Tag: 2022-03-nn-feature

Donations enable Land Trust to make $9.4M affordable housing buy in San Francisco

Donations enable Land Trust to make $9.4M affordable housing buy in San Francisco

The San Francisco Community Land Trust plans to convert 285 Turk Street into a limited-equity housing cooperative.

By Oscar Perry Abello, Next City, February 1, 2022.

It always seemed impossible, until it was done — on January 18, 2022.

That’s the day that San Francisco Community Land Trust (SFCLT) closed on the $9.4 million acquisition of a building with 40 apartments in the heart of one of the country’s most notoriously competitive real estate markets.

Community land trusts (CLTs) like SFCLT seek to be vehicles for community-controlled real estate development, pulling land out of the conventional market and maintaining it in perpetuity as affordable housing, commercial, industrial, agricultural or cultural space.

But CLTs face many of the same barriers to capital across the country. Banks and other lenders aren’t as familiar with the CLT model. Many CLTs lack an extensive track record or deep pockets of their own that can otherwise convince lenders to open up their coffers. And public sector funding often moves slowly or comes with requirements that don’t mesh well with the CLT model.

SFCLT made this $9.4 million acquisition with zero public dollars and just two private lenders — including a credit union. The pandemic had something to do with it. But so did philanthropy, as well as a raft of policies that are slowly shifting the financial landscape in favor of CLTs.

“All of these things translate into a landscape by which these lenders become more comfortable with us,” says Saki Bailey, executive director at SFCLT.

The building is 285 Turk Street, at the southeast corner of the intersection with Leavenworth Street, in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood — a last bastion for many low-income households in the city. A bevy of community-based organizations here serves those households as well as many living on the streets, struggling to hold onto the neighborhood some have called home for decades.

285 Turk Street, San Francisco. Photo courtesy San Francisco Community Land Trust.

Built in 1923, a building like 285 Turk would normally be covered by the city’s rent control regulations. But in 1985 the city allowed the owner to take it out of rent control after “substantial” investments to rehab the building. The tenants were never informed that the building lost its rent-controlled status, which was a shock for everyone to learn in 2017 after San Francisco real estate mogul Neveo Mosser acquired the building and sought immediate rent increases of 5-25 percent.

Tenants resisted. One organizer called 285 Turk, “the domino that won’t fall … stopping the whole Tenderloin from being gentrified.” But rents in the building eventually started rising.

The building needed — and still needs — plenty of work. More than a handful of units aren’t in good enough condition to rent out at all, let alone justify much higher rents. In order to sell the building for profit, Mosser needed at least some of that work to get started and higher rent rolls to show the building could eventually pay for the debt taken out to pay for those renovations. All that takes time.

SFCLT set its sights on acquiring the building whenever Mosser finally decided to sell it. 285 Turk is subject to San Francisco’s relatively new Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, or COPA. Passed in Spring 2019, the new law gives city-approved nonprofit groups the first crack at buying multifamily buildings when they go up for sale — in efforts to prevent them from falling into the hands of private equity investors or for-profit developers. Until COPA passed, the only place across the country with a similar law was Washington D.C., which passed its Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act back in 1980.

In San Francisco, COPA has enabled nonprofits like the Mission Economic Development Agency, Chinatown Community Development Center, and SFCLT to intercede on behalf of tenants and acquire buildings that otherwise would have gone to market. Nearby San Jose is now exploring a similar law.

The building finally came up for sale in early 2020.

“It was perhaps bad timing on the part of the seller,” says Keith Cooley, director of asset management at SFCLT. “There were no takers. But we knew there were private equity firms circling, because of that exemption from rent control.”

The world’s largest private equity firms like Blackstone had learned a lot after snatching up hundreds of thousands of distressed single-family homes after the last financial crisis. They had billions of dollars standing by — they call it “dry powder,” as in gunpowder — to buy up properties hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. But they wanted to wait and see just how far prices would fall first. They were still largely waiting things out last year, but selective acquisitions are proceeding.

Cooley says the asking price for the building dropped in late 2020, and a private equity firm did finally make an offer for 285 Turk.

But it was not good timing for SFCLT, in the midst of the pandemic and the holidays. The land trust wasn’t able to put an offer together under the deadlines COPA gives nonprofits to intercede. Those deadlines can also make it challenging to access public dollars to make a credible purchase offer for a building of this size — the process to secure sufficient local government housing subsidies or federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits can take too long.

