Group Pursues Ballot Measure to Overturn SB 9 "Duplex Law"
Californians for Community Planning is organizing to launch a ballot measure against SB 9, which Gov. Gavin Newsom just signed into law and is set to take effect January 1, 2022. The organization argues that SB 9, SB 10, and AB 1401 could have damaging impacts by eliminating minimum parking standards near transit stops and will accelerate gentrification because there are no affordable housing requirements. The measure's proponents include Mayor Bill Brand of Redondo Beach, Mayor Peggy Huang of Yorba Linda, City Council member Jovita Mendoza of Brentwood, attorney John Heath, and Dennis Richards, a former San Francisco planning commissioner. The group's overall agenda is to put an end to existing centralized zoning policies and advocate for local zoning control. They have completed step one — submitting the CCPI to Attorney General Rob Bonta — to allow residents to vote on their ballot measure on the November 7, 2022 ballot. (See related CP&DR coverage.)
SB 10 Housing Streamlining Law Immediately Draws Lawsuit
Now that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 10 into law, the bill is catching some heat from the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who is suing the state of California to stop its implementation. SB 10 is intended to allow cities and counties to simplify the rezoning process for urban areas with extensive transit and job opportunities to build small apartment buildings. The nonprofit believes that SB 10 is unconstitutional because it allows local governments to override land use decisions determined by voters. In the past, the foundation has lobbied against the bill for failing to make an impact in providing affordable housing. The law is planned to go into effect January 1, 2022.
Study Finds Mismatch Between Zoning & Building in Bay Area
The median Bay Area city will likely approve housing projects on less than 10% of the sites listed and approved in its housing plan, according to a study published by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies published a study titled "What Gets Built on Sites That Cities 'Make Available' for Housing?" Meanwhile, many cities are hoping to meet their housing targets by building on sites that have been unapproved; during the study period, almost 70% of the housing built was on sites not classified in plans to meet housing quotas. The study recommends that, in order to more accurately and effectively confront the housing crisis, cities consider and perhaps underestimate the true potential of building on approved sites and more honestly include sites that may not be technically approved in their housing plans.
California Cities Fare Poorly on Quality of Life "Ranking"
The US News and World Report released its 2021-2022 "Best Places to Live in the US" rankings, and no California cities made the top of the list. Criteria for the rankings included affordability, job market, desirability, net migration, and quality of life. While San Francisco reached 15th on the list, and San Jose made 36th, the remaining 12 of the 14 California metros included ranked below 96th place, and in total, the metros received an average 115th ranking. Throughout the US, many metros experienced instability, high unemployment, and high housing costs during the pandemic, but California's disappointing performance was largely due to its high housing costs.
CP&DR Coverage: Ruling Strengthens Housing Accountability Act
In an important new ruling, the Second District Court of Appeal has concluded that the City of San Mateo’s design guidelines are not “objective” under the Housing Accountability Act and has ordered San Mateo to reconsider its denial of a four-story 10-unit apartment buildings. The appellate court also upheld the constitutionality of the Housing Accountability Act, saying it does not impermissibly intrude upon local government powers. The case is one of the first to deal with the strengthened Housing Accountability Act at the appellate level. While it overturned a San Mateo County Superior Court judge’s ruling, it mirrored a recent ruling in a case from Huntington Beach, where an Orange County Superior Court judge similarly found that the city’s design standards aren’t objective and the Housing Accountability Act is not unconstitutional.
Quick Hits & Updates
Despite public protest, and ridicule, the San Francisco Planning Department has advised that El Farolito, a popular taqueria based in San Francisco's Mission District, may not open its 12th location in North Beach because that would classify the business as "formula retail," which is banned in North Beach, Chinatown, and Hayes Valley. City officials told the owners that the new location could be permitted if they made "sufficient changes" to their North Beach proposal or to another location so that the taqueria would no longer be classified as a chain.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has committed to housing 1,500 unhoused residents and constructing 132 affordable housing units in the next 16 months. Schaaf's housing commitment is part of House America, a federal initiative aimed at tackling the housing crisis, under which Oakland will receive $11.3 million in funding.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors became the largest urban area to approve a motion to phase out miles of oil fields on unincorporated land, citing its impacts on the health of nearby residents and on the climate. The board also passed a motion to implement a just transition in order to protect the county's roughly 30,000 oil and gas workers.
San Diego is proposing to designate 300 acres of public land for fast and cheap construction of 10,000 housing units. To expedite financing and avoid opposition from nearby residents, city officials plan to pre-zone the land and will create pre-approved architectural prototypes for quick construction. Councilmember Joe LaCava is also proposing two funds: a public land trust for affordable housing and an infrastructure fund to address any obstacles.
In the latest sign of San Jose's aggressive push to grow denser, the San Jose City Council approved construction for two 16-story towers along the Guadalupe River that will serve as a 2.05 million square-foot office campus for nearly 10,000 people. Environmental activists have voiced concerns that the Almaden Office Project could harm trees, soil, and wildlife habitat that exists along the river bank and are pushing for the developer to build farther away from the river.
San Francisco is transforming two parking lots used as a "safe sleeping village" with 44 tents for unhoused people into a space for 70 tiny homes. Each cabin is 64 square-feet and includes heating, a desk, a bed, and a window, and the entire village will include renovated bathrooms, storage spaces, and a dining area. Two nonprofits, DignityMoves and Tipping Point Community, are covering the $1.7 million cost.
Santa Monica is introducing a program that will prioritize affordable housing for up to 100 households and their descendants that were displaced due to urban renewal policies of the '50s and '60s that benefited wealthier and white residents and destroyed the homes of many people of color, particularly Black residents. The city also reduced the number of work hours required to be placed on the waitlist in order to include a greater number of people who work part-time
The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission wants to add a stop in Elk Grove at a Laguna Boulevard station as part of its Valley Rail Sacramento Extension Project from Stockton to Sacramento. The entire project, including the Elk Grove station, has a 2023 target date, and Elk Grove residents can learn more about the proposal and provide commentary at a virtual open house on August 26.
Data from RentCafe, a national real estate listing service, suggests that people are very interested in calling San Francisco home. According to the data, the pandemic trend of mass departures from the city may have reversed, as rental applications for San Francisco residences increased by 105% in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.
Environmentalists plan to file a lawsuit against Menlo Park developer Laguna Sequoia Land Company's proposal to dredge a part of a 21.9-acre San Francisco Bay tidal lagoon in Redwood City and use the fill as a base for a 350-unit apartment complex. Though the developer still has to obtain building permits, advocacy groups are prepared to fight against the plan that could destroy an ecosystem and put apartment residents at risk to sea level rise.
A group of self-identified "green activists" is opposing the 350-acre Aramis Renewable Energy Project, the largest proposed solar plant in the Bay Area that would supply carbon-free electricity to 25,000 homes annually. The project, designed by ranchers, farmers, and environmentalists, will likely still move forward, but the group still plans to sue on the grounds that the project would destroy open space and ecosystems.
The California Rental Housing Association, a group representing over 9,000 members who own nearly 537,000 rental units, is suing the State of California in federal court over its enforcement of the state's third eviction moratorium extension. The group claims that AB832 is unconstitutional and has hurt small and medium property owners, while the state voted to extend the moratorium to October 1 due to the COVID-19 delta variant.
State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk rejected a proposal by Aera Energy LLC to carry out fracking in western Kern County in order to protect public and environmental health and safety. This is Ntuk's second rejection of applications for fracking permits in the state, which suggests that the Newsom administration may be trying to prohibit fracking before an official ban is implemented in 2024.