To nobody’s surprise, especially that of the millions of Californians who struggle to find and pay for housing, the state’s housing shortage and affordability crisis yet again dominated CP&DR’s coverage. Almost every CP&DR news story and commentary covered housing, and housing-related stories were also our most-read stories. 

But it wasn’t the only story, of course. With the tech boom, new transit lines, and the most acute effects of the housing crisis, the Bay Area alone could have occupied every headline this year if we let it. Instead, we scoured the state to find compelling local stories and found them in places like St. Helena, Santa Maria, the Tahoe region, and others. 

Herewith are CP&DR’s most-read stories of the year, categorized by statewide news, local news, commentary, and legal digest. 

(And for everyone keeping track at home, here are top stories from past years.)

News (Statewide)

Of course, the housing crisis has been a slow-moving one, building since the Great Recession of the late 2000s (indeed, it’s our top story of the decade). A key difference between this year and previous years is that this year includes as much action as it does lamentation. In 2017 and 2018, the state adopted laws that gave greater power to policies like RHNA, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has not been shy about putting his political capital towards the 3.5 million new homes that he seeks. In turn, lawmakers were emboldened once again to sponsor a whole new round of housing bills, many of which were signed. 

Newsom Proposes Sweeping Changes on RHNA, Housing Elements, January 11

More Housing Bills Introduced, March 3

Newsom Proposes Shift of Housing Funds, May 13

Updated CEQA Guidelines Finally Go Into Effect, April 15

Stepping Down from HCD, Metcalf Touts State's Increasingly Aggressive Approach to Housing, November 6

Southern California Balks at Aggressive Housing Numbers; SANDAG Cities Fight over Allocation, September 3

News (Local & Regional)

This year, we redoubled our efforts to cover compelling local plans and projects that, we think, offer useful case studies for planners statewide. In many cases, theme was density, with cities like St. Helena clearing the way to add density incrementally and cities like Truckee redeveloping entire parcels for mixed use and multifamily development.

New Leader Shakes Up San Diego Regional Planning, July 29

Legal Settlement Enables St. Helena to Embrace Density in General Plan, June 3

Santa Barbara Celebrates "Authenticity," Faces Housing Crunch, September 12

Tahoe Uses Big Data To Tackle Transportation Problems, May 26

Hopes for Downtown Santa Maria Rest on Pedestrian Plan, March 22


With material drawn from this year’s American Planning Association conference in San Diego, the practice of planning features prominently among CP&DR’s most popular commentaries this year, as does, of course, housing. 

Santa Barbara APA Report: Clamshell Planning, September 17

The Three Big Reforms On Housing Policy, October 15

The Paradoxes of California's Fastest-Growing City, June 3

Santa Barbara APA Report: How Localities Are Implementing SB 743, September 18

High Speed Rail is Dead, Long Live High Speed Rail, February 12

Legal Digest 

As always, CEQA cases feature prominently in Legal Digest, though we also got a rare United States Supreme Court case that may have local land use implications. 

Zoning Not Automatically Subject To CEQA, Cal Supremes Say, August 19

SB 375 Environmental Review Upheld, July 21

Yet More Detail for EIRs, January 8

How Will The Knick Ruling Affect California Planning?, June 23

Alameda Loses Impact Fee Battle, May 26