But the offer from a private equity firm fell through, and by early 2021, SFCLT put in a bid to acquire 285 Turk for $9.4 million — 75 percent of which came through a combination of loans from Self-Help Federal Credit Union and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), with the rest coming from grants and donations to SFCLT. The owner accepted. (Editor’s Note: LISC is also a funder of Next City.)

Until now, SFCLT had relied on public funding for all of its acquisitions. The land trust has been one of the more active nonprofits under the city’s Small Sites Program, which provides deeply discounted city loans for approved community-based nonprofits to acquire buildings with between five and 25 residential units where tenants are at risk of displacement.

The Small Sites Program has helped nonprofits acquire at least 40 buildings with 350 total units so far, though it has also run into some challenges around those units remaining vacant even now, during the pandemic.

“You need to have this very deep city-CLT partnership to make the model succeed,” Bailey says. “We were fortunate in that we developed right before the period in which the Small Sites formed as well as COPA, and I think those two mechanisms really catalyzed the ability of our CLT to develop and expand.”

With 40 residential units, 285 Turk wasn’t eligible for support from the Small Sites Program. But the program has helped SFCLT build a portfolio and a track record that helps make private lenders more comfortable about working with it. Before 285 Turk, the land trust owned a dozen buildings, home to around 200 residents — more than 70 percent of whom are Black, indigenous or other people of color.

“They were able to demonstrate the track record of having acquired and managed a portfolio of properties already,” says Jeremy Hofer, senior business development officer at Self-Help Federal Credit Union. “This represented a jump in the size of a project for them but working with their management we were able to get comfortable with them jumping up to this size of a property.”

It’s still rare for private lenders to work with community land trusts across the country, even mission-oriented private lenders like Self-Help or the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Both of these lenders are federally certified community development financial institutions, or CDFIs. But even with CDFI certification and the doors it opens to federal and philanthropic support for financing community development, CDFIs all across the country have still been hesitant to work with CLTs.

“If CDFIs are going to parallel the same risk tolerance as [other lenders], that to me is problematic,” says Tony Pickett, CEO of Grounded Solutions, a national network that supports CLTs and other shared-equity housing models across the country.

Self-Help also faces the same regulatory landscape as other banks and credit unions — so it has to navigate regulators’ perceptions of risk in addition to its own.

Regulators scrutinize each and every loan banks and credit unions make since their last examination, which can be anywhere from a few months to more than a year prior. The goal of each examination is to ensure “safe and sound” practices at each institution that holds our deposits. Banks or credit unions are extremely hesitant to test their regulators’ limits when it comes to the kind of projects that are on their books when examination time comes.

But those limits aren’t as hard and fast as they can often seem. They can and have evolved over time, as new industries or new business models emerge and some lenders establish new regulatory precedents that others eventually follow. Depending on how regulators respond later to Self-Help making this acquisition loan to SFCLT, it could open up the door to any credit union or even banks making similar loans to other similarly situated CLTs in the future.

And while it can be challenging to work with regulated financial institutions, they have the ability to offer lower interest rates and longer loan terms than unregulated financial institutions precisely because they hold deposits and also have access to the Federal Reserve system.

Self-Help has worked with land trusts in its home state of North Carolina, but Hofer says 285 Turk is the largest acquisition by a land trust that Self-Help has financed so far. While the credit union has had plenty of experience lending to nonprofits for affordable and mixed-income housing, Hofer says the land trust model represents a different approach.

To make this loan to SFCLT, Self-Help has to anticipate what regulators look for in any commercial real estate acquisition loan, including financial metrics as well as the borrower’s track record and management capacity.

Sufficient “management capacity” for a commercial real estate operation can be expensive or hard to keep on the typical nonprofit salary a CLT can offer.

“Recruiting and retaining people can be challenging when you need high-level commercial real estate talent at nonprofit wages,” Hofer says. ”I think by doing these exciting deals and showing these benefits, ideally we can attract more young real estate professionals into nonprofit development.”

Bringing on a second lender like LISC reduced the loan-to-value ratio for Self-Help, which helps to keep the loan within the credit union’s guidelines for financial metrics. And with SFCLT’s existing portfolio and prior track record, experienced staff, and a third-party property manager that has worked successfully with buildings even larger than 285 Turk, this loan passed muster.

