Mayor’s housing plan: Developers get nice juicy benefit; city gets little or nothing

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt – (maps)

How the Affordable Housing Density Bonus gives away choice parcels to developers — who won’t actually provide that much affordable housing

Affordable housing and tenant groups that are opposed to the mayor’s plans to upzone much of the city to allow more residential development will be out in force Thursday/28 as the Planning Commission holds its first hearing on the program…

The Affordable Housing Density Bonus program could lead to massive as developers evict tenants and tear down existing modest buildings to construct much bigger ones.

The idea, according to the Planning Department, is to allow more density than the current zoning permits on more than 30,000 lots all over town – in exchange for builders adding a few more units of “affordable” housing.

And I put the “affordable” in quotes because most of the new units will not be offered at rates that many San Franciscans can afford, and in some cases the law would allow developers to claim these density bonuses for apartments that aren’t significantly below – and sometimes may be above – market rates… (more)

Meanwhile they are busy in Sacramento making sure our rights as citizens are more limited than ever. AB 1500 just passed to the Senate. AB 1500 would remove even more rights of citizens to appeal or oppose objectionable projects. Details on AB 1500

California Supreme Court Shifts Gears on “Reverse CEQA”

by Garret Murai : jdsupra – excerpt

The California Supreme Court has shifted gears on so-called “reverse CEQA” under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”).

The Supreme Court, in a much-anticipated decision, in California Building Industry Association v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Case No. S213478 (December 17, 2015), held that public agencies subject to CEQA are not required to analyze whether existing environmental conditions may impact a proposed project’s future users or residents – also known as “reverse CEQA” or “CEQA in reverse” – as opposed to the more traditional analysis of a proposed project’s impact on the environment, unless:

  • The proposed project risks exacerbating existing environmental hazards – in which case, it is the proposed project’s impact on the environment not the environment’s impact on the proposed project, which compels the evaluation; or
  • A reverse CEQA analysis is already required under statute, for example, on certain airport, school and housing projects…


While the Supreme Court’s decision clarifies, at least partially (the “exacerbation of existing environmental hazards” exception may lead to its own interpretive disagreements), when a public agency is required to conduct a “reverse CEQA” analysis, the Court noted in a footnote that CEQA does not “prohibit an agency from considering – as part of an environmental review for a project it proposes to undertake – how existing conditions might impact a project’s future users or residents” (emphasis in original). So, is the decision just a pyrrhic victory for developers? We’ll have to see…(more)



Lakeside Business Owners Bet the Farm on CEQA Challenge

voiceofsandiego – excerpt

A bunch of small farming-related businesses in Lakeside have a powerful ally in their attempts to keep a much larger competitor from opening next door: the California Environmental Quality Act.

The legal case has small businesses fighting not only their would-be competitor, but also the county for using an uncommon method to get the project approved quickly.

CEQA is often blamed for making life difficult for businesses and developers in San Diego. It requires long, expensive environmental reviews that can result in beneficial changes being made to projects. But it’s also ripe for abuse from groups who have non-environmental interests in slowing, stopping and changing proposed projects

To speed things up, the county said the developers didn’t need to do a new environmental review. Instead, it said they could glom onto a review done for an old project pondered for that location, approved in 2008 but never built…

Hix Snedeker’s new project didn’t seem to have significant new environmental impacts, the county decided, so it used a wrinkle within CEQA that says minor changes to a project don’t require a new environmental review.

But it’s not usually used for an entirely new project by an entirely different company.

“CEQA does not allow this,” said Rory Wicks, a lawyer for the coalition of neighborhood businesses, Save Our Stores, during a Board of Supervisor’s meeting on the issue. “The courts do not allow this.”…

In 2006, a court ruled on a similar issue in Placerville, saying the city did not have the right to an old project’s environmental review for a new project. In that case, a study for a 1997 project that was never built was used to give the greenlight for a project in 2004… (more)



Study shows Sonoma County has among smallest carbon footprints in Bay Area

by Guy Kovner pressdemocrat – excerpt

Sonoma County had the second smallest household greenhouse gas footprint of the nine Bay Area counties, and 11 local cities and towns accounted for carbon-related emissions below the statewide average, according to a new UC Berkeley report.

The average Sonoma County household had a footprint of 40.4 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, well below the statewide average of 45.7 tons per household and the Bay Area average of 44.3 tons, the report said.

Only San Francisco, the region’s most compact city with multiple mass transit systems, had a smaller footprint at 38.7 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, while affluent Santa Clara County was tops at 48.6 tons and wealthy communities like Atherton, Piedmont and Alamo accounted for 70 to 85 tons, as income, vehicle ownership and home size contributed heavily to the regional differences.

