California regulators hope new rules will spur more bike lanes, housing near transit

By Liam Dillon : latimes – excerpt

Bike lanes, mixed-use residential and commercial construction near transit and other development projects might get easier to build in California after regulators on Monday released a long-awaited overhaul of the state’s environmental law.

Regulators say the proposed changes, which modify rules under the California Environmental Quality Act or CEQA, will help the state meet its ambitious goals to combat climate change. That law requires developers to disclose and minimize a project’s impact on the environment…

“These rules make clear that reducing vehicle miles resulting from projects is a state goal and an environmental benefit,” said Ken Alex, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, in a statement.

Modifications to CEQA are often politically fraught because numerous powerful interest groups, including builders, environmentalists and unions, have significant stakes in how the existing process works…

Regulators are opening public comment on the CEQA overhaul in the coming weeks and will hold at least one public hearing before the proposal becomes final, according to a spokeswoman for the California Natural Resources Agency. Regulators are hoping the new rules will go into effect sometime in 2018… (more)

This article that ran in the LA Times holds very little useful information. If this is the future of the news we are in trouble. (This happens to be the first story I have seen since the Sales of Times to Meredith was announced.)

Regulators don’t overhaul CEQA laws. Legislators do. This appears to refer to a bill that has not yet passed, with no reference to the identity of the bill, the author, or Committee the bill is in or came out of. There is no indication of where in the process the bill is now. This looks like a PR piece not a news article.

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Palo Alto’s regional influence grows; Mayor elected vice president of ABAG

BY ALLISON LEVITSKY : padailypost – excerpt

Palo Alto’s regional voice on housing matters has been amplified with the election of Mayor Greg Scharff as vice president of the Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG. “We’re actually a regional player at the moment,” Scharff told the Post Thursday (Nov. 16).

Scharff pulled in 123 votes from Bay Area City Council members and county supervisors, more than his two opponents combined…

Scharff also chairs the enforcement committee of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and serves on the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority…

Housing quotas

ABAG administers the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, quotas for cities to zone new housing that are set by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
“I think the system is a little bit broken, frankly,” Scharff said.

Scharff said there’s some movement toward forming a Santa Clara County subregion committee, in which cities could redistribute housing allocations among themselves.

That way, cities could trade, for example, a certain number of affordable units for a certain number of moderately priced units with neighboring cities.

Currently, Napa, San Mateo and Solano counties have subregion committees…

“I think you want cities to want to build housing, and I think when you have the state say, ‘you must build ‘x’ amount of housing, you build up a lot of resentment,” Scharff said.

In 2013, Scharff was one of a handful of local officials to vote against the ABAG-Metropolitan Transportation Commission One Bay Area Plan, which required the region’s 101 cities to pave the way for 600,000 new apartments...

Protecting single-family homes

Scharff said he still stood behind the vote. Any push for more housing doesn’t have to be met with high-rise buildings, either.

“I don’t think you just want a wall of apartments along El Camino Real,” he said. Scharff said new apartments don’t have to jut into single-family residential neighborhoods, citing the recent update of the Comprehensive Plan’s support for these areas…

“I think we obviously need to build more housing as a region, but I think there’s a lot of local issues that should be taken into account,” Scharff said… (more)

 

Governor Brown Vetoes CEQA Bill That Would Mandate Lead Agencies To File NOEs For Projects Approved As Categorically Exempt

By Miller Starr Regalia : jdsupra – excerpt

On October 15, 2017, Governor  Brown vetoed SB 80 (Wieckowski), a bill that would have added to CEQA’s already detailed notice requirements.

Specifically, SB 80 would have amended Public Resources Code §§ 21092.2, 21092.3, 21108 and 21152 so as to require, inter alia, that state and local lead agencies:  (1) offer to provide scoping notices, notices of preparation, and notices of determination by email to persons so requesting; (2) post all such notices on the agency’s website (if any); and (3) file with OPR or the County Clerk, as applicable, all Notices of Exemption (NOEs) for approved projects found exempt pursuant to the categorical exemptions contained in the CEQA Guidelines (as opposed to other possible bases for exemption).

The bill would have also required county clerks to post on their counties’ Internet Web sites EIR scoping notices and notices of preparation for EIRs and negative declarations, for specified periods… (more)

Prop. 54: A Ballot Initiative That Worked

By Atlas Novack : smmirror – excerpt

There’s nothing politicians and lobbyists in this state hate more than the ballot initiative process to which they all pay hypocritical verbal homage every chance they get.

