To address the state's intensifying homelessness crisis, state senators proposed a $2 billion bill to help provide up to 14,000 units of permanent housing for the state's mentally ill homeless population. California has roughly 116,000 homeless people. The monies, to be raised as bonds, would be repaid over 20 to 30 years with money from the tax for mental health services approved in 2004 (Proposition 63). Backers of the bill say they hope that state funds will encourage local governments to address their respective homelessness problems. The Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Le'n also proposed $200 million from the state's general fund to assist with rent subsidies until the new housing projects are completed. A spokeswoman for Gov. Jerry Brown said, "the administration is supportive of efforts to empower local governments to tackle homelessness, poverty, and mental health issues in our communities and we will take a close look at the proposals in this package." Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he embraces more state funding, while others criticized the proposal for not allowing local leaders to make financial decisions.
Group Files Pair of Suits Against Warriors' Arena
A citizens group called the Mission Bay Alliance recently filed suit to halt the development of The Golden State Warriors proposed $1 billion arena in San Francisco's Mission Bay. The arena was recently approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors. Parents fear that game time traffic to the Warriors arena, located 1,000 feet from UCSF Children's Hospital, could block life-saving care. The lawsuit argues that the plan violates California Environmental Quality Act for failing to consider other locations and for causing significant, air quality, noise, and traffic impacts. It also claims that the area plan violates a 1998 redevelopment plan, which, they say, does not include a sports arena. A separate suit filed by the group argues that UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood signed memorandum supporting the project without authorization from the UC Board of Regents.
Sacramento Considers Rails-to-Trails Greenway
Sacramento officials are advancing a proposal for a defunct railroad right of way in the southwestern part of the city to be converted into a 4.5-mile long paved trail for bikes and pedestrians. Dubbed the Del Rio Trail, the project is currently in the planning stages and estimated to cost $17 million; the city recently received a $2.2 million grant from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments for environmental studies and other preliminary work. Supporters hope it will not only provide recreational space but also become an alternative route for commuters heading into downtown Sacramento. Residents surrounding the right of way, unused since 1978, have expressed support for the proposal, although a few cite concerns about increase in visitors to the area. However, California Department of Parks and Recreation envisions an extension of the Old Sacramento tourist train from downtown Sacramento to the Zoo. There are currently various options and ideas being discussed, and the City will begin community and stakeholder meetings this year.
Los Angeles Drafts Regional Strategy to Combat Homelessness
The City of Los Angeles released a draft Homelessness Strategy Report, which backers say lays the foundation for a regional approach to addressing the chronic issue. The report calls for expanded staffing, services, rental subsidies, and permanent housing for the city's homeless residents. Its recommendations will guide the Mayor Eric Garcetti's and city council's short- and long-term homelessness policy decisions. The report also identifies potential funding streams and begins to estimate initial costs that will help inform the mayor's proposed 2016/2017 budget. The draft, which is designed to complement a strategy being issued by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, will be heard by the Homelessness and Poverty Committee on January 13, with a follow-up meeting later in the month. It is expected to be considered by the full City Council in February. Garcetti said in a statement that his three top priorities center on "scaling up the Coordinated Entry System; preventing people at-risk for homelessness from landing on the streets; and balancing health and safety concerns with the rights and needs of people who are living in unacceptable conditions."
Gas Leak Prompts Proposal to Halt Annexations
Los Angeles city officials are considering placing a moratorium on annexations near Porter Ranch. Since October of last year a gas leak from Southern California Gas Company in Porter Ranch has caused residents to become sick and nauseous while releasing a torrent of greenhouse gases. The SoCal Gas has placed 2,258 people in temporary housing with an additional 3,168 in the placement process. The process has been slow and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer went to court to force SoCal Gas to speed up the relocation process. In response to the crisis, County Supervisor Michael Antonovich asked County Local Agency Formation Commission Director Novak for a temporary ban on annexing unincorporated county areas into the city if they surround Porter Ranch and Chatsworth. At least one project, 188-home development, is currently planned in the area. LAFCO will consider the moratorium Jan. 13.
San Jose Backs Off of Affordable Housing Fee
San Jose has approved a fee on new residential projects to support affordable housing and recently discussed a similar fees on commercial developments. The city council voted 7-4 to postpone a nexus study necessary to the implementation of a fee on commercial developments. Citing his desire to support jobs and businesses, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo voted against the study, telling the Silicon Valley Business Journal, "We're the only major city in the United States with a smaller daytime population than nighttime population." The city has a ratio of 0.84 jobs to employed residents, the lowest of any major city in the U.S. One supporter of the fee stated the vote was not on approving the fee on commercial development but only allowing the study to begin. Originally the motion would require the city to achieve a 1-to-1 ratio of jobs to employed residents before implementing the study. This language has been removed, which gives hope to Zwick and other housing advocates that in a few years this proposal will be discussed again.
