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CP&DR News Briefs October 26, 2021: Planning & Systemic Racism; Google & Affordable Housing; San Diego Arena Proposals; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Oct 26, 2021
California Planning Directors Sign on To Statement Acknowledging Systemic Racism
Several big-city California planning directors signed a joint statement alongside 17 other planning officials from around the country acknowledging city planning's significant role in exacerbating systemic racism and segregation. Los Angeles City Planning Director Vince Bertoni, San Diego Planning Director Mike Hansen, and San Francisco Planning Director Rich Hillis all committed to reversing years of racist, exclusionary, and inequitable planning decisions and are pushing for more planning directors to sign the statement. In their dedication to systemic change, the signatories plan to rebuild government trust, tackle environmental injustice, amend exclusionary zoning policies, increase housing affordability, invest in BIPOC communities and businesses, minimize displacement, address biases, encourage public dialogue, and more.

Google Conveys Properties to City of San Jose for Affordable Housing
Google has handed three contiguous parcels in downtown San Jose over to the city to build affordable housing without charging municipality. The three parcels total 0.8 acres, which could hold 240 affordable homes, and Google plans to add 1,000 affordable units to the market on its own. The sites are located near the SAP Center and Google's Downtown West, a mixed-use proposal for transit, homes, retail, restaurants, cultural hubs, and entertainment spaces next to Diridon train station. Going forward, the city will now draft its design plan, decide on a developer, and choose how many units will be affordable and to what extent.

Developers Compete for San Diego Arena Redevelopment
Brookfield Properties and the Midway Sport and Entertainment District are still fighting over a chance to redevelop the 48-acre Midway District area, including the San Diego Sports Arena (Pechanga Arena). In the past, then Mayor Kevin Faulconer decided on Brookfield, while the public was interested in MSED, but the decision process will start all over again since the city's process contradicted the Surplus Land Act. Now, the developer must make at least 25% of the housing affordable and will change its design based on the approval of Measure E, which removes the 30-foot height restriction. While both will consider these new guidelines, Brookfield Properties' proposal, "Discover Midway" is said to differ from MSED's, "Midway Village+," which has committed to 50% affordable or available to middle-income residents.

CP&DR Coverage: Land Use Legislation Roundup
In addition to dozens of housing bills passed and signed this year, the legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom were busy with 60-odd bills related to other aspects of land use that were signed into law (plus a few notable vetoes). New laws cover wildfire risk and other hazards, conservation of open space, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and many bureaucratic changes to planning and zoning regulations.

Quick Hits & Updates 

Chevron and other oil and gas companies will be able to continue fracking in Monterey County after a California appeals court found that state law overrules a measure intended to ban fracking in the region. Monterey County residents passed Measure Z in 2016 after concerns about fracking's impact on the region's water supply and its tourism and agriculture industries.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative introduced a pilot program in Oakland intended to help Black homeowners receive financing to construct ADUs on their properties. The organization hopes to increase affordable housing availability and property values and promote economic prosperity for Black residents who have been systemically excluded from homeownership and wealth-building.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing regulations that would ban oil and gas wells located within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, and healthcare facilities and would demand emissions monitoring within buffer zones in an effort to protect public health and environmental justice. The move will likely see significant pushback from the oil industry but could impact over 2 million California residents and predominantly communities of color.

San Mateo will adhere to a decision by the California Court of Appeals that will require a $450,000 payment to the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, which argued that the city violated the Housing Accountability Act when it rejected a 10-unit market-rate development. The city denied the development due to neighbor concerns and multifamily design discrepancies and asked the developer to resubmit its application with an amended design plan.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors, alongside the county's Housing Authority board, approved a new policy that will expand affordable housing construction through a voucher program. The Health and Human Services Agency will be in charge of analyzing voucher attrition rates and transfers, projected fair market rents, voucher availability, and a waitlist system as well as giving voucher priority to projects near high-transit areas and that use sustainable construction materials and design principles.

Researchers at the UC Berkeley Center for Community Innovation collaborated with non-profit think tank Next 10 to release a report titled Rebuilding for a Resilient Recovery: Planning in California's Wildland Urban Interface, which determines that, if the state does not reimagine how it rebuilds after wildfires, costs and housing supply setbacks will amplify. Researchers found that state and local land use policies encourage rebuilding in the high-risk wildland urban interface, which exacerbates safety, economic, and climate risks as wildfires surge.

Irvine city officials are hoping to include 4,400 units of currently existing housing for UC Irvine graduate students, families, and staff as part the city's housing requirements set by the HCD. The city has to provide at least 23,600 units over the next eight years and are hoping to significantly lower their requirement by counting these homes.

Caltrans' construction of a $87 million wildlife bridge above the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills is set to begin in late January of 2022. The 200-foot-long, 165-foot-wide crossing is intended to protect mountain lions at risk of extinction as they cross a freeway used by 300,000 vehicles a day and would be the largest of its kind globally. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
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.

In an effort to care for the city's low-income and older residents, San Francisco's Planning Commission is proposing to change the planning code to ban the demolition of laundromats without conditional use authorization and prohibit ADU construction that would reduce on-site laundry availability. Over the past eight years, one-third of the city's laundromats have closed. 

Alameda County launched a program that will add 18 affordable housing units, streamline the process of constructing ADUs, and offer assistance to homeowners who want to build ADUs on their properties. Homeowners are invited to apply to the program, which reflects pilots proposed in San Francisco and San Diego, by November 27.