It’s easy to see why they don’t like lawmaking by the public, the essence of initiatives: The process takes important issues out of their hands. It can alter their working conditions in ways they don’t like.

Sure, politicians will occasionally make use of initiatives, as Republican businessman John Cox and Orange County GOP Assemblyman Travis Allen are doing now in making pet initiatives the centerpieces of their underdog campaigns for governor. Cox is pushing a measure to multiply by 1,000 the number of state legislators, while Allen has virtually appropriated the effort to repeal the state’s new gas tax increase…

But politicians generally hate ballot initiatives unless they’re making such use of them. Brown, for example, opposed the landmark 1978 Proposition 13 property tax cuts because they interfered with his own efforts at tax reform. Most legislators fought tooth and nail against Proposition 20, which created the Coastal Commission and has limited development near beaches and view areas.

But it’s hard to find an initiative that has affected legislators more than Proposition 54, which passed just over one year ago and requires that proposed laws cannot be passed unless they’ve been available in print or via the Internet for at least 72 hours before passage.

Because of Prop. 54, voters could see the final form of Brown’s proposal for California to join a Western regional electricity grid before it actually passed, rather than having to react after the fact as has happened with many last-minute bills in recent years. Because of that notice and the possibility this plan might cause a new energy crunch, opponents could organize loud protests and the proposition died – for now…

No one can be sure just how many lousy measures Prop. 54 spared Californians, because the notorious gut-and-amend proposals that have been common in recent decades were drastically lessened this fall. In that process, legislative proposals which already have a name and number have often been totally changed to cover subjects unrelated to those affected by the original bill. When that’s done at the last moment, the public has no chance for any input… (more)

 

Restoring California’s ability to recharge groundwater a more cost-effective drought strategy

By Judy Corbett : caeconomy – excerpt

Experts expect more intense cycles of drought and flooding to be a common occurrence in the future. It is imperative that we capture and bank storm water during wet years, so it is available during periods of drought.

California has dramatically more storage capacity in underground aquifers than is available in surface level facilities. Further, natural groundwater recharge and storage is comparatively inexpensive, amounting to about one-sixth the cost of other options.

Sadly the natural recharge of groundwater has, over the past century, been disrupted by local land use decisions. We have built on and paved our natural landscapes, drained agricultural lands, filled in wetlands, and channelized our rivers, resulting in the loss of untold acre feet of water which otherwise would have been stored underground

This happened without local jurisdictions – nor State and federal government – being aware of the water shortage problem that would eventually develop. While the State of California requires cities and counties to adopt general plans that define where and how they will grow, nowhere in general plan law is there reference to identifying and preserving land well suited to natural groundwater recharge… (more)

Rent Control Law in Crosshairs During State Assembly Recess

By Diego Aguilar-Canabal : thebaycitybeacon – excerpt

A broad swath of activists—from union leaders, to democratic socialists, and tenant advocates—will descend upon Sacramento this morning to demand swift action on the Costa Hawkins Act, a longstanding restriction on rent control. Assembly Bill 1506, introduced last year by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D – Santa Monica), failed to pass through committee after Bloom faced overwhelming opposition from homeowners and real estate groups.

The bill is co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D – Oakland) and David Chiu (D – SF), as well as State Senator Ben Allen (D – Redondo Beach), and consists of a single sentence: to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Act of 1995

The Housing Now campaign, mobilized in part by the SEIU Local 1021, is bringing rent control advocates to testify before the Assembly’s Housing and Community Development Committee, which is chaired by Assemblymember Chiu. According to Chiu’s office, the meeting is scheduled as an informational hearing on “The Plight of Renters in the Housing Affordability Crisis.” This comes on the heels of a massive phone-banking campaign by the Democratic Socialists of America to call members of the State Assembly in support of AB 1506… (more)

Sounds like a promising start to the new year. California residents need a break from gentrification and this is a good first step in that direction. We talked to activists supporting this at the state level and here is an update from people who went to Sacramento this week.

