Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac finally set to reduce mortgage balances

by Ben Lane : wsj – excerpt

After years of speculation and equivocation, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will begin to cut the mortgage balances for a number of homeowners later this year, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal report, written by Joe Light, states that the Federal Housing Finance Agency recently approved a plan for the government-sponsored enterprises to engage in principal reduction on a large scale for the first time since the housing crisis.

For years their leaders claimed this would never happen. They all said the GSEs were in conservatorship, not receivership, and so a reduction in asset values would be counterintuitive to that status… (more)

Will Upland Ruling Allow Stadiums — And Others – Evade Two-Thirds Vote?

: cp-dr – excerpt

So, why does a court ruling on a medical marijuana ban in Upland affect the Chargers ability to build a new stadium in San Diego?

For the same reason that construction of a Wal-Mart in Sonora affects the Rams ability to build a new stadium in Inglewood, which is:

The apparently magical power of the initiative process to end-run two generations of laws that make it more difficult to approve new buildings and adopt new taxes in California.

By now you all know about the Tuolumne Tactic – the end-run of the California Environmental Quality Act sanctioned two years ago by the state Supreme Court. The trick is simple: Initiatives aren’t subject to CEQA. Local governments can simply adopt an initiative rather than put it on the ballot. So, by adopting an initiative – often for a development project – the local government can end-run CEQA altogether. That’s how both Inglewood and Carson got their NFL stadiums approved so fast. More recently, developers have tried the tactic to approve a logistics center in Moreno Valley and a shopping center in Carlsbad (though that approval was overturned by a referendum).

It’s a pretty direct assault on 1970s and ‘80s left-wing California environmentalism.

Now, thanks to medical marijuana advocates, the initiative process may also be used to bypass Propositions 26 and 218 – the two ballot initiatives that embedded in the California constitution the requirement that “special taxes” (taxes dedicated to a specific purpose) require two-thirds voter approval.

And that could turn out to be a pretty direct assault on 1970s and ‘80s right-wing California fiscal conservatism… (more)

Upland Mobile Dispensary Ordinance Not Subject to CEQA, Court Rules

In the second medical marijuana ruling out of the City of Upland in the last week, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled that Upland’s ban on mobile medical marijuana dispensaries is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act.

Among other things, the court concluded that the assertions by the Union of Medical Marijuana Patients (UMMP) about the potential impact of the ban – for example, that medical marijuana patients would have to drive to other cities – were too speculative to be considered “reasonably foreseeable” under CEQA… (more)

Southern California Association of Governments Stalling on CEQA Reform

By James Brasuell : planetzen – excerpt

One of the largest, most influential regional governments in the state has asked for exemptions from changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that will measure Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) instead of Level of Service (LOS).

“[The Southern California Association of Government] sent a last-minute letter attempting to delay progressive updates to California’s outdated environmental standards,” according to an article by Melanie Curry, who explains in more detail.

In the letter [PDF], Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)—the regional transportation planning organization for much of southern California—requested exemptions for highway expansion projects and freight corridors from proposed state rules that could show their true environmental impact in a way that old rules do not.

In effect, SCAG is asking the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, which is developing the reformed CEQA requirements, to “limit the new VMT measure to projects that are close to transit, and also to ‘grandfather in’ highway expansion and freight corridor projects that have already been approved in planning documents.” According to an environmentalist source cited in the article, it looks like SCAG is asking for exemptions on projects that won’t perform will under the new environmental review process in the state. According to a SCAG source, the letter was meant to “request that OPR focus first on transit priority areas and allow a longer opt-in period for other areas.”… (more)

SoCal Government Coalition Wants to Keep Planning for Cars
SCAG sent a last-minute letter attempting to delay progressive updates to California’s outdated environmental standards.
In the letter [PDF], Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)—the regional transportation planning organization for much of southern California—requested exemptions for highway expansion projects and freight corridors from proposed state rules that could show their true environmental impact in a way that old rules do not… (more)

The Academy of Art compliance hearing: We should live so long

by Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

After 20 years, school still violates laws with impunity, pays no fines – and leaves some Planning Commission members stunned

More than 20 years after the Academy of Art University began gobbling up San Francisco real estate and violating planning codes all over the map, the Planning Commission heard today that maybe, sometime the summer, there might be some effort to do something about it.

The commission heard an update from the planning staff about the school’s master plan and an environmental impact report on its development future – and then heard from activists who remain stunned that this situation has gone on as long as it has.

