Local News RoundUp
The Local News RoundUp is the League's daily news clipping service of articles related to California cities and local government.
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June 22, 2017
More California budget votes coming Thursday (Capital Public Radio)
So you thought California lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown wrapped up their work on the state budget last week? Think again. Another dozen or so pieces of the budget package could come up for votes Thursday in the Senate and Assembly. These are measures to either implement the spending plan – or fix errors in the bills passed last week, when bills were rushed from creation to passage in just three days to meet the Legislature’s June 15th constitutional budget deadline. Among the measures awaiting debate: a six billion dollar pre-payment from the state to the California Public Employees Retirement System. It’s projected to reduce state pension costs by nearly twice that much over the next 20 years. Other bills would expand the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and restore full dental benefits for Medi-Cal patients. Brown has yet to sign the state budget that lawmakers sent him last week. He has until next Tuesday to act on the bill.
SENATE BILL 649
Local governments voice concerns over rollout of 5G wireless networks (Capital Public Radio)
Wireless carriers eager to roll out faster 5G technology want the California Legislature to streamline the local approvals process. But local governments argue the proposal would take away their powers of oversight and negotiation. 5G could be fast enough to replace home Wi-Fi a few years from now. But carriers will need to add new antennas much more densely than the current system – building on existing utility poles and street lights. Local governments want to negotiate carriers’ use of that infrastructure. But Democratic Senator Ben Hueso says in some cases, cities and counties want too much money – potentially thousands of dollars for each “small cell” facility. Hueso’s bill would cap how much carriers have to pay, and limit local governments’ input. That’s a problem to Chris Lee with the California State Association of Counties. 'We think it’s important that we have some level of review to make sure that these facilities fit in," Lee says, "both in terms of aesthetics and just the practical implications of putting wireless antennas on stoplights and streetlights." The bill passed the Senate late last month 32 to 1, and heads to an Assembly committee next week.
Developer proposes Menlo Park's largest affordable housing project (The Almanac)
A proposal by a nonprofit housing developer to build what could be the largest affordable housing project in Menlo Park history was met with general approval by the City Council during a June 20 study session. Meghan Revolinsky, an analyst with the city's housing and economic development department, confirmed last week that the proposal by MidPen Housing Corp. to tear down 82 existing apartments in the 1300 block of Willow Road and replace them with at least 118 new ones would be the "largest affordable housing project in Menlo Park, ever." According to Jan Lindenthal, vice president of real estate development at MidPen Housing Corp., the current Gateway apartments on the site are functionally obsolete. MidPen Housing has proposed several options to the council. It could, by locating the new structures closer to Willow Road, build up to 150 apartments, versus a maximum of 28 if built at the existing site. By reducing the number of apartment by 10, the developer could create an 8,000-square-foot, mixed-use space. Council members agreed that all of the apartments should be designated for families that make less than 60 percent of the area median income, which means an income maximum of $78,960 for a family of four, based on this year's San Mateo County data. They also expressed support for a plan to give preference to prospective tenants who have been displaced or are at risk of being displaced from Menlo Park. Homeless families in the Ravenswood City School District may also get preference. Establishing preferences takes careful legal considerations, Ms. Lindenthal said.
L.A. County median home price breaks record set during last decade's housing boom (The Los Angeles Times)
In summer 2007, the Los Angeles County median home price hit an all-time high of $550,000. It soon plunged as the housing bubble burst and the national economy crashed. Now the median, the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less, has finally passed the heights of 10 years ago — the result of an improving economy, historically low mortgage rates and a shortage of listings. According to a report released Wednesday from real estate firm CoreLogic, the county’s median price in May rose 6.8% from a year earlier to reach $560,500 as sales jumped 4.8%. When adjusted for inflation, May’s median remains 11% below the 2007 high, though the nominal record comes amid fresh concerns over the high cost of housing in California. Real estate agents said many buyers are convinced values will only continue to climb for the foreseeable future — a dynamic causing them to be more aggressive. “They want to get in now before they lose out,” said Hooman Zahedi, a real estate agent with Redfin, who specializes in the San Fernando Valley. In recent months, Zahedi said he started penning cover letters on behalf of clients and attaching their family pictures, hoping to pull at the heartstrings of sellers who are weighing multiple offers.
