Tag: 2021-08-nn-roundup

Major changes to minimum parking standards could be ahead in San Jose

By Bryanna Paz, KALW, August 11, 2021

“San Jose officials are focusing on sustainable travel options this year. They’re looking for new ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion.

“Most San Jose residents are driving on their daily commute, and a majority of these trips are done alone. Census data revealed that three out of four commuter trips in the city are made by one person occupying a single vehicle.

“City officials want to change that by reducing the amount of parking spaces in the area. They’re looking to cut minimum parking requirements for new developments such as apartments and grocery stores. They hope this move will reduce the amount of people driving in the city.

“The San Jose Department of Transportation says that studies show that more parking increases the amount of vehicles miles traveled. The plan is to cut back on parking and bring this number down.

“Proposed parking changes have yet to be decided, but the city is already engaging residents in the discussion.”

See the original article here. (~1 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Humboldt County, ‘where climate and Covid migration converge’

By Sarah Holder, Bloomberg CityLab, August 9, 2021

“As the West contends with climate change, Covid, and a housing crunch, Humboldt County, located 250 miles north of the farthest edges of the Bay Area, has become a refuge. […] As California’s current fire season continues to worsen, [people] who live in high fire risk areas are eyeing the drive north more seriously.

“But [the northward] migration has strained [the area’s] already limited housing supply, [as] wealthier Bay Area evacuees who are able to work remotely [compete with] longtime residents who are trying to hold onto their properties.

“Factors that have made other areas … more unlivable have only bolstered Humboldt’s appeal. [W]arming temperatures have made Humboldt milder than it used to be, piercing the once-constant fog and leading to more temperate days. Its isolated location on the coast and its concentration of old-growth redwoods and native trees make it less vulnerable to fires than its inland neighbors.

“But its forests and limited accessibility make it harder to support rapid growth. Houses built with redwood logs tend to stay in families for generations. After years of little turnover or new construction, inventory has stayed low. And now, demand has surged.

“[But Humboldt] ‘doesn’t have the infrastructure to accommodate people — short term or long term,’ said Annalise von Borstel, a real estate agent in Eureka.

“Other factors will likely make housing even tighter. Humboldt State University, the largest employer in the area, is planning to increase its technical offerings to become a polytechnic institution. It’s poised to receive more than $450 million in investments from the state to build more labs and research capacity, and eventually increase its student population by 6,000 to 8,000. The university has plans to add about 2,000 [housing] units, [not] enough to house the new students, faculty, and staff — and it won’t be built fast enough.”

Read the full article here.

Also in Roundup: In the Los Angeles Times, Sarah Parvini reported on wealthy Bay Area residents migrating to rural Sierra counties, such as El Dorado and Amador. Read that story here.

Return to Northern News here.

California Supreme Court denies review in Berkeley Shellmound case

By Wendel Rosen LLP, August 2, 2021

“In an exciting development regarding the validity of SB 35, the California Supreme Court on July 28, 2021, denied review of a recent First District Court of Appeal decision, Reugg & Ellsworth v. City of Berkeley that found that the City violated the law and wrongfully denied a mixed-use project on a site with possible tribal cultural resources.

“In 2019, an Alameda County trial court judge ruled in favor of the City and concluded that SB 35 does not permit ministerial processing for mixed-use projects unless a local agency’s zoning mandates that all projects in that zone be at least 2/3 residential by square footage.

“In April 2021, the Court of Appeal overturned the trial courts decision and issued the first published opinion interpreting SB 35. The Court of Appeal found that the project met all objective standards and acknowledged there was a ‘crisis of insufficient housing in the state by eliminating local discretion to deny approval where specified objective planning criteria are met’…

The court found no evidence that the Spengers’ parking lot was an ‘historic structure’ and specifically stated that the SB 35 carve-out for historic structures was not intended to apply to structures that may, potentially, have once existed but, rather, only to existing historic structures.

“Justice Kline boldly stated that the state’s intrusion into local government authority over land use is warranted in this case ‘in light of the Legislature’s long history of attempting to address the state’s housing crisis and frustration with local governments’ interference with that goal.’ ”

Read the full article here(~3 min.)

Previously in Northern News: Alan Murphy, a Land Use, Development, and Environmental Attorney with Perkins Coie LLP, San Francisco, provided background and analysis on the Court of Appeal’s April 2021 decision to rule against Berkeley.

[Ed. Note: Read amicus letters filed in support of the Confederated Villages of Lisjan and City of Berkeley’s now-denied appeal here. Separately, AB 168, in effect since September 25, 2020, added a tribal consultation requirement to SB 35 projects, closing a potential loophole allegedly used by the developers.]

Return to Northern News here.

Blue Ribbon Task Force approves transit action plan reform in the Bay Area

By Curtis Driscoll, San Mateo Daily Journal, July 29, 2021

“The Metropolitan Transportation Commission Blue Ribbon Task Force has ratified its long-awaited Transit Transformation Action Plan to improve the Bay Area transit system in the short and long term, with representatives celebrating the milestone.

