San Diego’s downtown planning agency stripped of power
■San Diego Union-Tribune - March 29
Civic San Diego, downtown San Diego’s official planning agency, is being stripped of most of its powers as the result of a pending court settlement, ending a years-long legal battle between the city and Murtaza Baxamusa, a former Civic board member who sued the agency in 2015. Baxamusa, who is affiliated with the San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council, was joined in his lawsuit by the organization, argued that the agency lacked meaningful oversight and was too tight with developers. In the tentative settlement, reached last Thursday night, Civic San Diego has agreed to cease its planning and permitting of downtown projects; it will also end its administration over the downtown parking district. Those functions will be transferred back to the city, pending approval of the settlement by City Council.
Pay $4 to drive to the Westside? Congestion pricing could cut traffic gridlock, report says
■Los Angeles Times - March 28
Charging drivers a fee to reduce traffic jams has worked in London, Milan, and Stockholm, and the idea is gaining ground in New York. But in Southern California, elected officials have approached the question of congestion pricing with trepidation, saying that such a dramatic shift in a driving-dependent region would require detailed study of its impacts. The region’s first such study, released last Thursday by the Southern California Association of Governments, suggests that charging drivers a $4 fee during weekday rush hour to drive into West Los Angeles and Santa Monica just west of the 405 Freeway and north of the 10 Freeway could almost immediately reduce traffic delays and miles driven there by more than 20 percent. The report comes a month after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to study the concept of congestion pricing across Los Angeles County.
S.F. wants to get a handle on how large residential buildings use energy
■San Francisco Chronicle - April 2
In an effort to keep shrinking San Francisco’s carbon footprint, the city’s Department of the Environment wants to keep a closer eye on energy consumption at large residential buildings. On Monday, the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use Committee approved an ordinance allowing the department to collect energy usage data for residential buildings 50,000 square feet or larger. A state bill set to take effect this year requires annual energy reports from owners of big residential buildings. Without the local ordinance, that data would have been sent to Sacramento, making it harder for local officials to get a timely picture of energy usage in the city. If the full board passes the ordinance at its April 16 meeting, it would allow the Environment Department to collect the data and send it to state officials on the building owners’ behalf.
Could excess state properties be turned into affordable housing?
■ABC7 - March 26
California Governor Gavin Newsom sat down last week in a roundtable discussion with Californians struggling with astronomical rents. He talked about having just received a detailed survey of what he called "excess state properties"-- tens of thousands of parcels of land -- and he's analyzing which ones could be made available for housing. Newsom said he's looking at a land swap and development strategies as he met face to face with citizens battling the affordability crisis, including a 27-year-old struggling with rent, a single mom, and a senior trying to live on a fixed income of $1,000 a month. He said jobs, transportation, and housing are all intertwined and have to be attacked as one.
Improving alignment of public- and private-sector climate goals
■Urban Land - March 26
During the second ULI City and Real Estate Sustainability Summit, held in Boston, senior ULI members and public policymakers representing various U.S. cities discussed key motivators for both city and real estate sustainability leaders and the value of leveraging financing opportunities to achieve sustainability goals—all with the intent of identifying the best ways to align the public and private goals. Among the policy success stories discussed were: the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Real Time Energy Management program, which verifies vendors for energy management systems and funds a portion of such systems, which help optimize building energy use; and Fannie Mae’s multifamily Green Rewards program, which provides lower interest rates, up to 5 percent additional loan proceeds, and free audits to finance energy and water efficiency improvements.
Energy-smart student center debuts in Los Angeles
■CP Executive - March 21
Constructed by C.W. Driver Companies observing LEED Platinum guidelines, Cal Poly Pomona’s new $79 million Student Services Building leads the campus in terms of sustainable design and energy efficiency. From the passive solar design of the roof to the utilization of sunshades and skylights, the reinforced concrete building boasts a structural steel roof system of perforated aluminum. Jeff Marshall, senior project manager at C.W. Driver Companies, said that if LEED Platinum certification is achieved, it will be one of the first LEED Platinum buildings in the California State University system.
A new proposal aims to require public beach access at Hollister Ranch
■Los Angeles Times - March 26
A state lawmaker is applying new pressure on coastal officials and Hollister Ranch owners to provide access to some of California’s most coveted beaches and surf breaks. A bill unveiled last Tuesday would set a deadline of April 1, 2020, for coastal officials to come up with a comprehensive public access plan at Hollister Ranch. Failure to do so would trigger a number of procedures that would hold the state accountable. The proposed legislation, AB 1680, comes about a year after coastal officials and ranch owners struck a controversial deal behind closed doors that would have allowed access to Hollister’s coastline only to landowners, their guests, visitors with guides, and those who could boat or paddle in from 2 miles away.
Housing project approved as ‘super sustainable’ community
■The Signal - March 27
A 15-year-old plan to build close to 500 homes between Shadow Pines and Agua Dulce was approved unanimously by Los Angeles County supervisors last Tuesday provided the developer includes 14 green conditions that promise to transform the plan into a state-of-the-art project in terms of sustainability. The revamped Spring Canyon housing project, which calls for 495 homes now, includes solar panels for those homes, charging stations for electric vehicles, gray water recycling for lawns, and solar heating for a community pool if such a pool is ever built.