Cities in the Los Angeles County Division
Santa Ana approves millions of dollars for 4 affordable housing projects, despite concerns over process (The Orange County Register)
Despite concerns over the process, or lack thereof, followed by developers of 4 major affordable housing projects, Santa Ana council members have approved millions of dollars in financial assistance. The assistance for the housing projects, continued from the city council meeting two weeks ago, passed for three of them on a 6-1 vote on Tuesday, June 20, with Mayor Pro Tem Michele Martinez opposing. One project passed on a 5-1 vote, with Martinez dissenting and Mayor Miguel Pulido abstaining. Council members amended the original award, adding $2.9 million, for the Santa Ana Arts Collective, a 57-unit artist-focused affordable housing development by Meta Housing Corporation at 1666 N. Main St. The project had previously received more than $4.6 million in financial assistance from the city and state and in November was competitively awarded 9 percent low-income housing tax credits. The council also awarded up to $8.5 million in affordable housing development funds for AMCAL Multi-Housing’s First Street Apartments project, 69 units for low-income working-class families, at 1440 E. First St. Pulido abstained from the vote. The council amended the original award with 31 more project-based vouchers for Community Development Partners’ Aqua Housing project, 58 units of permanent supportive housing at 317 E. 17th St. for chronically homeless individuals. The development will include on-site wraparound services by Mercy Housing. For Community Development Partners’ Tiny Tim Plaza project, 51 new units targeting low-income and at-risk homeless families at 2223 W. Fifth St., council members awarded up to $11.7 million in affordable housing funds. The award will follow the Planning Commission’s approval of the project, which has a review scheduled in September, and the availability of funds.
Cities in the Orange County Division
Nonprofit developer plans up to 78 affordable units in Menlo Park (The Mercury News)
A retail component or new library branch apparently won’t be part of a planned redevelopment of low-income rental housing in Menlo Park. Nonprofit developer MidPen Housing has been planning to rebuild its housing complex on the 1300 block of Willow Road since 2013. There are currently 82 units on the block and MidPen is planning to boost the number to between 140 and 150 when it completely rebuilds the site, starting in early 2019. They would be aimed at low-income families making less than 60 percent of the area median income. The City Council on Tuesday backed MidPen’s suggestion that a retail component be removed from the project because of space limitations, parking requirements and a lack of up-front funding. On top of subsidies from the city and county, MidPen relies on tax credits to fund projects — and retail spaces don’t qualify. Taking retail out of the ground floor would also allow the four-story building to come down in height, which is a privacy plus for nearby residents on Carlton Avenue. The maximum allowable space for retail or other commercial uses is 10,000 square feet, according to a staff report. Lindenthal said that wouldn’t be enough space for a grocery store or pharmacy, two retail uses nearby residents have been requesting for years. She added that a retail use at the site would require more parking spaces than MidPen could supply. A full-service library is also being sought in Belle Haven, but Lindenthal said residents who attended recent meetings on MidPen’s plans made it clear they don’t want a library on Willow Road, saying the high volume of traffic makes it too dangerous for children.
City officials unveil 12 proposals aimed at affordable housing (CBS8)
San Diego officials today unveiled a dozen proposals designed to ease the high-cost city's lack of affordable housing. The goals of the "Housing SD'' plan are to spur the construction of low-income and middle-class housing through incentives, streamline development standards and speed up the review process, direct funding toward affordable housing and encourage growth in transit-friendly areas. The latter point would support the city's plan to address climate change, according to the mayor's office. Last month, the California Association of Realtors reported that just 28 percent of San Diego households could afford to purchase a median-priced home in the area. "The housing affordability crisis is the top issue facing our city that is literally forcing the next generation of San Diegans to move outside the region,'' said Councilman Scott Sherman, who chairs a committee that deals with land-use issues.
What housing crisis? Last-minute bill would let wealthy Marin County limit home building (The Los Angeles Times)
One of California’s wealthiest counties may continue to get a pass under the state’s affordable housing laws. Lawmakers are considering a measure that would allow parts of Marin County to limit growth more tightly than other regions of California. The provision, inserted last week into a bill connected to the state budget, lets Marin County’s largest cities and unincorporated areas maintain extra restrictions on how many homes developers can build. Housing advocates say the carve-out runs counter to the push by Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers for more development as a way to combat the state’s housing affordability problems. Since the changes are tied to last week’s passage of the state budget, which Brown has yet to sign, the measure does not have to go through the regular committee process. It’s had just one public hearing and lawmakers could vote on the bill as early as Thursday. The measure, Assembly Bill 121, is the latest salvo in a lengthy debate about low-income housing in the Northern California county, which has one of the state’s largest gaps between rich and poor.