“One of our goals is to ensure regulators can be confident in the quantitative and qualitative approaches in Self-Help’s underwriting, enabling land trusts to more easily access finance from regulated lenders in the future,” Hofer says.

Regulated as well as unregulated financial institutions also still abide by the rule that you need money to get money. SFCLT contributed $1.37 million in equity as part of the overall financing package for acquisition and renovations at 285 Turk.

For traditional developers, equity can come from personal or friends and family wealth, or out of profits generated from previous investments. For a CLT, equity typically has to come from public dollars or donated dollars, because the model is designed to own properties in perpetuity — meaning the trust can’t ever sell the property to get at least some of that money back.

SFCLT got its equity for 285 Turk from a bevy of local donors attracted to a message rooted in wealth creation for Black, indigenous and other people of color — who make up 95 percent of the current residents at 285 Turk.

The land trust plans to convert 285 Turk into a limited-equity housing cooperative, creating homeownership opportunities for existing residents that can be passed down to future generations or sold, but with resale restrictions that guarantee homeownership opportunities for future low-to-moderate income buyers. Instead of selling the deed for the property to the co-op, the land trust will extend the co-op a 99-year lease, similar to how most CLTs extend single-family homeowners a 99-year lease. It was this plan that really ruled out using city dollars for this project — Bailey says the city’s rules around its funding programs as well as its property tax rules don’t currently work with creating housing cooperatives.

“The real impetus to use private financing was staying away from the city’s restrictions for conversion into affordable homeownership,” Bailey says.

But it was the potential to create wealth for 285 Turk residents that appealed to the 22 donors (so far) who contributed as little as $20 to SFCLT for this project — including individuals as well as some smaller foundations in the Bay Area.

“I think this can provide a model for other CLTs around the country,” Cooley says. “They don’t have to get a public subsidy and they don’t have to rely on Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, which is a big thing.”

This article was originally published in Next City’s The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth, and access to capital. Republished with permission.

Oscar Perry Abello is senior economics correspondent at Next City. He was Next City’s editor from 2018 to 2019. Since 2011, Abello has covered community development finance, community banking, impact investing, economic development, housing, and more for various media outlets, including Fast Company. You can reach him at oscar@nextcity.org.

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Meet a local planner: Ned Thomas, AICP

Meet a local planner: Ned Thomas, AICP

NED THOMAS, AICP, is Planning Director for the City of Milpitas, population 80,273. His previous public sector leadership roles include planning division manager for the City of San Jose, community development director for the Town of Windsor, California, and principal planner for the City of Henderson, Nevada. He holds a master’s in urban planning from Harvard University and a bachelor of science in geography from Brigham Young University. He has served as a planning commissioner for the City of North Las Vegas and was a founding member of Green Chips, a non-profit, public-private partnership dedicated to promoting sustainability in southern Nevada.

What big things are happening in the Milpitas planning department?

The biggest was the planning department’s completion of the General Plan update in 2021, and two specific plan updates are in progress. Milpitas received more than $2.5 million in state and regional grants in recent years, which we have used to create and implement online tools for residents to explore ADUs, along with a new Development Review Handbook. I’m also proud of how our planning team, spurred by the pandemic, implemented online plan-check, set up an outdoor dining program, and implemented new regulations for short-term rentals.

What was it like to work on long-range plans during the pandemic?

Migrating over to a virtual environment was seamless. The successes described above were all achieved in a virtual environment. And as other cities have found, remote meetings have been proven effective and with greater participation. More people are joining the discussion — and from home: they don’t have to spend entire evenings at city hall to be informed and heard.

At the same time, we created virtual zoning administrator meetings so that routine decisions don’t need to clog up planning commission agendas, allowing the commission to concentrate on the big issues. But if someone had suggested virtual public meetings before the pandemic, we would have been laughed out of the room.

What valuable skills should all planners have?

Planners should have a basic understanding of real estate economics — know how private-sector developments are financed — to understand how requirements for parking, open space, architectural design, and public amenities become costs that affect a project’s feasibility. Knowing where the developer might have room to make changes — and where not — will help planners work more effectively with developers to provide the amenities people really want, such as parks.

What has been your experience working for both large and small cities?

While in San Jose, I enjoyed working in a large organization with a variety of staff specialists from historic preservation to urban design, and on high-rise development. In Milpitas, I am part of a strong executive team and thus have more opportunities to work directly with members of the planning commission and city council. I work very closely with the city manager’s office and other department directors involved in community development activities of all kinds — all of which give me a much broader experience beyond just planning.

