Construction industry stays open amid virus outbreak
CapRadio – March 25
California’s stay-at-home order has forced the closure of thousands of businesses, from shops to restaurants to entertainment venues, all to slow the coronavirus outbreak. But the construction sector remains open, which industry officials say is still essential to fighting a different crisis: California’s housing shortage. Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom designated construction as an essential service that builds “critical infrastructure” in the state. Dan Dunmoyer, president and CEO of the California Building Industry, said that allows workers to continue building homes and other projects. As of January, the construction industry employed nearly 890,000 workers statewide, according to figures from the California Employment Development Department. But workers are adjusting to new safety protocols. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, builders say they are asking workers to stay six feet apart, not share tools, and to avoid eating together.
San Diego leaders say specific housing goals for every neighborhood could solve crisis
The San Diego Union-Tribune - March 18
San Diego’s efforts to solve the city’s housing crisis may soon include setting specific housing production goals for each of the city’s 52 neighborhoods. The goals, which would need City Council approval later this year, would be based on the estimated capacity of each neighborhood, the presence of mass transit, and several other factors. Supporters say the proposal is a proactive approach that will make it more likely that every neighborhood in the city absorbs its fair share of new housing. The city would begin measuring outcomes, instead of just stating intentions, they say. The proposal, which received an initial unanimous approval from the council’s Land Use and Housing Committee last month, would require twice-yearly reports from the mayor on how much housing is built in each neighborhood.
Plan for $100 billion Bay Area transportation ‘mega measure’ on hold, with all eyes on coronavirus
The Mercury News – March 17
The campaign for a $100 billion “mega measure” funding big investments in Bay Area public transportation is being put on hold amid the disruption to public life being caused by the coronavirus, backers have announced. Faster Bay Area, a campaign asking voters to approve a one-cent sales tax increase that leaders say will pay for transformative public transit projects, is dropping its plan to put that measure on the ballot this November. The campaign, led by business and urban planning groups, will instead try to pass the measure in an unspecified future election. Led by business organizations Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Bay Area Council, as well as the urban planning think-tank SPUR, the campaign was inspired by similar transportation funding taxes in Seattle and Los Angeles.
Las Vegas high-speed train project, once stuck in low gear, is now moving forward
Los Angeles Times – March 25
The last time a California railroad conductor hailed “all aboard for Las Vegas” was more than 20 years ago, after lines such as the Desert Wind and the Fun Train failed to attract riders. New proposals for train service since have come and gone. But in recent weeks, a more concrete proposal by Florida-based XpressWest for Las Vegas train service has quietly advanced. The privately-held firm has taken key steps to secure private debt funding under bond programs operated by California, Nevada, and the federal government. If the chips fall the right way, the $4.8-billion project should have full funding for a 170-mile line along Interstate 15 and start construction later this year with trains running by 2023, the company told The Times. Although credit markets are in turmoil around the world, California officials remain confident that the economic slowdown won’t affect the long-term viability of the project. The plan calls for a high-speed electric train system from Apple Valley in the California high desert to Las Vegas, almost entirely with private funding.
Ballot initiative efforts that would give residents a voice in large-scale Laguna Beach projects delayed
Orange County Register – March 18
A community group has withdrawn its ballot initiative that would give local voters a say about major commercial developments in Laguna Beach. On March 6, Laguna Residents First presented a “letter of intent” to City Hall for the ballot initiative, but withdrew its plans on March 17, citing the spread of coronavirus. If voted into law, the initiative would not deter new projects, the group says, but would make sure the city’s building guidelines and zoning laws — which set parameters on scale, size and density of projects — are maintained. It would establish an ordinance whereby a majority of Laguna Beach voters would determine what projects are developed and that changes to land use must be approved by a majority of residents.