The San Francisco Planning Commission approved unanimously a fifteen-month period of controls on new developments in the Mission District. These new controls will require developers to provide information on how the projects will affect the neighborhoods economic diversity. Developers excused from the new regulations are those with 25 or more units or at least one-third of apartments reserved for low-income residents. Housing projects with more than 75 units must provide additional projections of the affect to the residents, businesses and community. The neighborhood activists pushed for a full moratorium on new developments to keep the affordability in the Mission.
Coastal Commissioners to Consider Ouster of Lester
Members of the California Coastal Commission are considering ousting the commission's highest ranking staff member, Executive Director Charles Lester. His future will be an agenda item on the commission's February meeting, according to a recent notice. Capitol Weekly reports that pro-development forces are seeking Lester's ouster, while he generally has support from environmental advocates. The same report indicates that commissioners who support Lester's ouster are appointees of Gov. Jerry Brown.
LAFCO Sues City of Gilroy
The City of Gilroy is facing an unusual lawsuit by the Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation Commission for illegally annexing 721 acres of farmland to build a new 4000-unit development. LAFCO says Gilroy violated CEQA and did not consider water and other impacts, and is not developing land within its city boundaries. The city council is currently divided on the development of the project. Mayor Perry Woodward hopes the city and LAFCO will come to a compromise. "We've been saying all along that this will take 10 to 15 years," Woodward told the Gilroy Dispatch. "This isn't a short-range project. We will have a discussion with LAFCO and if we can find a middle ground, then we will move forward."
L.A. City Council Formalizes Oversight of Olympic Bid Finances
The LA 2024 Committee, the group that is backing Los Angeles' Olympic bid, has signed off on a memorandum of understanding that gives the Los Angeles City Council oversight over the bid's financial projections. Los Angeles City Council must sign off on the bid because of the possibility for financial risk to the city. The International Olympic Committee typically requires host cities to pledge financial guarantees. President of the Council Herb Wesson told LA Times, "We don't believe anything this big should occur without us being equal partners." The agreement enables the council to hire an accounting firm or other expert to examine revenue and cost projections. The major expenditure in Los Angeles hosting the Olympics is constructing the village, housing 17,000 athletes, coaches, and other support staff.
Coastal Commission Advances Controversial Sea Wall Fee
City of Solano Beach is discussing how best to protect the environment and recreational uses of a beach while still protecting homeowners on beach cliffs at risk of erosion. The California Coastal Commission has asked citizens living on the coast to pay a mitigation fee to for the amenity of a sandy beach, which is protected by the sea wall permits. The fee will then be issued statewide. The Solano Beach proposal is a fee of $870 per linear foot of sea wall and will increase up to $1,311 in 2026. Most sea walls in the city are 50 feet long, and homeowners have expressed concerns that the fees are too steep as by building these walls they are protecting beachgoers from collapse and landslides. According to a report in the L.A. Times, environmental groups feel it is "pointless to build sea walls because eventually the ocean will destroy them and the bluffs will collapse."
S.F. Lawmakers Propose Competing Housing Measures
Following the passage of several measures related to affordable housing in November, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim have each proposed to put competing measures to promote affordable housing on the June ballot. Kim's measure would increase the minimum percentage of below-market-rate units in a development to at least 25%. Lee's proposal leaves that percentage up to the city controller and Planning Department. Supervisor Scott Wiener has also proposed an initiative in which conditional use permits would be excused for developments that are 100 percent affordable housing. The deadline for measures on the ballot passed last week; however, initiatives can be negotiated or pulled out.
Burbank Enters into Contract to Plan High Speed Rail Hub
The City of Burbank has entered into an agreement with the California High-Speed Rail Authority to spend $1.2 million to plan for a transportation hub adjacent to Bob Hope Airport. The rail authority announced it would provide $800,000 while City of Burbank will contribute $400,000, mostly from a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority grant. The project will take almost two years but will involve community outreach and designs. Other cities in California have reached similar agreements with the rail authority: Merced, Fresno, Bakersfield, Gilroy and Palmdale.
Borrego Springs Faces Dwindling Water Supply
Results from a six-year groundwater study completed by the U.S. Geological Survey suggest that the inland San Diego County community of Borrego Springs may be in peril. Its only source of water, groundwater, is being depleted four times faster than it is replenished. The town of 3,500 people includes golf courses, and farms uses, which collectively use 20,000 acre-feet. Only 5,600 acre-feet sinks into the aquifers from rainfall and other sources. The study also showed that citrus farms (43%), palm tree farms and ornamental shrubbery nurseries use 70% of the water, while 20% goes to recreational reasons such as the golf courses, and 10% to residential. The town has constructed a group called Borrego Water Coalition to discuss and plan for its future.
Sacramento Imposes Restrictions on Short-Term Rentals
The Sacramento City Council unanimously approved two ordinances to regulate the use of short-term rental services such as Airbnb. Airbnb hosts must now obtain a business operations permit, and pay the transient occupancy tax of 12% of the room charge. The hosts must now notify neighbors within 200 feet that a permit has been issued, keep a register of all guests, have a six guest limit, rent less than 90 days annually if not primary residence, and host no weddings, fundraisers or other events. The ordinance is the strictest yet imposed among major California cities.
Shirey to Step Down as Sacramento City Manager
Sacramento City Manager John Shirey has announced he is leaving his position November 2016. He has served in Sacramento since 2011 and is credited with much of the revitalization of downtown Sacramento and Golden 1 Center. While Councilman Jay Schenirer says Shirey's greatest accomplishment was getting Sacramento on solid financial footing, in 2014 the city had a surplus for the first time in seven years. Shirey joined the city after a tenure as executive director of the California Redevelopment Association, which disbanded following the dissolution of redevelopment in 2011.