Bid to allow duplexes on most California lots fails after Assembly approval comes too late
Los Angeles Times – September 1
California lawmakers nearly sent a bill to Governor Gavin Newsom that would have essentially ended single-family zoning across much of a state mired in a housing crisis. Then they ran out of time. In a legislative season compressed by the coronavirus outbreak, the California Assembly approved Senate Bill 1120 three minutes before the midnight deadline Monday for bills to pass both houses, a time enshrined in the state Constitution. But Tuesday came before the Senate could vote. SB 1120 would have required local governments to permit applications to convert a house into a duplex or to demolish a house and build two units, either as a duplex or two single-family houses. Property owners also could have split their lot in two and built two more units, thus allowing four homes where there previously was just one.
California Legislature approves bill to speed public transit projects during pandemic
San Francisco Chronicle – August 31
Public transit agencies may soon be able to fast-track construction projects after a bill to let them bypass some lengthy and costly environmental reviews passed the California Legislature and headed to the governor’s desk Monday. Senate Bill 288, the Sustainable Transportation COVID-19 Recovery Act, introduced by state Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, exempts “sustainable” transit projects from stricter review under the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires environmental consideration in construction. The goal of the bill is to both promote projects that could cut down driving and reduce carbon emissions, and offer a boost to struggling public transit agencies that have hemorrhaged money during COVID-19.
San Jose passes new fees on commercial development to fund affordable housing
The Mercury News – September 2
After years of controversy and debate, San Jose is imposing new development fees that many residents believe are long overdue and could help remedy the region's housing crisis. Following nearly three hours of spirited debate, the City Council decided to begin charging commercial developers with linkage fees to fund affordable housing projects. Under the new fee structure, developers of downtown office buildings more than 100,000 square feet will have three payment options: paying $12 per square foot upon the certificate of occupancy, $15 per square foot in phases, or no fee if the developer agrees to build a certain number of affordable housing units equivalent to the applicable fee.
Would allowing housing in commercial areas help Ventura County meet its housing goals?
Ventura County Star – September 2
Since the 1990s, community leaders in Santa Paula have discussed adding housing to the city’s commercial downtown area. With a nudge from state housing laws, that idea is getting closer to reality. This week, the Santa Paula Planning Commission recommended approval of an ordinance that would allow all types of housing as a permitted use by-right in commercial zones. The proposal will head to the City Council on September 16. A city staff analysis found that the current land supply in residential zones does not have enough capacity for the number of units Santa Paula must plan for under the proposed Regional Housing Needs Assessment for 2021-2029. If the proposal is approved, Santa Paula would likely be the first city in Ventura County to allow housing by-right in all commercial zones.
California cities race for emergency funding to turn hotels and other properties into housing
Bisnow – August 27
Dozens of local and county governments are competing for pieces of $600 million in funds that California has made available to transform hotels, vacant apartment buildings, and other properties into interim or permanent, long-term housing. The program, Project Homekey, is the second major phase in California’s efforts to help homeless residents obtain shelter amid the coronavirus pandemic. Fund allotment will be segmented geographically based on the size of regional homeless populations and the number of severely rent-burdened households, or those paying over 50% of income on rent. The deadline for most applications and for the bulk of the $600 million allotted through Project Homekey passed in mid-August, and awards will be made on a rolling basis through September.
SoCal Edison will deploy 38,000 EV chargers in largest utility program of its kind
Greentech Media – August 28
California grid regulators approved the largest utility-led deployment of electric vehicle charging equipment in the country last Thursday. The new program allows Southern California Edison to spend $436 million of ratepayer funds to install 38,000 light-duty electric car chargers. The utility pays for supporting equipment to get power from the grid to the charger, while the customer typically owns and manages the charger itself, with optional rebates from the utility. The program does not target single-family homes, which have a relatively straightforward path to adding chargers; instead, it supports multifamily housing and “away from home” sites like workplaces and shopping centers.