Cities in Marin County
$530,000: San Diego County home price hits new record (San Diego Union Tribune)
The San Diego County median home price hit $530,000 in May, breaking the nominal record set last month and increasing 8.2 percent in a year, real estate tracker CoreLogic reported Wednesday. Lack of homes for sale and slowed home construction appear to be major forces in new peaks set over the past few months leading into the traditional busy summer buying season. In real terms, May’s numbers still are far off the peaks of the housing boom. When adjusted for inflation, the county nominal November 2005 peak of $517,500 equates to roughly $644,500 in 2016 dollars. Alan Gin, economist at University of San Diego, said it is likely that nominal records will continue to be broken as the summer continues, especially with a strong economy and low unemployment rate. “Construction is still lagging badly. There’s just not enough housing,” Gin said. “High demand and low supply mean higher prices.” In May, there were 5,060 homes listed for sale in San Diego County, up by 279 from April but substantially below historic levels for the month, said the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors. There were 5,913 listings in May last year, 6,658 in 2015 and 7,029 in 2014.
Welcome breadth of ideas in Faulconer’s housing plan (San Diego Union Tribune)
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s proposal to address the housing crisis embraces a wide range of smart ideas. It would provide regulatory relief to speed up construction, give developers incentives to build homes within reach of middle-class families, make it easier to add “granny flats” to existing housing and allow owners of some small businesses to live at their workplaces. While the plan does include conventional affordable housing policies that only help relatively few families, the mayor grasps a fact many state Democrats don’t: The housing crisis can only truly be overcome by adding housing stock. That Democratic Councilman Chris Ward appeared alongside Republicans Faulconer and Councilman Scott Sherman at the Wednesday event where the “Housing SD” proposal was unveiled suggests that the mayor has a good chance of winning council approval for his reforms, some of which have already advanced. Given the mayor’s frosty relationship with council Democrats, this is significant. Given how the city’s high housing costs drive local poverty, all the reforms should be approved.
Issa, other Republicans seek change to HUD homeless policy (San Diego Union Tribune)
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and 22 other Republican Congressmen are seeking a change to a federal policy they say penalizes homeless programs that refuse to stop drug-testing their clients. “This is one of the worst examples of Washington’s we-know-better-than-you mentality and is just the kind of top-down mandates we need to be rid of,” Issa said about U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s support of the “housing first” model over programs such as Solutions for Change in Vista. Under housing first, homeless people are not required to be sober or in treatment before receiving housing — an approach that advocates say creates the stability needed to overcome long-term problems such as addiction. The model has been widely embraced in San Diego and across the country as an effective tool for getting people off the street and ultimately sober and employed. HUD’s push to expand it at the expense of other approaches, however, has been controversial. In a June 13 letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Issa and other Congressional leaders said nonprofits like Solutions for Change shouldn’t be denied federal funding simply because they require sobriety and participation in job programs. The group says it isn’t seeking to end housing first, but wants funding restored to programs that don’t follow its one-size-fits-all approach. Solutions founder and Executive Director Chris Megison said his group will be out $600,000 annually because it won’t stop drug testing and other practices that conflict with housing first. He said Solutions was forced to close a 40-bed emergency shelter for homeless families last year because of the funding cut.
No greenhouse-gas caps on Bay Area oil refineries, for now (San Francisco Chronicle)
Board members of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Wednesday delayed voting on a plan to create the nation’s first greenhouse-gas limits for oil refineries, saying the proposal had changed so many times in recent weeks that they couldn’t fairly evaluate it. One member of the board of directors even complained that she hadn’t seen the final revisions, issued Tuesday afternoon, until she showed up for Wednesday’s meeting. The move marks the latest delay for a rule that the district has spent years developing, and it left many of the directors visibly frustrated. But Director John Gioia, a Contra Costa County supervisor, said rushing a vote could leave the regulation more vulnerable to legal attack from the oil industry. But since then, the district’s staff has added a substantial twist, proposing that the caps be raised to account for emissions from refinery expansion or upgrade projects that the district has already approved but that haven’t been built or haven’t fully come online. That change angered environmentalists, who said it would allow greenhouse gas emissions from the refineries to rise as much as if the Bay Area added another refinery. District staff countered that the change was necessary to protect the rule from an expected legal challenge.