“This has been going on for two decades,” Chris Martin, a waterfront activist, said. “I’m not sure that there has ever been in history a property owner violating the planning code to this extent.”

AAU has blatantly changed the uses of property without the proper zoning or permits, has cannibalized rent-controlled housing stock to the extent of a least 1,000 units and turned it into short-term dorms, and acts as if the laws that every other owner deals with don’t apply.

It’s been so bad that back in 2012, City Attorney Dennis Herrera told the planning director that “you continue to allow the [school] to violate the law without consequence.”

Now, Martin pointed out, the city planners have gone a step further: They have agreed to hold what could be millions of dollars in fine in abeyance as part of a negotiation to encourage AAU to follow the law.

That’s right: The city has told the school that if it finally, years later, fixes some of the problems it’s created, maybe it won’t have to pay the fines it owes…

Scott Sanchez, the zoning administrator, told the commissioners that the fines on just one illegally converted property now total $500,000. But “no penalties have been paid,” he said.

Most property owners who defied the city for this much time would have the City Attorney’s Office moving to collect the money, by placing liens on the property if necessary.

Commissioner Kathrin Moore was visibly frustrated by the department’s report. If the school isn’t accountable for its past violations, she wondered, what will make it behave in the future?

“Painful” as it is to say, she noted, “The EIR will be ignored, penalties will be ignored, housing will be ignored.”…(more)

We should all live so long and be so rich as to see our crimes declared legal.

No CEQA review for Uber

Zelda Bronstein : 48hills – excerpt

City admits that the impact of all these new cars on the streets doesn’t qualify as an environmental impact

Our March 13 story about San Francisco’s replacement of traffic congestion as an environmental impact with the number of vehicle miles traveled that a new project is expected to generate (VMT), elicited an interesting comment:


What’s impossible to measure, and has skirted any CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] study, is the increased traffic from Uber (14,000 drivers by its own admission), Lyft (ditto), Chariot (privatizing Muni), tech buses, and all manner of poverty-gig deliveries: Postmates, TaskRabbit, Munchery, Caviar, Sprig, InstaCart, Breeze, OrderAhead, SpoonRocket, Lugg, WorkGenius, Eat24, Instawash, etc., not to mention Amazon one-hour delivery, Safeway, and on and on.

Rich folks can stay in the condo and own no car, while a Shanghai-like cesspool of traffic roars below. Crave a cup of gourmet yogurt? Poor saps will underbid each other for the privilege of double-parking in gridlock and rushing it to your lobby in hopes of a tip.

I know this is slightly off topic, but this is what’s really happening on the streets of SF.

It seemed right on topic to me, and I forwarded Ragazzu’s remarks to 48 hills editor Tim Redmond. He emailed back:

I can tell you from personal experience that there are many thousands more cars on the city streets thanks to Uber. I can’t even ride my bike home on Valencia, where there’s a bike lane, on a Friday or Saturday night because the Ubers block the bike lane and swerve in and out of traffic.

This is a nice irony. Many of the same organizations that support the replacement of traffic congestion as an environmental impact by vehicle miles traveled—Greenbelt Alliance, TransForm, the Natural Resources Defense Council—also laud Uber and other so-called transportation network companies (TNCs) for potentially reducing millions of single-occupancy vehicle car trips and greenhouse gas emissions. Now it turns out that the TNCs are not only clogging San Francisco’s streets—that’s fine by these groups—but also blocking bicycle lanes—presumably not fine by them…

I got an email from Planning Department Communications Manager Gina Simi saying that Wietgrefe and San Francisco Director of Environmental Planning Sarah Jones had asked her to tell me, astonishingly, that the traffic generated by TNCs and app-based delivery services is not a CEQA issue, which is to say, it is not potentially subject to an Environmental Impact Report and lawsuit…

The Environmental Planning division of the Planning Department assesses the environmental impacts of projects/approvals/legislation that are proposed by private sponsors and/or City departments for approval.  The activities you mention, such as TNCs or app-based delivery services, are not subject to permits or approvals for their operations.  Therefor CEQA is not part of the equation for their operations in that we have no basis to assess their impacts under CEQA.  If a company that provides such services is seeking some sort of approvals in the future that are connected to their operations, we would try to calculate the VMT that would result...

Meanwhile, San Francisco Assemblymembers David Chiu and Phil Ting are supporting AB 828, which would exempt TNC drivers from needing commercial license plates, by “exclud[ing] from the definition of ‘motor vehicles’” any vehicle that is

  • operated in connection with a transportation network company that is
  • operated for passenger service only and is limited to seven passengers excluding the driver;
  • operated exclusively by the person to whom the vehicle is registered or insured;
  • not a paratransit vehicle not operated for public transit services;
  • not operated for school bus services… (more)

Comments at the source are appreciated.