UPDATE:

“Wiener signed onto support repeal of Costa-Hawkins when we had our town hall in February but has been silent since then. He has suggested to folks that it would be an easier sell to repeal parts of it (we want a full repeal). Ting has been silent as well. We want them both to sign on as co-sponsors of the repeal bill. Chiu is one of the sponsors of the bill. He is also head of the Housing Committee in Sacramento, which mean he has a lot of power to bring the bill to a vote in his committee and get it to the floor. If returning control to local governments is important to you, let your state reps know you want to repeal Costa-Hawkins by passing AB 1506. You may also sign the petition and help those who are working on this issue by sharing this to your friends around the state. http://www.tenantstogether.org/campaigns/repeal-costa-hawkins-rental-housing-act

 

Marin doesn’t deserve criticism from Sacramento

By Dick Spotswood : marinij – excerpt

Marin-bashing is a popular state Capitol pastime. Look at criticism Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae, endured when he passed legislation defining Marin as — are you ready for this — “suburban” instead of “urban.”

It’s a politically risk-free avocation for glib legislators of both parties whose constituents resent prosperous coastal suburbs in general, and Marin in particular.

An IJ reader suggested a 2016 article by journalist Scott Lucas in the real estate industry news site Curbed-San Francisco. It explained that much of the “housing crisis” lies with planning policies pursued by San Francisco and metro San Jose. Those booming areas successfully lured tax-producing industries without matching them with housing for new workers.

Lucas repeats that “regional planners ought to manage growth to achieve an appropriate ratio (between) housing units and jobs.”

This jobs-housing balance is held out as a planning ideal based on the notion that “cities where the jobs are ought to have housing too.”

The term refers to the ratio of employment opportunities and population in specific places. It illuminates what generates commuter traffic congestion.

It’s a difficult-to-achieve goal. Due to economics and lifestyle choices many humans ignore planners’ command to live close to jobs.

It emerges that at the bottom of the pile of jurisdictions with far more jobs than housing is San Francisco, go-go growth San Jose and San Mateo County.

Which counties are doing the best balancing housing and jobs?

The answer will shock Marin bashers: Marin and Sonoma… (more)

Affordable housing could be lost in Strawberry

By Dick Spotswood : marinij – excerpt

Marin’s supply of affordable housing may take a hit if the current plans for reuse of the former Baptist seminary in unincorporated Strawberry go forward.

The Strawberry campus now has 200 affordable units, all rented. Under the plan devised by the site’s developer, North Coast Land Holdings, when all is said and done only about 60 affordable units will exist.

The old housing will be demolished and much of it replaced by market-rate condos and some undetermined form of a college campus.

If county staff allows the project to proceed to the environmental evaluation stage, the existing Strawberry Community Plan, developed after much public input, will allocated to the recycling bin… (more)

 

National Park Service Drops Effort To Restrict Dog Walking In GGNRA

cbsnews – excerpt (includes video)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The National Park Service on Thursday said it is dropping a more than decade-long fight to impose new restrictions on dogs in the Golden Gate National Recreational Area after a lawsuit filed by dog owners uncovered irregularities in the decision-making process.

The park service had released a final environmental impact statement last December on the proposed dog management plan for the 80,000-acre national recreation area, which spans parts of Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties and includes popular dog walking areas such as Ocean Beach, Fort Funston, Crissy Field, Muir Beach and Rancho Corral de Tierra.

The rules, intended to protect environmental resources and wildlife and increase public safety, were expected to be finalized as early as January 2017 after a more than 10-year process… (more)

RELATED:
National Park Service Gives Up Fight Over GGNRA Dog Regulations

First District Affirms CEQA Exemptions and General Plan Consistency Finding For Three-Unit Infill Condo Project on San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill

 By Miller Starr Regalia : lexology – excerpt

While “agree[ing] with appellant that Telegraph Hill is outstanding and unique in a city of outstanding and unique places[,]” the First District Court of Appeal nonetheless affirmed the trial court’s order denying plaintiff/appellant neighborhood group’s mandamus petition challenging the City of San Francisco’s approval of a 3-unit condominium project there on CEQA and general plan consistency grounds. Protect Telegraph Hill v. City and County of San Francisco (2017) ___ Cal.App.5th ___. In a 15-page opinion originally filed September 14, but belatedly ordered published on October 13, 2017, the Court upheld the City’s findings that the project, which involved renovation of an existing deteriorated small cottage and construction of a new 3-dwelling unit residential structure, was categorically exempt from CEQA and consistent with the City’s general plan and planning code…

Key takeways from the Court of Appeal’s opinion include:…(more)

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