attorneys who are already employed by the state Department of Justice; hold experience in land use, environmental law, and civil rights; and will seek public commentary. Bonta also indicated that the strike force clarifies his power to require local authorities to follow state housing law, including the ability to file lawsuits. The announcement is expectedly receiving varying feedback, from Gov. Gavin Newsom's celebration of the move to League of California Cities CEO Carolyn Coleman who believes that Bonta is unreasonably faulting cities for the housing shortage.

Proposed San Diego Regional Plan Inadequate for Curbing Emissions, Report Claims
San Diego's regionwide plan to improve public transit will not significantly reduce car travel and greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report released by the Climate Action Campaign. The San Diego Association of Governments' transportation goals call for 50% of all commuters to walk, bike, or ride public transit by 2035, but only an estimated 27% would do so. This estimate may be optimistic because voters must approve new taxes to fund SANDAG's transit plan. Transportation is San Diego's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, but the report suggests that SANDAG would have to change much more besides transit to meet its climate goals. SANDAG will vote on the transportation plan in December, which would invest tens of billions of dollars in new bus and rail lines, safer conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians, and freeway toll lanes.

Sacramento Arena Redevelopment to Include 3,000 Housing Units
The redevelopment of Sacramento's Sleep Train Arena site into a hospital will also include over 3,000 housing units, retail space, bike trails, and an amphitheater. California Northstate University is already planning to construct a 14-story teaching hospital, trauma center, and medical school, which should employ 3,000 people, but is also proposing to add high-density apartments, town homes, and single-family homes to the development, named "Innovation Park." About 600 units would be designated for students and faculty, and it's unclear if the rest of the units on the 183-acre North Natomas property will be affordable. CNU is also planning for an "urban plaza" with space for group fitness classes and other events, a 4.5-acre park, and an outdoor, 2,000-seat amphitheater. Currently, no city funding has been approved for the project.

Language Released for Anti-SB 9 Ballot Measure
Californians for Community Plan, the group organizing to introduce a ballot measure against SB 9, released its entire proposed ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to push for local zoning control. The group argues that, across California, land use decisions should be locality-specific because their environmental impacts, required infrastructure, and community needs vary by region. They also believe that it will heighten gentrification and reduce affordable housing construction opportunities. The ballot calls for requiring that local general plans, ordinances, and voter initiatives always prevail over conflicting state general plans, with few exceptions related to coastal land use initiatives, large energy facilities, and water infrastructure. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

City of Fresno Faces Lawsuit from Disgruntled Developer
Downtown Fresno developer Cliff Tutelian is suing Councilmember Miguel Arias and the city of Fresno for breach of contract, fraud, and more after his mixed-use development project was not fully realized. Tutelian, who owns The Grand Tower and Kepler Neighborhood School, entered a deal with former Mayor Lee Brand to build 160 residential units and 30,000 square feet of retail space, largely a CVS store and neighborhood market. He filed the lawsuit after the risk management department rejected his damages claim and argues that Arias asked for a campaign contribution to approve construction. Tutelian blames Arias for the project's failure and is seeking $12.45 million in damages plus legal costs, while Arias has denied all Tutelian's claims, and Fresno no longer enters exclusive negotiating deals. 

Quick Hits & Updates 
On October 19, the city of Chino, which is home to several large industrial projects, enacted a 45-day moratorium on future warehouses and logistics centers located north of Schaefer Avenue. In the meantime, officials will study the impact of truck traffic and air pollution on Chino residents and consider if northern Chino should welcome other purposes. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Labor and environmental groups filed a ballot initiative in San Diego County that would raise taxes to fund a $160 billion public transit expansion, including building a rail connection to the downtown airport and a new line between South County and Kearny Mesa. If passed, the plan would increase the regional sales tax by half a cent.

Community group Downtown Crenshaw is fighting a plan to redevelop the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, a historically Black neighborhood in Los Angeles, after Harridge Development Group, known for its high-end housing projects, bought the property. While Harridge purchased the plaza, which has long been a part of the predominantly Black community of South Los Angeles, for $111 million, Downtown Crenshaw's $115 million offer to grow co-ops, green space, and small businesses on the property was rejected, signaling that systemic racism will propel gentrification in the area.

Oakland City Council will begin negotiations with the Black Cultural Zone Collaborative and its partners, Community Arts Stabilization Trust and Curtis Development, over a long-term lease of the city-owned Liberation Park in order to increase affordable housing availability and increase commercial and creative space. The 1.2-acre property is currently used as a community hub for shopping, free-meal distribution, outdoor movies, COVID-19 services, and more.

Climate change is 66% to 88% responsible for increased wildfire risk in the western United States, according to a team of California researchers. The researchers found that the severity of global warming's impact on atmospheric conditions has occurred much faster than expected, and their estimate is likely conservative.

Construction on a $1.3 billion plan to introduce rail service from Sacramento to the Central Valley and San Jose is already three years behind schedule and over budget. Officials are now discussing plans to let go of some of the 16 train stations that would have been part of a larger regional expansion of rail service until they can get additional funding.

The Cupertino City Council is attempting to complicate the process of allowing property owners to build additional units on their single-family lots under SB 9 by enacting strict design standards. The city council opposed the law before Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it into law and plans to take advantage of a section of the law permits cities to set their own design and zoning standards. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

The University of California Board of Regents voted 17-1 to approve a $312 million project that would add 1,100 student beds at Berkeley's People's Park to house the university's growing population. One park preservation group is already planning to file a lawsuit, stating that, though the plan will still keep 1.7 acres of park space, that is not enough to protect its legacy of political activism.

San Jose City Council approved a resolution to issue a formal apology to Chinese immigrants and their descendants for the government's role in the destruction of the city's Chinatown, once a hub of life for Chinese immigrants, in 1887 when arsonists burned it down. San Jose is the largest US city to formally apologize to the Chinese community and acknowledged their advancement of "systemic racism, xenophobia, and discrimination."

A Fresno County Superior Court decision that disallows the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District from excusing oil refineries from air monitoring requirements. The air district formed its own regulations distinct from the California Legislature in 2019 that allows the four refineries in Kern County to avoid air monitoring requirements, but refineries will now have to monitor their impact in predominantly low-income communities and communities of color.

San Bernardino is moving forward with the redevelopment of its boarded-up and closed Carousel Mall after entering an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement with the developer, Renaissance Downtowns USA and ICO Real Estate Group. The ENA includes the developer's proposed plan, proposed zoning changes or changes to the city's General Plan, a list of potential users, a proposed time schedule with cost estimates, and a proposed financing plan for the 43-acre site. (See related CP&DR coverage.)