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Californians could be forgiven for becoming cynical about our State Legislature’s willingness or ability to tackle the ever-worsening housing crisis. California’s rising home values, outpacing people’s ability to afford to buy or rent decent housing close to the job centers, is not a new phenomenon. But it has worsened. While our Legislature has repeatedly recognized that there is a housing crisis, nothing in the past legislative cycles has emerged that will actually stem the tide.

Could that be changing? In the current session, there are two bills sponsored by state senator Scott Wiener that are worth watching: SB 827 and SB 828. These two bills follow on Senator Wiener’s successful introduction of SB 35 last year. While SB 35 was intended to make certain types of urban infill housing “by-right,” Senator Wiener himself has recognized that SB 35 alone (with all of its qualifications and conditions) may not yield much in the way of new housing.

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Restored historic and old buildings, particularly in cities like San Francisco, contribute to the distinctive character that lure tourists and thereby creates jobs. Two relatively recent changes affect those buildings and the potential for their continued revitalization. First, changes to the Historic Tax Credit may alter the capital stack used to finance the rehabilitation of historic projects, as well as the overall return on investment for such projects. Second, changes to the Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring and Reconstructing Historic Buildings may alter how historic resources are treated and the mitigation measures required under the California Environmental Quality Act.

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On February 1, 2018, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (“HCD”) released its much anticipated determination regarding the local governments that are now subject to streamlined entitlements for housing development under Senate Bill 35.  HCD’s methodology for this determination utilizes pro-rated Regional Housing Needs Allocation (“RHNA”) targets for the local governments that have not yet reached the statutory reporting period. (Additional information regarding HCD’s methodology can be found here: http://www.hcd.ca.gov/community-development/housing-element/docs/SB35_DeterminationMethodology013118.pdf)  Overall, the HCD release underscores the scope and scale of the housing shortage in California, and the opportunity for housing developers to benefit from a ministerial approval process for qualified housing projects.

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As we have done for the past nine years, the Retail Group of Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP has, once again, taken on the daunting task of forecasting what to expect in the forthcoming year in four critical segments that affect the retail industry. In doing so, we analyzed the social, political and economic events of 2017, reviewed various economic data and projections and have come to certain opinions relating to the retail industry and where it is heading in 2018. Below is the product of our thinking, in the form of four articles of interest addressing such topics as capital markets, retailing, retail development and the impacts of residential development on retail:

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On December 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor issued an opinion that resets its view of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (the “Act”) and could give developers, renewable energy companies, and other industries regulatory relief and certainty for the inadvertent take of migratory birds. Continue reading →

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On December 13, 2017, the Los Angeles City Council passed and Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a “linkage fee” ordinance that has been in the works for over two years and is projected to bring more than $100 million in annual revenue to the City.  The ordinance was published on December 18, 2017.

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On September 29th, Governor Brown signed a long-anticipated package of 15 housing-related bills, as summarized in our prior post, “California Legislature Passes Historic Housing Legislation in Effort to Tackle State’s Housing Crisis” (9/22/17). Collectively, these bills constitute the legislature’s farthest reaching action in years to address California’s ongoing housing crisis.  Though the bills are expected to make only a small dent in California’s annual shortage of new housing stock, they are, at the very least, a resounding acknowledgment that the state’s housing crisis requires action at the highest level.  This post highlights AB 1505, also known as the “Palmer Fix”.

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On October 15, Governor Brown vetoed AB 890, a bill that would have limited the use of the voter initiative to effect certain land use actions.  In his veto message, Governor Brown noted his concerns regarding a “piecemeal” approach to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) reform, stating instead his preference for a more “comprehensive approach” that balances the need for more housing and environmental analysis.  Industry observers also had raised concerns regarding the constitutionality of the bill’s attempted limits on the initiative power.

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On Friday, September 29th, Governor Brown signed a long-anticipated package of 15 housing-related bills, as summarized in our prior post, “California Legislature Passes Historic Housing Legislation in Effort to Tackle State’s Housing Crisis” (9/22/17). Collectively, these bills constitute the legislature’s farthest reaching action in years to address California’s ongoing housing crisis.  Though the bills are expected to make only a small dent in California’s annual shortage of new housing stock, they are, at the very least, a resounding acknowledgment that the state’s housing crisis requires action at the highest level.  iStock_000053912398_XXXLarge-300x200This post highlights the core bills: SB 35 (which provides a streamlined entitlement process for qualifying projects), and SB 2 and SB 3 (both of which are intended to provide much-needed funding for affordable housing).

 

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In an eleventh hour push at the tail end of the 2017 legislative session last week, California legislators passed a bundle of bills targeted at calming the state’s unprecedented housing crisis.  Taken together, the bills address a wide swath of issues affecting housing production and affordability, including:  funding for subsidized housing development, requirements for entitlement and permit streamlining, and tools for local and state agencies to enforce local planning obligations.  This extensive legislative effort to reform California housing policy stands in stark contrast to the logjam that has vexed Sacramento lawmakers for years, if not decades.  While the bills still require the signature of Governor Brown by mid-October, here is a first look at the pending changes to state housing law, including links to each of the bills. Continue reading →