Category: Northern News

Four Socal cities lose legal fight over RHNA

By Dorian Hargrove, CBS8, June 22, 2022

“Attorneys for the cities argued that SANDAG’s board of directors approved the [allocation] relying solely on the weighted vote for each city. That means smaller cities such as Coronado, Lemon Grove, Imperial Beach, and Solana Beach had little say compared to San Diego and other larger cities.

“SANDAG ultimately won the legal dispute by arguing that the courts could not overturn the Regional Housing Needs Assessment and that only state lawmakers could change the law.

“A San Diego Superior Court judge agreed.

“And on June 20 an appellate court also agreed, delivering the final blow to the lawsuit from the four municipalities.

“ ‘People become homeless here; they don’t come from other places. The only way to solve that is to provide enough housing so the people who live, work here, and serve these communities are actually able to afford to live here,’ said Stephen Russell, president and CEO of the San Diego Housing Federation.”

Read the full article here.

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What’s next after defeat of SFMTA’s Prop A infrastructure bond?

From Mass Transit Magazine, June 23, 2022

“The final results from the June 7 election … [showed] that Proposition A, the Muni Reliability and Street Safety Bond, [fell] short of the 66.67 percent share of the vote that’s required for passage.

“The bond measure would have provided $400 million for transportation infrastructure projects [with the majority allocated to] repair and renovation of SFMTA bus yards, facilities, and equipment [and enhanced pedestrian safety and physical accessibility elements.]

“The loss of Proposition A will have a cascading impact on San Francisco’s transportation projects, says SFMTA, [delaying, for example, improvements to high-injury streets and upgrades to charge zero-emission buses.]

“SFMTA says [it] needs to have more conversations and engagement with community members and community-based organizations — especially those on the west side of the city, where support for the bond measure was lowest — to ensure that it fully understand their transportation needs.”

Read the full article here(~3 min.)

SFMTA may seek re-authorization of a transit funding sales tax in November’s election or attempt the bond again. Read more about that and the connection between Prop A’s defeat and the recall of Chesa Boudin in an article by Joe Eskenazi at Mission Local.

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Oakland Hills neighborhood at extreme fire danger risk

By Emily Talley, San Francisco Chronicle, June 19, 2022

“Plenty of green spaces across the Bay Area are at high fire risk, but the extreme danger is concentrated in the Oakland hills. The community has about 25,000 homes. Many are accessible only by narrow roads with hairpin turns — which makes it hard to escape quickly and difficult for fire trucks to race up to a blaze. The deepening drought has wrung moisture out of the vegetation, increasing the risk of a wildfire erupting.

“On [June 18], a vegetation fire broke out in the Sheffield Village area of the Oakland Hills, underscoring the risks.

“Though several changes have been made since [a deadly 1991 wildfire in the Oakland Hills], including increased communication between fire departments and changes to building codes that make homes more resistant to fire, it has proved challenging to [improve evacuation routes by widening] narrow roads that snake across steep terrain.

“The risk is so great that in September the Oakland City Council unanimously approved a controversial ban regulating accessory dwelling units in the hills to slow population growth.

“[Heather Mozdean, deputy chief of operations for the Oakland Fire Department] explained that even though the city is taking steps to minimize risk, ‘it’s the one-off.’

“It’s ‘the person who doesn’t think it’s a big deal to throw a cigarette out the window,’ she said. … And if the weather conditions are right, wildfire could spread rapidly in the region.”

Read the full article here(~4 min.)

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Bay Area churches build tiny homes for their homeless neighbors

By Marisa Kendall, SiliconValley.com, June 15, 2022

“Firm Foundation Community Housing … walks churches — and some secular land owners — through the … [planning, permitting, and building of tiny homes on their parking lots, backyards, and other unused land]. So far, the organization has helped open tiny home villages on parking lots and extra land owned by churches in Livermore and Castro Valley, and on an Alameda County medical campus in unincorporated San Leandro. Another 14 projects are in the works in Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, and San Joaquin counties, and the Firm Foundation hopes to spread its reach even further, potentially down the Peninsula and to the South Bay.

“A 2020 report by UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation found that roughly 38,800 acres of religious land in California — about the size of the city of Stockton — has the potential to be turned into housing. But churches face ‘significant challenges’ in developing homes, including limited financing options, regulatory barriers, and limited real estate knowledge, according to the report.