What experiences most influenced your career?

My first job was in my home state, Idaho, working for a large county with several small, unincorporated communities. There I saw the difference between urban and rural communities in terms of voting, ideologies, and dependence on government for certain services. Later, I worked for and traveled on behalf of a Japanese company in a non-planning role. That also was enriching.

After graduate school at Harvard, I returned to Japan as a Fulbright Scholar at Kyushu University to research local and regional planning issues. Those included grass-roots efforts by residents in a traditional farming village to influence the enormous changes occurring in their community as a result of the expansion of the City of Fukuoka and the relocation of the university. I helped a team of graduate students facilitate a series of community meetings to build local capacity to understand and apply urban design and planning principles at the neighborhood level. It seems the same issues that were important there are important everywhere — homes, families, and quality of life.

Tell us about your work in Nevada.

I often say that being a planner in Nevada is measured in “planner dog years” because you gain so much experience in a short time. For a decade, I worked in the rapidly growing Las Vegas area. I managed Henderson’s sustainability program, water conservation, renewable energy, and transit. We often had 30 to 40 agenda items at public hearing week after week, but we got through them.

What is your view of California planning?

When I moved to the Bay Area eight years ago, I was surprised at how infrequently local agencies worked together. That has changed. In Santa Clara County, for example, planning officials from all the cities in the county meet monthly around housing, transportation, and climate change. It’s a sub-regional collaborative for sharing knowledge and ideas. I am still surprised by the level of expertise (and expense) required for even a relatively simple CEQA document.

What has been your view of new state legislation and local control?

Milpitas recently processed our first applications for housing projects under SB 330 and SB 35. The State’s legislative remedies may be heavy-handed in limiting local discretion, but these measures have eliminated the guesswork for planners and developers in applying local regulations and design guidelines. Many local governments have moved quickly to objective design standards with a welcome level of certainty.

Moving forward, I believe there’s opportunity for the state legislature to consider the concerns, experiences, and outcomes of local jurisdictions and consult with them in crafting future changes.

Interviewer Catarina Kidd, AICP, is senior development manager at FivePoint and a guest writer for Northern News. All interviews are edited.

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OPINION: The California Legislature should stop blaming local governments for the housing crisis

OPINION: The California Legislature should stop blaming local governments for the housing crisis

By Daniel S. Marks, AICP, February 9, 2022

Through much of this year, many of my fellow local government planners will be dealing with the latest legislative smokescreen in which the legislature claims to be doing something about the housing crisis by blaming it on NIMBY local governments and making them dance to SB 9, the Housing Accountability Act, and Housing Element updates.

Local governments do have a lot to answer for — they helped create our housing shortfall — and many of the recent legislative initiatives are long overdue. But the truth of the legislature’s efforts to date is that they won’t lead to nearly enough new or affordable housing to address the shortfalls. Meanwhile, the current legislative efforts are distractions that preclude having to tackle the difficult issues that, if resolved, would make a significant difference.

It is past time for the legislature to take on some of the underlying causes of California’s housing crisis.

What has State legislation accomplished so far?

The legislature’s focus on process (Housing Elements, permit streamlining, etc.) and on changes to single-family zoning (accessory dwelling units and as-of-right subdivision of homes and lots) is unlikely to produce anywhere near enough units to address our long-term housing shortfall. Analysis by the Terner Center found that only 14,000 accessory dwelling units were added statewide in 2019. And while the Center offers no projections for the impact of SB 9’s changes to single-family zoning, its assessment does not support a significant bump in new housing from the law.

Various projections indicate a need for anywhere from 200,000 units per year (HCD’s 2018 Housing Assessment, PDF, 209 pp) to 319,000 per year (USC School of Public Policy, PDF, 13 pp) to address the state’s housing shortfall and meet demand. ADUs and some subdivided single-family parcels will make only a small contribution. Likewise, there is no evidence that increasing RHNA numbers — thus making local governments work a little harder to find more land or modify zoning to allow more units in this Housing Element cycle — will lead to an outcome significantly different from the abysmally poor showing of units added in past Housing Element cycles.

