California Supreme Court says cities can consider visual effects of wireless equipment
■SFGate - April 4
The California Supreme Court ruled this Thursday that cities have a right to regulate the placement of wireless telephone equipment on utility poles to accommodate aesthetic concerns. The seven-member court unanimously upheld a 2011 San Francisco law that requires telephone companies to obtain a permit before placing equipment on utility poles on public streets and sidewalks, requiring a heightened consideration of aesthetic factors in certain areas, including residential districts, historic districts, and scenic streets, before a permit can be granted. T-Mobile West Corp. and two other wireless companies that challenged the ordinance argued it violated a state law that allows telephone companies to construct lines and install equipment along public roads, stating that the installation must be done in ways and in locations that do not "incommode the public use of the road."
Nonprofits may soon have the first chance to buy apartment buildings in San Francisco
■Next City - April 9
A new law sponsored by San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer could give nonprofit groups the first crack at buying multifamily buildings when they go up for sale, in an effort to preserve affordable housing in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Under the law, which won a recommendation from the Planning Commission earlier this month, nonprofit groups would have a right of first refusal to buy buildings containing more than three units. Landlords who want to sell their buildings would first need to notify qualified nonprofit groups of their intent to sell. The legislation could go up for a final vote next week.
Napa County passes watershed protection regulations
■CBS Local - March 26
Napa County supervisors unanimously voted to pass watershed protection regulations following an all-day debate on Tuesday. On parcels of an acre or more, the new regulations would prohibit any development next to streams or on land with at least a 30 percent slope. They would limit the number of trees that could be removed and require open space be set aside to compensate for those that are. Supporters say it would protect the watershed and stop the expansion of wineries into the hills above the valley. But opponents say the proposed ordinance is a blatant example of “NIMBY”-ism.
Envisioning an equitable and thriving future in transit-oriented Los Angeles
■Urban Land - April 8
ULI Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority engaged the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and the Los Angeles Planning and Land Use Society to study seven half-mile transit station areas in Los Angeles County to determine the positive effects that more development near transit might have on transit ridership, as well as on sustainability, economic development, health, and quality of life in Los Angeles. The researchers concluded that while larger-scaled residential developments would result in the biggest advances, gains in housing production and improved quality of life could be achieved from smaller buildings as well, including those with as few as 20 units. Recommendations for policymakers included legalizing more housing of more types during ongoing planning processes, protecting current renters while incentivizing new affordable units, and removing parking requirements near transit.
San Diego encouraging more mixed-use neighborhoods with new zoning policy
■San Diego Union-Tribune - April 5
San Diego officials are proposing new zoning policies that would make it easier for developers to build “mixed-use” projects featuring dense housing blended together with commercial and industrial uses. The goal is encouraging more high-rise housing projects to be built near jobs in major transportation corridors, preferably ones with mass transit. City officials say the new zoning is most likely to be used in Mission Valley, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, and University City, where many developments have outdated layouts featuring large surface parking lots and only one type of use. The Planning Commission unanimously approved the new policies last Thursday, sending them to the City Council for final approval in coming weeks.
EPA scientists price out the cost of climate change
■Los Angeles Times - April 8
By the end of the century, the manifold consequences of unchecked climate change will cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars per year, according to a new study by scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Those costs will come in multiple forms, including water shortages, crippled infrastructure, and polluted air that shortens lives, according to the study published in Nature Climate Change. No part of the country will be untouched, the EPA researchers warned. However, they also found that cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and proactively adapting to a warming world, would prevent a lot of the damage, reducing the annual economic toll in some sectors by more than half. Experts called the report the most comprehensive analysis yet of social impacts of climate change.
Santa Monica temporarily bans SROs and ELI incentive
■Commercial Observer - March 30
The Santa Monica City Council has put the brakes on two forms of affordable housing that have become overrepresented in the coastal city’s downtown district. First, the City Council voted unanimously to enact an emergency ordinance banning market-rate micro-units, defined as apartments smaller than 375 square feet, for 45 days. The ban, which will go into effect immediately until May 10, will give city leaders a chance to create a permanent measure to address the overabundance of market-rate micro-units in downtown Santa Monica. Following the vote was a lengthy debate over the large number of affordable housing created in the “extremely-low income” (ELI) category. The City Council voted to temporarily remove the ELI option for the next eight months. In that time, city staff will examine the impact of removing the incentive and thus determine how to amend city policies, including those related to tax credits for private and city affordable housing development.