“Legislation such as Senate Bill 9, which lets developers subdivide small lots, SB 35, which streamlines permitting for certain projects, and Assembly Bill 2162, which expedites some affordable housing projects, are all part of the puzzle, [Taryn Sandulyak, who co-founded Firm Foundation] said.

“As payment for its services, Firm Foundation charges between 8 to 12 percent of a project’s total cost.

“The nonprofit has plans … for nearly 200 tiny homes across 14 different projects … now in various stages. Most are on land owned by churches, but not all. In Vallejo, Firm Foundation is working with private landowners Richard and Emily Fisher to built 48 modular units. The Fishers, who launched a homeless aid organization called 4th Second, refinanced their home to purchase the land. Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom awarded the city of Vallejo $12.1 million in Homekey funds to help finance the project.”

Read the full article here(~3 min.)

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San Jose city council votes to eliminate parking minimums

By Eli Wolfe, San Jose Spotlight, June 15, 2022

“San Jose councilmembers voted unanimously [on June 14th] to create a policy to eliminate the city’s minimum parking requirements for new developments. The policy would incentivize alternative modes of transportation, like biking and public transit. The City Council will consider approving the changes before the end of the year.

“The city has been exploring the idea of eliminating a decades-old minimum parking requirement, which mandates developers include a certain number of parking spaces for vehicles on new projects. … According to city memos, constructing a single parking space in San Jose costs between $30,000 to $100,000 depending on location.

“Councilmember and mayoral candidate Matt Mahan … suggested an expansion of the city’s residential parking permit program.

“Ramses Madou, division manager of planning, policy, and sustainability in San Jose’s Department of Transportation, [said the parking permit program is] expensive …, well under-resourced, and not … very successful at managing parking, and it creates some real equity issues within neighborhoods.’

“Mayor Sam Liccardo said the concept of the policy is on the right track, but city officials need to be upfront about the transportation solutions they present to developers.”

Read the full article here(~3 min.)

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Much-needed East Palo Alto developments stalled by sewer system

By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, June 15, 2022

“[M]ore than a dozen East Palo Alto developments [including 136 units of affordable housing and a large family health center are] indefinitely on hold because of disagreements with the East Palo Alto Sanitary District, which critics say is refusing to provide service unless developers cough up millions of dollars that would pay for the modernization and expansion of the 1939-era sewer system.

“Rather than increase rates for homeowners in the traditionally blue-collar neighborhoods, the solution is to make developers pay for it, [East Palo Alto Sanitary District General Manager Akin Okupe] has said.

“In April, the San Mateo Local Agency Formation Commission, known as LAFCO, published a … report on the sanitary district, contending that ‘lack of EPASD sewer collection system capacity is an impediment to development in the City.’

“Duane Bay, executive director of EPA CAN DO, a local affordable-housing builder … said the district seems to be taking an overly cautious position on the threat that development poses to the current sewer system. He also pointed to a state law that requires special districts to give priority to affordable housing.

“While some of the victims are larger nonprofits, the inability to get a sewer system hookup is also creating a crisis to small mom-and-pop developers.”

Read the full article here(~5 min.)

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Today’s suburbs are symbolic of America’s rising diversity

By William Frey, Brookings, June 15, 2022

“[The most] eye opening [takeaway from the 2020 census] is the increased diversity in the nation’s suburbs. [The] big suburbs are more racially diverse than the country as a whole, [most lost whites between 2010 and 2020, and] a majority of those under 18 are people of color.

“[White populations had a] head start [in populating the suburbs, so] white residents in the nation’s major metro areas are still more likely than minority groups to call the suburbs their home. … In 1990, roughly two out of 10 suburbanites were people of color. This rose to 30 percent in 2000 and 45 percent in 2020 [by which time] people of color comprised more than half the suburban populations in 15 of the nation’s 56 major metro areas.

“Because the most rapidly growing suburbs are in the nation’s South and West, these suburbs also show the greatest minority representation … 

“With the exception of New York and Chicago, most highly diverse big suburbs are located in … California, Texas, and Florida. …Suburbs where more than half [the] population are people of color [include] Honolulu, Los Angeles, and Miami … Suburbs with the largest white losses [include] those in [metro] San Francisco …

“Noteworthy of recent city-suburb population shifts is a reversal of the dynamics of white and Black flight. The traditional pattern of suburbanization motored by ‘white flight’ from cities to suburbs for much of the postwar period has now mostly disappeared. [At the same time, the increase in]… Latino or Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and persons identifying as two or more races has made a profound impact on both suburban and primary city growth …

“Suburbs with the largest white losses were those in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami, Riverside, Calif., and San Francisco.”

