The Los Angeles City Council voted 12-2 to support a sweeping new mobility plan that would focus on increasing bicycle and pedestrian safety and reducing car usage by reshaping streets with medians, widened sidewalks, and over 300 miles of dedicated bike and bus lanes, at the expense of car lanes. The plan, dubbed "Mobility Plan 2035," (PDF) seeks to cut the fatality rate from traffic collisions to zero within 20 years, partly by keeping cars within speed limits by creating road diets, where vehicular lanes are shrunk and things like medians and sidewalks are widened. Opponents have argued that the plan would worsen traffic throughout the city and worsen emergency response times.
OPR Releases Draft CEQA Guidelines Update
The Governor's Office of Planning and Research has released its Preliminary Discussion Draft of its updates to the guidelines for implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act. Notably, the draft proposes efficiency improvements including streamlined environmental checklists and enhanced exemptions for things like mixed-use projects near transit, substantive improvements to include energy impacts analysis and water supply impacts, and technical improvements including clarifying using projected future conditions as an environmental baseline. Notably, the draft does not include changes to transportation analysis including the "level of service" metric as required by SB 743 and will release that proposal separately. OPR is seeking comments on the draft until October 12, 2015.
Bay Area Counties Collaborate on Proposed Transportation Funding Tax Measure
A transportation advocacy group is asking residents of five Bay Area counties to approve a half-cent sales tax to raise $500 million a year for transportation improvements, marking the first time multiple counties have taken a coordinated regional approach to asking voters to improve highways and transit systems. Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group leading the charge, said that having all five counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Contra Costa vote in the November 2016 ballot cycle would facilitate regional improvements across counties. In order to be approved as a "special tax," however, the measures would face the difficult task of being approved by two-thirds of voters in each county. "The spending will be primarily focused on state highway system and picking up the ball the state has dropped," Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, told Reuters.
S.D. Airport, Coastal Commission Reach Odd Agreement Over Parking Lot
In order to build a new $80 million parking structure at San Diego International Airport, officials there must paradoxically encourage the public not to use it in a compromise with the California Coastal Commission. The move comes as the Coastal Commission had asked the airport authority why the proposed three-story, 3,000 space garage was necessary when the airport authority said in 2009 that it wouldn't build the parking garage in order to encourage passengers to use public transit, rideshare and private parking lots away from the coast. Airport Spokesman Jon Heller said in a statement, "Our passengers' reaction to limited parking over the past six years strongly indicates that limiting parking does not increase transit use at San Diego International Airport and additional parking facilities are, in fact, needed." Parking is one of the airport's three top moneymakers, and brought in nearly $39 million in 2014. The Coastal Commission approved the garage on the condition that the airport increase its efforts to encourage the use of alternative transportation.
Solano County General Plan Update to Emphasize Flood Protection
The Solano County Board of Supervisors will update a chapter in the Public Health and Safety portion of the county's General Plan to include comprehensive flood protection measures in line with floodplain mapping prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Water Resources. County staff reported to The Reporter that the update identifies rivers, creeks, streams, flood corridors, riparian habitat, and land that may accommodate floodwater for purposes of groundwater recharge and stormwater management. The updated mapping is consistent with requirements established by the Central Valley Flood Protection Board for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Drainage District. The update will also include updated fire hazard maps including state responsibility areas and an Implementation Program for the update.
Grand Jury Faults Kings Co. Supes for Rail Lawsuit
A grand jury criticized the Kings County Board of Supervisors for filing lawsuits against the state high-speed rail project, saying that supervisors should not have used public funding for litigation involving privately owned land that the state is seeking. In a 167-page report titled "The Train Has Already Left the Station," the jury questioned the expenditure of $150,000 in public funds on the battle, asserting that the rail line would not take any county-owned land except where it crosses public roads. County Supervisor Doug Verboon said the county elected to fight the project when the state in 2011 refused to provide a detailed plan for taking property, choosing to put the line through the middle of farm fields rather than along existing highways. The county is involved in two lawsuits: one saiys that the state will fail to comply with a 2008 bond act requiring the system to operate without subsidies, while the other asserts that the project failed to comply with California's Environmental Quality Act.