“The Transit Transformation Action Plan established actions needed to improve the Bay Area’s transit system to be more efficient, connected and user friendly …

“The plan also calls for funding and completing a business-case analysis of potential transit network management reforms by mid-2022. It also will convene stakeholders to identify priorities and funding options for a future transportation ballot measure for new transit funding by late 2023.

“MTC Commissioner Gina Papan, also a Millbrae councilmember, was glad to see funding for branded mapping and wayfinding pilot projects approved for parts of the region. She highlighted its ability to create an easier experience for the rider by having more consistent schedules and information at stations and on apps.

‘We have made some huge progress, but there is a lot left to do, and when you are talking about 27 different transit agencies, it makes things complicated,’ Papan said.”

Read the full article here. (~3 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Largest solar plant in Bay Area opposed by Livermore farmers and environmentalists

By Mark Chediak, Bloomberg Green, July 29, 2021

“[A] group of ranchers, farmers, and environmentalists [oppose] what would be the largest solar plant built in the San Francisco Bay Area. The clash offers a preview of potential disputes that could slow the ambitious push by California and the Biden Administration to develop clean energy to combat climate change.

“Opponents of [The Aramis Renewable Energy Project], including … Save North Livermore Valley and the Ohlone Audubon Society, recently sued the county of Alameda, which approved the solar farm earlier this year, saying that the renewable energy facility would violate a voter-approved measure designed to protect open space, agriculture and wildlife habitat.

“To meet its goal of a carbon-neutral grid by 2045, California will need to triple its annual solar and wind installations, according to a recent state study.

“In Alameda County, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Aramis solar plant in March after a contentious eight-hour meeting, saying it will help meet local clean energy needs.

“To mitigate environmental concerns, the solar panels will be set back from a local creek and avoid federally designated habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog. The company will develop a hiking trail along the creek for the county as well.

“In addition, the site will be shielded from the road by drought-friendly landscaping and provide open spaces for sheep grazing and bee keeping in what the company calls a model for ‘agrivoltaics’ – marrying agriculture with solar.

“Robert Selna, an attorney representing [opposition group Save North Livermore Valley], said the county should have anticipated opposition. He said the dispute may have been avoided if the county had completed a plan to designate areas where solar would have the least impact on the environment and threatened species.”

Read the full article here(~6 min.)

Previously in Roundup: On November 30, 2020, J.K. Dineen reported in the San Francisco Chronicle on previous contentions over the Aramis Renewable Energy Project project after the East County Board of Zoning Adjustments voted 2-0 to approve it. Read that story in the December 2020 Northern News here.

Return to Northern News here.

The solution to Mendocino’s water shortage might involve a very old train

By Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle, July 29, 2021

“Because of the drought, dozens of wells in town are producing limited water, or none at all. The nearby city that was providing backup supplies doesn’t have enough to share anymore. And now, as the community, which relies solely on groundwater, struggles to get by on what remains in the wells, residents and water officials are pinning their hopes on a handful of uncertain, even unusual, ideas.

“One of the most peculiar is to get water by hauling it in nearly 40 miles on a storied logging railroad that today carries a tourist train. The Skunk Train, as it is known, may also turn out to be the best option.

“Under a proposal by Robert Pinoli, president of the Skunk Train’s parent company, Mendocino Railway, diesel locomotives could pull eight tanker cars, each carrying 25,000 gallons of water daily from Willits to the outskirts of Fort Bragg. The water would then be trucked to Mendocino …

“[Mendocino County Supervisor John Haschak] noted that even if an emergency fix is agreed upon, which remains a big if, there are still questions about the long-term viability of Mendocino’s water supply.

“Mendocino residents now have to truck in water from other places, including the smaller rural communities of Elk and Westport. They have less to give than Fort Bragg, and costs are higher because of longer drive times.

“Many want the town to pursue a new source of water to complement its diminishing wells, plus add a centralized delivery system so supplies can be shared. With so few households to cover the cost of new infrastructure, however, the community’s options are limited.

Read the full article here(~6 min.)

Related: Mary Callahan in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported on August 10 how Russian River diversions have been halted as water supplies from Lake Mendocino dwindle, curtailing water for grape growers, ranchers, and residents Mendocino and northern Sonoma counties. Read that story here. (~ 4 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Building trades push for union workforce in affordable housing bills

By Manuela Tobias, East Bay Times, July 27, 2021

Several bills to add or finance affordable housing missed a key July 14 deadline.

“[S]everal observers of the housing debate noted a significant similarity among the bills: They all require that a portion of the workforce that builds the housing be graduates of mostly union-run apprenticeship programs.

“That union labor requirement has proven to be a deal-breaker or deal-maker for several housing bills already: The provision made it into bills and allowed them to survive so far. Or it was excluded and resulted in strong opposition and a bill’s demise, including one last year to build affordable housing in church parking lots, and another retail-to-housing conversion effort similar to the bill now in limbo [SB 6].

“The requirement is a source of tension between the powerful State Building and Construction Trades Council — which represents more than 450,000 California construction workers and wants more jobs for its members — and affordable housing developers, who are hoping to build many of the proposed projects.

