CP&DR News Briefs September 21, 2021: Housing Bills; Housing Fund; Kern Co. Fracking Suit; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Sep 21, 2021
Post-Recall, Newsom Signs Package of Housing Bills
After surviving the recall effort, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the California Comeback Plan and several housing bills intended to tackle both the housing and climate crisis. Part of the $22 billion California Comeback Plan includes funds to build over 44,000 housing units and treatment beds for the unhoused. Some of the other bills signed include SB 8, which extends the Housing Crisis Act of 2019; SB 9, intended to spur housing production by making it easier for single-family home owners to build duplexes or split their lots; and SB 10, which makes it easier for cities to zone for multi-unit housing. In addition to confronting the housing-affordability crisis and climate change by promoting denser housing near employment centers, Newsom outlined a plan to hold local governments accountable for housing.

State Establishes $1.75 Billion Housing Fund
To help address the state’s long-term affordable housing shortfall, California the state is implementing a $1.75 billion plan – dubbed the California Housing Accelerator – which will provide funding to shovel ready projects in lieu of tax credit equity. Funding will support 90 projects, producing between 6,300 and 7,200 units of affordable low-income housing statewide. Of this amount, approximately 1,200 units will be targeted to individuals and families experiencing homelessness. While the Department of Housing and /community Development has funded eligible multifamily housing projects, inadequate tax credits and bonded hindered progress. HCD has issued a guide to implement the California Housing Accelerator that includes a dedicated strike team that focuses on outreach and application reviews so that decisions are made within 60 days. Under this plan, construction would have to begin within 180 days after a project receives funding.

Kern County Sues over Fracking Restrictions
Kern County is suing Gov. Gavin Newsom to fight his ban on oil well stimulation treatments, namely fracking, a process completed in Kern more than anywhere else in California. In the 33-page lawsuit, Kern contends that Newsom's challenging of the oil industry will put good-paying jobs and property tax revenue at risk, while Newsom is hoping to minimize air and water pollution threats. The Newsom administration recently denied fracking permits to Aera Energy LLC as part of his plan to stop issuing fracking permits throughout the state by Jan. 1, 2024. These points of contention between Kern County and the governor indicate that his administration has not introduced a just transition that stabilizes jobs and property tax revenue in the county when denying fracking permits. 

San Francisco Reassesses Greenhouse Gas, Climate Change Goals
Extreme wildfires, heat, drought, and other climate disasters are forcing San Francisco to consider more ambitious climate change goals, including achieving net zero emissions produced locally by 2040. Part of this plan includes cutting emissions to at least 61% below 1990 levels by 2030 and investing in carbon sinks, such as trees. The Board of Supervisors also approved an update to its environmental code that would demand emissions reductions for products consumed within the city by minimizing carbon footprints for travel. While the city's climate goals are now more ambitious, many are concerned that the timeline is too lenient to address the climate emergencies that residents are currently facing, while others find that any speed-up will face feasibility issues.

CP&DR Commentary: Fulton Breaks Down SB 9
SB 9, the bill outlawing single-family zoning in California, is now law. On the surface, it’s a transformational piece of legislation, unwinding a century of California land-use regulation. But what’s really in it? And will it really result in either far more housing, as its proponents hope, or dramatically changed neighborhoods, as its opponents fear? Neither question is easy to answer at this point. So let’s take a look at SB 9 – first, by examining what it does; and second, by speculating on what it’s impact will be.

Quick Hits & Updates 
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.

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.

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 (See related CP&DR coverage.) 

Bell city manager Paul Phillips, former state senator Frank Hill, attorney Anthony Bouza, and San Diego developer William Barkett have all been charged in a corruption case for the alleged theft of up to $20 million in public funds provided by the City of Industry to build a 450-megawatt solar project. Construction on the project never began, the money was never paid back, and Barkett has been accused of spending about $8.3 million of the funds on personal items.

Voter-approved funding through Measure M could turn LA Metro’s $8 billion proposal to build the 63-mile High Desert Multi-Purpose Corridor from Palmdale/Lancaster to Victorville/Apple Valley/Adelanto into a widening of LA County's SR-138 and SR-18 in San Bernardino County. Previously, Metro planned to use the money to fund an 8-10 lane freeway, a bike path, solar panels, high-speed rail.

In its "Changing Lanes: A Gender Equity Transportation Study," the Los Angeles Department of Transportation examined the mobility challenges faced by women, who are less likely to have a driver's license, are more like to make multiple stops on their trips, and carry more people and cargo on their trips. The department hopes that the study will contribute to transit improvements for women and also plans to implement a more effective DASH program to make rides safer and more convenient.

Newport Beach city officials and activists are debating the future of Banning Ranch, which recently has received $8 million in state grants to establish a protected public park. Representatives now state that a portion of Banning Ranch must be transformed into housing to meet the state's demands for 4,800 units by 2029.

A group of 19 attorneys general is demanding that the EPA repeal a Trump-era policy, Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule, that has made it harder for them to reject projects that damage their waterways. The attorneys general, led by California, New York, and Washington, hope that dismissing the rule will allow them to reject pipeline, coal export, and other green-house gas emitting projects.