Fast-track of environmental reviews met with charges of 'pro-industry bias'
Bisnow – April 20
An ordinance that would expedite environmental reviews for San Francisco development projects met headwinds last week, when the city's historic preservation commission opted to delay a vote on it until at least May. City staff said that the Standard Environmental Requirements ordinance would expedite environmental reviews of certain projects by an average of three months. But citing limitations on public comment tied to the technical difficulties during the virtual hearing last week, commissioners voted to continue in a hearing on May 6. The ordinance would standardize how the city applies environmental protections to projects in accordance with CEQA. It was almost immediately met with opposition from public commenters, who criticized the technical difficulties of the virtual hearing held last week, the aim of the ordinance to expedite environmental reviews, or both.
San Diego moving forward with ‘tiny houses’ law to help solve local housing crisis
The San Diego Union-Tribune – April 20
Homeowners across San Diego would be able to install movable “tiny houses” in their back yards under a proposal the city’s Planning Commission unanimously approved last week. Tiny houses can help solve the housing crisis by creating an affordable option for low-income residents that doesn’t require a taxpayer subsidy, city officials said. Rent from tiny houses can also help homeowners with their mortgage payments, they said. Tiny houses are similar to accessory dwelling units (ADUs), but smaller. Adding them is quicker and cheaper, primarily because they are built in factories and placed on a chassis, while ADUs are built on-site and attached to a concrete foundation. Planning commissioners said Thursday that legislation allowing tiny houses could help the city make up for years of previous laws and regulations that created a local housing crisis by sharply limiting supply.
Berkeley weighs controversial rules for new housing development
San Francisco Chronicle - April 19
The Berkeley City Council is weighing a controversial ordinance that could reshape development on Shattuck Avenue downtown and in parts of West Berkeley by requiring developers to sprinkle affordable housing into their projects. The proposal sponsored by four council members targets “qualified opportunity zones,” low-income areas where developers can bypass federal taxes on their profits, a provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, designed to lure investors into these communities. Supporters of the Berkeley proposal, set for a vote after the state shelter-in-place order is lifted, say that opportunity zones only hasten gentrification. The best way to slow it, they say, is to require that affordable housing be included in each new rental development with 10 or more dwellings. The ordinance calls for 20 percent of the units to be affordable, which is no different from Berkeley’s current requirement for new projects. But it takes away the option to pay a $37,000-per-dwelling fee into the city’s housing trust fund instead of building the affordable units.
Orange County can use Laguna Hills hotel as homeless shelter amid pandemic, judge rules
Los Angeles Times – April 20
Officials in Orange County can move forward with a plan to convert a 76-room hotel in Laguna Hills into temporary housing to prevent a surge of deadly coronavirus cases from spreading in the community, Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Delaney ruled this Monday. The county brokered an agreement this month with Elite Hospitality Inc. to lease the Laguna Hills Inn for at least 90 days to shelter homeless individuals who are over 65, have underlying health conditions, are showing symptoms of COVID-19, or who have tested positive for the coronavirus. However, Laguna Hills — a city of roughly 31,000 people in the southern section of the county — sued the hotel’s owner, the county, and a nonprofit specializing in homeless outreach, alleging the project would put the surrounding community at risk and would violate restrictions outlined in the property’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions. Judge Delaney ruled that under state law, the county — acting on behalf of the state — can use the property to address the public health crisis.