CP&DR News Briefs October 19, 2021: New OPR Head; Joshua Tree Protection; San Diego Redevelopment Lawsuit; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Oct 19, 2021

Former Seattle Planning Director Sam Assefa to Take Helm of OPR
Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed Samuel Assefa, a Democrat from Seattle, as Director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Research. Assefa, 63, has been Director of the Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development since 2016. He was Senior Urban Designer for the Department of Community Planning and Sustainability for the City of Boulder from 2010 to 2016, Director of Land Use and Planning Policy for the Department of Planning and Development and Deputy Chief of Staff for Economic and Physical Development for the Chicago Mayor’s Office from 2004 to 2010 and Senior Urban Designer for SmithGroup JJR from 2002 to 2004. This position does not require Senate confirmation, and the compensation is $200,004.

Court Opens Door for Listing Joshua Tree as Endangered
A federal district court judge is asking Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider their rejection of the Joshua tree from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Judge Otis Wright II found that their decision was "arbitrary and capricious" and ignorant of several scientific studies that suggest that, by 2100, key populations of the tree may become extinct. If they do not appeal the order, the federal agency will have to make a new decision within 12 months and consider the impacts that high temperatures, drought, and other climate dangers will have on the species. The Trump administration failed to take action when WildEarth Guardians asked to list the Joshua tree as "threatened," and the group is disappointed in the Biden administration's negligence in protecting the species.

Group Sues to Block Development on Defunct Golf Course in San Diego
While the City of San Diego is attempting to confront its housing crisis with dense suburban developments, the Peñasquitos-Northeast Action Group is filing a lawsuit to challenge the city's plans. The group, composed of Rancho Peñasquitos residents, hopes to block construction of a 112-acre, 536-unit Junipers project on the unused DoubleTree Golf Course. They believe that the city did not adequately examine how they project will affect traffic, fire safety, and community character. According to the suit, the plan would increase wildfire risk and also violates the city's general plan and the Rancho Peñasquitos community plan. In June, city council approved the plan but required that the developer, Lennar Homes, build an emergency evacuation route before residents move in.

California Cities Rank among Least-Affordable for Renters
California is the least-affordable state to rent a two-bedroom apartment than a one-bedroom, according to a study published by rent.com. The study considered cities with a population of over 50,000 with at least 10 available one-bedroom and two-bedroom housing units and found that many of these cities, which were smaller in population, were close to larger urban areas with high rent costs. Napa, Fresno, Bakersfield, Rancho Cordova, Ventura, and Temecula all made the list, with the last five appearing in the top ten. In all of these cities, more two-bedroom units were available. Berkeley, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Camarillo, Palo Alto, and Alhambra, meanwhile, were all included as cities with a reversed trend.

CP&DR Coverage: Fulton on Housing Legislation
Here is a rundown of the important housing bills in the Legislature this year – beyond just SB 9, which essentially ended single-family zoning in California, and SB 10, which allows local governments to allow up to 10 units on parcels near transit. The Legislature has begun to address the question of preserving affordable housing – either by preserving existing income-restricted units or converting market-rate units to income-restricted units. We can expect a lot more activity on that front in the next few years.


Quick Hits & Updates

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has talked about reclaiming parts of the forest adjacent to the tribe's reservation with San Bernardino National Forest officials, though neither group mentioned any specific portions of the forest. After Nestlé and BlueTriton took millions of gallons of public water from Strawberry Creek, there have been discussions about whether Strawberry Creek would be included in the agreement.

A group of unhoused individuals in San Luis Obispo is suing the city for violating the Eighth Amendment by punishing homelessness, the Fourth Amendment for seizing and destroying personal property, and the California Constitution's banning of cruel and unusual punishment. The plaintiffs are hoping to legally secure the right to camp in tents and vehicles without facing property destruction or fines, as the city council has passed ordinances designed to ban overnight access to parks and public spaces.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a plan to both address the city's housing crisis and minimize greenhouse gas emissions by streamlining the process for turning properties with automobile-related purposes into housing. The ordinance, titled "cars to casas" would allow housing developers to avoid acquiring a conditional use authorization from the planning commission when building on gas stations, auto body shops, and parking lots and would also loosen density limits.

Bridge Development Partners is proposing a large industrial park open 24/7 for a 32-acre parcel in San Jose. The project would entail demolishing three existing buildings to construct a four-building modern development that functions similarly to those that Amazon has historically been interested in.

A new poll from Joint Venture Silicon Valley and the Bay Area News Group demonstrates that 71% of Bay Area residents find quality of life to be worse than it was five years ago, and 56% are contemplating moving in the next five years. Across all of the Bay Area's five counties, respondents largely cited high housing cots and costs of living in addition to homelessness and climate disasters.

Researchers at UC Davis have concluded that nearly 40% of trips made using Sacramento's bike-share system replaced car trips, reducing vehicle miles driven by 2,000 a day and exhibiting significant environmental, climate, and health benefits. Their findings are meaningful because they demonstrate that the bike-share system specifically, not just individual bicyclists, pedestrians, or transit-users, show environmental benefits, which will make it easier to grant the program government support.

The Sierra Nevada red fox, which faces threats caused by wildfires and droughts and competition with coyotes, will be protected under the Endangered Species Act after its numbers have significantly diminished to 18 to 39 foxes in Sierra Nevada. The species' population in the southern Cascade Range of Oregon and California will not be protected.

Cal Poly Pomona and two real estate development firms, Edgewood Realty Partners and Greystar, are negotiating an agreement to redevelop a controversiat state-owned facility once used to care for people with mental illnesses into a mixed-use community. Redevelopment of the 300-acre Lanterman site near the State Route 57 would include existing historic structures and new construction.

San Diego County best reflects California's overall demographic makeup, according to a study based on 2020 Census data from the San Francisco Chronicle. The publication considered five characteristics related to race and age and found that San Diego's share of white, Hispanic, Black, and Asian residents and its number of adults differed by 8 percentage-points or less. Meanwhile, in Sierra County, where 81% of residents are non-Hispanic white, and non-Hispanic Black and Asian populations are under 1%, data differed the most from the state's.

The Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Native Americans signed a compact with Gov. Gavin Newsom that will allow the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino to increase its gaming device limit to 3,500 and provide more protections for non-gaming tribes and tribes with smaller casinos. The compact has been sent to the legislature for ratification and would then head to the secretary of the US Department of the Interior for approval.