The California Coastal Commission and the Navy reached a settlement in the commission's lawsuit against a proposed redevelopment of the Navy's downtown waterfront property in San Diego, leaving just one more legal hurdle for the Navy to clear to build the $1.2 billion, 3.25 million square foot plan. The settlement came as project developer Doug Manchester made concessions including opting to build a 40,000 square foot museum across from the USS Midway Museum, pledging to make more than 3,100 parking spaces available to the public on holidays and weekends, and posting signs directing people to the waterfront. All in all, the project will be built entirely on land granted to the Navy by voters in 1920 and would include 2.9 million square feet of office space, including a 351,000-square-foot regional headquarters for the Navy, 1,375 hotel rooms, 213,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and a 1.9-acre public park, along with the museum and parking spaces. However, Cory Briggs, the attorney representing the coalition provigin the last legal challenge under the National Environmental Policy Act, called the settlement "lipstick on the pig," saying that the project should instead consist of a bigger waterfront park.

Applications Submitted for Delta Water Tunnels

Officials have submitted the first permit applications to construct two 30-mile tunnels to transport water from the San Joaquin Delta to Central and Southern California. In an effort to upgrade current systems that Governor Jerry Brown has called inefficient, outdated, and vulnerable to earthquakes, the Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are seeking approval to build three giant water intakes to draw water from the Sacramento River to feed into the $17 billion tunnels. The State Water Resources Control Board, which must approve or reject the request, expects to complete its review within two years, agency spokesman Timothy Moran told the Associated Press.

Brown Proposes $3.6 Billion Infrastructure Fix

Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to spend $3.6 billion a year to repair California's transportation infrastructure by increasing annual vehicle registration charges and by increasing stagnant gas taxes. Specifically, Brown's proposal says that an increased $65 annual registration charge would generate $2 billion per year, with $500 million from fees charged to polluters and $100 million from "efficiencies" at Caltrans. Additionally, Brown's proposal would change the gas tax, which hasn't been altered in 20 years, by setting it at a fixed rate based on a 5-year average then adding index increases to the consumer price index. However, the proposal did not appear to have a necessary two-thirds majority in both houses to pass. "Unfortunately, the administration's ideas call for more than doubling the vehicle registration fees and raising the price of fuel on all Californians – we disagree and think Californians have paid enough," Assembly Minority Leader Kristen Olsen said in a statement.

Sacramento Approves Plan to Encourage 10,000 Housing Units

The Sacramento City Council approved a plan to help developers create 10,000 new, dense housing units by eliminating inefficiencies and making a "builder's toolkit" by the end of the year to. "We've got a lot of great tools that people can use. But the toolkit really assembles all of that information in one place that they can access," Tyrone Roderick Williams of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency told Capital Public Radio. The city will also create an environmental impact report that allows for construction in different areas of downtown.

Gehry May Lead L.A. River Redesign

The firm of of architect Frank Gehry unveiled first steps in redesigning the Los Angeles River, attempting to create "a continuous experience along the river," as architect Anand Devarajan said at a press conference. Commissioned by the city-affiliated nonprofit group L.A. River Revitalization Corp., the firm surveyed the 52 miles of waterways and developed most of a detailed, three-dimensional landscape model of its preliminary plans. The project could include reengineering of the river to improve water reclamation and an overarching scheme for parkland, real estate development, and pedestrian paths. Omar Brownson of the L.A. River Revitalization Corp. said that the group is trying to arrange funding to pay for the next phase of the study, which would take three to six months.

Water Use Down Over 30 Percent

Californians slashed water use by 31.3 percent in July, exceeding Governor Jerry Brown's calls for water conservation during the state's historic drought. Water experts say deepening knowledge of the four-year drought on top of increasing water restrictions in many parts of the state are driving California's conservation success. Governor Brown demanded a 25 percent statewide cut in urban water use in June, applying to California's roughly 400 cities and water agencies, which were required to save between 4 and 36 percent over the baseline year 2013. The new data shows that 290 of 402 communities hit their targets, or were within 1 percent, in July, up from June when 265 of about 400 met their benchmarks. Statewide, urban water users cut 27.3 percent that month.

Mall Developer Seeks to Circumvent Carlsbad Voters

The Carlsbad City Council has approved a voter initiative to create a shopping mall on the shore of the Carlsbad lagoon, allowing the developer to bypass potentially costly and litigious CEQA review by invoking the state Supreme Court ruling in last year's Tuolumne case. The ruling allowed for city councils to directly approve developments that received the signatures of at least 15 percent of registered voters through a voter initiative, bypassing a special election or a CEQA review. The project, formally called the Aqua Hedionda South Shore Specific Plan, calls for a 27-acre Nordstrom-anchored shopping center, with 173 acres of open space for public trails and recreational activities. The company voluntarily submitted a 4,000-page environmental report to the city in May, though nonprofit opposition group North County Advocates did an air report that found that quantities of one airborne toxin would be eight times what Caruso's report found. 

