State Again Seeks to Restore Sacramento Bay-Delta
The State Water Resources Control Board released a nearly 6,000-page draft to update the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan, addressing the ecological crisis in the Bay-Delta watershed, focusing on boosting water flows and limiting pumping in the Sacramento River basin and the delta. The draft evaluates various strategies, including setting minimum water levels in rivers and streams, potentially requiring water users to cut back on diversions for urban and agricultural needs. The report also delves into a controversial pact reached by Governor Gavin Newsom with major water suppliers, criticized by environmentalists and tribes. The next steps involve public workshops, hearings,and comments to shape regulations, with the State Water Resources Control Board likely making decisions in about a year. However, the full implementation of the updated Bay-Delta plan might take several years.

HCD Refuses to Certify Davis Housing Element; Developer Sues City
The City of Davis is in violation of state housing law as it has not adopted an acceptable plan for housing development, being over two years overdue in creating a compliant "housing element," according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). In an Aug. 31 letter, the state agency warned Davis of potential legal action, fines, and the risk of losing state funding if an acceptable housing element is not approved. Despite receiving $610,000 in state funding for housing element development, Davis officials are accused of not planning for enough housing, especially after the removal of over 260 units from the University Commons project. Developer David Taormino has sued Davis for not approving his 163-unit Palomino Place development, emphasizing the need for housing for local workers and families. Davis officials, in response, claim they have not formally denied the project and are working with HCD to address concerns and bring an updated plan to the City Council by year-end. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Cost of San Jose BART Extension Balloons to $12.2 Billion
The extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system to downtown San Jose faces an 80% cost increase since 2020, with estimates now at $12.2 billion and completion expected by 2036. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), overseeing the project, attributes the rise to inflation, construction, and labor costs. The extension, covering 6.1 miles, will connect the Berryessa/North San Jose Station to new stations at 28th Street/Little Portugal, Downtown San Jose, Diridon and Santa Clara, forming a rail ring around the San Francisco Bay. The project, one of the nation’s costliest, is backed by local taxpayers through approved tax measures. The VTA anticipates federal funding covering about half the cost, with construction slated to begin in 2024, featuring the nation’s largest single-bore transit tunnel, aimed at minimizing surface impact in downtown San Jose. Despite challenges, VTA's CEO remains committed to delivering the project without seeking additional local funding.

San Diego to Participate in Pro Bono Program to Track Property Data
San Diego, along with 10 other cities, is participating in a pro-bono pilot program led by a software company and a national nonprofit to leverage big data and shared expertise in addressing housing access and affordability challenges. The initiative aims to uses a data software tool, BuildingBlocks, to analyze property and ownership data, aiding cities in making informed decisions on land use, affordability and neighborhood revitalization. The collaboration learning among the participating cities, including Albuquerque, Austin, Birmingham, Chicago, Dayton, Lansing, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Tampa and Tucson, is expected to expedite the development of effective solutions. The tool allows for detailed analyses, such as examining the overlap of different urban layers and scrutinizing how institutional investors maintain properties. Ultimately, the program's goal is to visualize complex data, facilitating informed policy shifts to address housing challenges and boost economic stability.

CP&DR Coverage: How "New City" in Solano County Upstages Conventional Planning
California Forever offers more of a lesson in public relations than in planning. The developer, Flannery Associates LLC, had been operating in stealth mode for five years until the Chronicle uncovered what was going on. Flannery's most exquisite move was to immediately post a website -- so fully-formed that it must have been designed and written ahead of time, like an aging celebrity's obituary, long before the news leaked. Flannery is thus both an enormity and a mystery at the same time. What this approach lacks is a vision -- a sense of enthusiasm or shared purpose. It's almost impossible to envision better cities in California because the new elements -- say, a well designed mixed-use building, or street furniture that might make a place walkable -- has to mingle with whatever outdated, Prop. 13-enabled ugliness is still hanging around. So, we can forgive anyone who gets excited about California Forever.

Quick Hits & Updates

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission approved the District NoHo development, a Metro joint project planned by two development companies that has been in various stages of development for over a decade. The 16-acre development near North Hollywood Station will include housing, retail, office space and public amenities, with construction potentially commencing in 2025 or 2026 and spanning up to 15 years.

A study by SPUR provided 16 recommendations of methods to accelerate Bay Area public transit. The study emphasized the need for policy changes and funding programs to alleviate transit challenges, enhance bus speed and address traffic congestion. Collaborative efforts between transit agencies and local jurisdictions are crucial, with dedicated resources urged to support the adoption of transit priority projects, improving service, affordability and competitiveness against private automobiles.

The Long Beach City Council approved an $800,000 allocation from the Long Beach Recovery Act of 2021 to Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE), a fiscal sponsor for nonprofit Long Beach Residents Empowered (LiBRE). The funds will facilitate the launch of a pilot Community Land Trust program, led by LiBRE, aiming to identify and acquire properties for affordable housing in an effort to address homelessness and housing crises in the city.

A California transportation official and former Caltrans deputy director, Jeanie Ward-Waller, claims she was demoted for objecting to highway expansions that increase driving. She alleges that road construction projects in the Sacramento area, which circumvent environmental rules, wrongly use state funds for widening roads instead of maintenance, prompting her reassignment and subsequent whistleblower complaint.

In August 2023, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) experienced a notable 13% year-over-year increase in total system ridership, totaling over 25 million boardings and marking the ninth consecutive month of growth. The recovery in ridership, now at 79% of pre-pandemic levels, is particularly pronounced on weekends, with the newly reconfigured A and E Lines contributing to a significant rise, and special event services, like those for concerts and festivals, playing a role in boosting ridership.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ordered Beverly Hills to create a new plan to comply with California's housing law, which requires offering housing for moderate- and low-income residents. The city failed to meet the regional plan's target of 3,104 housing units, over half of which should be affordable to low- and very low-income households, by 2029.

The City of San Diego filed a petition with the California Supreme Court, seeking clarification on whether Measure C, a hotel tax hike initiative to finance a convention center expansion, is a citizens' initiative or a government-sponsored measure requiring a supermajority vote. The legal ambiguity surrounding Measure C has impeded the city's ability to fund the convention center expansion, prompting both the city and the initiative's proponents to request a speedy resolution from the Supreme Court, with a decision expected by mid-December.

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit against Long Beach, California, alleging that the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to conduct an environmental review of oil and gas drilling operations. The lawsuit aims to block the city's authorization of such drilling for the next five years. Long Beach's plan permits 100 drilling activities between 2023 and 2028, projecting the extraction of over 26.2 million barrels of oil and 12 billion cubic feet of natural gas production, an increase over the last five years.

Vista Hermosa Natural Park in Los Angeles, designed by landscape architecture firm Studio-MLA, has received the ASLA 2023 Landmark Award. Completed in 2008, the park was the first public park built in downtown Los Angeles in over a century, transforming an oil field into a green space. The award recognizes projects completed between 15 and 50 years ago that have retained their original design integrity and continue to provide significant benefits to the community.