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CP&DR News Briefs September 7, 2021: Oakland Stadium; Parking & Transit Stations; Housing Elements; and More

Mckenzie Locke on
Sep 6, 2021
Alameda County Supervisors Imperil Proposed A's Stadium
After the Alameda County Board of Supervisors decided it will not vote this month on helping Oakland fund the proposed A's development at Howard Terminal, the fate of the entire project in jeopardy due to insufficient financial support. In May, Oakland called on Alameda County to vote to opt into a tax district that would help cover infrastructure costs, but Administrator Susan Muranishi said that the Board of Supervisors will not vote due to the project's glaring uncertainty. While the A's hope to have a final vote from Oakland City Council by October, and the city believes its terms will be ready for a vote by the end of the year, Muranishi expressed concern over the project's economic and environmental specifications. She also expressed that the project appears uncertain without the county's financial assistance and will need more information to go forward with a vote.

Report Measures Tradeoff between Parking and Housing at Transit Stations
Limiting parking spaces near public transit is critical to generating low-emission, affordable housing, according to TransForm’s recent report, Measuring the Promise of Transit-Oriented Development. TransForm’s study considers the impact of housing construction near seven BART stations around Oakland, and the research team concluded that space dedicated toward parking could instead accommodate 4,837 new homes, almost half of which would be below market rate, that would produce two-thirds fewer emissions than the regional average. Housing construction would also encourage sustainable public transit use, bringing 6,900 new BART riders daily. The report relies on the principle that housing is more essential than parking spaces, and building housing near public transit will make cities more affordable, green, and accessible.

Study: Sites Identified in Housing Elements Rarely Get Built Out
Based on data gathered from Bay Area cities, typical California city will likely approve housing projects on less than 10% of sites listed and approved in their housing elements, 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, 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 truthfully include sites that may not be technically approved in their housing plans.

CP&DR Coverage: Court Takes Stern Attitude Toward Parking
The frustration of Second District Acting Presiding Judge Beth Grimes was palpable throughout her panel’s recent decision in a California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit over parking at a popular trailhead in the San Gabriel Mountains. Again and again in this ruling, Grimes makes the same point: “Parking deficits are always inconvenient for drivers, but they do not always cause a significant adverse physical impact on the environment.” In so doing she warns future CEQA plaintiffs not to focus on parking per se, but on the environmental impacts of parking – if there are any. The case reinforced the view put forth almost 20 years ago in an appellate ruling from San Francisco dealing with the Yerba Buena Center redevelopment plan: A lack of parking isn’t an environmental impact.

Quick Hits & Updates 
Emile Haddad, CEO of developer Five Point, developer of numerous large-scale developments throughout California, including many former military bases, will step down from his position at the end of the month and take a senior adviser role while remaining on the board as chairman emeritus. Stuart Miller and Lynn Jochim will take over on the management team, while Haddad hopes to focus on growing public interest projects and confronting the housing crisis.

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.

Mountain View City council unanimously approved a plan to transform a parking lot near the city hall building into 120 affordable apartments as well as a ground-floor retail and community space intended to promote pedestrian attraction. Alta Housing plans to set 20 units aside for residents facing homelessness, another 20 for those making up to 30% of the area's median income, and 40 for those making between 30% and 50%.

In an effort to make affordable housing more accessible, Los Angeles City Council voted to require that all covenanted affordable units in the city be publicly listed on the website in addition to the leasing website specific to the project and is also calling for an open application process for new units. Their vote aligns with the city's Transit Oriented Communities guidelines and the statewide density bonus designed to confront the state's housing crisis.

National City is hoping that $50 million of the $100 million that the San Diego Unified Port District could give to the district through the COVID-19 American Rescue Plan Act will be dedicated toward environmental justice programs that confront health inequities caused by the agency's industrial operations. The district, which is predominantly home to Latinx and working-class communities, has suffered from extreme COVID-19 cases due to bad air quality and other environmental harms.

The California National Guard is considering the environmental impacts of a 99-acre solar power grid at Joint Forces Training Base - Los Alamitos designed to minimize carbon emissions and install a reliable energy source. The US Army Corps of Engineers would lease the land to a private developer to build the power grid as early as next year.

California's Third Appellate District Court ruled that the Placer County Board of Supervisors violated the Brown Act when planning a significant redevelopment of Olympic Valley. Environmental activists were quick to celebrate their victory after the court found that the Board of Supervisors deceived the public when proposing the ski resort redevelopment that would add 1,500 hotel and condominium rooms and a 90,000 square-foot indoor recreation center.

San Francisco and Los Angeles were named third and ninth, respectively, among the top 10 most expensive cities to build across the globe in a 2021 international construction market survey from Turner & Townsend. Worldwide, many respondents noted the pressure put on labor and supply chains due to the pandemic, though some have called attention to North America's high incomes for construction workers, which averages $104.90 hourly in San Francisco.

In an effort to expand affordable housing units, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board approved several new rules that will allow more homeowners of parcels of all sizes to build ADUs and incentivizes ADU construction near transits and town centers and at affordable rates. The units cannot be rented for more than 30 days in order to ensure that housing is dedicated to local workers.

The American Public Transportation Association has named the Sacramento Regional Transit District the best transit system of 2021 with annual ridership between 4 and 20 million. SacRT officials credited the program's lower fares, increased ridership, fare-free ridership for students, and the smaRT ride program for its success.

For the first time ever, Encinitas' state-required housing plan was submitted and approved on time, but concerns from city Planning Commission members and the state HCD department remain. Some city officials find that the current plan will benefit developers and fall through on providing sufficient affordable housing to residents, and the state has asserted that the city must prove that it will accommodate more high-density housing projects. (See related CP&DR coverage.)

Geoffrey Palmer, a prominent Los Angeles landlord, has sued the city over its eviction moratorium implemented during the pandemic, maintaining that his companies experienced "astronomical" losses and that the city owes him that money. GHP Management Corp. and several other Palmer companies noted that 12 buildings have missed out on $20 million in rental payments and believes that they will qualify for over $100 million by the time the moratorium comes to an end. (See related CP&DR commentary.)

The Oakland A's will be able to avoid lengthy lawsuits after a state appeals court ruled that their plan to build a new ballpark at Howard Terminal will have to go through a full environmental impact review, but any legal challenges must be resolved by within 270 days due to AB734. While getting the A's and the city to agree in the first place has been an extensive process, many believe that the judge's decision is dangerous because the A's have long been attempting to avoid rules.

The city of Livermore received the National Civic League's All-America City Award for centering equity and resilience in its efforts to improve the community, including in mental health and affordable housing initiatives. The organization celebrated Livermore for its Council Subcommittee on Equity and Inclusion, composed of groups of volunteer community members, which prioritizes inclusivity when encouraging community participation.

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