Based on 45 years of experience in the field — as a land use planner, planning and community development director, project manager for a landmark regional smart growth study, and a project manager for an analysis of regional agencies around the country — it’s clear to me that the legislature has chosen politically expedient answers while failing to grapple with the hard issues only it can address. I see three key issues the legislature must address to meet the State’s (and Bay Area’s) housing goals:

  • Make more underutilized urban land available for development,
  • Address the fiscal disincentives to housing development, and
  • Strengthen regional agencies’ ability to promote and guide appropriate development.

MORE DEVELOPABLE LAND

I’m not saying we need more sprawl. What we need are the tools that will allow underutilized land in already urbanized areas to be developed at higher densities — and more quickly. The potential for these areas to accommodate substantial amounts of housing was first identified in a landmark study 40 years ago (“Room Enough, Housing and Open Space in the Bay Area,” People for Open Space, 1981), and yet much of the urbanized land remains underdeveloped. Major commercial corridors (e.g., San Pablo Avenue, Santa Rosa Avenue, El Camino Real) have the infrastructure (transit and existing urban services) yet remain largely untapped for housing. And then there’s surface parking: Although no one has calculated how much land is devoted to parking, clearly many hundreds of acres devoted to parking could instead — or in addition —accommodate housing.

What’s holding back development?

Based on my experience, either the land is not planned and zoned for residential development at sufficient density to warrant housing development; or the risk, cost, and time associated with assembling properties of sufficient size are too great; or both.

And the failure to develop represents a cost to local governments. Local agencies need funding before they can adopt appropriate plans, zoning, and the CEQA documents needed to incentivize redevelopment of underutilized land, and they need funds and authority to assemble land when necessary. The State could provide sufficient funding and the tools to allow transformation of these underutilized lands. Let’s acknowledge that the Redevelopment tools of the past were often misused, but for some agencies they were powerful and effective, producing high numbers of affordable housing and the infrastructure needed to support it. Local governments — or counties or regional authorities — need to regain the basic tools — tax increment financing and the power to assemble parcels. Safeguards can be added to ensure that use of these tools results in substantial amounts of affordable housing without displacing vulnerable tenants.

FISCAL INCENTIVES FOR HOUSING

I often hear from local officials that government services to residential development cost more than the tax revenues they return. There’s evidence this is not true, but the myth persists. Meanwhile, commercial development generates windfalls for local government, whether in the form of direct tax revenue (think big box retail, auto dealers, and hotels); or “community benefits” extracted through the rezoning or permitting process. Elected officials have told me that promoting jobs in their community (think commercial) is a political win, while new housing is usually a loser.

Despite a lot of hand wringing about job growth and the traffic it brings to the Peninsula and Silicon Valley, millions of square feet of tech and biotech continue to be proposed there and accepted along with minuscule amounts of housing. The Housing Element process has been and continues to be a failure in addressing the continuing, even growing, imbalance. Meanwhile, “bedroom communities” in Solano and Contra Costa counties (and beyond) complain they have too much housing and too few jobs, leading to long, greenhouse gas-spewing commutes between their housing and someone else’s jobs. They want more jobs and think they have more than enough housing.

I have learned in my 30+ years as a local government planner reporting to local elected officials that money talks: today it says “business yes, housing no.” This is a State problem. The statewide Proposition 13 in 1978 and various local government financing bills since, have created a system that rewards communities that have lots of retail, hotels, and offices, to the detriment of housing. So while the State demands more housing, it fails to provide fiscal incentives to cities to promote it, especially affordable housing. The State needs to recognize that its policies contribute to local government resistance to housing, and the State needs to identify steps toward reversing existing and poorly-structured incentives.

GREATER REGIONAL AUTHORITY NEEDED

As every Bay Area planner knows, we have a highly dysfunctional regional planning system. While there is now a single, combined staff under the MTC umbrella, there are still two agencies, ABAG for land use and MTC for transportation. With respect to land use, ABAG continues to weigh too heavily the parochial interests of its 110 mostly small jurisdictions. MTC has most of the money, but it is also led by elected local government officials and has been unable to more fully address the critical connection between land use and transportation.

The various “Plans Bay Area” have said all the right things, but they have no land use authority, so implementation is limited. Too few dollars go to encouraging appropriate development. And at some point, we need to recognize that major projects need to be fully assessed for regional impacts, and have regional agency oversight when they do.