San Jose Considers Moratorium on Mobile Home Park Closures
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and four City Council members have proposed a moratorium on closures of mobile home parks in the area as the sizzling real estate market there has made land beneath the parks triple in value and make developers eager to build market-rate housing there. The proposal came about after the announced closure of Winchester Ranch Mobile Home Community, which threatens to displace more than 100 mostly-elderly residents. Hoping to beef up protection for low-income residents, the City Council has requested a revision to a never-used 1986 ordinance outlining the process for closing mobile park homes. In the meantime, however, anyone can apply to close a park unless the city adopts the moratorium.
State Wins Federal Grant for Habitat Protection
California will receive nearly $16 million of a $37.2 million federal grant to 20 states from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support conservation planning and acquisition of vital habitat for endangered species. Awarded through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and funded in part by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the grants will benefit species ranging from the California gnatcatcher and the Karner blue butterfly, and it will enable states to work with private landowners, conservation groups and other government agencies to initiate conservation planning efforts and acquire or protect habitat for the conservation of threatened and endangered species.
Electronic Billboard Stokes Dispute Between O.C. Cities
The cities of Fountain Valley and Costa Mesa are fighting over a 79-foot-tall Clear Channel electronic billboard that would be a financial boon to Fountain Valley -- producing minimum $150,000 a year -- but a potential visual menace to residents of Costa Mesa, who argue that the sign will illuminate their homes at night. Matt Mogensen, Fountain Valley's interim planning and building director, said that the billboard would produce an ongoing revenue stream and allow the city to advertise its events four weeks annually on the dual 672-square-foot screens. However, Costa Mesa Development Services Director Gary Armstrong wrote a letter to Fountain Valley, urging Fountain Valley to consider alternative locations for the billboard, to lower its height to 31 feet, and to restrict hours of operation from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The sign would sit on the border of the two cities, and Fountain Valley city staff recommended its Planning Commission to approve the billboard despite Costa Mesa's pleas.
Sacramento Considers Regulations on Short-Term Rentals
Sacramento could join a growing list of cities across California seeking to regulate the growing online short-term rental market through websites like Airbnb. An ordinance set to go to the city's Planning and Design Commission would limit the number of days a property owner could rent out a home or room before needing to apply for a $2,600-minimum conditional use permit, and it would require renters to pay the current hotel occupancy tax of 12 percent the price of a nightly stay. Airbnb representatives have asked city officials to extend the proposed cap on service to beyond 30 nights, Joy Patterson, the principal planner with the city, told the Sacramento Business Journal.
$50 Million Fund Dedicated to Housing in L.A.
Los Angeles will expand its New Generation Fund, a public-private partnership between the city and financial institutions, bringing in $50 million to create, preserve and retrofit affordable housing in the city. The New Generation Fund offers pre-development and acquisition funding, using $10 million in City investment to leverage $50 million in private capital. "Early stage funding is critical in the development of affordable housing, especially in a high-cost city like Los Angeles with great market pressures," said Jeff Schaffer, VP and Southern California market leader, Enterprise.
Developments Contribute to Sacramento Revitalization
Two developments in Sacramento's urban core are sending signals of the revitalization of the central city as city leaders attempt to meet Mayor Kevin Johnson's "In Downtown" housing initiative goal of adding 10,000 housing units there over the next decade. The Sacramento City Council approved plans to open a new Whole Foods in midtown, also adding 141 apartments in a new six-story building. Additionally, the Sacramento City Unified School District voted unanimously to reopen Washington Elementary School in fall 2016, three years after it was closed due to falling enrollment. "This summer, we've seen a vision become a reality," Johnson told the Sacramento Bee. "With the two votes (Thursday), which will bring a supermarket, over 100 housing units and will reopen a school, we are transforming our downtown into a destination for people to live, work and play."