Three NFL Teams Officially Seek Move to L.A.
Three National Football League teams have, after years of discussion and speculation, officially filed requests to move to the Los Angeles area. The Oakland Raiders have proposed a move to Carson while the San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams submitted papers asking for approval to move to Inglewood, where they would share a stadium. The applications will be reviewed by an NFL committee in New York before a presentation at an owners meeting in Houston. To move a team at least 24 of the 32 owners in the league must approve.
CTC Awards $96 Million for Rail Projects
Of this sum, the California Transportation Commission announced that it will allocate $96 million to three main rail projects. The first, with $53.4 million will lower Fullerton Road Grade Separation Project, a $145.2 million project in the City of Industry that is in its final engineering and design stages. The second project with $42.2 million will purchase eight new zero-emission light-rail trains for San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The last rail project is $1.7 million to the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency for a yearlong demonstration program for the Pacific Surfliner to connect with current transit service providers. The CTC has allocated an additional $1 million to the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority for maintenance on its rail lines between Auburn and San Jose. These investments will improve aging infrastructure, alleviate traffic delays and promote biking, walking and public transportation.
Pershing Square Competition Names Finalists
In Los Angeles an international design competition to pick the "redesign" of downtown's Pershing Square, long considered one of the worst public spaces in the United States, is down to four finalists. Sponsored by the nonprofit Pershing Square Renew, the competition began with hundreds of architects and designers. The jury, consisting of city officials, development experts, neighborhood stakeholders and the public, voted end of last year. The finalists, chosen from a short list of 10 teams, are SWA with Morphosis, James Corner Field Operations with Frederick Fisher & Partners, Agence TER with SALT Landscape Architects, and wHY with Civitas. Entrants were charged with redesigning the square to make it more friendly to pedestrians and to integrate it better with the surrounding high-density neighborhood. The winner will be announced in March. There is not yet a timeline or budget for build-out.
Tribe Proposes Major Casino in Sacramento County
In Sacramento County the Wilton Rancheria tribe has submitted documents to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for an environmental review for a 282-acre casino and hotel resort along Highway 99. The 700-person tribe proposes a development with 2,000 slot machines, 84 table games, and a 12-story, 302-room hotel. The tribe has six other proposals including a shopping center, if the gambling development does not get approved. A public hearing will be held January 29th in Galt. However tribal chairman Raymond C. Hitchcock said the project will take many years to begin because of the many approvals with agencies, Sacramento County, the City of Galt, and an agreement with Gov. Brown.
Coastal Commission Withdraws from Landfill Discussion
In North San Diego County, a debate over the proposed Gregory Canyon Landfill is approaching an unexpected resolution. Though the site is 20 miles inland, the California Coastal Commission became involved in discussions because of a concern with contaminants flowing into the San Luis Rey River, wildlife, water supply and fish. Last month, the Commission withdrew its application in the debate and said "its initial concerns about the effects the proposed trash dump might have on the coast have been eased". The withdrawal is a victory for developers because of less permits required. However native tribes, city of Oceanside, and environmental groups are disappointed in the decision of the Commission.
Anti-Development Referendum Struck Down in Yuba County
In Yuba County a petition for a referendum to overturn approval of the Magnolia Ranch residential and commercial development has been rejected by the county clerk because of a lack of legally sufficient attachments made available to petition signers. The petition claims that Magnolia Ranch would use valuable agricultural land and harm their farming businesses. The referendum supporters received 3,344 signatures and a minimum of 1,242 are needed to rescind approval or call an election. The developers, CEM Investments, filed a formal complaint that the referendum supporters did not attach specific plan and project maps. The county counsel and county clerk agreed. Referendum leader Ernie Ehnisz said Hansen made a rushed decision and that opponents will go to Yuba County Superior Court.
HSR Authority Names Contractor for Third Phase
California High-Speed Rail Authority named Spanish construction company Ferrovial the winning bidder to construct 22 miles of the California High-Speed Rail. Ferrovial was the lowest bidder, costing $348 million for the job compared to the other three teams with bids between $377 and $582 million. The authority estimated bids for the contract would fall between $400-$500 million. This stretch would be the third section the High-Speed Rail Authority has contracted since 2013, and will begin north of the Tulare-Kings county line and continue south to Shafter.