The average U.S. household accounts for about 50 metric tons of emissions.

Read the UC Berkeley report here

People with larger incomes “just consume more,” said Christopher Jones, program director of UC Berkeley’s CoolClimate Network and report co-author. They own larger homes which are “full of more stuff,” he said, and also travel by air more often, boosting their expenditures for transportation, which accounted for one-third of Bay Area emissions, the largest source by far.

Food is the second largest source of emissions at 19 percent, followed by goods and services (each 18 percent), heating fuels (5 percent), home construction (3 percent), electricity (2 percent) and waste (1 percent).

Rohnert Park households had the smallest footprint of the eight Sonoma County cities and three communities cited in the report at 37.7 metric tons of emissions per year, while Windsor was highest at 45.1 tons, exceeding the Bay Area average but still below the state mark.

Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen were in the middle of the pack, each at 39.5 metric tons.

Sonoma County households collectively accounted for 7.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Californians accounted for 585.5 million tons; households nationwide accounted for 5.8 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, the Berkeley report said.

Sonoma County is a “good example of low-carbon development,” Jones said, noting the absence of widespread urban sprawl along with relatively modest household income and the benefit of a cool climate that reduces home energy consumption.

Sonoma County probably has an absence of widespread urban sprawl because it has no large cities. The economy is primarily agricultural, with many high-end wineries and tourists that cater to tourists, not construction and not tech. People choose to live there because they like wide open spaces, large yards and the ability to move about freely in their cars. Land values are through the roof. Vineyards, are worth more than dense housing so they protect Sonoma and Napa from dense growth.



Villaraigosa convenes experts to debate California Environmental Quality Act

BY Matthew Kredell : news.ucs – excerpt

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the focus of much discussion about development since its enactment in 1970, was front and center at a recent debate at the Galen Center.

The California Central-USC Villaraigosa Initiative at the USC Price School of Public Policy hosted the event, which convened leading practitioners in environmental law and urban development on Dec. 10.

The CEQA was adopted in the spirit of environmental protection and is a big part of why California is known for its environmental leadership. However, critics argue that the CEQA may be abused to hinder much-needed infill and transit development.


“The governor continues to look at this issue, and so does the legislature,” former Los Angeles MayorAntonio Villaraigosa said in his introduction. “We wanted to bring together a group of experts from across the spectrum who can help us have an intelligent conversation about it.”

CEQA’s purpose

Paula Daniels, executive director of California Central, provided the context that the CEQA requires that state and local agencies assess and publicly disclose environmental impacts of proposed projects, then minimize or mitigate those impacts to the greatest extent possible. It creates public accountability and a transparent process… (more)


URGENT: the biggest environmental disaster since BP oil spill

From the courage campaign

Holy cow! Thanks to the incredible organizing on the ground led by Save Porter Ranch and the thousands of Courage members that signed our petition, Governor Jerry Brown just declared a state of emergency for the massive gas leak in Porter Ranch, a neighborhood of Los Angeles.(1)

But before we take a victory lap, we must make sure we stop the leak! While Gov. Brown’s overdue executive order provides additional relief to the families, residents, and businesses impacted by the ongoing leak, it does not block the out of control methane gas that continues to billow over Porter Ranch and poison residents. However, we just learned that the South Coast Air Quality Management District — a local agency that regulates air pollution — has the power to shut down the source of the leak at the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility RIGHT NOW, full stop.(2)

The Porter Ranch gas leak has been declared the WORST environmental disaster since the BP oil spill!(4) For over three months, methane gas has been spewing out of a well near Porter Ranch, causing local residents to suffer through nosebleeds, migraines, and dizziness.(5) The gas leak is so severe that thousands of residents have been displaced from their homes, and two schools were shut down, relocating nearly 2,000 students and staff.(6)… (more)

If this isn’t worthy of a headline, I don’t know what is. I first posted a story about this from the Guardian. No real media attention locally although this started months ago.

Shut down the Porter Ranch gas leak NOW!

Governor Jerry Brown just declared a state of emergency for the massive gas leak in Porter Ranch, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, but his executive order falls short of shutting down the leak.

Meanwhile, this gas leak is spiraling out of control! Every passing day, 1,200 TONS OF METHANE GAS — a greenhouse gas that is seventy times more potent than carbon dioxide — spews out of the well near Porter Ranch. Local residents are experiencing nosebleeds, migraines, and dizziness. Thousands have been displaced, and two schools were shut down.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District — a local agency that regulates air pollution — has the authority to shut down the source of the leak at the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility. And we need to raise our voices loud and clear to make sure they #ShutItALLDown NOW!

SIGN THE PETITION to tell the South Coast Air Quality Management District:

“I urge you to immediately shut down the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility for operating out of compliance!”



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