Community Character Under CEQA Limited to Aesthetics, Appellate Court Rules

By William Fulton : cp-dr – excerpt

Resident concerns about the social and psychological impact associated with the conversion of a horse-boarding facility to a 12-lot subdivision do not constitute a “community character” issue requiring an environmental impact report, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled.

The appellate court overturned a ruling by San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager, who found that the City of Poway’s mitigated negative declaration did not adequately take into account community character issues. On appeal, the Fourth District ruled strongly that the California Environmental Quality Act only requires lead agencies to community character issues that are aesthetic in nature.

“Community character is not defined in CEQA or in the Guidelines,” wrote Acting Presiding Justice Gilbert Nares for a unanimous three-judge panel. “To the extent published California cases have discussed community character in CEQA cases, it has been limited to aesthetic impacts.”… (more)

Southern California water district is new owner of 20,000 acres of California Delta

: centralvalleybusinesstimes – excerpt

Could pave the way for governor’s tunnels
“An existential threat to the future of the Delta and Delta communities”

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is buying 20,000 acres in the heart of the California Delta near Stockton.

The district says it could use the four islands for fish and wildlife habitat, but it could also use the land to help pave the way for the massive, $68 billion water tunnel scheme touted by Gov. Edmund Brown Jr.

Metropolitan would be the major beneficiary of the twin tunnels that would siphon comparatively clean water out of the Sacramento River before it could flow into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, also called the California Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the hemisphere…

“It is troubling for the Delta region that Metropolitan Water District is going to acquire such a significant portion of Delta land and Delta water rights,” says Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, a group opposed to the tunnels.

“They have the resources to change law and policies statewide to maximize their access to Delta water in their favor. They will own two islands that are directly in the path of the proposed Delta Tunnels project, eliminating eminent domain concerns for that portion of tunnels construction. We believe that having MWD as a neighbor is an existential threat to the future of the Delta and Delta communities,” she says… (more)

Is this in addition to the islands they were planning to purchase near Bethel Island?

In major win for high-speed rail, judge rejects claims by Kings County foes of bullet train

By Tim Sheehan : sacbee – excerpt – (vide0)

Sacramento court denies Kings County effort to halt project. Judge cites ‘substantial concern,’ but no violation of Proposition 1A.

Stuart Flashman, an attorney for Kings County plaintiffs in a civil trial challenging California’s high-speed rail plans and Proposition 1A, talks about the blended system, trip times and financial viability, and California High-Speed Rail Authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley presents the authority’s opinion that its decisions so far are in compliance with Prop. 1A. vide0

In a major setback to foes of the California high-speed rail project, a Sacramento judge rejected claims by opponents in Kings County that plans for the bullet train system violate state law.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny, who heard verbal arguments from attorneys Feb. 11, issued the ruling late Friday but the court didn’t release it to the public until Tuesday morning.

The ruling is a major setback to efforts to stop the project, and boosts California’s $64 billion plans to develop a system of high-speed electric trains to ultimately connect Los Angeles and San Francisco, by way of Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley, but Kenny’s ruling is almost certain to be appealed to a state appellate court.

Attorneys for Kings County farmer John Tos, Hanford resident Aaron Fukuda and the Kings County Board of Supervisors argued the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s plans for the system violate Proposition 1A – the $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond measure approved by the state’s voters in 2008 – in several key areas:

  • That a proposed “blended” system in which high-speed trains would share upgraded and electrified tracks with the Caltrain commuter rail line between San Jose and San Francisco is inconsistent with what voters approved in the ballot measure. A switch from dedicated tracks only for high-speed trains on the San Francisco Peninsula was dropped in 2012 in favor of shared tracks to dampen opposition in the Bay Area and to trim about $30 billion from the overall system cost.
  • That the proposed route would be unable to meet Prop. 1A’s requirement to provide a nonstop 2-hour 40-minute ride between San Francisco and Los Angeles under “real-world” travel conditions.
  • That the system would not be financially viable and could not be realistically expected to meet the law’s mandate to cover its operating costs without any subsidy


Interesting that they are claiming they can pay for it since we are hearing they must rely on private investors to fund it. Guess that is what they mean. They will create a demand by forcing people out of their cars to convince investors they can make a profit on a product that does not exist. Wonder how long that will take if they economic bubble is getting ready to bust as some think.


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