Attorney General Releases Guidelines for Development in Fire-Danger Areas
In response to several legal battles surrounding projects located in wildfire-prone locations, Attorney General Rob Bonta released a guidance document for ensuring that projects in high wildfire risk areas adhere to CEQA requirements. The document details the necessity of including project density, location, and water supply and infrastructure considerations when proposing a development. For certain projects, analysis should also include evacuation routes, options for collaborating with local fire officials, and the impact of evacuation. The document aligns with local measures that require projects to analyze fire risk, including SB 1241, SB 99, AB 747, and AB 1409 as well as guidelines from the Governor's Office of Planning and Research on how to build in areas at risk of wildfires. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
State Rejects Vast Majority of Bay Area Housing Elements
The Department of Housing and Community Development rejected fourteen of the fifteen housing plan drafts it reviewed, leaving several Bay Area cities little time to plan for 441,000 new homes across nine counties between 2023 and 2031. With the exception of Alameda, which gained approval, all other jurisdictions' have until January 31st, 2023 to finalize their plans and receive approval. These jurisdictions must prove that the sites they have proposed for development will actually lead to constructed housing units, and the HCD wants officials to consider zoning changes to increase density. If their plans are not approved, they will lose access to funding and be at risk of legal action.
San Francisco Redrafts Controversial Housing Element
In the newest housing element draft, San Francisco officials will rezone neighborhoods throughout the city to make space for 34,000 housing units. The zoning changes could include ditching conditional use authorization requirements when planing to replace a single-family home with a multi-family building. The latest draft will allow for 36% more housing units than in the original draft and also expresses the political causes of housing declines. The units will be located in the city's "high-resource" areas, largely in districts where development has remained low in the past few years. San Francisco planners must account for 82,000 units between 2023 and 2031, half of which should be affordable.
CP&DR Commentary: The Burden, and Value, of Annual Housing Progress Reports
The so-called “Annual Progress Report” – an annual report each city and county must provide the state reporting progress toward meetings its housing goals – has increasingly become a bear for local governments to prepare. “The staff hours to prepare the report have gone from 40 to 300 since 2017 in Sonoma County,” said Jane Riley, director of housing policy at the consulting firm 4Leaf. But, some cities are beginning to get ahead of the curve – and the state Department of Housing and Community Development, regional planning agencies, and private consulting firms are increasingly creating online tools to make the preparation of APRs much easier. And APRs now provide a treasure trove of useful information – not only to the state but to local governments as well – if cities and counties don’t fall behind compiling the information.
Quick Hits & Updates
Redlands residents and visitors will soon be able to ride the new Arrow passenger rail service that connects residential and commercial spaces along nine miles, as the ribbon cutting ceremony takes place on October 21st. The transit system will also connect to bus and bicycle transportation options. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
In a "statement of cooperation," Gov. Gavin Newsom and the leaders of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by investing in renewable energy, electric vehicles, and wildfire prevention. The agreement is not a political or legal obligation but more so a general motivation to combat the climate crisis.
An independent review panel analyzing the draining Salton Sea has recommended that officials implement desalination plans instead of importing water. The panel concluded that it is not environmentally or economically essential for the sea to return to previous volumes and that desalination would allow for adequate water levels with less salt. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
San Francisco's downtown recovery following pandemic-era economic hardships has remained extremely low compared to other downtown cities nationwide and to local suburban neighborhoods, where businesses grew by more than 88% compared to the downtown core. The report aligns with the city's low "return to office" numbers.
As part of its 2022 Professional Awards, the American Society of Landscape Architects has recognized Hargreaves Jones' Crissy Field green space project in San Francisco as the recipient of the Landmark Award. The project prioritizes restored coastal habitats, recreational spaces, and its historical importance.
A federal judge has discarded a pipeline permit for the Trump-era Cadiz water mining project that would take 16 billion gallons of water annually from the Mojave Desert. The move finds support from the Biden administration and Indigenous communities, which would have faced devastating impacts from the project.
The Los Angeles City Council voted to bring 3,000 bus shelters to the city in order to provide riders with places to sit under the shade. The shelters would also include screens that display accurate bus arrival times and could host scooter docks, e-lockers, public Wi-Fi, and phone charging stations, though funding and implementation plans remain unclear.
The La Quinta City Council has unanimously rejected the Coral Mountain Resort project, which would have included a surf wave basin, following a discussion with heavy turnout from locals concerned about the resort. While some residents were hopeful about job opportunities, others expressed worries about extreme traffic burdens and water use that would accompany the project's surfing component.