There are regional agencies around the country that effectively promote and develop housing. For example, the New York Housing Finance Agency has built thousands of affordable units using its own bonding capacity and recycling revenue into new housing over time. The new Bay Area Housing Finance Authority is a step in the right direction, but it has been slow to get off the ground and is a creature of MTC with all of its limitations. This is a State issue. The State created MTC and defines the authority of both ABAG and MTC. It becomes clearer every year that these two regional agencies, as structured, will not be able to effectively manage regional growth, the effects of climate change, and the production of sufficient housing.

To recap, I believe the legislature must do three things to make significant progress on addressing housing supply:

  • Require that more underutilized urban land be made available for development,
  • Remove the fiscal disincentives to housing development, and
  • Strengthen our regional agencies’ ability to promote and guide appropriate development.

What’s frustrating to me and to many local government planners with whom I’ve spoken, is that while we work hard to modify codes and procedures in order to address laws that, at best, will make a marginal difference in housing supply, the legislature avoids addressing the fundamental changes that could make a real difference.

Dan Marks, AICP, is a special advisor at Management Partners, a local government management consulting firm. He was director of planning and development for the City of Berkeley (2003-2011) and planning director for the City of Fremont (1997-2003). Marks holds an MCP from UC Berkeley. You can reach him at dan@dansmarks.com.

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Court affirms City’s determination that substantial evidence supports approval of mixed-use development project

Court affirms City’s determination that substantial evidence supports approval of mixed-use development project

By Bryan W. Wenter, Miller Starr Regalia Land Use Developments Blog, January 31, 2022

On January 12, 2022, in Old East Davis Neighborhood Association v. City of Davis, __ Cal.App.5th __ (Case No. C090117), the Third District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court decision that granted a writ petition in favor of project opponents on the basis that the record did not support the City’s decision. In so doing, the Court applied a deferential standard of review and affirmed the City’s general plan consistency determination, holding that the decision was not unreasonable and that substantial evidence supported approval of a mixed-use project.

The project is four stories, with ground-floor retail and 27 apartments on the three upper levels. The project site is located in downtown Davis and is referred to in the City’s land use regulations as a “transition area.”

A City staff report recommended approval of the project, finding it consistent with general plan policies requiring an “architectural fit” with the City’s “existing scale” and that there be “a scale transition between intensified land uses and adjoining lower intensity land uses.” Staff also found the project consistent with planning policies encouraging more intense mixed-use development and accommodating new buildings with floor area ratios up to 3.0, while still maintaining scale transition and small-city character. The City Council approved the project, finding it conformed to the applicable general plan and specific plan.

Project opponents challenged the approval by filing a petition for a writ of mandate that argued, among other things, the project was inconsistent with applicable planning regulations. The trial court granted the petition, concluding the record did not support the City’s decision, reasoning that it was “a fundamental policy” of the general plan that the project site be a “transition property” and that policy was not satisfied because nothing in the record rationally explained how a 47,900 square foot building constituted a transition project” when other four-story buildings downtown are half the project’s size.

On appeal, the City and developer argued that the trial court exceeded its authority in failing to defer to the City’s findings and in applying its own views, maintaining that the project is consistent with applicable land use regulations. The Court of Appeal agreed, noting that the City’s planning documents do not provide a “formulistic method” for determining if a proposed structure constitutes a transition and that the City’s regulations rest on subjective measures such as “architectural fit,” “appropriate scale and character,” “sensitivity to the area’s traditional scale and character,” and “appearance in scale.” The Court thus rejected the trial court’s decision and held that it is not the court’s role to reweigh the evidence unless no reasonable person could reach the same conclusion based on the evidence. Because substantial evidence supported the City’s approval, the City acted within its discretion and the trial court erred in reversing the approval of the project.

Old East Davis Neighborhood Association is a helpful new decision relying on longstanding principles of California land use law requiring deference to an agency’s general plan and specific plan consistency determinations. The decision also squarely highlights the kinds of subjective provisions that make up the bulk of most planning documents and that are not the sort of unequivocal and quantifiable language that might be considered mandatory.

Bryan W. Wenter is a Shareholder at Miller Star Regalia, a firm he joined in 2013. Before MSR, he was with the City of Walnut Creek for five years, the final two years as City Attorney. Wenter holds a JD and a master of regional planning from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and a BA from the University of Oregon. He was legislative director for Northern Section from 2008-2011. You can reach him at bryan.wenter@msrlegal.com. A version of this article previously appeared in JDSUPRA.

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