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CP&DR News Briefs October 12, 2021: Fresno Construction Labor; S.F. Micro-Apartments; Merced Housing Plan; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Oct 12, 2021

Fresno Mayor Vetoes Plan to Loosen Construction Labor Rules
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer vetoed an agreement passed by city council that would allow union workers and apprentices to build more construction projects in the city because he believes it excludes local workers. City council approved the agreement 6-1, and overriding the Dyer's veto will require five affirmative votes, which are likely to materialize. The original agreement formed between Fresno, Madera, Kings, and Tulare Building and Construction Trades Council regarding projects costing over $1 million. It gives priority to workers who are women, veterans, and from underserved communities and is intended to restore the city's middle class by encouraging apprentice programs and good-paying jobs with good benefits. The mayor said he would support the agreement if it concentrated on local businesses and hiring practices.

S.F. Supervisors Nix Micro-Unit Apartment Proposal
In a decision symbolic of longstanding debates over market-rate versus affordable housing in San Francisco, a 316 micro-unit group home development in Tenderloin will not move forward after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors rejected the plan. They argued that the micro-units would not help house families with children but cater to workers as a temporary residence. The project, led by Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist with builder Forge Development Partners, would have destroyed an existing building to give rise to the 13-story development that, in its proposal, included a church with a Christian Science reading room on the second floor. Some pro-housing advocates were in support of the proposal, but other local groups believe that the Tenderloin neighborhood does not have enough larger units with full kitchens and private bedrooms to house families, for which the project was previously intended until Forge took over.

Merced Adopts Housing Plan Amid Rising Prices in Central Valley
After a long discussion between city council members, staff, and local residents, Merced City Council established a broad plan to tackle the area's affordable housing crisis, though the final plans did not include more specific policies like inclusionary zoning and ways to enforce affordable housing construction advocated for by the public. Over recent years, Merced officials have argued for building more low-income and multi-family units, but only 21% of all city permits over the past decade have been for multi-family developments, and no affordable housing projects have been built since 2014. Their new proposal includes updates to the city's general plan and zoning code, becoming a "pro-housing" community, encouraging affordable-by-design standards, achieving quotas set in the RHNA, and streamlining building permit processes. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Backlash Against Accessory Units Arises in San Diego
Some San Diego officials are considering rolling back recent policy changes that have made it much easier for property owners to construct additional dwelling units on their single-family lots due to increasing opposition from residents who believe it will destroy neighborhood character. Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera has suggested policies that will make ADUs more accessible to low-income tenants, prevent investors from capitalizing off of ADUs, amend parking restrictions, and ensure trees removed to build ADUs are replaced. Opponents, however, are still concerned that his proposals do not include removing density bonuses, which allow property owners to build more ADUs if they implement rent restrictions on one of them. Proponents of ADUs, meanwhile, believe that simplifying the construction process will help confront the housing crisis, and Elo-Rivera's approach is an overreaction.

CP&DR Legal Coverage: Reversal Confirms Huntington Beach's Violation of Housing Accountability Act
In a significant win for housing advocates, an Orange County judge has reversed her previous ruling, saying that Huntington Beach actually did violate the Housing Accountability Act in rejecting a 48-unit condominium building just off Beach Boulevard. The judge reversed herself after an appellate court ruling from the City of San Mateo – in a lawsuit brought by the same plaintiffs, the California Rental Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, or CaRLA – clarified what local governments must do to comply with the “objective standards” requirement in the law. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Quick Hits & Updates 

While San Jose's "urban village" strategy for redeveloping the city into many villages with tall buildings that incorporate housing, retail stores, and offices was intended to promote job and housing growth, only 13 out of 60 blueprints have been approved over the past decade, and residents frequently commute to other cities for work. Many suggest that the rules of creating urban villages, including pairing housing production with office spaces, is driving development to other parts of the city.

Enrollment at UC San Diego could increase by 10,000 over the next decade, through nearly 1,175 students are currently on a waiting list for on-campus housing, partly due to social-distancing guidelines. Over the past decade, enrollment increases to 40,000 have already caused crowding issues, and pushing enrollment to 50,000 could cause more housing problems outside of pandemic-era requirements.

San Diego City Council voted 8-1 to approve the 1,200-unit Trains at Carmel Mountain Ranch project designed by developer New Urban West to occupy the Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club's closed golf course. The developer held 30 community meetings and discussed the plan with over 500 nearby residents and will include 110 acres of open space and 15% low-income housing, though residents say New Urban West did not fairly adopt their requests.

Lake Tahoe's Squaw Valley ski resort will change its derogatory name to Palisades Tahoe starting immediately, though full adoption of the new name will likely be a years-long process. For a year, owners collaborated with the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California to replace the name it's used since 1949 with Palisades Tahoe.

US District Judge David O. Carter will, for now, not challenge a Los Angeles city law that bans people from parking recreational vehicles overnight in designated areas because city officials said they have not been enforcing it. Stephen Yagman, the attorney representing a woman who lives in an RV in Venice, is arguing that the city law violates the rights of unhoused people under the 8th and 14th amendments, and though the case is still open if the city decides to enforce its law, the city should remove its parking restriction signs if it isn't acting on them.

Rep. Salud Carbajal, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator Alex Padilla are asking the US Commerce Secretary and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator to move the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary from nomination to designation. Designating this central coast area, which contributes to the state's $1.9 trillion coastal economy, would protect its resources as a marine sanctuary.

A Sacramento property owner is suing the city for allowing unhoused people to set up camps and live in RVs near their business after the owner asked the city to force the unhoused population to relocate and tow vehicles. In the lawsuit, the property owner asks that the judge order the city to provide relief in a manner "to be determined by law," though a previous federal court ruling established that governments cannot penalize people for camping on public property unless they can offer shelter, all of which is usually full in Sacramento.

Dismantling of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station will continue after Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff ruled against a lawsuit filed by the Samuel Lawrence Foundation aimed at stopping work. Beckloff ruled that the California Coastal Commission was correct in granting a permit to Southern California Edison to start deconstruction work.

Two environmental groups, Orange County Coastkeeper and the California Coastkeeper Alliance, have sued the Regional Water Quality Control Board after it approved a permit for Poseidon Water's Huntington Beach desalination plant because the board did not fully consider more habitat-friendly options. The company only needs one more permit from the Coastal Commission to move forward with its $1.4 billion, 22-year-long project unless the regional board's permit no longer stands.

In an effort to make affordable housing more accessible, Los Angeles City Council voted to require that all covenanted affordable units in the city be publicly listed on the website lahousing.lacity.org in addition to the leasing website specific to the project and is also calling for an open application process for new units. Their vote aligns with the city's Transit Oriented Communities guidelines and the statewide density bonus designed to confront the state's housing crisis.

Whatever their use, ADUs are an increasingly popular and affordable housing option for many residents in Los Angeles. According to the Department of City Planning, the city permitted 2,401 ADUs from January to June of 2021 (or 24% of all housing units permitted in the first half of this year). The South Valley had the highest share of ADUs permitted (30%), followed by the North Valley (25%), South Los Angeles (15%), West Los Angeles (10%), Central (9%), East Los Angeles (9%), and the Harbor (2%).