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CP&DR News Briefs October 25, 2022: Fresno Warehouses; Santa Monica Builders Remedy; Elk Grove Housing Suit; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Oct 25, 2022
Industrial Zoning Replaces Residential in Southwest Fresno
Responding to advocacy from the logistics industry, the Fresno City Council approved two proposals to rezone areas of southwest Fresno, one from neighborhood mixed use to light industrial and the other from medium-density residential to light industrial, allowing for more warehouses in both districts. One-third of a 92-acre area will revert to its previous zoning rules at the request of property owners, though the request to rezone the remaining two-thirds was denied. The area had been zoned for mixed use in 2017. The rezoning has led to discussions of a citywide zoning overlay district, which would include environmental protections. In addition to this rezoning approval, council members' support of an amendment to rezone 18.9 acres of vacant land for a Busseto Foods expansion has faced opposition from residents, environmental justice groups, and Attorney General Rob Bonta, who have expressed concerns about the health impacts on communities of color.

Developers Seize Upon Insufficient Housing Element in Santa Monica
After the Department of Housing and Community Development suspended the City of Santa Monica's local zoning ordinances in response to the city's inadequate Housing Element, developers have submitted 16 applications for new housing projects totaling over 4,500 units. Developers are taking advantage of the builder's remedy application process, which does not allow the city to reject a project based on a lack of compliance with the zoning ordinance or General Plan. Projects include a 15-story, 2,000 unit development; a 12-story, 222-unit building; and an 11-story, 340-unit development, 20% of which must be affordable to low-income residents or 100% affordable to those in the moderate income bracket. Now that its revised Housing Element has received approval, no additional builder's remedy projects can be considered, though it's likely these 16 projects will gain approval. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Developer Files Lawsuit Against Elk Grove for Denial of Affordable Housing
The City of Elk Grove is facing a lawsuit from the developers of an affordable housing project that city leaders rejected for being too dense and not adhering to zoning restrictions in a historic district. Oak Rose LP planned to construct a 67-unit, three-story complex with housing and resources for previously unhoused low-income families. The developers are now suing for noncompliance with a state law intended to streamline affordable housing projects and that allows for zoning restrictions to be amended in order to provide more affordable housing. Elk Grove must approve and build over 4,200 affordable units to meet state RHNA requirements, with 1,300 currently planned for. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

California-Based Researchers Win APA Journal's "Best Article" of the Year
The Journal of the American Planning Association (JAPA) recognized Evelyn Blumenberg and Hannah King's "Jobs-Housing Balance Re-Re-Visited" as the best article of 2021. The research considers more recent data of rising housing costs as compared to average incomes and concludes that California cities continue to become less self-contained, with many residents living in different jurisdictions from where they work. However, self-containment was higher in cities where housing costs remained more affordable. The authors intend for their research to inform policies that will increase housing availability in job-rich jurisdictions and lower housing costs. They also hope that their findings will improve job opportunities that are more aligned with worker characteristics.

CPD&R Coverage: Inverse Condemnation in L.A.; SB 35 Settlement in Burbank
The City of Burbank has settled an SB 35 lawsuit with a developer over a controversial housing project near an equestrian area. But another lawsuit from YIMBY California is still outstanding, as is the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Notice of Violation, and it remains to be seen how those situations will play out. The situation could set up a clash between the developer and local neighbors, who have reached an agreement, and HCD and YIMBY activists, who might hold out for SB 35 approval of the original project as a matter of principal. 

L.A. Metro did not violate the California Environmental Quality Act or engage in inverse condemnation by building the “regional connector” light-rail project near the Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles by using cut-and-cover construction rather than boring a tunnel. The court concluded: “It seems counterintuitive to argue the application of or exemption to CEQA for purposes of seeking damages for a nuisance claim.”

Quick Hits & Updates 
The Governor's Office of Planning Research has appointed Saharnaz Mirzazadas as the new Chief Deputy Director for Climate and Planning. Previously, she was the Deputy Director of Community Investment and Planning at the California Strategic Growth Council.

Many U.S. cities are in a housing crisis, but San Jose's is the worst, according to a new study from Angi. Researchers found that San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara have suffered greatly from a limited supply of homes, which has resulted in a 7.5% rise in housing prices over the last two years and 15,000 residents displaced.

Sonoma County property owners will not be allowed to tap groundwater after the Board of Supervisors approved a six-month moratorium on all new wells to allow county officials to outline more well regulations. The move comes after a 2021 lawsuit by the California Coastkeeper Alliance seeking to implement more restrictions.

The Norwalk City Council has approved further plans regarding the redevelopment of the City Hall's front lawn into an entertainment district with 350 housing units and commercial and open space. Councilmembers approved a general plan amendment, zoning updates, a conditional-use permit, and a leasing agreement that would allow the project to move forward.

Redlands City Councilmembers have rejected an appeal by an Oakland-based law firm attempting to prevent a new City Center apartment project due to environmental impacts, allowing the Planning Commission's approval of the four-story, transit-oriented, mixed-use project on a vacant three-acre lot to move forward.

The owner of the Sears Building, who originally proposed to house 10,000 unhoused residents in the famed Boyle Heights Art Deco structure, has changed the plan to accommodate only 2,500 beds. The reduction comes in response to protests from unhappy local residents, but opponents still remain unsatisfied, believing that the proposal as a whole is offensive.

This year's Livability poll, published by CapRadio and Valley Vision, finds that almost nine of every ten Black residents are concerned about severe housing costs in Sacramento, more than any other racial or ethnic group surveyed. The poll also revealed residents' concerns about sufficient childcare, education, and mental healthcare resources.

This year's Livability poll, published by CapRadio and Valley Vision, finds that almost nine of every ten Black residents are concerned about severe housing costs in Sacramento, more than any other racial or ethnic group surveyed. The poll also revealed residents' concerns about sufficient childcare, education, and mental healthcare resources.

Los Angeles City Council members intend to form 100 miles of bus-only lanes in the next five years, alongside other improvements the city bus stops, to make bus transit faster and more dependable. The new miles will likely be concentrated in high-ridership corridors and transit-dependent communities.