Cities in Contra Costa County
SHORT TERM RENTAL
Pasadena short-term rental debate showing division among hosts (Southern California Public Radio)
A coming crackdown in Pasadena on short-term lodging is exposing a divide among homeowners over the kinds of restrictions they would support when renting their units. Cities around Southern California are drafting new rules to regulate the temporary rentals listed on sites like Airbnb and HomeAway. But the hosts who rent units differ about the kinds of limits they can support as opponents call for regulation of the swiftly expanding industry. The divisions are particularly prominent in Pasadena, which is finalizing new hosting guidelines for a city that draws thousands of visitors annually to such attractions as the Rose Bowl. Under the Pasadena's proposed regulations, short-term rental hosts can only charge for stays in their primary homes. The rules won't change much for hosts like Liane Enkelis, who rents out her own home and is present through a guest's stay. But hosts who buy properties to rent out would be banned outright under Pasadena's proposed rules. Cities all over California are trying to rein in short-term rentals as neighbors complain about nuisance properties and as concerns escalate that long-term rentals have being taken off the market and converted to Airbnb listings during a worsening statewide housing crisis. Requiring hosts to rent out only their primary residences is seen as one solution, an option the city of Los Angeles is also considering as it develops new short-term rental regulations.
Fairfield council OKs $252M budget (Daily Republic)
A $252 million budget that includes setting aside $4 million in the loan fund to pay for anticipated pension costs won Fairfield City Council approval Tuesday. The 2017-18 fiscal year budget reflects softer car sales. Sales tax from car sales represents about 25 percent of the city’s sales tax revenue. Large retailers in Fairfield also reported recent disappointing sales, according to the city budget. The budget sets aside $4 million in the loan fund to pay for future anticipated pensions costs. The money will be reassigned from a previously established reserve for Measure P. A financial report presented in February noted the City Council had $4 million set aside in the event the sales tax Measure P was not extended past 2018. Voters approved the extension in November. Total pension liability for Fairfield is $129 million, an increase of $13 million over the prior fiscal year because of a lower-than-expected return by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System on pension assets during fiscal year 2014-15. CalPERS manages pension and health benefits for California public employees and retirees. Council members were told in May that the city’s pension costs will increase by 14 percent in fiscal year 2018-19 and continue to climb yearly for the next decade until the city’s yearly cost is projected to be $37.5 million.
A streetcar tax just passed in Sacramento (Sacramento Bee)
Sacramento’s planned streetcar system is another step closer to reality. Nearly 80 percent of major central city businesses have agreed to tax themselves a combined $50 million over the next 25 years to help cover the system’s operating costs. Of the 314 ballots counted as of Wednesday, 250 voters agreed to the tax, easily surpassing the required two-thirds threshold needed, according to results released by the city clerk’s office. With that approval, city officials and streetcar advocates are expected to seek a full-funding grant agreement with the Federal Transit Administration later this summer or fall. Local and state agencies are putting up $100 million for the project and advocates are hoping for a $100 million match from the federal government. Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the vote was “another important step forward in making Sacramento a true destination city.”
CITY IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Clearlake targets health by joining LOCC (Record-Bee)
With low health rankings happening all around the county, Clearlake joins the League of California Cities (LOCC) Healthy Eating Active Living campaign by adopting the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Cities Policies Menu. One in four children in California between the ages of nine and 16 are considered overweight and are being diagnosed with diseases that are linked to being overweight obese, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. These issues have more than doubled in the past 30 years. Clearlake City Clerk Melissa Swanson said in 2004 the LOCC adopted a resolution to encourage healthier eating and to embrace policies that promote healthier cities. There are three areas where most of their focus is concentrated on Swanson said, these include creating wellness, creating access to healthy foods and land use. They are able to continue the creation for this through partnership with Kaiser Permanente and the California Wellness Foundation. By adopting this campaign for the city, Clearlake will be closer to raising the ranks of health in the county, as well as coordinating with one of the goals in the General Plan. The city is looking to send in a resolution to LOCC for being designated an Active or Fit City. Active or Fit cities are two policies that the HEAL Cities Campaign has out of their three focuses. Depending on how many policies the city has adopted or how many commitments they have for further policy development will decide which policy the city qualifies for. The cost of medical bills, workers compensations and loss of productivity in California from overweight, obesity and physical inactivity exceeds $41 billion.