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‘Train Fanatics’ score a win in California battle over idled tracks

By Sarah Holder, Bloomberg CityLab, June 15, 2022

“Parallel to California’s Santa Cruz coastline, [Southern Pacific’s] Santa Cruz Branch Line was built in 1876 and runs across 32 miles of the county.

“In the middle of the 20th century, Southern Pacific ran “Suntan Special” excursions to the beach along the line. Storm damage in 2017 made parts of it unusable for freight, and no regular passenger trains have rolled in decades.

“On June 7, about 70 percent of Santa Cruz County voters rejected Measure D, the Greenway Initiative, which would have supported ripping out a portion of the tracks and replacing them with a bike path and pedestrian trail along the old train corridor.

“The outcome represents a win for rail advocates who dream of restoring passenger service to Santa Cruz, but it also highlights the tortuous process of building transportation infrastructure in California and the differing visions for sustainable growth. 

“The decisive vote was … a symbolic gesture, according to the Santa Cruz County counsel’s analysis, because what comes next will be decided by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, which owns the rail line and has already been developing plans to create a combined rail-and-trail route to connect … Santa Cruz with Watsonville. [That] would improve access to Santa Cruz for the large numbers of Watsonville residents who currently commute for jobs in the service and construction industries, and help unclog perennially trafficky Highway 1: … 84 million fewer miles traveled by car per year. 

“The Regional Transportation Committee bought the rail corridor in 2012 and in 2016 secured a portion of sales tax funding to put toward analyzing its options and developing the route. … The commission has started building 13 miles of … rail-and-trail, [has] spent $18 million in public funds and another $6 million in private funds, and plans to spend a total of $85 million in the next 30 years.

“ ‘A lot of the train folks are train fanatics,’ said [William] Menchine, [a real estate builder and manager and former member of the Regional Transportation Commission’s Bike Committee.] They’re holding people hostage over the idea of this train that honestly on paper and in reality doesn’t pencil out.’ ”

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Surface Transportation Board rejects project that threatened Great Redwood Coast Trail

By Ryan Burns, Lost Coast Outpost, June 10, 2022

“After months of behind-the-scenes scheming and closed-door meetings with powerful interests, a shadowy corporation’s bid to export coal out of Humboldt Bay got unceremoniously shot down [on June 10] by the [federal] Surface Transportation Board.

“The apparent idea [proposed by the North Coast Railroad Co. LLC, which was formed last year,] was to export coal from the Powder River Basin via rail through the Bay Area, up the Eel River Canyon, and onto ships in the Port of Humboldt for transport to Asian markets.

“The scheme threatened the future of The Great Redwood Trail, a state-backed endeavor to convert the former North Coast Railroad Authority’s right-of-way into a multi-use rail-to-trail project connecting San Francisco and Humboldt bays.

“[T]he agency did not reject a notice from Mendocino Railway, operator of the Skunk Train, which has proposed taking over a 13-mile stretch of line from the Willits area to a spot near Dos Rios, ostensibly to ship gravel. The Great Redwood Trail Agency… has questioned Mendocino Railway’s financial fitness for such an endeavor.

“As for the North Coast Railroad Co. and its coal train ambitions, [Alicia Hamann, executive director of environmental nonprofit Friends of the Eel River] said she thinks the company is highly unlikely to appeal the decision.”

Read the full article here(~5 min.)

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Pacific Grove planning for major increase in housing sites

By Pam Marino, Monterey County Weekly, June 9, 2022

“Over the past decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, [dwelling units in Pacific Grove] increased from 8,263 to 8,559. [HCD] is now tasking the city with planning for … adding 1,125 more units … 2023 through 2031.

“Several [planning] commissioners said that the original number suggested by the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments for P.G., approximately 650, was already too high. The commission voted 5-2 to request that the P.G. City Council appeal the new RHNA number, [but] the Council … declined to appeal.

“City staff now have a big task ahead: updating the city’s [general] plan that hasn’t been touched since 1994 [when the city had 85 vacant residential sites] … and making zoning changes that in some cases could mean asking voters to overturn earlier zoning restrictions. The deadline is December 2023.

“[P.G. Housing Manager Anastacia] Wyatt says the city [is] looking at sites owned by the city, school district, and California American Water. Wyatt has also been in discussions with churches that are open to building on unused portions of their properties.”

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