L.A.'s Pershing Square May Be Revamped

Downtown Los Angeles' much maligned Pershing Square may finally get a redesign. The City Council voted to allow a nonprofit to launch an international design contest, with the City Council overseeing project management and fundraising. Funding for the project, sponsored by nonprofit Pershing Square Renew, will not come from the city's operations budget, while Department of Recreation and Parks and Macfarlane Partners both kicked in $1 million for redevelopment last year. The square is in a central location but has lacked visitors due to what many consider an uninviting design. 

San Diego Warns NFL of Carson Stadium Location

San Diego officials are trying to convince NFL owners to keep the Chargers in San Diego by saying that the team's plans to build a new stadium Carson are vulnerable to lawsuits and that a rival proposal in Inglewood is far superior. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has spearheaded the radio and TV campaign, contrasting the Carson plan's 19-page stadium environmental analysis to what he called a far superior 6,000 page expedited draft Environmental Impact Report for a new stadium in San Diego. He also contrasted the plan with St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke's plan to build a new stadium in Inglewood. "Kroenke isn't building on a waste dump," Goldsmith told the Union-Tribune. "Do you know what their solution is [in Carson]: Put a cap on it, cover it with soil, call it a day and invite 70,000 people over to watch a game and have some hot dogs." Goldsmith also said that Carson's strategy of using a citizens initiative to avoid an Environmental Impact Report -- based on a state Supreme Court ruling last year -- could nevertheless invite lawsuits because of the novelty of the law. "There is risk there because it's new, it's untried," Goldsmith said. "We're not planning to sue anybody – we're not saying it's illegal. We're just saying there's all these risks in these big projects when you follow these laws."

Sacramento Institutes Affordable Housing Fee

Developers in Sacramento will pay a new fee of $2.58 per square foot of construction to go to affordable housing projects following a Sacramento City Council vote revamping the city's mixed-income housing regulations. The fees will be applied citywide, whereas a similar previous ordinance only applied them to "new growth areas" like North Natomas, and city officials said that the fees would accumulate $110 million in a trust fund for affordable housing projects over the next 20 years. While the measure was supported by building organizations and business groups who say it will bring consistency to low-income housing rules, some affordable housing advocates said that that fee would not generate the revenue needed to construct an adequate stock of affordable housing. "This is a sad day for the city of Sacramento," Darryl Rutherford, director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, told the Sacramento Bee, adding that the fee would  "fall short of meeting the need of those who make this city strong."

San Jose Investigates New Rent Control Rules

The San Jose City Council agreed to take preliminary steps to alter the city's rent control laws to protect struggling renters being pushed out in the booming housing market there. The Council voted 9-2 to explore reducing the eight percent allowable rent increases under current rent control law and modify an option allowing property owners to pass mortgage costs to renters. Additionally, the Council will look into expanding the scope of rent control, as current law only covers apartments built from 1979 and 1995 and about 43,000 units build before 1979. City staff will also look into creating a "just cause" ordinance that would prevent landlords from using the Ellis Act to evict renters without cause and bring in new tenants with higher rents.

Anaheim Approves More Funds for Streetcar Study

Anaheim will spend another $1.3 million to study alternate routes for its proposed streetcar project to connect its new transit center to the Disneyland Resort and the Convention Center, aiming to avoid demolishing a local hotel. In a 3-2 vote, the City Council will increase to $10.9 million the total spent for an environmental review of the 3.2-mile project. Some, however, have criticized the city for spending money for studies that may not come to fruition, especially after more than $4 million was used to study an elevated track that was scrubbed in favor of a street-level system. "I think it's a waste of money at this point because I don't think this project will ever get built," said Mayor Tom Tait, who voted against the new study. If it's built, the streetcar's $318 million construction costs could be largely funded by a New Starts federal transit grant that the city still needs to apply for. It would cost about $4.3 million annually to operate the streetcar.

Modesto Names New Community Development Director

The City of Modesto has chosen Cindy Birdsill to run its Community and Economic Development Department. Formerly the economic and cultural director in the upscale Florida city of Coral Gables for six years, Birdsill initiated a $20 million streetscape project in that city, including more than $1 million in public art. Birdsill said that in Modesto she will focus on issues like economic development, downtown and building on Modesto's reputation as a cultural center through institutions like the Gallo Center for the Arts.

L.A. Organization Wins ArtPlace America Grant

The Little Tokyo Service Center, a community development organization in Los Angeles that focuses on affordable housing development and community organizing, will receive $3 million over the next three years for community placemaking projects, becoming one of six communities nationwide to win a total of $18 million from the nonprofit collaboration ArtPlace America. The awards come through ArtPlace's new Community Development Investments initiative designed to connect placemaking to economic development and neighborhood revitalization.

Counties Respond to ‘Waters of the U.S.' Rule Suspension

The National Association of Counties issued a statement praising a new federal ruling temporarily blocking the "Waters of the U.S." rule that included environmental restrictions for waterways along public infrastructure. "Counties and other local governments are charged with upholding federal, state and local regulations that protect water resources," said Matthew Chase, the executive director of the NAC. "We support common-sense environmental protections, but the federal agencies' one-size-fits-all approach draws little distinction between roadside public safety ditches and rivers or streams." Chase went on to encourage the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to more adequately collaborate with counties in drafting new rules.