“Two of the bills in limbo are in the housing package proposed by Senate leader Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat: Senate Bill 6 to allow housing in commercial zones and SB 330 to create workforce and student housing in community college districts. Several other bills in the Senate package also include the union language, including SB 7, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law to expedite environmental review on larger projects, including affordable housing.

“The council is pushing the requirement because they say non-union construction workers barely float above the poverty line while graduates of apprenticeship programs earn higher wages over the course of their careers.

“It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario: Unions say they can’t recruit more members through apprenticeships if they can’t guarantee jobs, but developers say they can’t build housing if there aren’t enough workers.”

Read the full article here. (~4 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

Op-Ed: “It’s hard to have faith in a state that can’t even house its people”

By Ned Resnikoff, Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, UC San Francisco, New York Times, July 26, 2021

“California [has] nearly 12 percent of the country’s total population but 28 percent of its unhoused population [January 2020]. More than half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population resides in California.

“Homelessness is solvable. Its primary driver is housing unaffordability (not … mental illness or substance use) … so the solution has always been more housing, particularly for those who don’t have it.

“Because Bay Area cities have failed to produce enough supply to keep up with population increases, lower and middle-income residents have to compete for housing with the super-wealthy, whose ability to outbid everyone else continually forces prices up. As a result, homes in Berkeley sold for about 19 percent above asking price on average in the first three months of this year, the highest citywide average in the nation.

“Building more housing would break this dynamic. But … California’s fight to expand housing supply has been stymied by what I consider vetocracy.

“[An] oft-cited example is [CEQA] which generally requires environmental impact assessments of new developments. ‘Not In My Back Yarders’ have capitalized on this prima facie reasonable requirement, burying proposed developments in litigation.

“The homelessness crisis … has directly contributed to democratic decay. California’s continual failure to make inroads against widespread homelessness risks fomenting anger, cynicism, and disaffection with the state’s political system.

“State and local policymakers need to take homelessness seriously as not only a humanitarian disaster, but a threat to liberal democracy. [That] means spending political capital to ensure that, long term, California can greatly increase its housing supply. And it means offering immediate ‘housing first’ services to those who have already been pushed into homelessness.

“To its credit, … the budget signed [in July] by Governor Newsom includes $12 billion for combating homelessness, primarily through housing-first-aligned efforts. This amount, while significant, still represents only an initial step. [Abating] homelessness … will require years more work, planning, public investment, and legal reform. The cost will be high, but the cost of inaction is far higher.”

Read the full article here. (~4 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

State takes initiative to promote 230-unit Marin housing project

By Richard Halstead, Marin Independent Journal, July 24, 2021

“The state of California is making five acres of land it owns adjacent to San Quentin State Penitentiary available to two developers who plan to build a total of 230 units of new rental housing there.

“Half of the units will be reserved for households with extremely-low to very-low incomes; Marin County teachers and educational staff will be prioritized when renting to the other half.

“The project is one of ten that the state has initiated following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order issued in January 2019 for the Department of General Services to create an inventory of excess, state-owned parcels where housing development could be expedited.

“[S]ince the property is in unincorporated Marin, it would be the county’s job to provide such services as police and fire.

“Because the property will continue to be owned by the state there will be no property tax revenue available to help cover the cost of providing services to the development.

“In a statement, [project developer] Eden [Housing] said its 115 units will be financed with ‘a combination of low-income housing tax credits, local funds, state funds and housing choice vouchers.’ ”

Read the full article here. (~5 min.)

Return to Northern News here.

‘Present-day redlining’: Black Bay Area homeowners say their properties are being undervalued

By Lauren Hepler, San Francisco Chronicle, July 23, 2021

“In two new discrimination complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday, [Cora Robinson of Oakland] says she was lowballed by around $400,000 on the value of her property, largely because she and some of her neighbors are Black. The claims reflect the latest in a series of cases where Black homeowners in and around the Bay Area say they’re being unfairly shut out of favorable financing and historic real estate gains as home prices hit record highs. It’s a nationwide concern that also recently pushed President Joe Biden to vow new appraisal reforms.

“ ‘This is our present-day redlining,’ said Caroline Peattie, executive director of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, which filed the complaints on Robinson’s behalf. ‘It just continues the cycle.’

“As it stands, Black home loan applicants in Oakland are more than twice as likely to get denied as white applicants, federal mortgage data shows. Around one-quarter of the city’s Black residents own their homes, according to a 2018 city analysis, compared to more than half of white residents.

“In Robinson’s case, a second appraisal didn’t help. She went to a different lender who hired the same appraiser. In November, he said the house was worth $825,000, according to the federal complaint …

“The next step in the case is for federal housing officials to investigate and evaluate either a settlement or a lawsuit, Peattie said. She also hopes Robinson’s story will contribute to potential reforms like shifting to more auto-generated valuations, providing a range of appraisal values or requiring multiple appraisals …”

Read the full article here. (~5 min.)

Return to Northern News here.